June 29: SS Peter and Paul, Class I

c13th Siena

From the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on the feast, 2005:

The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is at the same time a grateful memorial of the great witnesses of Jesus Christ and a solemn confession for the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is first and foremost a feast of catholicity. The sign of Pentecost - the new community that speaks all languages and unites all peoples into one people, in one family of God -, this sign has become a reality. Our liturgical assembly, at which Bishops are gathered from all parts of the world, people of many cultures and nations, is an image of the family of the Church distributed throughout the earth.

Strangers have become friends; crossing every border, we recognize one another as brothers and sisters. This brings to fulfilment the mission of St Paul, who knew that he was the "minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles, with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel of God so that the Gentiles [might] be offered up as a pleasing sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15: 16).
The purpose of the mission is that humanity itself becomes a living glorification of God, the true worship that God expects: this is the deepest meaning of catholicity - a catholicity that has already been given to us, towards which we must constantly start out again. Catholicity does not only express a horizontal dimension, the gathering of many people in unity, but also a vertical dimension: it is only by raising our eyes to God, by opening ourselves to him, that we can truly become one.

Like Paul, Peter also came to Rome, to the city that was a centre where all the nations converged and, for this very reason, could become, before any other, the expression of the universal outreach of the Gospel. As he started out on his journey from Jerusalem to Rome, he must certainly have felt guided by the voices of the prophets, by faith and by the prayer of Israel.

The mission to the whole world is also part of the proclamation of the Old Covenant: the people of Israel were destined to be a light for the Gentiles. The great Psalm of the Passion, Psalm 22[21], whose first verse Jesus cried out on the Cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", ends with the vision: "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him" (Ps 22[21]: 28). When Peter and Paul came to Rome, the Lord on the Cross who had uttered the first line of that Psalm was risen; God's victory now had to be proclaimed to all the nations, thereby fulfilling the promise with which the Psalm concludes.

Catholicity means universality - a multiplicity that becomes unity; a unity that nevertheless remains multiplicity. From Paul's words on the Church's universality we have already seen that the ability of nations to get the better of themselves in order to look towards the one God, is part of this unity. In the second century, the founder of Catholic theology, St Irenaeus of Lyons, described very beautifully this bond between catholicity and unity and I quote him. He says: "The Church spread across the world diligently safeguards this doctrine and this faith, forming as it were one family: the same faith, with one mind and one heart, the same preaching, teaching and tradition as if she had but one mouth. Languages abound according to the region but the power of our tradition is one and the same. The Churches in Germany do not differ in faith or tradition, neither do those in Spain, Gaul, Egypt, Libya, the Orient, the centre of the earth; just as the sun, God's creature, is one alone and identical throughout the world, so the light of true preaching shines everywhere and illuminates all who desire to attain knowledge of the truth" (Adv. Haer. I 10, 2). The unity of men and women in their multiplicity has become possible because God, this one God of heaven and earth, has shown himself to us; because the essential truth about our lives, our "where from?" and "where to?" became visible when he revealed himself to us and enabled us to see his face, himself, in Jesus Christ. This truth about the essence of our being, living and dying, a truth that God made visible, unites us and makes us brothers and sisters. Catholicity and unity go hand in hand. And unity has a content: the faith that the Apostles passed on to us in Christ's name...

St Peter, in his First Letter, described himself as "a fellow elder" of the presbyters to whom he writes (5: 1). And with this he expressed the principle of apostolic succession: the same ministry which he had received from the Lord now continues in the Church through priestly ordination. The Word of God is not only written but, thanks to the testimonies that the Lord in the sacrament has inscribed in the apostolic ministry, it remains a living word...

Today's Gospel tells of the profession of faith of St Peter, on whom the Church was founded: "You are the Messiah... the Son of the living God" (Mt 16: 16). Having spoken today of the Church as one, catholic and apostolic but not yet of the Church as holy, let us now recall another profession of Peter, his response on behalf of the Twelve at the moment when so many abandoned Christ: "We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are God's holy one" (Jn 6: 69). What does this mean?

Jesus, in his great priestly prayer, says that he is consecrating himself for his disciples, an allusion to the sacrifice of his death (cf. Jn 17: 19). By saying this, Jesus implicitly expresses his role as the true High Priest who brings about the mystery of the "Day of Reconciliation", no longer only in substitutive rites but in the concrete substance of his own Body and Blood. The Old Testament term "the Holy One of the Lord" identified Aaron as the High Priest who had the task of bringing about Israel's sanctification (Ps 106[105]: 16; Vulgate: Sir 45: 6). Peter's profession of Christ, whom he declares to be the Holy One of God, fits into the context of the Eucharistic Discourse in which Jesus announces the Day of Reconciliation through the sacrificial offering of himself: "the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6: 51). So this profession is the background of the priestly mystery of Jesus, his sacrifice for us all. The Church is not holy by herself; in fact, she is made up of sinners - we all know this and it is plain for all to see. Rather, she is made holy ever anew by the Holy One of God, by the purifying love of Christ. God did not only speak, but loved us very realistically; he loved us to the point of the death of his own Son. It is precisely here that we are shown the full grandeur of revelation that has, as it were, inflicted the wounds in the heart of God himself. Then each one of us can say personally, together with St Paul, I live "a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2: 20).

Let us pray to the Lord that the truth of these words may be deeply impressed in our hearts, together with his joy and with his responsibility; let us pray that shining out from the Eucharistic Celebration it will become increasingly the force that shapes our lives.

June 26: Second Sunday after Pentecost, Class II: SS John and Paul, Martyrs, memorial


The Magnificat antiphon at I Vespers, 'The child Samuel ministered before God unto Heli, and the word of the Lord was precious in his sight' refers to the readings at Matins, which starts today on I Kings (I Samuel), with the story of the last of the Old Testament Judges.

The Gospel is Luke 14:16-24, the parable of the rich man who invites many to a feast, but the invitees refuse to come.
SS John and Paul were early martyrs under the reign of Julian the Apostate.  Their tombs were found below the Church dedicated to them in Rome.

June 25: St William of Monte Vergine OSB

Today is the Feast in the Roman Calendar (but not the Benedictine) of a Benedictine saint. Here is the entry on St William from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"The founder of the Hermits of Monte Vergine, or Williamites, born 1085; died 25 June, 1142.

He was the son of noble parents, both of whom died when he was still a child, and his education was entrusted to one of his kinsmen. At the age of fifteen he made up his mind to renounce the world and lead a life of penance.

With this end in view, he went on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella, and, not content with the ordinary hardships of such a pilgrimage, he encircled his body with iron bands to increase his suffering.

After this journey he started on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but it was revealed to him that he would be of greater service to God if he remained in Italy.

He built himself a hut on Monte Vergine, wishing to become a hermit and live in solitude, but it was not long before many people flocked to him to put themselves under his guidance, being attracted by the sanctity of his life and the many miracles which he performed.

Soon a monastery was built, and by 1119 the Congregation of Monte Vergine was founded. St. William lived at Monte Vergine until the brethren began to murmur against him, saying that the life was too austere, that he gave too much in alms, and so on. He therefore decided to leave Monte Vergine and thus take away from the monks the cause of their grievances.

Roger I of Naples took him under his patronage, and the saint founded many monasteries, both of men and of women, in that kingdom. So edified was the king with the saint's sanctity of life and the wisdom of his counsels that, in order to have him always near him, he built a monastery opposite his palace at Salerno. Knowing by special revelation that his end was at hand, William retired to his monastery of Gugieto, where he died, and was buried in the church."

According to the Wikipedia:

"Besides Monte Vergine, St. William of Vercelli founded a considerable number of monasteries, especially in the Kingdom of Naples, including a double monastery for men and women at Guglieto (near Nusco). Pope Celestine III confirmed the congregation by a Bull (4 November 1197). In 1611 there were twenty-six larger and nineteen smaller Williamite houses. Benedict XIV confirmed new constitutions in 1741 to be added to the declarations on the Rule of St. Benedict prescribed by Clement VIII.

The mother-house, the only surviving member of the congregation, was affiliated to the Cassinese Congregation of the Primitive Observance in 1879. The community at Monte Vergine retains the white colour of the habit, which is in other respects like that of the black Benedictines.

There are said to have been some fifty Williamite nunneries, of which only two survived at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The habit was white with a black veil, and their rule very severe in the matter of fasting and abstinence."

June 24: Birthday of St John the Baptist, Class I


St John the Baptist is regarded as the last of the Old Testament prophets; he is the only saint apart from Our Lady whose earthly birth, by virtue of its significance in foreshadowing that of Our Lord's, is celebrated in the calendar.  

He has a special significance for Benedictines, as St Benedict dedicated one of the chapels at Monte Cassino to the saint.

The famous Vespers hymn (the first note of each line forms doh-ray-me etc):

June 21: St Aloysius Gonzaga, Memorial


Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (1568 - 1591) was an Italian Jesuit. 

The eldest son of a noble family, he was expected to be a soldier.  But to the horror of his family, he renounced his inheritance and became a Jesuit with the aim of being a missionary.  His confessor was St Robert Bellarmine.  He died after contracting the plague through his service of the stricken in Rome. You can read about his life here.

His martyrology entry reads:
At Rome, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, of the Society of Jesus, most renowned for his contempt of the princely dignity, and the  innocence of his life.

June 19: Trinity Sunday, Class I

Shield of the Trinity, manuscript ca 1255-65
Today is Trinity Sunday, which marks the final end of the Easter season and its aftermath, and the start of time after Pentecost.

The distinctive part of today's liturgy is the recitation at Prime of the Creed named after St Athanasius (although modern scholars suspect it actually originated in Southern Gaul), which firmly sets out the essentials of the faith in relation to the Trinity as a counter to Arian and other heresies.

June 18: Ember Saturday in the Octave of Pentecost, Class I

June 9: SS Primus and Felician

c14th manuscript of the Golden Legend

SS Primus and Felician were brothers martyred around 297 under Diocletian.  Patrician converts, they devoted themselves to serving the poor and prisoners.  When they refused to sacrifice to the gods, they were tortured and subsequently beheaded.

Their relics were translated to the Basilica of St. Stephen in the Round on the Celian Hill in 648, where they remain today.

June 6: St Norbert, Class III


St Norbert, pictured above receiving the Rule of St Augustine from the saint himself, is the founder of the Praemonstatensian (Norbertine) Order.

Born near Colgne in 1080, his father was Count of Gennep.  Ordained a sub-deacon, he lived a life of pleasure, including at court, and declined ordination to the priesthood and even a bishopric.   A near fatal accident, however, led to his conversion.  He undertook to live a life of penance, became a priest, and unsuccessfully attempted to reform the canons of his home town.  For a while he became an itinerant preacher, before being invited to found a religious order by Pope Callixtus II in 1119.

The Norbertines were originally a double order, although men's and women's houses ceased to be co-located later in the middle ages.  Nonetheless, the order of canons and canonesses regular (rather than monks and nuns) grew rapidly, and continues today.

St Norbert was appointed Archbishop of Magdeberg in 1126, where he was a vigorous reformer of church life.  He played an active role in attempts to restore Innocent II to the papacy in the face of schism.  The saint died in 1134.

The reading on the saints life set for Matins can be found on the lecti divina blog from the afternoon before the feast.

June 5: St Boniface OSB, Apostle to Germany, Class III

St Boniface was born around 672 in Devon, St Boniface OSB was actually an English monk called Winfrid until he changed his name when commissioned by the Pope as a missionary in 719. He was made a bishop in 722, and eventually became Archbishop of Germany, which he was primarily responsible for evangelizing.

His methods were, shall we say, rather direct - he famously chopped down Thor's Oak, a pagan sacred tree, daring Thor to strike him down if he was real. The saint is credited with the invention of the Christmas Tree as a replacement symbol for the locals...a classic version of inculturation!

He seems to have also played a key role in the politics of the time, helping the Carolingian dynasty along its way to stardom.

His life has many modern resonances - the picture to the left shows him baptising new converts, but one of his concerns early on was the validity of baptisms being conducted by illiterate priests who couldn't quite get the Trinity to have the correct gender...

He was martyred in 754 at the age of 79 (the lower panel of the picture), making one last attempt to convert Frisia. His attackers were apparently enraged at his destruction of their shrines - their blows cut into a book of the Gospels he held before him.

June 1: Vigil of the Ascension, Class II

Pietro Perugino, 1496-1500


June 1 - St Inigo (Eneco) OSB

St Inigo and the Ascension of the BVM
de Goya, 1746-1828

The Roman Martyrology (though not the OSB calendar) today lists St Inigo, a hermit turned Benedictine abbot, amongst the saints of the day, so I thought I'd provide a little background on him.

The Martyrology says:

"Near Burgos in Spain, in the monastery of Onia, St Inigo, A Benedictine Abbot, famous for holiness and the glory of miracles."

Catholic Online provides a few more details:

"Inigo, also known as Eneco, born in the eleventh century, was a native of Bilbao, Spain. Early in his life he became a hermit. Next he went to Aragon where he became a monk at San Juan de Pena, and eventually he was elected Prior. When his term was completed, Inigo again took up the life of a hermit in the Aragon mountains.

However, in 1029, King Sancho the Great convinced Inigo to become Abbot of a group of monks in a monastery at Ona. The monastery, founded by Sancho's father-in-law, was in need of reform, and he wanted Inigo to lead the process. Inigo was very successful in the reform movement, and he developed a reputation as a peacemaker. Moreover, some attributed miracles to his intercession.

He died at Ona on June 1, 1057, and was canonized by Pope Alexander IV in 1259.

St. Inigo from his earliest years was drawn to both the contemplative and the eremitical life. A man of God, he was able to bring peace and harmony to the monastery at Ona, and he won over others to the reasonableness and satisfaction of leading the monastic life to its fullest. What is more, the good example of the monks helped the people who lived in the area to become convinced of the beauty and satisfaction of a life lived in God's presence and love."

St Ignatius of Loyola was named after him (he adopted Ignatius as an easier to use Europeanized version of his name for use in France and Italy).