Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!


Wishing you a happy and holy Christmas!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chant from Le Barroux

I've been meaning to alert readers to a new site providing sound files of the Office from the french traditionalist monastery of Le Barroux.

Le Barroux provides live streaming of some of its Offices from its own site, but that isn't much help for those of us living in very different time zones!

Accordingly, an American group has set up a site called The Chant of Le Barroux  to help bridge the timezones.

So now you can compare and contrast the French/Solesmes style with the more robust Italo-American of Norcia!

Le Barroux's 2013 Ordo is also available on their website for Oblates of that monastery - note that it is in Latin only, and their calendar and rubrics differ somewhat from that specified in the 1962-3 Monastic Breviary (in particular, they have retained I Vespers for Second Class feasts and the Office of Our Lady on Saturday, and include a number of feasts from the EF and French calendars).


Saturday, November 24, 2012

St John of the Cross, Memorial (November 24)


St John of Avila was declared a doctor of the Church earlier this year.

Friday, November 23, 2012

St Clement I (November 23)


From the martyrology:

"The birthday of Pope St. Clement, who held the sovereign Pontificate the third after the blessed Apostle Peter. In the persecution of Trajan, he was banished to Chersonesus, where, being precipitated into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck, he was crowned with martyrdom. His body was taken to Rome during the pontificate of Nicholas I, and placed with due honors in the church which had been previously built under his invocation."

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on St Clement in 2007:

"St Clement, Bishop of Rome in the last years of the first century, was the third Successor of Peter, after Linus and Anacletus. The most important testimony concerning his life comes from St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons until 202. He attests that Clement "had seen the blessed Apostles", "had been conversant with them", and "might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes" (Adversus Haer. 3, 3, 3).

Later testimonies which date back to between the fourth and sixth centuries attribute to Clement the title of martyr.

The authority and prestige of this Bishop of Rome were such that various writings were attributed to him, but the only one that is certainly his is the Letter to the Corinthians. Eusebius of Caesarea, the great "archivist" of Christian beginnings, presents it in these terms: "There is extant an Epistle of this Clement which is acknowledged to be genuine and is of considerable length and of remarkable merit. He wrote it in the name of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth, when a sedition had arisen in the latter Church. We know that this Epistle also has been publicly used in a great many Churches both in former times and in our own" (Hist. Eccl. 3, 16).

An almost canonical character was attributed to this Letter. At the beginning of this text - written in Greek - Clement expressed his regret that "the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves" (1, 1) had prevented him from intervening sooner. These "calamitous events" can be identified with Domitian's persecution: therefore, the Letter must have been written just after the Emperor's death and at the end of the persecution, that is, immediately after the year 96.

Clement's intervention - we are still in the first century - was prompted by the serious problems besetting the Church in Corinth: the elders of the community, in fact, had been deposed by some young contestants. The sorrowful event was recalled once again by St Irenaeus who wrote: "In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful Letter to the Corinthians exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the Apostles" (Adv. Haer. 3, 3, 3).

Thus, we could say that this Letter was a first exercise of the Roman primacy after St Peter's death. Clement's Letter touches on topics that were dear to St Paul, who had written two important Letters to the Corinthians, in particular the theological dialectic, perennially current, between the indicative of salvation and the imperative of moral commitment.

First of all came the joyful proclamation of saving grace. The Lord forewarns us and gives us his forgiveness, gives us his love and the grace to be Christians, his brothers and sisters.
It is a proclamation that fills our life with joy and gives certainty to our action: the Lord always forewarns us with his goodness and the Lord's goodness is always greater than all our sins.

However, we must commit ourselves in a way that is consistent with the gift received and respond to the proclamation of salvation with a generous and courageous journey of conversion.

In comparison with the Pauline model, the innovation is that Clement adds to the doctrinal and practical sections, found in all the Pauline Letters, a "great prayer" that virtually concludes the Letter.

The Letter's immediate circumstances provided the Bishop of Rome with ample room for an intervention on the Church's identity and mission. If there were abuses in Corinth, Clement observed, the reason should be sought in the weakening of charity and of the other indispensable Christian virtues.

He therefore calls the faithful to humility and fraternal love, two truly constitutive virtues of being in the Church: "Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One", he warned, "let us do all those things which pertain to holiness" (30, 1).

In particular, the Bishop of Rome recalls that the Lord himself, "has established where and by whom he wishes liturgical functions to be carried out, so that all may be devoutly performed in accordance with his wishes and in a manner acceptable to him.... For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministries devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen" (40, 1-5: it can be noted that here, in this early first-century Letter, the Greek word "laikós" appears for the first time in Christian literature, meaning "a member of the laos", that is, "of the People of God").

In this way, referring to the liturgy of ancient Israel, Clement revealed his ideal Church. She was assembled by "the one Spirit of grace poured out upon us" which breathes on the various members of the Body of Christ, where all, united without any divisions, are "members of one another" (46, 6-7).

The clear distinction between the "lay person" and the hierarchy in no way signifies opposition, but only this organic connection of a body, an organism with its different functions. The Church, in fact, is not a place of confusion and anarchy where one can do what one likes all the time: each one in this organism, with an articulated structure, exercises his ministry in accordance with the vocation he has received.

With regard to community leaders, Clement clearly explains the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. The norms that regulate it derive ultimately from God himself. The Father sent Jesus Christ, who in turn sent the Apostles. They then sent the first heads of communities and established that they would be succeeded by other worthy men.

Everything, therefore, was made "in an orderly way, according to the will of God" (42). With these words, these sentences, St Clement underlined that the Church's structure was sacramental and not political.

The action of God who comes to meet us in the liturgy precedes our decisions and our ideas. The Church is above all a gift of God and not something we ourselves created; consequently, this sacramental structure does not only guarantee the common order but also this precedence of God's gift which we all need.

Finally, the "great prayer" confers a cosmic breath to the previous reasoning. Clement praises and thanks God for his marvellous providence of love that created the world and continues to save and sanctify it.

The prayer for rulers and governors acquires special importance. Subsequent to the New Testament texts, it is the oldest prayer extant for political institutions. Thus, in the period following their persecution, Christians, well aware that the persecutions would continue, never ceased to pray for the very authorities who had unjustly condemned them.

The reason is primarily Christological: it is necessary to pray for one's persecutors as Jesus did on the Cross.

But this prayer also contains a teaching that guides the attitude of Christians towards politics and the State down the centuries. In praying for the Authorities, Clement recognized the legitimacy of political institutions in the order established by God; at the same time, he expressed his concern that the Authorities would be docile to God, "devoutly in peace and meekness exercising the power given them by [God]" (61, 2).

Caesar is not everything. Another sovereignty emerges whose origins and essence are not of this world but of "the heavens above": it is that of Truth, which also claims a right to be heard by the State.

Thus, Clement's Letter addresses numerous themes of perennial timeliness. It is all the more meaningful since it represents, from the first century, the concern of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the other Churches.

In this same Spirit, let us make our own the invocations of the "great prayer" in which the Bishop of Rome makes himself the voice of the entire world: "Yes, O Lord, make your face to shine upon us for good in peace, that we may be shielded by your mighty hand... through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and majesty to you both now and from generation to generation, for evermore" (60-61)."


Also today:

"At Rome, St. Felicitas, mother of seven sons, martyrs. After them she was beheaded for Christ, by order of the emperor Marcus Antoninus."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

St Caecilia (November 22)


From the martyrology:


"At Rome, St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, who brought to the faith of Christ her spouse Valerian and his brother Tiburtius, and encouraged them to martyrdom. After their death, being arrested by order of Almachius, prefect of the city, and exposed to the fire, from which she came out uninjured, she terminated her glorious sufferings by the sword, in the time of the emperor Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Presentation of the BVM (November 21)


It is also today the memorial of St Columba:


"In the monastery of Bobio, the departure from this life of St. Columban, abbot, who founded many convents and governed a large number of monks. He died at an advanced age, celebrated for many virtues."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

St Gertrude the Great OSB (November 17)



St Gertrude the Great (1256-1301) was a German Benedictine nun and mystic, a forerunner of St Margaret Mary Alacoque in relation to devotion to the sacred heart.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on the saint in October 2010:

"St Gertrude the Great, of whom I would like to talk to you today, brings us once again this week to the Monastery of Helfta, where several of the Latin-German masterpieces of religious literature were written by women. Gertrude belonged to this world. She is one of the most famous mystics, the only German woman to be called "Great", because of her cultural and evangelical stature: her life and her thought had a unique impact on Christian spirituality. She was an exceptional woman, endowed with special natural talents and extraordinary gifts of grace, the most profound humility and ardent zeal for her neighbour's salvation. She was in close communion with God both in contemplation and in her readiness to go to the help of those in need.

At Helfta, she measured herself systematically, so to speak, with her teacher, Matilda of Hackeborn, of whom I spoke at last Wednesday's Audience. Gertrude came into contact with Matilda of Magdeburg, another medieval mystic and grew up under the wing of Abbess Gertrude, motherly, gentle and demanding. From these three sisters she drew precious experience and wisdom; she worked them into a synthesis of her own, continuing on her religious journey with boundless trust in the Lord. Gertrude expressed the riches of her spirituality not only in her monastic world, but also and above all in the biblical, liturgical, Patristic and Benedictine contexts, with a highly personal hallmark and great skill in communicating.

Gertrude was born on 6 January 1256, on the Feast of the Epiphany, but nothing is known of her parents nor of the place of her birth. Gertrude wrote that the Lord himself revealed to her the meaning of this first uprooting: "I have chosen you for my abode because I am pleased that all that is lovable in you is my work.... For this very reason I have distanced you from all your relatives, so that no one may love you for reasons of kinship and that I may be the sole cause of the affection you receive" (The Revelations, I, 16, Siena 1994, pp. 76-77).

When she was five years old, in 1261, she entered the monastery for formation and education, a common practice in that period. Here she spent her whole life, the most important stages of which she herself points out. In her memoirs she recalls that the Lord equipped her in advance with forbearing patience and infinite mercy, forgetting the years of her childhood, adolescence and youth, which she spent, she wrote, "in such mental blindness that I would have been capable... of thinking, saying or doing without remorse everything I liked and wherever I could, had you not armed me in advance, with an inherent horror of evil and a natural inclination for good and with the external vigilance of others. "I would have behaved like a pagan... in spite of desiring you since childhood, that is since my fifth year of age, when I went to live in the Benedictine shrine of religion to be educated among your most devout friends" (ibid., II, 23, p. 140f.).

Gertrude was an extraordinary student, she learned everything that can be learned of the sciences of the trivium and quadrivium, the education of that time; she was fascinated by knowledge and threw herself into profane studies with zeal and tenacity, achieving scholastic successes beyond every expectation. If we know nothing of her origins, she herself tells us about her youthful passions: literature, music and song and the art of miniature painting captivated her. She had a strong, determined, ready and impulsive temperament. She often says that she was negligent; she recognizes her shortcomings and humbly asks forgiveness for them. She also humbly asks for advice and prayers for her conversion. Some features of her temperament and faults were to accompany her to the end of her life, so as to amaze certain people who wondered why the Lord had favoured her with such a special love.

From being a student she moved on to dedicate herself totally to God in monastic life, and for 20 years nothing exceptional occurred: study and prayer were her main activities. Because of her gifts she shone out among the sisters; she was tenacious in consolidating her culture in various fields.

Nevertheless during Advent of 1280 she began to feel disgusted with all this and realized the vanity of it all. On 27 January 1281, a few days before the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, towards the hour of Compline in the evening, the Lord with his illumination dispelled her deep anxiety. With gentle sweetness he calmed the distress that anguished her, a torment that Gertrude saw even as a gift of God, "to pull down that tower of vanity and curiosity which, although I had both the name and habit of a nun alas I had continued to build with my pride, so that at least in this manner I might find the way for you to show me your salvation" (ibid., II, p. 87). She had a vision of a young man who, in order to guide her through the tangle of thorns that surrounded her soul, took her by the hand. In that hand Gertrude recognized "the precious traces of the wounds that abrogated all the acts of accusation of our enemies" (ibid., II, 1, p. 89), and thus recognized the One who saved us with his Blood on the Cross: Jesus.

From that moment her life of intimate communion with the Lord was intensified, especially in the most important liturgical seasons Advent-Christmas, Lent-Easter, the feasts of Our Lady even when illness prevented her from going to the choir. This was the same liturgical humus as that of Matilda, her teacher; but Gertrude describes it with simpler, more linear images, symbols and terms that are more realistic and her references to the Bible, to the Fathers and to the Benedictine world are more direct.

Her biographer points out two directions of what we might describe as her own particular "conversion": in study, with the radical passage from profane, humanistic studies to the study of theology, and in monastic observance, with the passage from a life that she describes as negligent, to the life of intense, mystical prayer, with exceptional missionary zeal. The Lord who had chosen her from her mother's womb and who since her childhood had made her partake of the banquet of monastic life, called her again with his grace "from external things to inner life and from earthly occupations to love for spiritual things". Gertrude understood that she was remote from him, in the region of unlikeness, as she said with Augustine; that she had dedicated herself with excessive greed to liberal studies, to human wisdom, overlooking spiritual knowledge, depriving herself of the taste for true wisdom; she was then led to the mountain of contemplation where she cast off her former self to be reclothed in the new. "From a grammarian she became a theologian, with the unflagging and attentive reading of all the sacred books that she could lay her hands on or contrive to obtain. She filled her heart with the most useful and sweet sayings of Sacred Scripture. Thus she was always ready with some inspired and edifying word to satisfy those who came to consult her while having at her fingertips the most suitable scriptural texts to refute any erroneous opinion and silence her opponents" (ibid., I, 1, p. 25).

Gertrude transformed all this into an apostolate: she devoted herself to writing and popularizing the truth of faith with clarity and simplicity, with grace and persuasion, serving the Church faithfully and lovingly so as to be helpful to and appreciated by theologians and devout people.

Little of her intense activity has come down to us, partly because of the events that led to the destruction of the Monastery of Helfta. In addition to The Herald of Divine Love and The Revelations, we still have her Spiritual Exercises, a rare jewel of mystical spiritual literature.

In religious observance our Saint was "a firm pillar... a very powerful champion of justice and truth" (ibid., I, 1, p. 26), her biographer says. By her words and example she kindled great fervour in other people. She added to the prayers and penances of the monastic rule others with such devotion and such trusting abandonment in God that she inspired in those who met her an awareness of being in the Lord's presence. In fact, God made her understand that he had called her to be an instrument of his grace. Gertrude herself felt unworthy of this immense divine treasure, and confesses that she had not safeguarded it or made enough of it. She exclaimed: "Alas! If you had given me to remember you, unworthy as I am, by even only a straw, I would have viewed it with greater respect and reverence that I have had for all your gifts!" (ibid., II, 5, p. 100). Yet, in recognizing her poverty and worthlessness she adhered to God's will, "because", she said, "I have so little profited from your graces that I cannot resolve to believe that they were lavished upon me solely for my own use, since no one can thwart your eternal wisdom. Therefore, O Giver of every good thing who has freely lavished upon me gifts so undeserved, in order that, in reading this, the heart of at least one of your friends may be moved at the thought that zeal for souls has induced you to leave such a priceless gem for so long in the abominable mud of my heart" (ibid., II, 5, p. 100f.).

Two favours in particular were dearer to her than any other, as Gertrude herself writes: "The stigmata of your salvation-bearing wounds which you impressed upon me, as it were, like a valuable necklaces, in my heart, and the profound and salutary wound of love with which you marked it.

"You flooded me with your gifts, of such beatitude that even were I to live for 1,000 years with no consolation neither interior nor exterior the memory of them would suffice to comfort me, to enlighten me, to fill me with gratitude. Further, you wished to introduce me into the inestimable intimacy of your friendship by opening to me in various ways that most noble sacrarium of your Divine Being which is your Divine Heart.... To this accumulation of benefits you added that of giving me as Advocate the Most Holy Virgin Mary, your Mother, and often recommended me to her affection, just as the most faithful of bridegrooms would recommend his beloved bride to his own mother" (ibid., II, 23, p. 145).

Looking forward to never-ending communion, she ended her earthly life on 17 November 1301 or 1302, at the age of about 46. In the seventh Exercise, that of preparation for death, St Gertrude wrote: "O Jesus, you who are immensely dear to me, be with me always, so that my heart may stay with you and that your love may endure with me with no possibility of division; and bless my passing, so that my spirit, freed from the bonds of the flesh, may immediately find rest in you. Amen" (Spiritual Exercises, Milan 2006, p. 148).
It seems obvious to me that these are not only things of the past, of history; rather St Gertrude's life lives on as a lesson of Christian life, of an upright path, and shows us that the heart of a happy life, of a true life, is friendship with the Lord Jesus. And this friendship is learned in love for Sacred Scripture, in love for the Liturgy, in profound faith, in love for Mary, so as to be ever more truly acquainted with God himself and hence with true happiness, which is the goal of our life."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

St Albert the Great, memorial (Nov 15)


St Albert the Great (1206-1280) was a dominican friar, and bishop of Cologne.

A doctor of the Church, his particular contribution lies in the advocacy of the co-existence of religion and science.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on the saint in 2010:

"One of the great masters of medieval theology is St Albert the Great. The title "Great", (Magnus), with which he has passed into history indicates the vastness and depth of his teaching, which he combined with holiness of life. However, his contemporaries did not hesitate to attribute to him titles of excellence even then. One of his disciples, Ulric of Strasbourg, called him the "wonder and miracle of our epoch".

He was born in Germany at the beginning of the 13th century. When he was still young he went to Italy, to Padua, the seat of one of the most famous medieval universities. He devoted himself to the study of the so-called "liberal arts": grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, that is, to culture in general, demonstrating that characteristic interest in the natural sciences which was soon to become the favourite field for his specialization. During his stay in Padua he attended the Church of the Dominicans, whom he then joined with the profession of the religious vows. Hagiographic sources suggest that Albert came to this decision gradually. His intense relationship with God, the Dominican Friars' example of holiness, hearing the sermons of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, St Dominic's successor at the Master General of the Order of Preachers, were the decisive factors that helped him to overcome every doubt and even to surmount his family's resistence. God often speaks to us in the years of our youth and points out to us the project of our life. As it was for Albert, so also for all of us, personal prayer, nourished by the Lord's word, frequent reception of the Sacraments and the spiritual guidance of enlightened people are the means to discover and follow God's voice. He received the religious habit from Bl. Jordan of Saxony.

After his ordination to the priesthood, his superiors sent him to teach at various theological study centres annexed to the convents of the Dominican Fathers. His brilliant intellectual qualities enabled him to perfect his theological studies at the most famous university in that period, the University of Paris. From that time on St Albert began his extraordinary activity as a writer that he was to pursue throughout his life.

Prestigious tasks were assigned to him. In 1248 he was charged with opening a theological studium at Cologne, one of the most important regional capitals of Germany, where he lived at different times and which became his adopted city. He brought with him from Paris an exceptional student, Thomas Aquinas. The sole merit of having been St Thomas' teacher would suffice to elicit profound admiration for St Albert. A relationship of mutual esteem and friendship developed between these two great theologians, human attitudes that were very helpful in the development of this branch of knowlege. In 1254, Albert was elected Provincial of the Dominican Fathers' "Provincia Teutoniae" Teutonic Province which included communities scattered over a vast territory in Central and Northern Europe. He distinguished himself for the zeal with which he exercised this ministry, visiting the communities and constantly recalling his confreres to fidelity, to the teaching and example of St Dominic.

His gifts did not escape the attention of the Pope of that time, Alexander iv, who wanted Albert with him for a certain time at Anagni where the Popes went frequently in Rome itself and at Viterbo, in order to avail himself of Albert's theological advice. The same Supreme Pontiff appointed Albert Bishop of Regensburg, a large and celebrated diocese, but which was going through a difficult period. From 1260 to 1262, Albert exercised this ministry with unflagging dedication, succeeding in restoring peace and harmony to the city, in reorganizing parishes and convents and in giving a new impetus to charitable activities.

In the year 1263-1264, Albert preached in Germany and in Bohemia, at the request of Pope Urban iv. He later returned to Cologne and took up his role as lecturer, scholar and writer. As a man of prayer, science and charity, his authoritative intervention in various events of the Church and of the society of the time were acclaimed: above all, he was a man of reconciliation and peace in Cologne, where the Archbishop had run seriously foul of the city's institutions; he did his utmost during the Second Council of Lyons, in 1274, summoned by Pope Gregory X, to encourage union between the Latin and Greek Churches after the separation of the great schism with the East in 1054. He also explained the thought of Thomas Aquinas which had been the subject of objections and even quite unjustified condemnations.

He died in his cell at the convent of the Holy Cross, Cologne, in 1280, and was very soon venerated by his confreres. The Church proposed him for the worship of the faithful with his beatification in 1622 and with his canonization in 1931, when Pope Pius XI proclaimed him Doctor of the Church. This was certainly an appropriate recognition of this great man of God and outstanding scholar, not only of the truths of the faith but of a great many other branches of knowledge; indeed, with a glance at the titles of his very numerous works, we realize that there was something miraculous about his culture and that his encyclopedic interests led him not only to concern himself with philosophy and theology, like other contemporaries of his, but also with every other discipline then known, from physics to chemistry, from astronomy to minerology, from botany to zoology. For this reason Pope Pius XII named him Patron of enthusiasts of the natural sciences and also called him "Doctor universalis" precisely because of the vastness of his interests and knowledge.

Of course, the scientific methods that St Albert the Great used were not those that came to be established in the following centuries. His method consisted simply in the observation, description and classification of the phenomena he had studied, but it was in this way that he opened the door for future research.

He still has a lot to teach us. Above all, St Albert shows that there is no opposition between faith and science, despite certain episodes of misunderstanding that have been recorded in history. A man of faith and prayer, as was St Albert the Great, can serenely foster the study of the natural sciences and progress in knowledge of the micro- and macrocosm, discovering the laws proper to the subject, since all this contributes to fostering thirst for and love of God. The Bible speaks to us of creation as of the first language through which God who is supreme intelligence, who is the Logos reveals to us something of himself. The Book of Wisdom, for example, says that the phenomena of nature, endowed with greatness and beauty, is like the works of an artist through which, by analogy, we may know the Author of creation (cf. Wis 13: 5). With a classical similitude in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance one can compare the natural world to a book written by God that we read according to the different approaches of the sciences (cf. Address to the participants in the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 31 October 2008; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 November 2008, p. 6). How many scientists, in fact, in the wake of St Albert the Great, have carried on their research inspired by wonder at and gratitude for a world which, to their eyes as scholars and believers, appeared and appears as the good work of a wise and loving Creator! Scientific study is then transformed into a hymn of praise. Enrico Medi, a great astrophysicist of our time, whose cause of beatification has been introduced, wrote: "O you mysterious galaxies... I see you, I calculate you, I understand you, I study you and I discover you, I penetrate you and I gather you. From you I take light and make it knowledge, I take movement and make it wisdom, I take sparkling colours and make them poetry; I take you stars in my hands and, trembling in the oneness of my being, I raise you above yourselves and offer you in prayer to the Creator, that through me alone you stars can worship" (Le Opere. Inno alla creazione).

St Albert the Great reminds us that there is friendship between science and faith and that through their vocation to the study of nature, scientists can take an authentic and fascinating path of holiness.

His extraordinary openmindedness is also revealed in a cultural feat which he carried out successfully, that is, the acceptance and appreciation of Aristotle's thought. In St Albert's time, in fact, knowledge was spreading of numerous works by this great Greek philosopher, who lived a quarter of a century before Christ, especially in the sphere of ethics and metaphysics. They showed the power of reason, explained lucidly and clearly the meaning and structure of reality, its intelligibility and the value and purpose of human actions. St Albert the Great opened the door to the complete acceptance in medieval philosophy and theology of Aristotle's philosophy, which was subsequently given a definitive form by St Thomas. This reception of a pagan pre-Christian philosophy, let us say, was an authentic cultural revolution in that epoch. Yet many Christian thinkers feared Aristotle's philosophy, a non-Christian philosophy, especially because, presented by his Arab commentators, it had been interpreted in such a way, at least in certain points, as to appear completely irreconcilable with the Christian faith. Hence a dilemma arose: are faith and reason in conflict with each other or not?

This is one of the great merits of St Albert: with scientific rigour he studied Aristotle's works, convinced that all that is truly rational is compatible with the faith revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. In other words, St Albert the Great thus contributed to the formation of an autonomous philosophy, distinct from theology and united with it only by the unity of the truth. So it was that in the 13th century a clear distinction came into being between these two branches of knowledge, philosophy and theology, which, in conversing with each other, cooperate harmoniously in the discovery of the authentic vocation of man, thirsting for truth and happiness: and it is above all theology, that St Albert defined as "emotional knowledge", which points out to human beings their vocation to eternal joy, a joy that flows from full adherence to the truth.

St Albert the Great was capable of communicating these concepts in a simple and understandable way. An authentic son of St Dominic, he willingly preached to the People of God, who were won over by his words and by the example of his life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray the Lord that learned theologians will never be lacking in holy Church, wise and devout like St Albert the Great, and that he may help each one of us to make our own the "formula of holiness" that he followed in his life: "to desire all that I desire for the glory of God, as God desires for his glory all that he desires", in other words always to be conformed to God's will, in order to desire and to do everything only and always for his glory. "

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All Saints and All Souls of the Benedictine Order (Nov.13&14)



Most of the major religious orders have a separate celebration for All Saints and All Souls of their Order. 

Being older than most, the Benedictine Order has rather more recognized saints than most - over 1500 according to the 1919 Catholic Encyclopaedia (and there have been quite a number added to the list since then years).  Nonetheless, on this day I always like to think not just of the formally recognized saints, but also of all those countless unrecognized monks, nuns and oblates who lived their lives quietly, faithful to their vocation, and received their reward.

Unfortunately, the monastic life is not a guarantee of either salvation or even instant sainthood, so remember too in your prayers those who have made it thus far only to purgatory...

Monday, November 12, 2012

St Mennas (November 12)



Saint Mennas (285 – c. 309) was born in Egypt to Christian parents, and his father was a senior bureaucrat.  He joined the Roman army at 15 and served for three years, but then left to become a  hermit.

He was martyred after receiving a vision that encouraged him to declare his faith to the then ruler of the area:

"After spending five years as a hermit, Menas saw in a revelation the angels crowning the martyrs with glamorous crowns, and longed to join those martyrs. While he was thinking about it, he heard a voice saying: "Blessed are you Menas because you have been called to the pious life from your childhood. You shall be granted three immortal crowns; one for your celibacy, another for your asceticism, and a third for your martyrdom." Menas subsequently hurried to the ruler, declaring his Christian faith. His endless sufferings and the tortures that he went through, have attracted many of the pagans, not only to Christianity, but also to martyrdom."

Many miracles were worked through his relics (his body was preserved by his sister), and he was an extremely popular saint for centuries.  Indeed, the sixth century icon above, currently in the Louvre, is reputedly one of the oldest in existence.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Benedictine Office tips 1: The Collect

I thought I'd start an occasional new series for the benefit of those who are learning to say the traditional Benedictine Office, just focusing on those key things that people often get confused about, particularly when starting out.  Today, the collect in the Office.

Which prayer to use?

If you learning to say the Office, working out which collect, or prayer, to use at the conclusion of each hour is important, because it is one of the things that is not set out in the 'psalter' section of most Office books and generally has to be found elsewhere.

Indeed, to know which collect to use, you will generally need to consult an Ordo, or liturgical calendar, such as the one provided on this blog.  Still, there are some simple rules that will help you get it right, or work it out for yourself.

Fixed collects

The easiest collects to get right and those that are pretty much fixed, namely:
  • the collects for Prime and Compline, which are the same every day, with a few notable exceptions (viz, Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday and All Souls Days);
  • the collect for the Office of Our Lady on Saturday, used from Matins to None on every Saturday that is Class IV (ie not a feastday or during Advent or Lent).
Similarly, on saints feast days - that is days labelled Class III, Class II or Class I in the calendar - the collect will be that of the feast at all of the hours except Prime and Compline.  If you keep a ribbon in the 'saints section' of the Diurnal, you should be able to keep track of these (note though that memorials only affect Lauds, so I will deal with them separately).

It is also worth noting that where a feast is first class, it will generally have a  'I Vespers' (just as Sundays do) and the collect at that previous day's Vespers will be for the feast.

Throughout the year - default to Sunday!

On days that aren't feastdays, for most the year (ie in time throughout the year) the normal default is to use the collect of the Sunday. 

During the week, it is the collect of the previous Sunday; at Saturday Vespers (ie I Vespers of Sunday), it is the collect for the next day.

The collects are provided in the Diurnal and breviaries in the front section of the book, listed according to the Sunday of the year.  Indeed, the collect used in the Office is typically the same as the collect used in the Extraordinary Form Mass.   And if you normally attend an OF Mass, you could legitimately substitute in the collect from that Mass in its place (the problem with doing that is that the Sunday Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons should also match up with the OF Gospel.  Official versions of them are available in Latin, in the new Monastic Antiphonale put out by Solesmes).

That means of course, that you need to keep track of what Sunday it is!  If you don't have access to an Ordo of some kind, you can (with some effort) work it out for yourself by using the table of  'moveable feasts' in the front matter of the Diurnal and counting Sundays. 

When things get more complicated....

The exceptions to the 'use Sunday's' collect rule are:
  • as previously suggested, feasts of saints;
  • certain 'moveable feasts' included in the front section of the Diurnal and breviary, such as Corpus Christi, assorted Ember Days and the like; and
  • times of the year when the liturgy becomes more intense, such as Advent and Lent.
Hope this helps rather than confuses!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

St John Cantius (EF, Oct 20)




"In Poland, St. John Cantius, priest and confessor. Being glorious for virtues and miracles, he was inscribed among the saints by the Sovereign Pontiff, Clement XIII."




Thursday, October 18, 2012

St Luke the Evangelist (EF/OF/Ben, Oct 18)



"The birthday of blessed Luke, Evangelist, who, after having suffered much for the name of Christ, died in Bithynia, filled with the Holy Ghost. His relics were taken to Constantinople, and thence conveyed to Padua."




Monday, October 15, 2012

St Teresa of Avila (EF/OF/Ben, Oct 15)



Today's saint is one of that expanding band of female doctors of the Church, St Teresa of Avila.

From the martyrology:

"At Avila, in Spain, St. Theresa, virgin, mother and mistress of the Carmelite Brothers and Sisters of the Strict Observance."

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on her in 2011:

"St Teresa, whose name was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. In her autobiography she mentions some details of her childhood: she was born into a large family, her “father and mother, who were devout and feared God”, into a large family. She had three sisters and nine brothers.

While she was still a child and not yet nine years old she had the opportunity to read the lives of several Martyrs which inspired in her such a longing for martyrdom that she briefly ran away from home in order to die a Martyr’s death and to go to Heaven (cf. Vida, [Life], 1, 4); “I want to see God”, the little girl told her parents.

A few years later Teresa was to speak of her childhood reading and to state that she had discovered in it the way of truth which she sums up in two fundamental principles.

On the one hand was the fact that “all things of this world will pass away” while on the other God alone is “for ever, ever, ever”, a topic that recurs in her best known poem: “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices”. She was about 12 years old when her mother died and she implored the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. Vida, I, 7).

If in her adolescence the reading of profane books had led to the distractions of a worldly life, her experience as a pupil of the Augustinian nuns of Santa María de las Gracias de Avila and her reading of spiritual books, especially the classics of Franciscan spirituality, introduced her to recollection and prayer.

When she was 20 she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, also in Avila. In her religious life she took the name “Teresa of Jesus”. Three years later she fell seriously ill, so ill that she remained in a coma for four days, looking as if she were dead (cf. Vida, 5, 9).

In the fight against her own illnesses too the Saint saw the combat against weaknesses and the resistance to God’s call: “I wished to live”, she wrote, “but I saw clearly that I was not living, but rather wrestling with the shadow of death; there was no one to give me life, and I was not able to take it. He who could have given it to me had good reasons for not coming to my aid, seeing that he had brought me back to himself so many times, and I as often had left him” (Vida, 7, 8).

In 1543 she lost the closeness of her relatives; her father died and all her siblings, one after another, emigrated to America. In Lent 1554, when she was 39 years old, Teresa reached the climax of her struggle against her own weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of “a Christ most grievously wounded”, left a deep mark on her life (cf. Vida, 9).

The Saint, who in that period felt deeply in tune with the St Augustine of the Confessions, thus describes the decisive day of her mystical experience: “and... a feeling of the presence of God would come over me unexpectedly, so that I could in no wise doubt either that he was within me, or that I was wholly absorbed in him” (Vida, 10, 1).

Parallel to her inner development, the Saint began in practice to realize her ideal of the reform of the Carmelite Order: in 1562 she founded the first reformed Carmel in Avila, with the support of the city’s Bishop, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, and shortly afterwards also received the approval of John Baptist Rossi, the Order’s Superior General.

In the years that followed, she continued her foundations of new Carmelite convents, 17 in all. Her meeting with St John of the Cross was fundamental. With him, in 1568, she set up the first convent of Discalced Carmelites in Duruelo, not far from Avila.

In 1580 she obtained from Rome the authorization for her reformed Carmels as a separate, autonomous Province. This was the starting point for the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Indeed, Teresa’s earthly life ended while she was in the middle of her founding activities. She died on the night of 15 October 1582 in Alba de Tormes, after setting up the Carmelite Convent in Burgos, while on her way back to Avila. Her last humble words were: “After all I die as a child of the Church”, and “O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another”.

Teresa spent her entire life for the whole Church although she spent it in Spain. She was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1614 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. The Servant of God Paul VI proclaimed her a “Doctor of the Church” in 1970.

Teresa of Jesus had no academic education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always adhered to what she had lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others (cf. Prologue to The Way of Perfection), in other words basing herself on her own first-hand knowledge.

Teresa had the opportunity to build up relations of spiritual friendship with many Saints and with St John of the Cross in particular. At the same time she nourished herself by reading the Fathers of the Church, St Jerome, St Gregory the Great and St Augustine.

Among her most important works we should mention first of all her autobiography, El libro de la vida (the book of life), which she called Libro de las misericordias del Señor [book of the Lord’s mercies].

Written in the Carmelite Convent at Avila in 1565, she describes the biographical and spiritual journey, as she herself says, to submit her soul to the discernment of the “Master of things spiritual”, St John of Avila. Her purpose was to highlight the presence and action of the merciful God in her life. For this reason the work often cites her dialogue in prayer with the Lord. It makes fascinating reading because not only does the Saint recount that she is reliving the profound experience of her relationship with God but also demonstrates it.

In 1566, Teresa wrote El Camino de Perfección [The Way of Perfection]. She called it Advertencias y consejos que da Teresa de Jesús a sus hermanas [recommendations and advice that Teresa of Jesus offers to her sisters]. It was composed for the 12 novices of the Carmel of St Joseph in Avila. Teresa proposes to them an intense programme of contemplative life at the service of the Church, at the root of which are the evangelical virtues and prayer.

Among the most precious passages is her commentary on the Our Father, as a model for prayer. St Teresa’s most famous mystical work is El Castillo interior [The Interior Castle]. She wrote it in 1577 when she was in her prime. It is a reinterpretation of her own spiritual journey and, at the same time, a codification of the possible development of Christian life towards its fullness, holiness, under the action of the Holy Spirit.

Teresa refers to the structure of a castle with seven rooms as an image of human interiority. She simultaneously introduces the symbol of the silk worm reborn as a butterfly, in order to express the passage from the natural to the supernatural.

The Saint draws inspiration from Sacred Scripture, particularly the Song of Songs, for the final symbol of the “Bride and Bridegroom” which enables her to describe, in the seventh room, the four crowning aspects of Christian life: the Trinitarian, the Christological, the anthropological and the ecclesial.

St Teresa devoted the Libro de la fundaciones [book of the foundations], which she wrote between 1573 and 1582, to her activity as Foundress of the reformed Carmels. In this book she speaks of the life of the nascent religious group. This account, like her autobiography, was written above all in order to give prominence to God’s action in the work of founding new monasteries.

It is far from easy to sum up in a few words Teresa’s profound and articulate spirituality. I would like to mention a few essential points. In the first place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life and in particular, detachment from possessions, that is, evangelical poverty, and this concerns all of us; love for one another as an essential element of community and social life; humility as love for the truth; determination as a fruit of Christian daring; theological hope, which she describes as the thirst for living water. Then we should not forget the human virtues: affability, truthfulness, modesty, courtesy, cheerfulness, culture.

Secondly, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical figures and eager listening to the word of God. She feels above all closely in tune with the Bride in the Song of Songs and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with Christ in the Passion and with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Saint then stresses how essential prayer is. Praying, she says, “means being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us” (Vida 8, 5). St Teresa’s idea coincides with Thomas Aquinas’ definition of theological charity as “amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum”, a type of human friendship with God, who offered humanity his friendship first; it is from God that the initiative comes (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1).

Prayer is life and develops gradually, in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life.

Rather than a pedagogy Teresa’s is a true “mystagogy” of prayer: she teaches those who read her works how to pray by praying with them. Indeed, she often interrupts her account or exposition with a prayerful outburst.

Another subject dear to the Saint is the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the Church of her time.

She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending the “Holy Roman Catholic Church”, and was willing to give her life for the Church (cf. Vida, 33,5).

A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine which I would like to emphasize is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole of Christian life and as its ultimate goal. The Saint has a very clear idea of the “fullness” of Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the route through The Interior Castle, in the last “room”, Teresa describes this fullness, achieved in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, St Teresa of Jesus is a true teacher of Christian life for the faithful of every time. In our society, which all too often lacks spiritual values, St Teresa teaches us to be unflagging witnesses of God, of his presence and of his action. She teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and to be his friends.

This is the friendship we all need that we must seek anew, day after day. May the example of this Saint, profoundly contemplative and effectively active, spur us too every day to dedicate the right time to prayer, to this openness to God, to this journey, in order to seek God, to see him, to discover his friendship and so to find true life; indeed many of us should truly say: “I am not alive, I am not truly alive because I do not live the essence of my life”.

Therefore time devoted to prayer is not time wasted, it is time in which the path of life unfolds, the path unfolds to learning from God an ardent love for him, for his Church, and practical charity for our brothers and sisters."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

St Bruno (EF/OF/Ben), Oct 6



From the martyrology:

"In Calabria, St. Bruno, confessor, founder of the Carthusian Order."




Friday, October 5, 2012

SS Placid and Maurus OSB (Ben), Oct 5



From the martyrology:

"At Messina, in Sicily, the birthday of the holy martyrs Placidus, monk, disciple of the blessed abbot Benedict, and of his brothers Eutychius and Victorinus, and Flavia, virgin, their sister; also of Donatus, Firmatus, deacon, Faustus, and thirty other monks, who were murdered for the faith of Christ by the pirate Manuchas."




Thursday, October 4, 2012

St Francis of Assisi (EF/OF/Ben), Oct 4


Jusepe de Ribera
From the martyrology:

"At Assisi, in Umbria, the birthday of St. Francis, confessor, founder of the Order of Friars Minor, whose life, filled with holy deeds and miracles, was written by St. Bonaventure."




Monday, October 1, 2012

St Remigius (EF); St Terese of the Child Jesus (OF), Oct 1



St Remigius (437-533) baptised King Clovis, resulting in the conversion of the Franks to Christ.  From the martyrology:

"At Rheims, in France, St. Remigius, bishop confessor, who converted the Franks to Christ, regenerated Clovis, their king, in the sacred font of Baptism and instructed him in the mysteries of faith. After he had been many years bishop, and had distinguished himself by his sanctity and the power of working miracles, he departed this life on the 13th of January. His festival, however, is kept on this day, when his sacred body was translated."

St Terese's feast is celebrated on October 3 in the Extraordinary Form and traditional Benedictine calendar, and notes on her will appear here on that day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dedication of St Michael the Archangel (Sept 29, Ben/EF); Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (OF)


Jaime Huguet, 1456
Today's feasts represent a classic example of unfortunate Novus Ordo calendar minimalism!

Instead of retaining separate feasts for each of the Archangels mentioned in the Bible, it groups them all together.

In the older forms of the calendar though, it is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Michael the Archangel, as the martyrology explains:

"On Mount Gargano, the commemoration of the blessed Archangel Michael. This festival is kept in memory of the day, when under his invocation, was consecrated a church, unpretending in its exterior, but endowed with virtue celestial."




Friday, September 28, 2012

St Wenceslaus (EF/OF); St Lawrence Ruiz and companions (OF) Sept 28



From the martyrology:

"In Bohemia, St. Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia and martyr, renowned for holiness and miracles. Being murdered in his brother's house, he went triumphantly to heaven."

St Lawrence Ruiz (1600-1637) is the first Filippino saint, a lay missionary martyred along with a group of Dominican priests for refusing to renounce Christianity in Japan during the Tokogawa Shogunate.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SS Cosmas and Damian (Sept 27, EF/OF/Ben); St Vincent de Paul (OF)



From the martyrology:

"At Aegea, during the persecution of Diocletian, the birthday of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian, brothers. After miraculously overcoming many torments from bonds, imprisonment, fire, crucifixion, stoning, arrows, and from being cast into thesea, they received capital punishment. With them are said to have also suffered three of their brothers, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius."

And also:

"At Paris, St. Vincent de Paul, priest, and founder of the Congregation of the Mission and of the Daughters of Charity, an apostolic man and a father to the poor."




Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ember Saturday (EF/Ben 62); St Maurice and companions, memorial (Ben), Sept 22



Today is an ember day, traditionally a day of fasting and abstinence.

But it is also the memorial of St Maurice in the Benedictine calendar.

From the martyrology:

"At St. Maurice, near Sion, in Switzerland, the birthday of the holy Theban martyrs Maurice, Exuperius, Candidus, Victor, Innocent, and Yitalis, with their companions of the same legion, whose martyrdom for the faith, in the time of Maximian, filled the world with the glory of their sufferings."


St Maurice was leader of the Roman Theban Legion, which consisted entirely of Christians.  Called to Egypt to help suppress a rebellion they were ordered to harass some local Christians, but refused.

After two rounds of decimation failed to make the soldiers obey, the remaining 6,666 men were all executed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

St Matthew (EF/OF/Ben), Sept 21



From the martyrology:

"The birthday of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, who suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, while engaged in preaching. The Gospel written by him in Hebrew was, by his own revelation, found in the time of the emperor Zeno, together with the relics of the blessed apostle Barnabas."

A former tax collector, St Matthew was of course one of the twelve apostles and, modernist speculation aside, author the Gospel bearing his name.  Some of the early Fathers suggest that he originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew rather than the Greek that was the lingua franca of the time.  But if so that version has not come down to us. 





Thursday, September 20, 2012

St Eustace and companions (EF); SS Andrew Tae-gon, Paul Chon Ha-sang and companions, Sept 20


Vision of St Eustace by Pisanello

Prior to his conversion, St Eustace was a Roman General under the Emperor Trajan.  While out hunting one day he had a vision of Jesus caught between the antler's of a stag.  He and his family immediately converted.  St Eustace was martyred in 118 AD. 

From the martyrology:

"At Rome, the holy martyrs Eustachius, and Theopistes, his wife, with their two sons, Agapitus and Theopistus. Under the emperor Adrian, they were condemned to be cast to the beasts, but through the power of God, being uninjured by them, they were shut up in a burning brazen ox, and thus terminated their martyrdom."

In the ordinary form today, the calendar remembers a number of Korean martyrs, including St Andrew Taegon (1821-46), the first Korean native priest, and Paul Chong Hasang (1794-1839), a lay apostle and married man.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ember Wednesday (Sept 19); St Januarius (OF)



This is Ember week in the traditional calendar, traditionally days of fasting and abstinence at times marking the change of the seasons.

You can read more about them here..

In the Ordinary Form, St Januarius is remembered.  Here is the entry from the traditional martyrology:

"At Puzzoli, in Campania, the holy martyrs Januarius, bishop of Benevento, Festus, his deacon, and Desiderius, lector, together with Sosius, deacon of the church of Misenum, Proculus, deacon of Puzzoli, Eutychius and Acutius, who were bound and imprisoned and then beheaded during the reign of Diocletian. The body of St. Januarius was brought to Naples, and buried in the church with due honors, where even now the blood of the blessed martyr is kept in a vial, and when placed close to his head, is seen to become liquid and, bubble up as if it were just taken from his veins."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

St Joseph of Cupertino (EF), Sept 18


From the martyrology:

"At Osimo, St. Joseph of Cupertino, confessor of the Order of the Friars Minor Conventual, who was placed among the Saints by Clement XIII."

Monday, September 17, 2012

St Hildegarde of Bingen OSB (Ben/OF), Sept 17


Pope Benedict XVI formally declared St Hildegard a saint earlier this year, and extended her feast (which has long featured in the Benedictine calendar) to the universal Church. 

He also foreshadowed that she will be declared a Doctor of the Church next month, bringing the number of  Benedictines in that elect group (including St Bernard of Clairvaux) to five.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Seven Sorrows of the BVM (EF/Ben62)/Our Lady of Sorrows (OF)



This is one of those rare feasts that still (even in the Ordinary Form, at least as an option) retain a sequence, viz the Stabat Mater.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14: EF/OF/Ben62)


Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

"The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, when the emperor Heraclius, after defeating King Chosroes, brought it back to Jerusalem from Persia."

The True Cross was rediscovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.

In 614, that portion of the cross was carried away from the church by the Persians.  It was recovered by the Emperor Heraclius in 628. Initially taken to Constantinople, the cross was returned to the church the following year.  The date of the feast marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

St John Chrysostom (OF), Sept 13





St John Chrysostom (349-407), bishop and Doctor of the Church, tends to be rather neglected in the West (though he is cited extensively in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), but undeservedly so in my view. His commentaries on Scripture are wonderful, filled with gems of expositions on key topics, and clearly directed at a lay audience.

Today is his feast in the Ordinary Form, and the martyrology says:

"The same day, the birthday of St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, who was sent into exile through the conspiracy of his enemies, but was recalled by a decree of the Sovereign Pontiff, Innocent I. He died on the way from the ill-treatment he received at the hands of the soldiers who guarded him...."

Pope Benedict XVI on St John

Pope Benedict XVI gave two General Audiences on the saint in 2007, the year of the sixteen hundredth anniversary of his death. Here are some extracts on his life:

"He was born in about the year 349 A.D. in Antioch, Syria (today Antakya in Southern Turkey). He carried out his priestly ministry there for about 11 years, until 397, when, appointed Bishop of Constantinople, he exercised his episcopal ministry in the capital of the Empire prior to his two exiles, which succeeded one close upon the other - in 403 and 407. Let us limit ourselves today to examining the years Chrysostom spent in Antioch.

He lost his father at a tender age and lived with Anthusa, his mother, who instilled in him exquisite human sensitivity and a deep Christian faith.

After completing his elementary and advanced studies crowned by courses in philosophy and rhetoric, he had as his teacher, Libanius, a pagan and the most famous rhetorician of that time. At his school John became the greatest orator of late Greek antiquity.

He was baptized in 368 and trained for the ecclesiastical life by Bishop Meletius, who instituted him as lector in 371. This event marked Chrysostom's official entry into the ecclesiastical cursus. From 367 to 372, he attended the Asceterius, a sort of seminary in Antioch, together with a group of young men, some of whom later became Bishops, under the guidance of the exegete Diodore of Tarsus, who initiated John into the literal and grammatical exegesis characteristic of Antiochean tradition.

He then withdrew for four years to the hermits on the neighbouring Mount Silpius. He extended his retreat for a further two years, living alone in a cave under the guidance of an "old hermit". In that period, he dedicated himself unreservedly to meditating on "the laws of Christ", the Gospels and especially the Letters of Paul. Having fallen ill, he found it impossible to care for himself unaided, and therefore had to return to the Christian community in Antioch (cf. Palladius, Dialogue on the Life of St John Chrysostom, 5).

The Lord, his biographer explains, intervened with the illness at the right moment to enable John to follow his true vocation. In fact, he himself was later to write that were he to choose between the troubles of Church government and the tranquillity of monastic life, he would have preferred pastoral service a thousand times (cf. On the Priesthood, 6, 7): it was precisely to this that Chrysostom felt called.

It was here that he reached the crucial turning point in the story of his vocation: a full-time pastor of souls! Intimacy with the Word of God, cultivated in his years at the hermitage, had developed in him an irresistible urge to preach the Gospel, to give to others what he himself had received in his years of meditation. The missionary ideal thus launched him into pastoral care, his heart on fire.

Between 378 and 379, he returned to the city. He was ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, and became a famous preacher in his city's churches. He preached homilies against the Arians, followed by homilies commemorating the Antiochean martyrs and other important liturgical celebrations: this was an important teaching of faith in Christ and also in the light of his Saints.

The year 387 was John's "heroic year", that of the so-called "revolt of the statues". As a sign of protest against levied taxes, the people destroyed the Emperor's statues. It was in those days of Lent and the fear of the Emperor's impending reprisal that Chrysostom gave his 22 vibrant Homilies on the Statues, whose aim was to induce repentance and conversion. This was followed by a period of serene pastoral care (387-397)..."

In his the second General Audience on the saint Pope Benedict XVI continued:

"...After the period he spent in Antioch, in 397 he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire of the East. John planned the reform of his Church from the outset: the austerity of the episcopal residence had to be an example for all - clergy, widows, monks, courtiers and the rich. Unfortunately, many of those he criticized distanced themselves from him. Attentive to the poor, John was also called "the Almoner". Indeed, he was able as a careful administrator to establish highly appreciated charitable institutions. For some people, his initiatives in various fields made him a dangerous rival but as a true Pastor, he treated everyone in a warm, fatherly way. In particular, he always spoke kindly to women and showed special concern for marriage and the family. He would invite the faithful to take part in liturgical life, which he made splendid and attractive with brilliant creativity."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Most Holy Name of Mary (EF/OF), September 12

Not, for some reason, included in the 1962 Benedictine calendar, but certainly in the calendar of the Universal Church.


C17th
Battle of Vienna, 1683

Older editions of the martyrology note that the feast was established in response to her aid at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683:

"The Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by order of the Sovereign Pontiff, Innocent XI, on account of the signal victory gained over the Turks, at Vienna in Austria, through her protection."

The  most edition, however, gives a more politically correct account of the rationale for the feast:
"The Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day on which the inexpressible love of the Mother of God for her Holy Child is recalled, and the eyes of the faithful are directed to the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer, for them to invoke with devotion."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SS Protus and Hyacinth (Ben/EF); St Theodora, Sept 11


St Theodora

At Rome, in the Cemetery of Basilla, on the old Salarian road, the birthday of the holy martyrs Protus and Hyacinth, brothers and eunuchs in the service of blessed Eugenia, who were arrested, in the time of the emperor Gallienus, on the charge of being Christians, and urged to offer sacrifice to the gods. But as they refused, both were most severely scourged, and finally beheaded.

Also today in the martyrology:

"At Alexandria, St. Theodora, who having committed a fault through imprudence and repenting of it, remained unknown in a religious habit, and persevered until her death in practices of extraordinary abstinence and patience."

She is one of the desert mothers who disguised herself as a man in order to atone for her sin living in a monastery.  Here is an extract from her story:

"St. Theodora and her husband lived in Alexandria. Love and harmony ruled in their family. A certain rich man was captivated by the youthful beauty of Theodora and attempted to lead her into adultery, but was initially unsuccessful. He then bribed a woman of loose morals, who led the unassuming Theodora astray by saying that a secret sin, which the sun does not see, is also unknown to God.


Theodora betrayed her husband, but soon came to her senses and realizing the seriousness of her fall, she became furious with herself, slapping herself on the face and tearing at her hair. Her conscience gave her no peace, and she went to a renowned abbess and confessed her transgression. Seeing the young woman’s repentance, the abbess spoke to her of God's forgiveness and reminded her of the sinful woman in the Gospel who washed the feet of Christ with her tears and received from Him forgiveness. In hope of the mercy of God, Theodora said: "I believe my God, and from now on, I shall not commit such a sin, and I will strive to atone for my deeds." St. Theodora resolved to go off to a monastery to purify herself by labor and by prayer. She left her home secretly, and dressing herself in men's clothes, she went to a men's monastery, since she feared that her husband would find her in a community of women...."

Monday, September 10, 2012

St Nicholas of Tolentino (EF only); St Pulcheria (Sept 10)


"At Tolentino, in the March of Ancona, the departure from this life of St. Nicholas, confessor, of the Order of Augustinians."

Also today in the martyrology:

"At Constantinople, St. Pulcheria, empress and virgin, distinguished by her piety and zeal for religion."

St Pulcheria, whose coins are pictured above, lived between 398/399 and 453.  The daughter of Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius and Empress Aelia Eudoxia, she was the second child. When her father Arcadius died in 408, her brother Theodosius II was made Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, at seven years old. The fifteen-year-old Pulcheria proceeded to proclaim herself regent over her brother in 414, when he was thirteen, and made herself Augusta and Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire.

She took a vow of virginity when she became Augusta.  When her brother died in an accident in 450, she entered into a marriage on the basis that her vow of virginity would be respected, as the Senate was not prepared to permit a woman as sole ruler. 

Pulcheria is known to have held a significant amount of power, and exercized a great deal of influence over the church and theological practices of this time including anti-pagan policies, church building projects, and the debate over the Marian title Theotokos (Mother of God).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pope St Adrian III (from the martyrology, Sept 7)



Pope Adrian III (pope from 884-885), of whom the martyrology says:

"At Nonantola, Pope St. Adrian III, remarkable for his zeal to reconcile the Eastern churches with the Holy See. He died in the odor of sanctity at San Cesario, and became widely celebrated by his miracles."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

St Zachary (from the martyrology, Sept 6)


da Vinci

The martyrology often serves to remind us that there are many Old Testament saints, as well as new!  Today, therefore, we celebrate the feast day of St Zachary (Zechariah), one of the twelve minor prophets, whose book was written in the period 520-518 BC.

From the martyrology:

"The prophet Zachary, who returned in his old age from Chaldea to his own country, and lies buried near the prophet Aggeus."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

St Laurence Justinian (EF), Sept 5



St Laurence Justinian, d 1455, of whom the martyrology says:

"The feast of St. Lawrence Justinian, first Patriarch of Venice, who, by glorious miracles and virtues, illustrated the episcopal dignity which he received against his will on this day. His birthday is the 8th of January."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

St Marcellus (from the martyrology, Sept 4)

From the martyrology:

"At Chalons, in France, St. Marcellus, martyr, under the emperor Antoninus. Being invited to a profane banquet by the governor Priscus, and abhorring the meats that were served, he reproved with great freedom all persons present for worshipping the idols. For this, by an unheard-of kind of cruelty, the same governor had him burned alive up to the waist. After persevering for three days in praising God, he yielded up his undefiled soul."




Monday, September 3, 2012

Pope St Pius X (EF/Benedictine)/St Gregory (OF), Sept 3



From the martyrology:

"St Pius X, Pope, whose birthday is recorded on August 20."

Pope Pius X has a large fan club amongst traditionalists because of his tough stand on the heresy of modernism, even having a traditionalist society named after him. 

Personally, I always find that rather ironic, since he was also the first of the twentieth century liturgical wreckovators, changing the order of reception of the sacraments, overturning longstanding tradition on the frequency of reception of the Eucharist, and above all fundamentally revamping the Roman Breviary.

Fortunately in the Ordinary Form, today is the feast of a rather more traditional liturgical reformer, St Gregory the Great:

"Likewise at Rome, the raising to the Sovereign Pontificate of St. Gregory the Great, an incomparable man, who, being forced to take that burden upon himself, sent forth from the more exalted throne brighter rays of sanctity upon the world."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

St Giles & 12 Holy Brothers (EF: 1 Sept)




In the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Giles (650-710), a Greek hermit who ended up settling in Provence, and one of the fourteen holy helpers.

From the martyrology:

"In the province of Narbonne, St. Giles, abbot and confessor.


At Benevento, twelve saintly brothers, martyrs."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

SS Felix and Adauctus/in some places, St Rose of Lima (Aug 30)


The Glorification of Felix and Adauctus
Carlo Innocenzo Carlone
 From the martyrology:

"The feast of St. Rose of St. Mary, virgin, whose birthday is the 26th of this month.

At Rome, on the Ostian road, the martyrdom of the blessed priest Felix, under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. After being racked he was sentenced to death, and as they led him to execution, he met a man who spontaneously declared himself a Christian, and was forthwith beheaded with him. The Christians not knowing his name, called him Adauctus, because he was added to St. Felix and shared his crown."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

St Augustine of Hippo (Aug 28)



Today is the feast of St Augustine in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, as well as the Benedictine 1962 calendar.

From the martyrology:

"At Hippo Regius, in Africa, the birthday of St. Augustine, bishop and famous Doctor of the Church. Converted and baptized by the blessed bishop Ambrose, he defended the Catholic faith with the greatest zeal against the Manicheans and other heretics, and after having sustained many other labors for the Church of God, he went to his reward in heaven. His relics, owing to the invasion of barbarians, were first brought from his own city into Sardinia, and afterwards taken by Luitprand, king of the Lombards, to Pavia, where they were deposited with due honors. "

Friday, August 24, 2012

St Bartholomew (Aug 24)


From the martyrology:

"The Apostle St. Bartholomew, who preached the Gospel of Christ in India. He passed thence into the Greater Armenia, where, after converting many to the faith, he was flayed alive by the barbarians, and beheaded by order of king Astyages, and thus he terminated his martyrdom. His sacred body was first carried to the island of Lipara, then to Benevento, and finally to Rome in the island of the Tiber, where it is venerated by the pious faithful."

The calling of St Bartholomew (aka Nathaniel) is chronciled in St John's Gospel.

Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia.  He is also credited, along with his fellow apostle Jude, with having brought Christianity to Armenia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

St Timothy (Benedictine)/Immaculate Heart of Mary (EF)/Queenship of the BVM - Aug 22



Jacopo di Montepulciano, c1340
 From the martyrology:

"At Rome, on the Ostian road, the birthday of the holy martyr Timothy. After he had been arrested by Tarquinius, prefect of the city, and kept for a long time in prison, as he refused to sacrifice to the idols, he was scourged three times, subjected to the most severe torments, and finally beheaded."

St Timothy was martyred in 311.