Tuesday, July 31, 2012

St Ignatius (July 31)


From the martyrology:

"At Rome, the birthday of St. Ignatius, priest and confessor, founder of the Society of Jesus, renowned for sanctity and miracles, and most zealous for propagating the Catholic religion in all parts of the world. Pope Pius XI declared him to be the heavenly patron of all spiritual retreats."

Monday, July 30, 2012

St Julitta - a martyr for religious freedom (July 30); SS Abdon and Sennen, memorial

Today's Benedictine Office remembers the  martyrs SS Abson and Sennen, of whom the martyrology says:

"At Rome, in the reign of Decius, the holy Persian martyrs Abdon and Sennen, who were bound with chains, brought to Rome, scourged with leaded whips for the faith of Christ, and then put to the sword."

But the martyrology also recalls a saint whose story has all too modern resonances, of the misuse of the courts to persecute Christians:

"At Caesarea in Cappadocia, St. Julitta, martyr. As she sought through the courts the restitution of goods seized by a man of influence, the latter objected that, being a Christian, her cause could not be pleaded. The judge commanded her to offer sacrifice to the idols, that she might be heard. She refused with great constancy, and being thrown into the fire, yielded her soul unto God. Her body remained uninjured by the flames. St. Basil the Great has proclaimed her praise in an excellent eulogy."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

SS Nazarius, Celsus, Victor and St Innocent I (July 28, EF)

From the Roman Martyrology:

"At Milan, the birthday of the holy martyrs Nazarius and a boy named Celsus. While the persecution excited by Nero was raging, they were beheaded by Anolinus, after long sufferings and afflictions endured in prison.

At Rome, the martyrdom of St. Victor, pope and martyr.

Also at Rome, St. Innocent, pope and confessor, who passed to the Lord on the 12th of March."

Friday, July 27, 2012

St Pantaleon (July 27, EF)

From the Roman Martyrology:

At Nicomedia, the martyrdom of St. Pantaleon, a physician. For the faith of Christ he was apprehended by Emperor Maximian, subjected to the torture and burned with torches, during which torments he was comforted by an apparition of our Lord. He ended his martyrdom by a stroke of the sword.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

SS Anne and Joachim, parents of the BVM

Tradition, drawing on the (non-canonical but very early) Gospel of James, gives us Saints Joachim and Anne as the names of the father and mother of the Mother of God.   While not part of the Scriptural canon, there is no reason to doubt the historical veracity of the text (the normal scepticism of some modern commentators notwithstanding).

In the Protoevangelium of James, Joachim is described as a rich and pious man of the house of David who regularly gave to the poor and to the temple (synagogue) at Sepphoris.  However, as his wife was barren, the high priest rejected Joachim and his sacrifice, as his wife's childlessness was interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure. Joachim consequently withdrew to the desert where he fasted and did penance for forty days. Angels then appeared to both Joachim and Anne to promise them a child. Joachim later returned to Jerusalem and embraced Anne at the city gate.

History of the feast

In the Roman calendar this is the feast of St Anne only, as the martyrology suggests:
"The departure from this life of St. Anne, mother of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God."

In the Benedictine calendar however both saints are celebrated on the same date.

The feast of St Joachim was added to the Roman Calendar in 1584, for celebration on March 20, the day after the feast day of Saint Joseph.

In 1738, it was transferred to the Sunday after the Octave of the Assumption of Mary. As part of his effort to allow the liturgy of Sundays to be celebrated, Pope Pius X transferred it to August 16, the day after the Assumption, so that Joachim may be remembered in the celebration of Mary's triumph.   It was then celebrated as a Double of the 2nd Class, a rank that was changed in 1960 to that of 2nd Class Feast.

In the Roman Catholic calendar of saints (in 1969) it was joined to that of Anne, for celebration on July 26.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches and Greek Catholics commemorate Joachim on September 9, the Synaxis of Joachim and Anne, the day after the Nativity of the Theotokos.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

St James the Greater, Apostle (July 25)

From the Roman Martyrology:

"St. James the Apostle, brother of the blessed evangelist John, who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa at about the feast of Easter. He was the first of the apostles to receive the crown of martyrdom. His sacred bones were on this day carried from Jerusalem to Spain, and placed in the remote province of Galicia, where they are devoutly honoured by the far-famed piety of the inhabitants, and the frequent concourse of Christians, who visit them through piety and in fulfillment of vows."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

St Cristina (July 24)

Lorenzo Lotto, 1505
From the Roman Martyrology:

At Tiro in Tuscany, on Lake Bolsena, St. Christina, virgin and martyr. Because she believed in Christ, and broke up her father's gold and silver idols to give them to the poor, she was cruelly scourged at his command, subjected to other most severe torments, and thrown with a heavy stone into the lake from which she was drawn out by an angel. Then under another judge, who succeeded her father, she bore courageously still more bitter tortures. Finally, after she had been shut up by the governor Julian in a burning furnace for five days without any injury, after being cured of the sting of serpents, she ended her martyrdom by having her tongue cut out, and being pierced with arrows.

There is however another St Cristina whose feast is also celebrated on July 24, St Cristina the Astonishing (1150-1224), patroness of those with mental illnesses.  Here is a little of her story:
"Born a peasant, Christina was orphaned at age 15. She is said to have suffered a massive seizure when she was in her early 20s. According to the story, her condition was so severe that witnesses assumed she had died. A funeral was held, but during the service, she "arose full of vigor, stupefying with amazement the whole city of Sint-Truiden, which had witnessed this wonder. "She levitated up to the rafters, later explaining that she could not bear the smell of the sinful people there. Then "[t]he astonishment increased when they learned from her own mouth what had happened to her after her death."  She related that she had witnessed Heaven, Hell and Purgatory."
Please say a prayer for all whose nameday it is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

St Apollinaris/St Bridget of Sweden (July 23)

c6th mosaic

From the Roman Martyrology::

"At Ravenna, the birthday of the holy bishop Apollinaris, who was consecrated at Rome by the Apostle Peter, and sent to Ravenna, where he endured many different tribulations for the faith of Christ. He afterwards preached the Gospel in Emilia, where he converted many from the worship of idols. Finally, returning to Ravenna, he completed his confession of Christ by a glorious martyrdom under Vespasian Caesar."

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
"He was made Bishop of Ravenna by Saint Peter himself. The miracles he wrought there soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the Faith, while at the same time bringing upon him the fury of the idolaters, who beat him cruelly and drove him from the city. He was found half-dead on the seashore, and kept in concealment by the Christians, but was captured again and compelled to walk on burning coals and a second time expelled. But he remained in the vicinity, and continued his work of evangelization.

We find him then journeying in the Roman province of Aemilia [in Italy]. A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and was flung into a horrible dungeon, loaded with chains, to starve to death; but after four days he was put on board a ship and sent to Greece.

There the same course of preachings, miracles and sufferings continued; and when his very presence caused the oracles to be silent, he was, after a cruel beating, sent back to Italy.

All this continued for three years, and a fourth time he returned to Ravenna. By this time Vespasian was Emperor, and he, in answer to the complaints of the pagans, issued a decree of banishment against the Christians. Apollinaris was kept concealed for some time, but as he was passing out of the gates of the city, was set upon and savagely beaten, probably at Classis, a suburb, but he lived for seven days, foretelling meantime that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph. It is not certain what was his native place, though it was probably Antioch. Nor is it sure that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as has been suggested.

The precise date of his consecration cannot be ascertained, but he was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years.

In the Ordinary Form it is the feast of St Bridget of Sweden, Widow, one of the six patron saints of Europe.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

St John Gualbert OSB (July 12)

St John Gualbert (985 - 1073) was a member of the Florentine nobility.

One Good Friday he was entering Florence accompanied by armed followers, when in a narrow lane he came upon a man who had killed his brother. He was about to kill the man in revenge, when the other fell upon his knees with arms outstretched in the form of a cross and begged for mercy in the name of Christ, who had been crucified on that day. John forgave him. He entered the Benedictine Church at San Miniato to pray, and the figure on the crucifix bowed its head to him in recognition of his generosity.

He became a Benedictine monk at San Miniato, but unwilling to compromise in the fight against simony, of which both his abbot and bishop were guilty, he left and settled at Vallombrosa, where he founded his monastery. 

The Congregation he founded was united with the Slyvestrines by 1680.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Feast of the translation of the relics of St Benedict (July 11)

There are actually two feasts of St Benedict celebrated each year in the Benedictine calendar: his heavenly birth is also celebrated on March 21 in the Extraordinary Form calendar; while the translation of his relics, July 11 is celebrated in the Ordinary Form calendar. 

The subject of today's feast, the translation of the relics of St Benedict, is a subject of some dispute between the abbies of Monte Cassino and Fleury even unto this day as to who has the genuine ones!

Here is Fleury's version of the story from a medieval source, from GG Coulton, Life in the Middle ages:

"IN the name of Christ. There was in France, by God's gracious providence, a learned Priest who set about to journey towards Italy, that he might discover where were the bones of our father St Benedict, no longer worshipped by men. [Note: Monte Cassino, St Benedict's own monastery on a spur of the Apennines between Rome and Naples, had been destroyed by the Lombard barbarians in 580, and was not inhabited again until 718].

At length he came into a desert country some 70 or 80 miles from Rome, where St Benedict of old had built a cell whose indwellers had been bound together in perfect charity. Yet, even then, this Priest and his companions were disquieted by-the uncertainties of the place, since they could find neither vestiges of the monastery nor any burial-place, until at last a swineherd showed them, or hire, exactly where the monastery had stood; yet he was utterly unable to find the sepulcher' until he and his companions had hallowed themselves by a two or three days' fast. Then it was revealed to their cook in a dream, and the matter became plain unto them; for in the morning it was shown unto them by him who seemed lowest in degree, that St Paul's words might be true (I Cor. 1: 27), that God despises that which is held in great esteem among men; or again, as the Lord Himself foretold (Matt. 20:26), "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister." Then, searching the spot with greater diligence, they found a marble slab which they had to cut through.

At last, having broken through the slab, they found the bones of St Benedict, and his sister's bones beneath, with another marble slab between; since (as we believe) the almighty and merciful God would that those should be united in their sepulcher who, in life, had been joined together in brotherly and sisterly love, and in Christian charity."

Having collected and washed these bones they laid them upon fine clean linen, each by itself, to be carried home to their own country. They gave no sign to the Romans lest, if these had learnt the truth, they would doubtless never have suffered such holy relics to be withdrawn from their country without conflict or war-relics which God made manifest, in order that men might see how great was their need of religion and holiness, by the following miracle. For, within a while, the linen that wrapped these bones was found red with the saint's blood, as though from open wounds on living whereby Jesus Christ intended to show that those whose bones are here so glorious would truly live with Him in the world to come. Then they were laid upon a horse which bore them over all that long journey as lightly as though he had felt no burden.

Again, when they journeyed through forest ways and on narrow roads, neither did the trees impede them nor did any ruggedness of the path obstruct their journey; so that the travelers saw clearly how this was through the merits of St Benedict and his sister St Scholastica, in order that their journey might be safe and prosperous even into the realm of France and the monastery of Fleury. In which monastery they are now buried in peace, until they I arise in glory at the Last Day; and here they confer benefits upon all who pray unto the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives and reigns in the unity die Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

SS Thomas More and John Fisher (9 July)

In England and Wales, the feasts of SS Thomas More (martyr) and St John Fisher (bishop and martyr) are celebrated.

St Thomas More's story is well-known; St John Fisher's perhaps less so.

Like More, he treasured learning, encouraging the study of Greek and Hebrew, and indeed was vice-chancellor, and subsequently chancellor, of the University of Cambridge.

He was appointed bishop of Rochester at Henry VII's insistence.

Renowned as a preacher, he also served as tutor to the future Henry VIII.

Like More, he was part of the active resistance to attempts by Lutheranism to gain ground in England.

But he was also Catherine of Aragon's chief supporter in the cause of her marriage, and after St Thomas More's resignation from the chancellorship of England, preached a sermon against the divorce. 

He was arrested shortly after Cranmer's appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, in order to prevent him opposing Cranmer's pronouncement of the divorce.  He was attainted of treason in March 1534, but subsequently pardoned, only to be attained again a few months later for refusing to take the oath of succession. 

Kept in prison in harsh circumstances, the Pope hoped to ease the terms of his imprisonment by appointing him a Cardinal: but it had the opposite effect, and he was executed on June 22, 1535.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

St Anthony Mary Zaccaria (EF, July 5)

Saint Anthony Maria Zaccaria (1502 – 1539) was the originator of the Forty Hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

Born in Cremona, Italy in 1502 to noble parents, his father died when he was two his father died.  He took a private vow of chastity at an early age.

The saint studied philosophy at the University of Pavia, and, from 1520, medicine at the University of Padua. After completing studies in 1524, he practised as a doctor in Cremona for three years.  In 1527, he started studying for the priesthood and was ordained in 1528.

Initially he worked mainly working in hospitals and institutions for the poor.  He subsequently established three religious orders, initially in Milan: the Clerics Regular of St Paul, commonly known as the Barnabites; a female branch of uncloistered nuns, the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul; and a lay congregation for married people, the Laity of St. Paul (Oblates of St. Paul).  Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy and religious.

While on a mission to Guastalla, Italy, in 1539, he caught a fever. Combined with the strict penances he performed, his health waned and he died on 5 July 1539, at the age of 37.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Feast of the Visitation (July 2)

Jacques Daret c1434
In Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI commented on the story of the Visitation as follows:

"This close relationship between God’s word and joy is evident in the Mother of God. Let us recall the words of Saint Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lc 1,45). Mary is blessed because she has faith, because she believed, and in this faith she received the Word of God into her womb in order to give him to the world. The joy born of the Word can now expand to all those who, by faith, let themselves be changed by God’s word. The Gospel of Luke presents this mystery of hearing and joy in two texts. Jesus says: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lc 8,21). And in reply to a woman from the crowd who blesses the womb that bore him and the breasts that nursed him, Jesus reveals the secret of true joy: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Lc 11,28). Jesus points out Mary’s true grandeur, making it possible for each of us to attain that blessedness which is born of the word received and put into practice. I remind all Christians that our personal and communal relationship with God depends on our growing familiarity with the word of God. Finally, I turn to every man and woman, including those who have fallen away from the Church, who have left the faith or who have never heard the proclamation of salvation. To everyone the Lord says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Ap 3,20).

May every day of our lives thus be shaped by a renewed encounter with Christ, the Word of the Father made flesh: he stands at the beginning and the end, and “in him all things hold together” (Col 1,17). Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord’s word and to meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives. In this way the Church will always be renewed and rejuvenated, thanks to the word of the Lord which remains for ever (cf. 1P 1,25 Is Is 40,8). Thus we too will enter into the great nuptial dialogue which concludes sacred Scripture: “The Spirit and the bride say: ‘Come’. And let everyone who hears say: ‘Come!’” The one who testifies to these things, says: ‘Surely I am coming soon!’. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”. (Ap 22,17)."