Friday, September 30, 2016

September 30: Feast of St Jerome, Priest, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, Class III

St Jerome is of course best known for his translations of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate) and commentaries on Scripture, but he was also the founder of a monastic community in Bethlehem with a group of Roman women in 386.

St Jerome's knowledge of and interest in monasticism came largely from his trips to the East, including two (not entirely successful) years spent in an eremitical community. He wrote extensively on monasticism, and translated a number of key Eastern documents (such as the Rule of St Pachomius, which was known to St Benedict) into Latin.

He is a saint who can give hope to us all in that he was, as a 'difficult and hot-tempered man' who made many enemies (he had a less than amiable relationship with St Ambrose, and hotly debated views with St Augustine amongst others).

The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that St Jerome was born at Stridon, a town on the confines of Dalmatia and Pannonia, about the year 340-2, and died at Bethlehem on 30 September, 420.

"He went to Rome, probably about 360, where he was baptized, and became interested in ecclesiastical matters. From Rome he went to Trier, famous for its schools, and there began his theological studies.

Later he went to Aquileia, and towards 373 he set out on a journey to the East. He settled first in Antioch, where he heard Apollinaris of Laodicea, one of the first exegetes of that time and not yet separated from the Church.

From 374-9 Jerome led an ascetical life in the desert of Chalcis, south-west of Antioch. Ordained priest at Antioch, he went to Constantinople (380-81), where a friendship sprang up between him and St. Gregory of Nazianzus.

From 382 to August 385 he made another sojourn in Rome, not far from Pope Damasus. When the latter died (11 December, 384) his position became a very difficult one. His harsh criticisms had made him bitter enemies, who tried to ruin him. After a few months he was compelled to leave Rome.

By way of Antioch and Alexandria he reached Bethlehem, in 386. He settled there in a monastery near a convent founded by two Roman ladies, Paula and Eustochium, who followed him to Palestine. Henceforth he led a life of asceticism and study; but even then he was troubled by controversies which will be mentioned later, one with Rufinus and the other with the Pelagians..."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September 29: Feast of the Dedication of St Michael the Archangel, Class I


The most famous shrine to St Michael in Western Christendom is of course Mont St-Michel in France, where St. Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet.  St Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel's instruction, being sceptical of apparitions, until St. Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger! 

St Michael, whose name means Who is like God?", rates several Scriptural mentions:

(1) Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: "The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince."

(2) Daniel 12, the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: "At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people."

(3) In the Epistle of St. Jude: "When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses", etc.

(4) Apocalypse 12:7, "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon."

There is a lot more about him in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (quoted by St Jude), which, though judged not one of the inspired books of Scripture, still has considerable value.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:

•To fight against Satan.

•To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.

•To be the champion of God's people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.

•To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgment ("signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam", Offert. Miss Defunct. "Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas", Antiph. off. Cf. The Shepherd of Hermas, Book III, Similitude 8, Chapter 3).  

St Michael, pray for us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 27: SS Cosmas and Damian, Memorial

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Cosmas and Damian, familiar to us from the litany, were:

"Early Christian physicians and martyrs whose feast is celebrated on 27 September.

They were twins, born in Arabia, and practised the art of healing in the seaport Ægea, now Ayash (Ajass), on the Gulf of Iskanderun in Cilicia, Asia Minor, and attained a great reputation.

They accepted no pay for their services and were, therefore, called anargyroi, "the silverless". In this way they brought many to the Catholic Faith.

When the Diocletian persecution began, the Prefect Lysias had Cosmas and Damian arrested, and ordered them to recant. They remained constant under torture, in a miraculous manner suffered no injury from water, fire, air, nor on the cross, and were finally beheaded with the sword."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ordo for Nineteenth Week after Pentecost

Sunday 25 September – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Class II

Matins: Sunday 4 of September

Lauds: Psalm schema 1 (50, 117, 62); canticle antiphon, MD 478*

Prime to None: All as for Sunday in the psalter, with collect MD 478*

Vespers: Canticle antiphon and collect, MD 478*

Monday 26 September  – Class IV [EF: Commemoration of SS Cyprian and Justina]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 478*

Tuesday 27 September - Class IV, SS Cosmas and Damian, Memorial [EF: Class III]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 478*; for the commemoration, MD [281]

Wednesday 28 September – Class IV [EF: St Wenceslaus]

Matins to None: All as in the psalter, collect, MD 478*

I Vespers of St Michael: MD [282]

Thursday 29 September - Dedication of St Michael the Archangel, Class I

Lauds: Antiphons and proper texts of the feast, MD [284] ff with festal psalms

Prime: Antiphon 1 of Lauds

Terce to None: Antiphons of Lauds, chapter versicles and collect, MD [287] ff

Vespers: All as for I Vespers except the fourth psalm and Magnificat antiphon, see MD [289] ff

Friday 30 September – St Jerome, Class III

Lauds and Vespers: Antiphons and psalms of the day; chapter etc from Common of a Confessor not a bishop, MD (78), at Vespers, canticle antiphon of a doctor; collect, MD [290]

Terce to None: Chapter and versicle from the Common; collect, MD [290]

Saturday 1 October - Saturday of Our Lady [EF: Commemoration of St Remigius]

Matins to None: At Matins, reading of Saturday 1 of October; Lauds to None, MD (129) ff

I Vespers of First Sunday of October, MD 457*/Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, collect MD 479*

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pope St Linus I, Memorial: September 23


Pope Saint Linus I (d. ca. 76) was the second Bishop of Rome following St Peter.  St Irenaeus wrote:

"The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate."

Not much is definitively known of his life (from the Wikipedia):

"According to the Liber Pontificalis, Linus was an Italian from Tuscany (though his name is Greek), and his father's name was Herculanus. The Apostolic Constitutions names his mother as Claudia (immediately after the name "Linus" in 2 Timothy 4:21 a Claudia is mentioned, but the Apostolic Constitutions does not explicitly identify that Claudia as Linus's mother). The Liber Pontificalis also says that he issued a decree that women should cover their heads in church, and that he died a martyr and was buried on the Vatican Hill next to Peter. It gives the date of his death as 23 September, the date on which his feast is still celebrated. His name is included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

On the statement about a decree requiring women to cover their heads, J.P. Kirsch comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia: "Without doubt this decree is apocryphal, and copied by the author of the Liber Pontificalis from the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (11:5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome. The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church; and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only Telesphorus as a glorious martyr."

The Roman Martyrology does not call Linus a martyr. The entry about him is as follows: "At Rome, commemoration of Saint Linus, Pope, who, according to Irenaeus, was the person to whom the blessed Apostles entrusted the episcopal care of the Church founded in the City, and whom blessed Paul the Apostle mentions as associated with him."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Brush up your rubrics - what changes and what doesn't on major feasts

One of the things that can trip people up when saying the office is which parts of the Office do and don't change on feast days.

Levels of days

The first thing you need to know is that in the 1963 calendar used in the Ordo on this blog there are basically four levels of days - Class I (class one), Class II (class two), Class III (class three) and Class IV (class four).

Class IV means an ordinary day, with no feasts on it, so the Office is said as set out in the psalter section of the Diurnal, using any texts appropriate for the day/season/time of year.

Days that are Class III or higher will displace some or all of the normal day of the week/season texts used.  Which texts are affected and used instead depends on the hour of the Office being said, and the level of the feast.

Days vs feasts

A key distinction to be aware of is between 'days' (ferias) and feasts.  This coming Friday and Saturday for example, are Ember Days and are Class II, however only the collect (at the day hours other than Prime and Compline) and NT canticle antiphons change.

By contrast, on a second class feast like that of St Matthew on Wednesday, many more of the texts will change at some of the hours.

Chant tones vs texts

The other thing to note is that if you are listening to a podcast of the Office, or attending it in person in a monastery, it might all sound different even when the texts are actually mostly not changed.

At Prime, for example, the only text that changes on a feast is the antiphon.  However, where it is sung using Gregorian chant (rather than just recto tono, or on one note), a different hymn tune will normally be used to reflect the level of the feast, and the psalm tone used will reflect the antiphon for the feast.

What changes and what doesn't on Class I&II feasts?

The table below summarises whether or not the relevant part of the Office changes on a Class I or II feast.  In general:

  • the opening and closing prayers (other than the collect) do not change (but the opening prayers might have a more elaborate chant tone);
  • Compline is not affected by feasts (except that the solemn tone for the Marian antiphon might be used);
  • at Prime, the only thing that changes is the antiphon for the psalms.

Affected by Class I&II feasts?

Sext &
Opening prayers


Not applicable

OT canticle(s)
Yes (optional festal)



Antiphon for NT

NT canticle



Closing prayers other than collect

Hope this helps a bit, but do ask if you have any questions, or let me know if I've made a mistake!

September 22: St Maurice and Companions

Saint Maurice was the leader of the Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century,  massacred at Agaunum, about 287, by order of Maximian Herculius.   The legion was composed entirely of Christians.  There are two versions of the legend:  according to one, the legion refused orders to harass innocent Christians.  According to the other, the soldiers refused orders to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Either way, every tenth was then killed. Another order to sacrifice and another refusal caused a second decimation and then a general massacre.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 21: Feast of St Matthew, Apostle, Class II

From Pope Benedict XVI's August 30 2006 General Audience:
"Continuing the series of portraits of the Twelve Apostles that we began a few weeks ago, let us reflect today on Matthew. To tell the truth, it is almost impossible to paint a complete picture of him because the information we have of him is scarce and fragmentary. What we can do, however, is to outline not so much his biography as, rather, the profile of him that the Gospel conveys.

In the meantime, he always appears in the lists of the Twelve chosen by Jesus (cf. Mt 10: 3; Mk 3: 18; Lk 6: 15; Acts 1: 13).

His name in Hebrew means "gift of God". The first canonical Gospel, which goes under his name, presents him to us in the list of the Twelve, labelled very precisely: "the tax collector" (Mt 10: 3).

Thus, Matthew is identified with the man sitting at the tax office whom Jesus calls to follow him: "As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me'. And he rose and followed him" (Mt 9: 9). Mark (cf. 2: 13-17) and Luke (cf. 5: 27-30), also tell of the calling of the man sitting at the tax office, but they call him "Levi".

To imagine the scene described in Mt 9: 9, it suffices to recall Caravaggio's magnificent canvas, kept here in Rome at the Church of St Louis of the French.

A further biographical detail emerges from the Gospels: in the passage that immediately precedes the account of the call, a miracle that Jesus worked at Capernaum is mentioned (cf. Mt 9: 1-8; Mk 2: 1-12) and the proximity to the Sea of Galilee, that is, the Lake of Tiberias (cf. Mk 2: 13-14).

It is possible to deduce from this that Matthew exercised the function of tax collector at Capernaum, which was exactly located "by the sea" (Mt 4: 13), where Jesus was a permanent guest at Peter's house.

On the basis of these simple observations that result from the Gospel, we can advance a pair of thoughts.

The first is that Jesus welcomes into the group of his close friends a man who, according to the concepts in vogue in Israel at that time, was regarded as a public sinner.

Matthew, in fact, not only handled money deemed impure because of its provenance from people foreign to the People of God, but he also collaborated with an alien and despicably greedy authority whose tributes moreover, could be arbitrarily determined.

This is why the Gospels several times link "tax collectors and sinners" (Mt 9: 10; Lk 15: 1), as well as "tax collectors and prostitutes" (Mt 21: 31).

Furthermore, they see publicans as an example of miserliness (cf. Mt 5: 46: they only like those who like them), and mention one of them, Zacchaeus, as "a chief tax collector, and rich" (Lk 19: 2), whereas popular opinion associated them with "extortioners, the unjust, adulterers" (Lk 18: 11).

A first fact strikes one based on these references: Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. Indeed, precisely while he is at table in the home of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who expressed shock at the fact that he associated with people who had so little to recommend them, he made the important statement: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mk 2: 17).

The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this: offering God's grace to the sinner!

Elsewhere, with the famous words of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the Temple to pray, Jesus actually indicates an anonymous tax collector as an appreciated example of humble trust in divine mercy: while the Pharisee is boasting of his own moral perfection, the "tax collector... would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!'".

And Jesus comments: "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk 18: 13-14).

Thus, in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God's mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvellous effects in their own lives.

St John Chrysostom makes an important point in this regard: he notes that only in the account of certain calls is the work of those concerned mentioned. Peter, Andrew, James and John are called while they are fishing, while Matthew, while he is collecting tithes.

These are unimportant jobs, Chrysostom comments, "because there is nothing more despicable than the tax collector, and nothing more common than fishing" (In Matth. Hom.: PL 57, 363). Jesus' call, therefore, also reaches people of a low social class while they go about their ordinary work.

Another reflection prompted by the Gospel narrative is that Matthew responds instantly to Jesus' call: "he rose and followed him". The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew's readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved.

The application to the present day is easy to see: it is not permissible today either to be attached to things that are incompatible with the following of Jesus, as is the case with riches dishonestly achieved.

Jesus once said, mincing no words: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19: 21).

This is exactly what Matthew did: he rose and followed him! In this "he rose", it is legitimate to read detachment from a sinful situation and at the same time, a conscious attachment to a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.

Lastly, let us remember that the tradition of the ancient Church agrees in attributing to Matthew the paternity of the First Gospel. This had already begun with Bishop Papias of Hierapolis in Frisia, in about the year 130.

He writes: "Matthew set down the words (of the Lord) in the Hebrew tongue and everyone interpreted them as best he could" (in Eusebius of Cesarea, Hist. Eccl. III, 39, 16).

Eusebius, the historian, adds this piece of information: "When Matthew, who had first preached among the Jews, decided also to reach out to other peoples, he wrote down the Gospel he preached in his mother tongue; thus, he sought to put in writing, for those whom he was leaving, what they would be losing with his departure" (ibid., III, 24, 6).

The Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic is no longer extant, but in the Greek Gospel that we possess we still continue to hear, in a certain way, the persuasive voice of the publican Matthew, who, having become an Apostle, continues to proclaim God's saving mercy to us. And let us listen to St Matthew's message, meditating upon it ever anew also to learn to stand up and follow Jesus with determination."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rebuilding at Norcia: deep roots

Picture: EPA from Metro 

The latest update from the monastery of Norcia in Italy, devastated by the recent earthquakes, includes a video called deep roots, which the monastery's Sub-prior, Fr Benedict, explains as follows:
The title "Deep Roots" comes from the beloved Catholic author J. R. R. Tolkien. We include his poem in full here that it might inspire each of you to watch the video, read the document and to give whatever you can, help in any way you can, so that the monastic presence in Norcia may grow stronger, the roots deeper.
Here is the poem:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."

- J. R. R. Tolkien -

Do have a listen, and do what you can to help them materially and through your prayers.  And please keep all the residents there in your prayers as the region continues to experience strong aftershocks.

You can also find more information about their campaign and plans here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ordo for Eighteenth Week after Pentecost

Sunday 18 September  - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Class II

Matins: Third Sunday of September

Lauds: Psalm schema 1 (50, 117, 62; canticle antiphon, MD 477*

Prime to None: All as for Sunday in the psalter, with collect MD 477*

Vespers: Canticle antiphon and collect, MD 477*

Monday 19 September - Class IV [EF: St Januarius and companions]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 477*

Tuesday 20 September - Class IV [EF: commemoration of St Eustace and Companions]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 477*

Wednesday 21 September - St Matthew, Class II; Commemoration of the Ember Day

Lauds to Vespers: All from the Common of Apostles, MD (9); collect, MD [279]; for the commemoration at Lauds and Vespers, MD 454*

Thursday 22 September - Class IV; St Maurice and Companions, memorial [EF: St Thomas of Villanova]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 477*; for the commemoration at Lauds, MD [280]

Friday 23 September -– Ember Friday, Class II; St Linus, Memorial

All as in the psalter for Friday except for the canticle antiphons at Lauds and Vespers and collect, MD 455*; for the commemoration at Lauds, MD [280-1]

Saturday 24 September - Ember Saturday, Class II [EF: and Commemoration of Our Lady of Ransom]

All as in the psalter for Saturday except for the canticle antiphons at Lauds and Vespers and collect, MD 456*

I Vespers of the Fourth Saturday of September, MD 456-7*/ Nineteenth after Pentecost, MD 478*

Friday, September 16, 2016

September 17: St Hildegarde OSB, Memorial/Solemnity

St Hildegarde (1098 – 1179), nun, mystic, writer and composer, was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and he devoted two General Audiences to her.  Here is an extract from the first:

"St Hildegard of Bingen, who lived in Germany in the 12th century. She was born in 1098, probably at Bermersheim, Rhineland, not far from Alzey, and died in 1179 at the age of 81, in spite of having always been in poor health.

Hildegard belonged to a large noble family and her parents dedicated her to God from birth for his service. At the age of eight she was offered for the religious state (in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, chapter 59), and, to ensure that she received an appropriate human and Christian formation, she was entrusted to the care of the consecrated widow Uda of Gölklheim and then to Jutta of Spanheim who had taken the veil at the Benedictine Monastery of St Disibodenberg.

A small cloistered women's monastery was developing there that followed the Rule of St Benedict. Hildegard was clothed by Bishop Otto of Bamberg and in 1136, upon the death of Mother Jutta who had become the community magistra (Prioress), the sisters chose Hildegard to succeed her. She fulfilled this office making the most of her gifts as a woman of culture and of lofty spirituality, capable of dealing competently with the organizational aspects of cloistered life.

A few years later, partly because of the increasing number of young women who were knocking at the monastery door, Hildegard broke away from the dominating male monastery of St Disibodenburg with her community, taking it to Bingen, calling it after St Rupert and here she spent the rest of her days.

Her manner of exercising the ministry of authority is an example for every religious community: she inspired holy emulation in the practice of good to such an extent that, as time was to tell, both the mother and her daughters competed in mutual esteem and in serving each other.

During the years when she was superior of the Monastery of St Disibodenberg, Hildegard began to dictate the mystical visions that she had been receiving for some time to the monk Volmar, her spiritual director, and to Richardis di Strade, her secretary, a sister of whom she was very fond...."

St Cyprian of Carthage, memorial, September 16

Heiliger Cyprianus.jpg

St Cyprian is an important saint for Benedictines, because St Benedict's Rule frequently alludes to his writings.  His feast is celebrated on the same day as that of his friend Pope Cornelius, who was martyred in exile from Rome in 253 AD.

From the General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI on 6 June 2007:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the series of our catecheses on the great figures of the ancient Church, today we come to an excellent African Bishop of the third century, St Cyprian, "the first Bishop in Africa to obtain the crown of martyrdom".

His fame, Pontius the Deacon his first biographer attests, is also linked to his literary corpus and pastoral activity during the 13 years between his conversion and his martyrdom (cf. Life and Passion of St Cyprian, 19, 1; 1, 1).

Cyprian was born in Carthage into a rich pagan family. After a dissipated youth, he converted to Christianity at the age of 35.

He himself often told of his spiritual journey, "When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night", he wrote a few months after his Baptism, "I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God's mercy was suggesting to me. "I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and to indulge my sins....

"But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart... a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner every doubt began to fade.... I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly" (Ad Donatum, 3-4).

Immediately after his conversion, despite envy and resistance, Cyprian was chosen for the priestly office and raised to the dignity of Bishop. In the brief period of his episcopacy he had to face the first two persecutions sanctioned by imperial decree: that of Decius (250) and that of Valerian (257-258).

After the particularly harsh persecution of Decius, the Bishop had to work strenuously to restore order to the Christian community. Indeed, many of the faithful had abjured or at any rate had not behaved correctly when put to the test. They were the so-called lapsi - that is, the "fallen" - who ardently desired to be readmitted to the community.

The debate on their readmission actually divided the Christians of Carthage into laxists and rigorists. These difficulties were compounded by a serious epidemic of the plague which swept through Africa and gave rise to anguished theological questions both within the community and in the confrontation with pagans. Lastly, the controversy between St Cyprian and Stephen, Bishop of Rome, concerning the validity of Baptism administered to pagans by heretical Christians, must not be forgotten.

In these truly difficult circumstances, Cyprian revealed his choice gifts of government: he was severe but not inflexible with the lapsi, granting them the possibility of forgiveness after exemplary repentance. Before Rome, he staunchly defended the healthy traditions of the African Church; he was deeply human and steeped with the most authentic Gospel spirit when he urged Christians to offer brotherly assistance to pagans during the plague; he knew how to maintain the proper balance when reminding the faithful - excessively afraid of losing their lives and their earthly possessions - that true life and true goods are not those of this world; he was implacable in combating corrupt morality and the sins that devastated moral life, especially avarice.

"Thus he spent his days", Pontius the Deacon tells at this point, "when at the bidding of the proconsul, the officer with his soldiers all of a sudden came unexpectedly upon him in his grounds" (Life and Passion of St Cyprian, 15, 1).

On that day, the holy Bishop was arrested and after being questioned briefly, courageously faced martyrdom in the midst of his people.

The numerous treatises and letters that Cyprian wrote were always connected with his pastoral ministry. Little inclined to theological speculation, he wrote above all for the edification of the community and to encourage the good conduct of the faithful.

Indeed, the Church was easily his favourite subject. Cyprian distinguished between the visible, hierarchical Church and the invisible mystical Church but forcefully affirmed that the Church is one, founded on Peter.

He never wearied of repeating that "if a man deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, does he think that he is in the Church?" (cf. De unit. [On the unity of the Catholic Church], 4).

Cyprian knew well that "outside the Church there is no salvation", and said so in strong words (Epistles 4, 4 and 73, 21); and he knew that "no one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as mother" (De unit., 6). An indispensable characteristic of the Church is unity, symbolized by Christ's seamless garment (ibid., 7): Cyprian said, this unity is founded on Peter (ibid., 4), and finds its perfect fulfilment in the Eucharist (Epistle 63, 13).

"God is one and Christ is one", Cyprian cautioned, "and his Church is one, and the faith is one, and the Christian people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed. And what is one by its nature cannot be separated" (De unit., 23).

We have spoken of his thought on the Church but, lastly, let us not forget Cyprian's teaching on prayer. I am particularly fond of his treatise on the "Our Father", which has been a great help to me in understanding and reciting the Lord's Prayer better.

Cyprian teaches that it is precisely in the Lord's Prayer that the proper way to pray is presented to Christians. And he stresses that this prayer is in the plural in order that "the person who prays it might not pray for himself alone. Our prayer", he wrote, "is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people, are one (De Dom. orat. [Treatise on the Lord's Prayer], 8).

Thus, personal and liturgical prayer seem to be strongly bound. Their unity stems from the fact that they respond to the same Word of God. The Christian does not say "my Father" but "our Father", even in the secrecy of a closed room, because he knows that in every place, on every occasion, he is a member of one and the same Body.

"Therefore let us pray, beloved Brethren", the Bishop of Carthage wrote, "as God our Teacher has taught us. It is a trusting and intimate prayer to beseech God with his own word, to raise to his ears the prayer of Christ. Let the Father acknowledge the words of his Son when we pray, and let him also who dwells within our breast himself dwell in our voice....

"But let our speech and petition when we pray be under discipline, observing quietness and modesty. Let us consider that we are standing in God's sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the position of the body and with the measure of voice....

"Moreover, when we meet together with the brethren in one place, and celebrate divine sacrifices with God's priest, we ought to be mindful of modesty and discipline - not to throw abroad our prayers indiscriminately, with unsubdued voices, nor to cast to God with tumultuous wordiness a petition that ought to be commended to God by modesty; for God is the hearer, not of the voice, but of the heart (non vocis sed cordis auditor est)" (3-4). Today too, these words still apply and help us to celebrate the Holy Liturgy well.

Ultimately, Cyprian placed himself at the root of that fruitful theological and spiritual tradition which sees the "heart" as the privileged place for prayer.

Indeed, in accordance with the Bible and the Fathers, the heart is the intimate depths of man, the place in which God dwells. In it occurs the encounter in which God speaks to man, and man listens to God; man speaks to God and God listens to man. All this happens through one divine Word. In this very sense - re-echoing Cyprian - Smaragdus, Abbot of St Michael on the Meuse in the early years of the ninth century, attests that prayer "is the work of the heart, not of the lips, because God does not look at the words but at the heart of the person praying" (Diadema monachorum [Diadem of the monks], 1).

Dear friends, let us make our own this receptive heart and "understanding mind" of which the Bible (cf. I Kgs 3: 9) and the Fathers speak. How great is our need for it! Only then will we be able to experience fully that God is our Father and that the Church, the holy Bride of Christ, is truly our Mother.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

September 15: Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

Though this feast has medieval origins, it wasn't added to the universal calendar until 1814, and wasn't moved to this day until 1913.

Traditionally, the seven sorrows are:

•at the prophecy of Simeon;

•at the flight into Egypt;

•having lost the Holy Child at Jerusalem;

•meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary;

•standing at the foot of the Cross;

•Jesus being taken from the Cross;

•at the burial of Christ.
At today's Mass, the sequence is the famous Stabat Mater:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 14: Exaltation of Holy Cross, Class II

Once upon a time there were two feasts in the calendar associated with the recovery of the true Cross.

The first, on May 3, celebrated St Helena's finding of the Cross in Jerusalem in 326.

The second, on September 14, celebrated the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcre nine years later, and the placement of a portion of the Cross there for veneration by the faithful on this day.

In the 1962 calendar, the two were combined.

There is a nice Benedictine connection to the veneration of the true Cross in the saints invocation of the Cross in many of the miracles that he worked.  And this is carried forward today in the indult that allows the medal of St Benedict to be used in place of a fragment of the true cross in the blessing of St Maurus for the sick.

Traditionally, the Spring/Autumn (depending on which hemisphere you live in) Ember Days occur in the calendar week after September 14, and it is for this reason presumably that St Benedict uses the date as the changeover from the summer to the winter meal schedule in his Rule (ch 41).

It is also of course the anniversary of the coming into effect of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by which Pope Benedict XVI freed access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

The Vespers hymn is Vexilla Regis Prodeunt.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ordo for the Seventeenth Week after Pentecost

Sunday 11 September - Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Class II; SS Protus and Hyacinth, memorial

Matins:  Sunday 2 of September

Lauds: Psalm schema 1 (50, 117, 62); canticle antiphon and collect, MD 476*; for the commemoration at Lauds, MD [265]

Vespers: Canticle antiphon and collect, MD 476-7*

Monday 12 September – [EF: Most Holy Name of Mary]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 476*

Tuesday 13 September - Class IV

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 476*

Wednesday 14 September  – Exaltation of Holy Cross, Class II

Lauds: Festal psalms (of Sunday) with antiphons and proper texts from MD [266] ff

Prime: Antiphon 1 of Lauds

Terce to None: Antiphon, chapter, versicle and collect of the feast, MD [269] ff

Vespers: Antiphons of Lauds (omit fourth); psalms of Sunday, MD 203 ff; rest from MD [270] ff

[Start of monastic Lent]

Thursday 15  September – The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Class III (EF: Class II)

Matins: Two nocturns - Invitatory antiphon, hymn and one reading of the feast

Lauds: Antiphons and proper texts, MD [273] ff; festal psalms

Prime to None: Antiphons of Lauds; chapter, versicle and collect, MD [276] ff

Vespers: Antiphons of Lauds; psalms from Common of BVM, MD (119); chapter etc MD [277] ff

Friday 16 September – Class IV; SS Cornelius and Cyprian, memorials [EF: Class III]

All as in the psalter; collect, MD 476*; for the commemorations at Lauds, MD [278]

Saturday 17 September - Saturday of Our Lady; St Hildegard, memorial [EF: Commemoration of the Imprinting of the Stigmata of St Francis; OF: St Hildegard, Solemnity]

Matins to None: At Matins, reading of Saturday 3; Lauds to None, MD (129) ff; for the commemoration at Lauds, MD [278-9]

I Vespers of Third Sunday of September, MD 453-4*; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, MD 477*

Friday, September 9, 2016

September 9: St Gorgonius, Martyr, Memorial

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, St Gorgonius  was martyred in 304 at Nicomedia with S Dorotheus and others during the persecution of Diocletian:

"Gorgonius held a high position in the household of the emperor, and had often been entrusted with matters of the greatest importance.

At the breaking out of the persecution he was consequently among the first to be charged, and, remaining constant in the profession of the Faith, was with his companions, Dorotheus, Peter and several others, subjected to the most frightful torments and finally strangled.

Diocletian, determined that their bodies should not receive the extraordinary honours which the early Christians were wont to pay the relics of the martyrs (honours so great as to occasion the charge of idolatry), ordered them to be thrown into the sea. The Christians nevertheless obtained possession of them, and later the body of Gorgonius was carried to Rome, whence in the eighth century it was translated by St. Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz, and enshrined in the monastery of Gorze. Many French churches obtained portions of the saint's body from Gorze, but in the general pillage of the French Revolution, most of these relics were lost. Our chief sources of information regarding these martyrs are Lactantius and Eusebius."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This is one of only three birthdays celebrated in the liturgical year: those of Our Lady, Our Lord, and St John the Baptist.

The useful Fisheaters website offers a translation of the (non-canonical) Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, that was translated from the Hebrew by St Jerome.  The sections relevant to today's feast are as follows:

"Chapter I

The blessed and glorious ever-virgin Mary, sprung from the royal stock and family of David, born in the city of Nazareth, was brought up at Jerusalem in the temple of the Lord. Her father was named Joachim, and her mother Anna. Her father's house was from Galilee and the city of Nazareth, but her mother's family from Bethlehem. Their life was guileless and right before the Lord, and irreproachable and pious before men. For they divided all their substance into three parts. One part they spent upon the temple and the temple servants; another they distributed to strangers and the poor; the third they reserved, for themselves and the necessities of their family. Thus, dear to God, kind to men, for about twenty years they lived in their own house, a chaste married life, without having any children. Nevertheless they vowed that, should the Lord happen to give them offspring, they would deliver it to the service of the Lord; on which account also they used to visit the temple of the Lord at each of the feasts during the year.

Chapter II

And it came to pass that the festival of the dedication was at hand; wherefore also Joachim went up to Jerusalem with some men of his own tribe. Now at that time Issachar was high priest there. And when he saw Joachim with his offering among his other fellow-citizens, he despised him, and spurned his gifts, asking why he, who had no offspring, presumed to stand among those who had; saying that his gifts could not by any means be acceptable to God, since He had deemed him unworthy of off-spring: for the Scripture said, Cursed is every one who has not begot a male or a female in Israel. He said, therefore, that he ought first to be freed from this curse by the begetting of children; and then, and then only, that be should come into the presence of the Lord with his offerings. And Joachim, covered with shame from this reproach that was thrown in his teeth, retired to the shepherds, who were in their pastures with their flocks; nor would he return home, test perchance he might be branded with the same reproach by those of his own tribe, who were there at the time, and had heard this from the priest.

Chapter III

Now, when he had been there for some time, on a certain day when he was alone, an angel of the Lord stood by him in a great light. And when he was disturbed at his appearance, the angel who had appeared to him restrained his fear, saying: Fear not, Joachim, nor be disturbed by my appearance; for I am the angel of the Lord, sent by Him to thee to tell thee that thy prayers have been heard, and that thy charitable deeds have gone up into His presence. For He hath seen thy shame, and hath heard the reproach of unfruitfulness which has been unjustly brought against thee. For God is the avenger of sin, not of nature: and, therefore, when He shuts up the womb of any one, He does so that He may miraculously open it again; so that that which is born may be acknowledged to be not of lust, but of the gift of God. For was it not the case that the first mother of your nation-Sarah-was barren up to her eightieth year? And, nevertheless, in extreme old age she brought forth Isaac, to whom the promise was renewed of the blessing of all nations. Rachel also, so favoured of the Lord, and so beloved by holy Jacob, was long barren; and yet she brought forth Joseph, who was not only the lord of Egypt, but the deliverer of many nations who were ready to perish of hunger. Who among the judges was either stronger than Samson, or more holy than Samuel? And yet the mothers of both were barren. If, therefore, the reasonableness of my words does not persuade thee, believe in fact that conceptions very late in life, and births in the case of women that have been barren, are usually attended with something wonderful. Accordingly thy wife Anna will bring forth a daughter to thee, and thou shall call her name Mary: she shall be, as you have vowed, consecrated to the Lord from her infancy, and she shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from her mother's womb. She shall neither eat nor drink any unclean thing, nor shall she spend her life among the crowds of the people without, but in the temple of the Lord, that it may not be possible either to say, or so much as to suspect, any evil concerning her. Therefore, when she has grown up, just as she herself shall be miraculously born of a barren woman, so in an incomparable manner she, a virgin, shall bring forth the Son of the Most High, who shall be called Jesus, and who, according to the etymology of His name, shall be the Saviour of all nations. And this shall be the sign to thee of those things which I announce: When thou shalt come to the Golden gate in Jerusalem, thou shalt there meet Anna thy wife, who, lately anxious from the delay of thy return, will then rejoice at the sight of thee. Having thus spoken, the angel departed from him.

Chapter IV

Thereafter he appeared to Anna his wife, saying: Fear not, Anna, nor think that it is a phantom which thou seest. For I am that angel who has presented your prayers and alms before God; and now have I been sent to you to announce to you that thou shalt bring forth a daughter, who shall be called Mary, and who shall be blessed above all women. She, full of the favour of the Lord even from her birth, shall remain three years in her father's house until she be weaned. Thereafter, being delivered to the service of the Lord, she shall not depart from the temple until she reach the years of discretion. There, in fine, serving God day and night in fastings and prayers, she shall abstain from every unclean thing; she shall never know man, but alone, without example, immaculate, uncorrupted, without intercourse with man, she, a virgin, shall bring forth a son; she, His hand-maiden, shall bring forth the Lord-both in grace, and in name, and in work, the Saviour of the world. Wherefore arise, and go up to Jerusalem; and when thou shalt come to the gate which, because it is plated with gold, is called Golden, there, for a sign, thou shalt meet thy husband, for whose safety thou hast been anxious. And when these things shall have so happened, know that what I announce shall without doubt be fulfilled.

Chapter V

Therefore, as the angel had commanded, both of them setting out from the place where they were, went up to Jerusalem; and when they had come to the place pointed out by the angel's prophecy, there they met each other. Then, rejoicing at seeing each other, and secure in the certainty of the promised offspring, they gave the thanks due to the Lord, who exalteth the humble. And so, having worshipped the Lord, they returned home, and awaited in certainty and in gladness the divine promise. Anna therefore conceived, and brought forth a daughter; and according to the command of the angel, her parents called her name Mary."