Saturday, May 27, 2017

St Bede the Venerable, OSB

Image result for ezra restoring the bible
Codex Amiatinus depiction of Ezra,
 produced at Wearmouth-Jarrow in Bede's time

St Bede, I have to say, is currently my favourite saint.

Back in the day, Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote that 'Bede is truly the pattern of a Benedictine as is St Thomas of a Dominican'.   Today's Matins reading nicely sets out just why this is:
Bede the priest was born at Jarrow, on the borders of England and Scotland. When a monk, he so arranged his life as to devote himself completely to the study of the liberal arts and sacred doctrine, without in any way relaxing the discipline of the Rule. There was no kind of learning in which he was not thoroughly versed; but his special interest was the study of the Scriptures; and when he was made a priest, he undertook the task of explaining the holy books. In doing so, he adhered to the teaching of the holy Fathers so closely that he would say nothing not already approved by their judgment, and he even made use of their very words. Abhorring laziness, he would go straight from reading to prayer and from prayer to reading. To raise the level of morality among Christians and to defend and spread the faith, he wrote many books, which gained him such a reputation with everyone that his writings were publicly read in churches during his own lifetime. At length, worn out with age and labours, he fell asleep peacefully in the Lord. Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the universal Church.
Although Bede's history of the English Church has long been available and appreciated, along with some of his lives of the saints, his output was actually much broader than this, including scientific works, guides to the holy lands, and a number of exegetical works.  English translations of his exegetical works are still only gradually becoming available, and this is leading to a new appreciation of Bede's originality: though he certainly drew heavily on the Fathers in his work, he was very much concerned with the politics of both church and state of his time, and his exegetical works in particular reflect this.

But for me at least, the most startling aspect of his work, though one not always acknowledged in modern translations of and commentary on his works (the exemplary work and valiant efforts of Scott DeGregorio aside) due to some typical 1970s revisionism, is the degree to which the Rule shaped his mindset.

Allusions to the Rule are scattered throughout his writings to the point where one can pretty much construct a commentary on the Rule from them (the Homilies alone for example include references to 50/73 tools of good works and 33 chapters of the Rule), and indeed even his use of Scriptural quotes frequently reflect's St Benedict use of the relevant text.  And while I've seen several theories advanced for the selection of the books of the Bible that he focused on, I haven't seen anyone as yet note what seem to me to be the obvious links between many of the texts he chose and his key themes (such as the Temple and Tabernacle) and the Rule...

Regardless, St Bede is an important saint well worth learning more about: a saint who lived a good life; provided us with a great legacy of his learning; and who also died a particularly holy death, which you can read about in this great post from A Clerk of Oxford.

Friday, May 26, 2017

St Augustine of Canterbury OSB (May 26) - Apostle to the English

Illuminated manuscript with a forward-facing man in the middle of the large H. Man is carrying a crozier and his head is surrounded by a halo.

St Augustine of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597.

The Matins reading for the feast is as follows:
Augustine, a monk of the Lateran monastery in Rome, was sent by Gregory the Great in 597 to England with about forty monks as his companions. They were invited by King Ethelbert to Canterbury, the chief city of the kingdom, and they built an oratory nearby. Through preaching the doctrine of heaven, Augustine brought many of the islanders and the king himself to the Christian faith, to the great joy of the king's wife, Bertha, who was a Christian. By order of Pope Gregory, Augustine was ordained bishop and founded the see of Canterbury; by the same Pontiff he was granted the use of the pallium and the right to organize the hierarchy of England. At length, after suffering great hardships for Christ, having set Mellitus over the Church of London, Justus over that of Rochester, and Lawrence over his own Church, he made his journey to heaven on the 26th day of May. He was buried in the monastery of St. Peter, which then became the burial place of bishops of Canterbury and of several kings.
He has traditionally been considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.  St Bede records in his history of the English Church that the monks converted the locals by their preaching and example:
"…they began to emulate the life of the apostles and the primitive Church. They were constantly at prayer; they fasted and kept vigils; they preached the word of life to whomsoever they could….Before long a number of heathen, admiring the simplicity of their holy lives and the comfort of their heavenly message, believed and were baptized..."
St Augustine established schools and monasteries, and set about organising the missionary effort more broadly in England. His life was marked by miracles, and he was quickly acclaimed as a saint on his death.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Feast of the Ascension (May 25)

Bamburger Apocalypse

Today is the feast of the Ascension, and in a few days time we celebrate the feast of a Benedictine saint who died on the day of the feast, St Bede.  Accordingly, I thought it might be appropriate to share a poem of the saint written for the feast, often sung to the tune 'All creatures of our God and king':

A hymn of glory let us sing:
New songs throughout the world shall ring:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ, by a road before untrod,
Ascendeth to the throne of God.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The holy apostolic band
Upon the Mount of Olives stand;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
And with his followers they see
Jesus' resplendent majesty.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

To whom the angels, drawing nigh,
"Why stand and gaze upon the sky?
Alleluia! Alleluia!
This is the Saviour!" thus they say;
"This is his noble triumph-day."
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

"Again shall ye behold him so
As ye today have seen him go
Alleluia! Alleluia!
In glorious pomp ascending high,
Up to the portals of the sky."
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Oh, grant us thitherward to tend
And with unwearied hearts ascend
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Unto thy kingdom's throne, where thou,
As is our faith, art seated now.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Be thou our Joy and strong Defence
Who art our future Recompense:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
So shall the light that springs from thee
Be ours through all eternity.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
All praise to thee let earth accord,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Who art, while endless ages run,
With Father and with Spirit One.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

(Trans: Benjamin Webb)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Our Lady Help of Christians (May 24)

In Australia and a number of other countries, May 24 is the solemnity of Our Lady Help of Christians.  In Australia and those countries where it is a first class feast, we will naturally pray first and foremost for the conversion of our own countries.  Pope Benedict XVI, however, asked that this day be especially a day of prayer for China, so please do say the collect of the day as part of your devotions for this intention:
O Almighty and merciful God, Who didst wondrously appoint the most Blessed Virgin perpetual help for Christians in need of protection: grant in Thy mercy that after battling in life under such a protectress, we may be able to conquer our enemy at death. Through our Lord.
For those saying the Office of the feast, the Monastic Diurnal has the texts for the day hours, starting at MD  25** - for the psalms and antiphons, use the Common of feasts of Our Lady, but with the hymns, responsories, Magnificat antiphon and collect of the feast.

The 1962-3 breviary does include a specific set of texts for all of the hours (in the supplement at the back of Volume II for the Ottilien Congregation), but of course without chants.  If you don't have access to that, the Common of feasts of Our Lady would work for Matins.

Monday, May 22, 2017

St Romanus (May 22)

Today the martyrology remembers St Romanus, who clothed St Benedict in the holy habit, and aided him in his early years as a hermit:
But Benedict, desiring rather the miseries of the world than the praises of men: rather to be wearied with labour for God's sake, than to be exalted with transitory commendation: fled privily from his nurse, and went into a desert place called Sublacum, distant almost forty miles from Rome: in which there was a fountain springing forth cool and clear water; the abundance whereof doth first in a broad place make a lake, and afterward running forward, cometh to be a river.  
As he was travelling to this place, a certain monk called Romanus met him, and demanded whither he went, and understanding his purpose, he both kept it close, furthered him what he might, vested him with the habit of holy conversation, and as he could, did minister and serve him. 
The man of God, Benedict, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a strait cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus, who lived not far off, under the rule of Abbot Theodacus, and very virtuously did steal certain hours, and likewise sometime a loaf given for his own provision, which he did carry to Benedict....(St Gregory, Dialogues 2:1)
The tradition holds that St Romanus later went to Gaul and founded a small monastery at Dryes-Fontrouge, where he died about 550 and was venerated as a saint. 

Rogation days

Rogation days are traditionally days of prayer (particularly in the form of a procession accompanied by a sung litany of the saints), and fasting.

The three 'minor' rogation days before Ascension date back to the fifth century, instituted originally by Bishop Mammertus of Vienne (c470).  The practice quickly spread throughout Gaul  - the Council of Orleans in 510 ordered their use for example.  Rogation days were not adopted in Rome, though, until the early ninth century.

Their key purpose is to appease God's anger at man's transgressions, to ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest.

You can find the litany and prayers in the Diurnal at pg (200) and the full chants in the Processionale Monasticum.  If said privately, it is usually done after Lauds.

In earlier versions of the Office, there were readings at Matins and a collect specific to the rogation day.  In the 1962 monastic version these have, unfortunately, been stripped out of the Office, but I have put up the readings over at the lectio divina notes blog, and here is the collect in case you want to use them devotionally.

Praesta quaesumus omnipotens Deus: ut qui in afflictione nostra de tua pietate confidimus; contra adversa omnia tua semper protectione muniamur.
Per Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, Fílium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum.
R. Amen.
Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who in our tribulation are yet of good cheer because of thy loving-kindness, may find thee mighty to save from all dangers.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Vocational discernment weekend for women (Sydney, Australia)

Please keep in your prayers if you would, an emerging religious community in Australia, the Daughters of the Maternal Heart of Mary.

This is a new, semi-contemplative community based in Sydney, and living a life of prayer and work according to the spirit of St. Benedict, with Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the Monastic Office chanted in Latin.  The charism of the group involves interceding for all Priests and praying daily for the Holy Father, bishops, priests and seminarians.  They also assist priests in various works, including teaching catechism, visiting the sick and sewing liturgical attire.

A vocational discernment weekend for young women is being held on July 14 -16, and will:
  • enable participants to explore the life and charism of the Daughters of the Maternal Heart of Mary;
  • include conferences on the religious life, vocation discernment and the spirituality of the community; and 
  • provide opportunity for silent recollection, praying the Monastic Office and participating in some of the active apostolates of the community.
Those interested in attending can find further details here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday of St Benedict: Matins readings

You may recall that my previous posts on the old votive Office of St Benedict, usually said on the first free Tuesday of each month.  This Tuesday being unencumbered, herewith the readings for May.

Reading 1: From the Third Book of Kings, chapter 17 - The son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick, and the sickness was very grievous, so that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elias: What have I to do with thee, thou man of God? art thou come to me that my iniquities should be remembered, and that thou shouldst kill my son? And Elias said to her: Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him into the upper chamber where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord my God, hast thou afflicted also the widow, with whom I am after a sort maintained, so as to kill her son? And he stretched, and measured himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord my God, let the soul of this child, I beseech thee, return into his body. And the Lord heard the voice of Elias: and the soul of the child returned into him, and he revived. And Elias took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber to the house below, and delivered him to his mother, and said to her: Behold thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elias: Now, by this I know that thou art a man of God, and the word of the Lord in thy mouth is true.

Reading 2: From Chapter 11 of the Dialogues of  St Gregory the Great - Again, as the monks were making of a certain wall somewhat higher, because that was requisite, the man of God in the meantime was in his cell at his prayers. To whom the old enemy appeared in an insulting manner, telling him, that he was now going to his monks, that were a-working: whereof the man of God, in all haste, gave them warning, wishing them to look unto themselves, because the devil was at that time coming amongst them. The message was scarce delivered, when as the wicked spirit overthrew the new wall which they were a building, and with the fall slew a little young child, a monk, who was the son of a certain courtier.  At which pitiful chance all were passing sorry and exceedingly grieved, not so much for the loss of the wall, as for the death of their brother: and in all haste they sent this heavy news to the venerable man Benedict;

Reading 3: Who commanded them to bring unto him the young boy, mangled and maimed as he was, which they did, but yet they could not carry him any otherwise than in a sack: for the stones of the wall had not only broken his limbs, but also his very bones. Being in that manner brought unto the man of God, he bad them to lay him in his cell, and in that place upon which he used to pray; and then, putting them all forth, he shut the door, and fell more instantly to his prayers than he used at other times. And O strange miracle! for the very same hour he made him sound, and as lively as ever he was before; and sent him again to his former work, that he also might help the monks to make an end of that wall, of whose death the old serpent thought he should have insulted over Benedict, and greatly triumphed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

St Pachomius (May 14/15)


 The feast of St Pachomius (circa 272-348) is celebrated in the modern Benedictine calendar today (May 15); in the 1962 calendar is memorial is May 14.  He is an important saint for monastics, as the author of the first known rule for coenibites (monks living in community).

Saint Pachomius was born in Egypt to pagan parents and was forced to become a soldier at age 21.  In this capacity he encountered a group of Christians ministering to the troops, and was so impressed by them that he decided to investigate the faith once he had left the army.  He was duly converted and baptised, and initially sought the guidance of a hermit named Palaemon.  After a few years he set out to live near St Antony, whose practices he imitated until Pachomius heard a voice in Tabennisi that told him to build a dwelling for the hermits to come to.  He established his first monastery 318 and 323, and the community grew rapidly, and made several new foundations.

You can read a life of the saint, translated from the Greek into Latin by one of St Benedict's contemporaries, Dionysius Exiguus, here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Feast of SS Philip and James

 Detail of reredos | Polytych by Maestà | Wikimedia
Duccio di Buoninsegna
Today is the feast of SS Philip and James.  Their feast was originally celebrated together on May 1, the anniversary of the dedication of the Church housing their relics in Rome, established in the mid sixth century.  The Church in question, however, was later renamed as the Church of the Twelve Apostles (though there are some suggests it was always officially called that), so I guess the change of date is not as unfortunate as it might seem...

You can find the readings and responsories for the feast here, and additional notes on saying and/or singing Matins of the feast here.

You can also find Pope Benedict XVI's General Audiences on these saints here:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

St Gregory Nazianzus (May 9), Class III


The reading for the feast of St Gregory at Matins is as follows:
Gregory Nazianzus, a noble Cappadocian, earned the name of The Divine from his extraordinary knowledge of the sacred sciences. It was to these that he turned after being educated at Athens, together with St. Basil, in every branch of learning. He was first made Bishop of Sosima and then administered the Church of Nazianzus. Summoned to rule over the Church of Constantinople, he purged the city of heretical errors and brought it back to the Catholic faith. Although this deed should have won him the love of all, it earned him the hatred of many; so that, when a great quarrel had arisen among the bishops on his account, he resigned his See voluntarily, making his own the words of the prophet Jonah: If this storm hath arisen on my account, then throw me into the sea, that you may cease to be tossed about. He returned to Nazianzus, and having arranged that Eulalius should be its bishop, devoted himself wholly to prayer and the study of divine things. He wrote many famous works, both in prose and in verse, and was a most ardent defender of the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. When Theodosius was emperor, Gregory, now grown old, departed to the life of heaven.
If you would like to know more about the saint and his teachings, Pope Benedict XVI gave two General Audiences which you find by following the links:

General Audience of 8 August 2007
General Audience of 22 August 2007

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sacra Liturgia Conference in Milan 2017

Just a note to let you know that the full programme for the Sacra Liturgia Conference being held this on 6-9 June, is now available, and part-time registrations are also now open.

This year's conference is being held in Milan, and includes a number of (EF) Ambrosian rite liturgies for Mass and Vespers.  There are presentations from leading figures such as Cardinals Sarah and Burke, and some wonderful sounding talks on subjects such as the Ambrosian Rite, music in the liturgy and much more.

Note that you will probably need to get in quickly if you want to attend!

Finding of Holy Cross (May 3)

Unless you are on oblate of Le Barroux (or another monastery that retains this feast), today is not the feast of the Finding of Holy Cross.

But it should be.

The Finding of Holy Cross is one of those feasts that fell victim to the calendar reforms of the 1950s and early 1960s, when it was combined with the Feast of the Exaltation of Holy Cross (which celebrates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcre).

It celebrated St Helena's (mother of Constantine the Great) discovery of the Holy Sepulcre in Jerusalem, and subsequent discovery of the Cross at the site.

Here are the readings on the subject from the former Roman version of the feast:
After that famous victory which the Emperor Constantine gained over Maxentius, in the year 312, on the eve of which the banner of the Cross of the Lord had been given to him from heaven, Helen, the mother of Constantine, being warned in a dream, came to Jerusalem, in 326, to seek for the Cross. There it was her care to cause to be overthrown the marble statue of Venus, which had stood on Calvary for about one hundred and eighty years, and which had originally been put there to desecrate and destroy the memorial of the sufferings of the Lord Christ. The like work Helen did at Bethlehem, by cleansing from an image of Adonis the stable where the Saviour was born, and from an idol of Jupiter, the place where He had arisen from the dead. 
Then she had thus cleansed the place where the Cross had stood, Helen caused deep excavations to be made, which resulted in the discovery of three crosses, and, apart from them, the writing which had been nailed on that of the Lord. But which of the crosses had been His was unknown, and was only manifested by a miracle. Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, after offering solemn prayers to God, touched with each of the three a woman who was afflicted with a grievous disease. The two first had no effect, but at the touch of the third she was immediately healed. 
Helen, after she had found the life-giving Cross, built over the site of the Passion a Church of extraordinary splendour, wherein she deposited part of the Cross, shut up in a silver case. Another part which she gave to her son, Constantine, was laid up in the Church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, which he built at Rome on the site of the Sessorian Palace. She also gave to her son the nails with which the Most Holy Body of Jesus Christ had been pierced. Constantine established a law abolishing the punishment of crucifixion for all time coming and thenceforth what had hitherto been a hissing and a curse among men, began to be esteemed worshipful and glorious.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

St Athanasius, May 2

Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpg

St Athanasius is extremely important not just as a Father of the Church, but also from a monastic point of view, for his Life of St Antony.  The reading for his feast at Matins is as follows:
Athanasius was Bishop of Alexandria, and a most vigorous defender of the Catholic religion. When he was still a deacon, he refuted the impiety of Arius at the Council of Nicaea, and earned such hatred from the Arians that, from that time on, they never ceased to lay snares for him. Driven into exile, he went to Treves in Gaul. He endured unbelievable hardships and wandered over a great part of the world, being often driven from his Church, and often restored by the authority of Pope Julius and the decrees of the Councils of Sardica and Jerusalem. All this while, he was persecuted by the Arians. Finally, rescued, by the help of God, from so many great dangers, he died at Alexandria during the reign of Emperor Valens. His life and death are marked by great miracles. He wrote many works, both of devotion and of catechetics, and, with great holiness, he ruled the Church of Alexandria, in those most troubled times, for forty-six years.