Showing posts with label April. Show all posts
Showing posts with label April. Show all posts

Monday, April 30, 2018

St Catherine of Siena (April 30)

St Catherine rates only a memorial in the 1963 calendar, a grave injustice in my view for this important doctor of the Church.

In any case, here are the readings for her feast from Matins in the Roman Office from Divinum Officium:
This Katharine was a maiden of Sienna, and was born of godly parents, (in the year 1347.) She took the habit of the Third Order of St Dominick. Her fasts were most severe, and the austerity of her life wonderful. It was discovered that on some occasions she took no food at all from Ash Wednesday till Ascension Day, receiving all needful strength by taking the Holy Communion. She was engaged oftentimes in a wrestling with devils, and was sorely tried by them with divers assaults : she was consumed by fevers, and suffered likewise from other diseases. Great and holy was the name of Katharine, and sick folk, and such as were vexed with evil spirits, were brought to her from all quarters. Through the Name of Christ, she had command over sickness and fever, and forced the foul spirits to leave the bodies of the tormented.
While she dwelt at Pisa, on a certain Lord's Day, after she had received the Living Bread Which came down from heaven, she was in the spirit; and saw the Lord nailed to the Cross advancing towards her. There was a great light round about Him, and five rays of light streaming from the five marks of the Wounds in His Feet, and Hands, and Side, which smote her upon the five corresponding places in her body. When Katharine perceived this vision, she besought the Lord that no marks might become manifest upon her flesh, and straightway the five beams of light changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and touched in the form of pure light her feet, and hands, and side. At this moment the agony which she felt was so piercing, that she believed that if God had not lessened it, she would have died. Thus the Lord in His great love for her, gave her this great grace, in a new and twofold manner, namely, that she felt all the pain of the wounds, but without there being any bloody marks to meet the gaze of men. This was the account given by the handmaiden of God to her Confessor, Raymund, and it is for this reason that when the godly wishes of the faithful lead them to make pictures of the blessed Katharine, they paint her with golden rays of light proceeding from those five places in her body which correspond to the five places wherein our Lord was wounded by the nails and spear.
While she dwelt at Pisa, on a certain Lord's Day, after she had received the Living Bread Which came down from heaven, she was in the spirit; and saw the Lord nailed to the Cross advancing towards her. There was a great light round about Him, and five rays of light streaming from the five marks of the Wounds in His Feet, and Hands, and Side, which smote her upon the five corresponding places in her body. When Katharine perceived this vision, she besought the Lord that no marks might become manifest upon her flesh, and straightway the five beams of light changed from the colour of blood into that of gold, and touched in the form of pure light her feet, and hands, and side. At this moment the agony which she felt was so piercing, that she believed that if God had not lessened it, she would have died. Thus the Lord in His great love for her, gave her this great grace, in a new and twofold manner, namely, that she felt all the pain of the wounds, but without there being any bloody marks to meet the gaze of men. This was the account given by the handmaiden of God to her Confessor, Raymund, and it is for this reason that when the godly wishes of the faithful lead them to make pictures of the blessed Katharine, they paint her with golden rays of light proceeding from those five places in her body which correspond to the five places wherein our Lord was wounded by the nails and spear.
And if you would, please  say a prayer for me on my name day!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

St Catherine of Siena (April 30)

Image result for catherine of siena image

The feast of St Catherine is displaced this year by the Sunday, but I wanted to include something for this important doctor of the Church, not least because it is my name day, so please say a prayer for me if you would.

From a General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, given on 24 November 2010:

Today I would like to talk to you about a woman who played an eminent role in the history of the Church: St Catherine of Siena. The century in which she lived — the 14th — was a troubled period in the life of the Church and throughout the social context of Italy and Europe. Yet, even in the most difficult times, the Lord does not cease to bless his People, bringing forth Saints who give a jolt to minds and hearts, provoking conversion and renewal.

Catherine is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.

Born in Siena in 1347, into a very large family, she died in Rome in 1380. When Catherine was 16 years old, motivated by a vision of St Dominic, she entered the Third Order of the Dominicans, the female branch known as the Mantellate. While living at home, she confirmed her vow of virginity made privately when she was still an adolescent and dedicated herself to prayer, penance and works of charity, especially for the benefit of the sick.

When the fame of her holiness spread, she became the protagonist of an intense activity of spiritual guidance for people from every walk of life: nobles and politicians, artists and ordinary people, consecrated men and women and religious, including Pope Gregory xi who was living at Avignon in that period and whom she energetically and effectively urged to return to Rome.

She travelled widely to press for the internal reform of the Church and to foster peace among the States. It was also for this reason that Venerable Pope John Paul ii chose to declare her Co-Patroness of Europe: may the Old Continent never forget the Christian roots that are at the origin of its progress and continue to draw from the Gospel the fundamental values that assure justice and harmony.

Like many of the Saints, Catherine knew great suffering. Some even thought that they should not trust her, to the point that in 1374, six years before her death, the General Chapter of the Dominicans summoned her to Florence to interrogate her. They appointed Raymund of Capua, a learned and humble Friar and a future Master General of the Order, as her spiritual guide. Having become her confessor and also her “spiritual son”, he wrote a first complete biography of the Saint. She was canonized in 1461.

The teaching of Catherine, who learned to read with difficulty and learned to write in adulthood, is contained in the Dialogue of Divine Providence or Libro della Divina Dottrina, a masterpiece of spiritual literature, in her Epistolario and in the collection of her Prayers.

Her teaching is endowed with such excellence that in 1970 the Servant of God Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church, a title that was added to those of Co-Patroness of the City of Rome — at the wish of Bl. Pius ix — and of Patroness of Italy — in accordance with the decision of Venerable Pius XII.

In a vision that was ever present in Catherine's heart and mind Our Lady presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, saying to her: “I, your Creator and Saviour, espouse you in the faith, that you will keep ever pure until you celebrate your eternal nuptials with me in Heaven” (Bl. Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 115, Siena 1998). This ring was visible to her alone. In this extraordinary episode we see the vital centre of Catherine’s religious sense, and of all authentic spirituality: Christocentrism. For her Christ was like the spouse with whom a relationship of intimacy, communion and faithfulness exists; he was the best beloved whom she loved above any other good. This profound union with the Lord is illustrated by another episode in the life of this outstanding mystic: the exchange of hearts. According to Raymond of Capua who passed on the confidences Catherine received, the Lord Jesus appeared to her “holding in his holy hands a human heart, bright red and shining”. He opened her side and put the heart within her saying: “Dearest daughter, as I took your heart away from you the other day, now, you see, I am giving you mine, so that you can go on living with it for ever” (ibid.). Catherine truly lived St. Paul’s words, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Like the Sienese Saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves. And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and by the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion. Catherine also belongs to the throng of Saints devoted to the Eucharist with which I concluded my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (cf. n. 94). Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, to strengthen our hope and to inflame our charity, to make us more and more like him.

A true and authentic spiritual family was built up around such a strong and genuine personality; people fascinated by the moral authority of this young woman with a most exalted lifestyle were at times also impressed by the mystical phenomena they witnessed, such as her frequent ecstasies. Many put themselves at Catherine’s service and above all considered it a privilege to receive spiritual guidance from her. They called her “mother” because, as her spiritual children, they drew spiritual nourishment from her. Today too the Church receives great benefit from the exercise of spiritual motherhood by so many women, lay and consecrated, who nourish souls with thoughts of God, who strengthen the people’s faith and direct Christian life towards ever loftier peaks. “Son, I say to you and call you”, Catherine wrote to one of her spiritual sons, Giovanni Sabbatini, a Carthusian, “inasmuch as I give birth to you in continuous prayers and desire in the presence of God, just as a mother gives birth to a son” (Epistolario, Lettera n. 141: To Fr Giovanni de’ Sabbatini). She would usually address the Dominican Fr Bartolomeo de Dominici with these words: “Most beloved and very dear brother and son in Christ sweet Jesus”.

Another trait of Catherine’s spirituality is linked to the gift of tears. They express an exquisite, profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and for tenderness. Many Saints have had the gift of tears, renewing the emotion of Jesus himself who did not hold back or hide his tears at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and at the grief of Mary and Martha or at the sight of Jerusalem during his last days on this earth. According to Catherine, the tears of Saints are mingled with the blood of Christ, of which she spoke in vibrant tones and with symbolic images that were very effective: “Remember Christ crucified, God and man….. Make your aim the Crucified Christ, hide in the wounds of the Crucified Christ and drown in the blood of the Crucified Christ” (Epistolario, Lettera n. 21: Ad uno il cui nome si tace [to one who remains anonymous]). Here we can understand why, despite her awareness of the human shortcomings of priests, Catherine always felt very great reverence for them: through the sacraments and the word they dispense the saving power of Christ’s Blood. The Sienese Saint always invited the sacred ministers, including the Pope whom she called “sweet Christ on earth”, to be faithful to their responsibilities, motivated always and only by her profound and constant love of the Church. She said before she died: “in leaving my body, truly I have consumed and given my life in the Church and for the Holy Church, which is for me a most unique grace” (Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 363). Hence we learn from St Catherine the most sublime science: to know and love Jesus Christ and his Church. In the Dialogue of Divine Providence, she describes Christ, with an unusual image, as a bridge flung between Heaven and earth. This bridge consists of three great stairways constituted by the feet, the side and the mouth of Jesus. Rising by these stairways the soul passes through the three stages of every path to sanctification: detachment from sin, the practice of the virtues and of love, sweet and loving union with God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from St Catherine to love Christ and the Church with courage, intensely and sincerely. Therefore let us make our own St Catherine’s words that we read in the Dialogue of Divine Providence at the end of the chapter that speaks of Christ as a bridge: “out of mercy you have washed us in his Blood, out of mercy you have wished to converse with creatures. O crazed with love! It did not suffice for you to take flesh, but you also wished to die!... O mercy! My heart drowns in thinking of you: for no matter where I turn to think, I find only mercy” (chapter 30, pp. 79-80). Thank you.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Feast of the Holy Abbots of Cluny (April 29)**

The history of the feast

In most pre-twentieth century Benedictine breviaries, this day is marked as the feast of St Robert of Molesmes, one of the founders of the Cistercian Order.
**Some of the French Congregations, however, seem to have celebrated the feast of St Hugh on this date either instead of St Robert (Cluniacs) or as well as that feast (Solesmes).  The 1897 Liber Antiphonarius lists the feast of St Robert in the main calendar, but also adds St Hugh to that day, while preserving separate feasts for St Odilo (Jan 19), Maiolus (May11) and Odo (Nov 27) for their own congregation.
In (I think) the early twentieth century clean out of the Benedictine calendar though, the ongoing war between the Black and White monks presumably heated up once more, because the feast of St Robert of Molesmes was replaced by one celebrating several of the Cluniac abbots instead (combining several separate feasts celebrated by some Congregations only), against whom the Cistercian reform was rather directed.

Curiously, though, one of the most important Cluniac abbots, who successfully defended his congregation from the attacks of the Cistercians, Blessed Peter the Venerable, didn't actually make the list for the celebration of today's feast at all in the 1963 calendar.  This may be because he was never officially canonised.

The deficiency was, however, rectified in the 1975 revision of the calendar.

The Solesmes Congregation, however, continue to observe the feasts of the various abbots on separate dates, while Le Barroux celebrates the feast of the Cluny abbots, but retains St Robert as a commemoration.

Matins texts and readings for the feast

At Matins in the 1963 breviary, the invitatory antiphon is Exsultent in Domino, and the chant for it can be found in the Liber Responsorialis, page 162.  The hymn, Rex gloriose Praesulum, is the same as for Vespers so can be found in the Antiphonale Monasticum.

The one reading is from Letter 4 of St Peter Damian to St Hugh, but I'm afraid I have been unable to find it online in either Latin or English.  Pope Benedict XVI's comments on the Cluniac reform, however, might be a good substitute, so I have reproduced it below.  Pope Benedict also provided a couple of other General Audiences on the saints in question which are well worth a read, so herewith some links to them, viz:
From a General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI given on 11 November 2009:

This morning I would like to speak to you about a monastic movement that was very important in the Middle Ages and which I have already mentioned in previous Catecheses. It is the Order of Cluny which at the beginning of the 12th century, at the height of its expansion, had almost 1,200 monasteries: a truly impressive figure! A monastery was founded at Cluny in 910, precisely 1,100 years ago, and subsequent to the donation of William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, was placed under the guidance of Abbot Berno. At that time Western monasticism, which had flourished several centuries earlier with St Benedict, was experiencing a severe decline for various reasons: unstable political and social conditions due to the continuous invasions and sacking by peoples who were not integrated into the fabric of Europe, widespread poverty and, especially, the dependence of abbeys on the local nobles who controlled all that belonged to the territories under their jurisdiction. In this context, Cluny was the heart and soul of a profound renewal of monastic life that led it back to its original inspiration.

At Cluny the Rule of St Benedict was restored with several adaptations which had already been introduced by other reformers. The main objective was to guarantee the central role that the Liturgy must have in Christian life. The Cluniac monks devoted themselves with love and great care to the celebration of the Liturgical Hours, to the singing of the Psalms, to processions as devout as they were solemn, and above all, to the celebration of Holy Mass. They promoted sacred music, they wanted architecture and art to contribute to the beauty and solemnity of the rites; they enriched the liturgical calendar with special celebrations such as, for example, at the beginning of November, the Commemoration of All Souls, which we too have just celebrated; and they intensified the devotion to the Virgin Mary. Great importance was given to the Liturgy because the monks of Cluny were convinced that it was participation in the liturgy of Heaven. And the monks felt responsible for interceding at the altar of God for the living and the dead, given large numbers of the faithful were insistently asking them to be remembered in prayer. Moreover, it was with this same aim that William the Pious had desired the foundation of the Abbey of Cluny. In the ancient document that testifies to the foundation we read: "With this gift I establish that a monastery of regulars be built at Cluny in honour of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, where monks who live according to the Rule of St Benedict shall gather... so that a venerable sanctuary of prayer with vows and supplications may be visited there, and the heavenly life be sought after and yearned for with every desire and with deep ardour, and that assiduous prayers, invocations and supplications be addressed to the Lord". To preserve and foster this atmosphere of prayer, the Cluniac Rule emphasized the importance of silence, to which discipline the monks willingly submitted, convinced that the purity of the virtues to which they aspired demanded deep and constant recollection. It is not surprising that before long the Monastery of Cluny gained a reputation for holiness and that many other monastic communities decided to follow its discipline. Numerous princes and Popes asked the abbots of Cluny to extend their reform so that in a short time a dense network of monasteries developed that were linked to Cluny, either by true and proper juridical bonds or by a sort of charismatic affiliation. Thus a spiritual Europe gradually took shape in the various regions of France and in Italy, Spain, Germany and Hungary.

Cluny's success was assured primarily not only by the lofty spirituality cultivated there but also by several other conditions that ensured its development. In comparison with what had happened until then, the Monastery of Cluny and the communities dependent upon it were recognized as exempt from the jurisdiction of the local Bishops and were directly subject to that of the Roman Pontiff. This meant that Cluny had a special bond with the See of Peter and, precisely because of the protection and encouragement of the Pontiffs the ideals of purity and fidelity proposed by the Cluniac Reform spread rapidly. Furthermore, the abbots were elected without any interference from the civil authorities, unlike what happened in other places. Truly worthy people succeeded one another at the helm of Cluny and of the numerous monastic communities dependent upon it: Abbot Odo of Cluny, of whom I spoke in a Catechesis two months ago, and other great figures such as Eymard, Majolus, Odilo and especially Hugh the Great, who served for long periods, thereby assuring stability and the spread of the reform embarked upon. As well as Odo, Majolus, Odilo and Hugh are venerated as Saints.

Not only did the Cluniac Reform have positive effects in the purification and reawakening of monastic life but also in the life of the universal Church. In fact, the aspiration to evangelical perfection was an incentive to fight two great abuses that afflicted the Church in that period: simony, that is the acquisition of pastoral offices for money, and immorality among the secular clergy. The abbots of Cluny with their spiritual authority, the Cluniac monks who became Bishops and some of them even Popes, took the lead in this impressive action of spiritual renewal. And it yielded abundant fruit: celibacy was once again esteemed and practised by priests and more transparent procedures were introduced in the designation of ecclesiastical offices.

Also significant were the benefits that monasteries inspired by the Cluniac Reform contributed to society. At a time when Church institutions alone provided for the poor, charity was practised with dedication. In all the houses, the almoner was bound to offer hospitality to needy wayfarers and pilgrims, travelling priests and religious and especially the poor, who came asking for food and a roof over their heads for a few days. Equally important were two other institutions promoted by Cluny that were characteristic of medieval civilization: the "Truce of God" and the "Peace of God". In an epoch heavily marked by violence and the spirit of revenge, with the "Truces of God" long periods of non-belligerence were guaranteed, especially on the occasion of specific religious feasts and certain days of the week. With "the Peace of God", on pain of a canonical reprimand, respect was requested for defenceless people and for sacred places.

In this way, in the conscience of the peoples of Europe during that long process of gestation, which was to lead to their ever clearer recognition two fundamental elements for the construction of society matured, namely, the value of the human person and the primary good of peace. Furthermore, as happened for other monastic foundations, the Cluniac monasteries had likewise at their disposal extensive properties which, diligently put to good use, helped to develop the economy. Alongside the manual work there was no lack of the typical cultural activities of medieval monasticism such as schools for children, the foundation of libraries and scriptoria for the transcription of books.

In this way, 1,000 years ago when the development of the European identity had gathered momentum, the experience of Cluny, which had spread across vast regions of the European continent, made its important and precious contribution. It recalled the primacy of spiritual benefits; it kept alive the aspiration to the things of God; it inspired and encouraged initiatives and institutions for the promotion of human values; it taught a spirit of peace. Dear brothers and sisters let us pray that all those who have at heart an authentic humanism and the future of Europe may be able to rediscover, appreciate and defend the rich cultural and religious heritage of these centuries.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 26: SS Cletus and Marcellinus

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In the 1963 monastic breviary, today is a memorial for St Cletus only.

Older breviaries, though, mark it as a semiduplex feast of both Popes SS Cletus and Marcellinus. Divinum Officium supplies the following reading for the saints:
Cletus was a Roman, the son of Emilian, of the Fifth Region of the city, and the street called Noble. He ruled the Church in the time of the Emperors Vespasian and Titus. In accordance with the precept of the Prince of the Apostles He ordained twenty-five Priests for the city. He was the first Pope who made use in his letters of the phrase "Health and Apostolic Benediction." When he had ruled the Church for twelve years, seven months, and two days, and brought it into an excellent state of order, in the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and the second persecution since the time of Nero, he was crowned with martyrdom, and buried on the Vatican mount, hard by the body of blessed Peter.
Marcellinus was a Roman; he ruled the Church from the year 296 to the year 304, during the savage persecution which was ordered by the Emperor Diocletian. He suffered through the false severity of those who blamed him as being too indulgent toward them who had fallen into idolatry, and for this reason also hath been slandered to the effect that he himself burnt incense to idols but this blessed Pope, on account of his confession of the faith, was put to death along with three other Christians, whose names are Claudius, Cyrinus, and Antoninus. At the command of the Emperor their bodies were cast out unburied, and lay so for thirty- six days. At the end of that time St Peter appeared in a dream to Blessed Marcellus, and in obedience to his command the said Marcellus went with certain Priests and Deacons, singing hymns, and carrying lights, and buried these four bodies honourably in the Cemetery of Priscilla upon the Salarian Way. Marcellinus ruled the Church for seven years, eleven months, and twenty-three days. During this time he held two Advent ordinations, and ordained at them four Priests, and five Bishops for divers Sees.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Feast of St Mark/ANZAC Day

St Mark

Today is the feast of St Mark, the writer of the shortest of the four Gospels, and you can find the readings for the feast at Matins here.  St Mark was, according to the martyrology, the 'disciple and interpreter of the apostle St. Peter'.

The entry for today goes on to say that:
he wrote his gospel at the request of the faithful at Rome, and taking it with him, proceeded to Egypt and founded a church at Alexandria, where he was the first to preach Christ. Afterwards, being arrested for the faith, he was bound, dragged over stones, and endured great afflictions. Finally he was confined to prison, where, being comforted by the visit of an angel, and even by an apparition of our Lord himself, he was called to the heavenly kingdom in the eighth year of the reign of Nero.
The Greater Litanies 

This is also the day on which the Litany of the saints is traditionally sung as part of a procession at Mass.  It can also be said privately after Lauds, and those who are bound to say the office (ie clergy and religious) are required either to participate in a procession or say the Litany privately.


In Australia and New Zealand, it is however, ANZAC Day, the anniversary of one of the most horrendous defeats of World War I, at Gallipoli in 2015, but a defeat that bought forth a new sense of nationhood in those countries.  In the older calendar, there is a special indult allowing the Mass of the day to be replaced with a requiem for the souls of those killed in war; in the newer calendar, the day actually has its own propers, and St Mark is transferred to tomorrow.

So if you would, please remember to say a prayer for the repose of  the souls of those who served in war.

Monday, April 24, 2017

St Mellitus (April 24)

A page divided into 12 sections, each section displaying a scene from the bible
St Augustine Gospels

In the English Congregation, today is traditionally the feast of St Mellitus, the first Bishop of London in the Saxon period and the third Archbishop of Canterbury.

St Mellitus was a member of the Gregorian mission sent to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity, arriving around 601 AD with a group of clergy sent by St Gregory the Great to augment S Augustine's group.

St Mellitus was the recipient of a letter from Pope Gregory I known as the Epistola ad Mellitum, preserved by St Bede, which suggested the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons be undertaken gradually, integrating pagan rituals and customs. In 610, Mellitus returned to Italy to attend a council of bishops, and returned to England bearing papal letters to some of the missionaries.

St Mellitus was exiled from London by the pagan successors to his patron, King Sæberht of Essex, following the latter's death around 616. King Æthelberht of Kent, Mellitus' other patron, died at about the same time, forcing him to take refuge in Gaul. Mellitus returned to England the following year, after Æthelberht's successor had been converted to Christianity, but he was unable to return to London, whose inhabitants remained pagan. Mellitus was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 619. During his tenure, he miraculously saved the cathedral, and much of the town of Canterbury, from a fire. After his death in 624, Mellitus was revered as a saint.

Two books are associated with St Mellitus and may have been bought with him to England: the St Augustine Gospels (pictured above), and a copy of the Rule of St Benedict (MS Oxford Bodleian Hatton 48), though of course the latter claim is disputed by many modern historians, who assign the manuscript a later date.