Showing posts with label monk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monk. Show all posts

Thursday, January 25, 2018

From the martyrology: Conversion of St Paul; St Poppo OSB (Jan 25)

1467 Polish

Today in the Extraordinary Form, Ordinary Form and traditional Benedictine Office we celebrate the famous conversion of St Paul:

"The conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, which occurred in the second year after the Ascension of our Lord."

Bamberg, Church of SS Peter and George

The martyrology also mentions, however, St Poppo, an eleventh century monastic reformer:

"At Marchiennes in France, St. Poppo, priest and abbot, renowned for his miracles."

St Poppo had a colourful life, as the Catholic Encyclopedia chronicles:

"Abbot, born 977; died at Marchiennes, 25 January, 1048. He belonged to a noble family of Flanders; his parents were Tizekinus and Adalwif. About the year 1000 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with two others of his countrymen. Soon after this he also went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He was about to marry a lady of noble family, when an impressive experience led him to seek another mode of life. As he was journeying late at night a flame burst forth over his head and his lance radiated a brilliant light. He believed this to be an illumination of the Holy Spirit, and soon after, 1005, he entered the monastery of St. Thierry at Reims."

He was appointed to head a number of monasteries to aid their reform in the spirit of Cluny, working under the guidance of St Richard of Saint-Vannes.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

SS Timothy and Suranus, Abbot (Jan 24)

Today in the Office we celebrate in the Office the feast of St Timothy, of whom the martyrology says:

"At Ephesus, St. Timothy, disciple of the apostle St. Paul, who ordained him bishop of that city.  After many labours for Christ, he was stoned for rebuking those who offered sacrifices to Diana, and shortly after went peacefully to his rest in the Lord."

But also mentioned is St Suranus:

"Also, blessed Suranus, abbot, who lived in the time of the Lombards."

The saint is mentioned in Book I of St Gregory's Dialogues:

"At such time as I yet lived in the Monastery, I understood by the relation of certain religious men, that in the time of the Lombards, in this very province called Sura and not far off, there was an holy Abbot called Suranus, who bestowed upon certain prisoners, which had escaped their hands, all such things as he had in his Monastery: and when he had given away in alms all his own apparel, and whatsoever he could find either in the monks' cells or in the yards, and nothing was left: suddenly the Lombards came thither, took him prisoner, and demanded where his gold was: and when he told them that he had nothing, they carried him to an hill hard by, where there was a mighty great wood in which a certain prisoner that ran away from them had hid himself in an hollow tree. There one of the Lombards, drawing out his sword, slew the foresaid venerable Abbot, whose body as it fell to the ground, suddenly all the hill together with the wood did shake, as though the earth by that trembling had said, that it could not bear the weight of his holiness and virtue."

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, March 2, 2017

Saints of the martyrology: St Chad of Mercia (March 2)

St Chad, Lichfield Cathedral

From the martyrology:
At Lichfield in England, St. Chad, bishop of Mercia and Lindisfarne, whose excellent virtues are mentioned by St. Venerable Bede.
According to St Bede, St Chad was one of four brothers who became students of St Aidan (a disciple of St Columba) at the monastery of Lindisfarne.  When St Aidan died in 651, all four travelled to Ireland to complete their education.

St Chad returned to Northumbria by 664, taking over as Abbot of Lastingham Monastery after his brother Cedd died from the plague.

He was appointed archbishop of York by King Oswy, replacing the exiled Wilfrid.  His appointment was highly irregular though, and so when the newly appointed Archbishop Theodore arrived in England, he instructed Chad to step down, and restored Wilfrid to his position.

St Chad accepted Theodore’s charges of impropriety with such humility and grace that Theodore subsequently ap­pointed him as the bishop of Mercia. He established a see at Lichfield.  As bishop he established monasteries and undertook a great deal of missionary work before he too died of the plague.

The wikipedia entry on the saint relates the story of his holy death:
Bede tells us that Owin was working outside the oratory at Lichfield. Inside, Chad studied alone because the other monks were at worship in the church. Suddenly Owin heard the sound of joyful singing, coming from heaven, at first to the south-east, but gradually coming closer until it filled the roof of the oratory itself. Then there was silence for half an hour, followed by the same singing going back the way it had come. Owin at first did nothing, but about an hour later Chad called him in and told him to fetch the seven brothers from the church. Chad gave his final address to the brothers, urging them to keep the monastic discipline they had learnt. Only after this did he tell them that he knew his own death was near, speaking of death as "that friendly guest who is used to visiting the brethren". He asked them to pray, then blessed and dismissed them. The brothers left, sad and downcast.
Owin returned a little later and saw Chad privately. He asked about the singing. Chad told him that he must keep it to himself for the time being: angels had come to call him to his heavenly reward, and in seven days they would return to fetch him. So it was that Chad weakened and died after seven days – on 2 March, which remains his feast day. Bede writes that: "he had always looked forward to this day – or rather his mind had always been on the Day of the Lord". 
Many years later, his old friend Egbert told a visitor that someone in Ireland had seen the heavenly company coming for Chad's soul and returning with it to heaven. Significantly, with the heavenly host was Cedd. Bede was not sure whether or not the vision was actually Egbert's own.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

St Antoinine of Sorrento OSB (14 February)

Today the martyrology remembers St Antoinine, an abbot who died in 625.  He is one of those early, largely ignored, Benedictine saints who help attest to the continuity of the Order.

According to the Wikipedia, he was born at Campagna, he left his native town to become a monk at Monte Cassino.

"During that time, Italy was suffering from barbarian invasions and Antoninus was forced to leave this monastery. Monte Cassino had been plundered by the Lombards and the monks escaped to Rome to seek protection from Pope Pelagius II. Antoninus, however, headed for Campania where he ended up at Castellammare di Stabia. Here Saint Catellus (San Catello) was bishop. Catellus, wishing to become a hermit, gave up his office as bishop and entrusted Antoninus with the task of serving as the town's bishop. Catellus withdrew to Monte Aureo.

The desire to remain a hermit himself led Antoninus to convince Catellus to return to his see. Antoninus retired to Monte Aureo himself and lived in a natural grotto. However, Catellus again decided to withdraw to this mountain and dedicate himself only sporadically to the cares of his diocese.

An apparition of Saint Michael is said to have convinced the two to construct the stone church now known as Monte San Angelo or Punta San Michele.

Subsequently, Catellus was accused of witchcraft by a priest named Tibeius (Tibeio) of Stabia and was held captive at Rome until a new pope released him. Catellus returned to Stabia and dedicated himself to expanding the church that he had helped found.

Inhabitants of Sorrento, meanwhile, convinced Antoninus to settle at Sorrento. Antoninus became an abbot of the Benedictine monastery of San Agrippino, succeeding Boniface (Bonifacio) in this capacity.

A miracle attributed to Saint Antoninus states that he saved a young child from a whale after it had been swallowed up by this sea creature. The sorrentini erected a crypt and basilica in honor of Antoninus. He was credited with saving the city from many dangers: a Moorish naval invasion; the revolt of the Sorrento leader Giovanni Grillo against Spanish domination; demonic possession; bubonic plague; and cholera."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

St Romuald OSB (Feb 7)

Fra Angelico ca1440
Today is the feast of St Romuald (950-1027), founder of the Camaldolese Congregation of Benedictines.  The Martyrology says:

"St. Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese monks, whose birthday is the 19th of June, but celebrated today because of the transference of his body."

Butler's Lives of the Saints sets out his life as follows:

"IN 976, Sergius, a nobleman of Ravenna, quarrelled with a relative about an estate, and slew him in a duel. His son Romuald, horrified at his father's crime, entered the Benedictine monastery at Classe, to do a forty days’ penance for him. This penance ended in his own vocation to religion. After three years at Classe, Romuald went to live as a hermit near Venice, where he was joined by Peter Urseolus, Duke of Venice, and together they led a most austere life in the midst of assaults from the evil spirits. St. Romuald founded many monasteries, the chief of which was that at Camaldoli, a wild desert place, where he built a church, which he surrounded with a number of separate cells for the solitaries who lived under his rule. His disciples were hence called Camaldolese. He is said to have seen here a vision of a mystic ladder, and his white-clothed monks ascending by it to heaven. Among his first disciples were Sts. Adalbert and Boniface, apostles of Russia, and Sts. John and Benedict of Poland, martyrs for the faith. He was an intimate friend of the Emperor St. Henry, and was reverenced and consulted by many great men of his time. He once passed seven years in solitude and complete silence.

In his youth St. Romuald was much troubled by temptations of the flesh. To escape them he had recourse to hunting, and in the woods first conceived his love for solitude. His father's sin, as we have seen, first prompted him to undertake a forty days' penance in the monastery, which he forthwith made his home. Some bad example of his fellow monks induced him to leave them and adopt the solitary mode of life. The penance of Urseolus, who had obtained his power wrongfully, brought him his first disciple; the temptations of the devil compelled him to his severe life; and finally the persecutions of others were the occasion of his settlement at Camaldoli, and the foundation of his Order. He died, as he had foretold twenty years before, alone, in his monastery of Val Castro, on the 19th of June, 1027.

Reflection.—St. Romuald's life teaches us that, if we only follow the impulse of the Holy Spirit, we shall easily find good everywhere, even on the most unlikely occasions. Our own sins, the sins of others, their ill will against us, or our own mistakes and misfortunes, are equally capable of leading us, with softened hearts, to the feet of God's mercy and love."

Saturday, February 4, 2017

From the (2001) martyrology: St Rabanus Maurus (Feb 4)

St Rabanus supported by Alcuin
dedicates his work to AB Otgar of Mainz
Manuscript circa 831-40
Today is the feast of an important but still rather neglected Benedictine saint, St Rabanus Maurus, likely author of the Veni Creator.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on him in 2009:

"Today I would like to speak of a truly extraordinary figure of the Latin West: Rabanus Maurus, a monk. Together with men such as Isidore of Seville, the Venerable Bede and Ambrose Autpert of whom I have already spoken in previous Catecheses, during the centuries of the so-called "High Middle Ages" he was able to preserve the contact with the great culture of the ancient scholars and of the Christian Fathers. Often remembered as the "praeceptor Germaniae", Rabanus Maurus was extraordinarily prolific. With his absolutely exceptional capacity for work, he perhaps made a greater contribution than anyone else to keeping alive that theological, exegetic and spiritual culture on which successive centuries were to draw. He was referred to by great figures belonging to the monastic world such as Peter Damian, Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux, as well as by an ever increasing number of "clerics" of the secular clergy who gave life to one of the most beautiful periods of the fruitful flourishing of human thought in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Born in Mainz in about 780, Rabanus entered the monastery at a very early age. He was nicknamed "Maurus" after the young St Maur who, according to Book II of the Dialogues of St Gregory the Great, was entrusted by his parents, Roman nobles, to the Abbot Benedict of Norcia. Alone this precocious insertion of Rabanus as "puer oblatus" in the Benedictine monastic world and the benefits he drew from it for his own human, cultural and spiritual growth, were to provide an interesting glimpse not only of the life of monks and of the Church, but also of the whole of society of his time, usually described as "Carolingian". About them or perhaps about himself, Rabanus Maurus wrote: "There are some who have had the good fortune to be introduced to the knowledge of Scripture from a tender age ("a cunabulis suis") and who were so well-nourished with the food offered to them by Holy Church as to be fit for promotion, with the appropriate training, to the highest of sacred Orders" (PL 107, col. 419 BC).

The extraordinary culture for which Rabanus Maurus was distinguished soon brought him to the attention of the great of his time. He became the advisor of princes. He strove to guarantee the unity of the Empire and, at a broader cultural level, never refused to give those who questioned him a carefully considered reply, which he found preferably in the Bible or in the texts of the Holy Fathers. First elected Abbot of the famous Monastery of Fulda and then appointed Archbishop of Mainz, his native city, this did not stop him from pursuing his studies, showing by the example of his life that it is possible to be at the same time available to others without depriving oneself of the appropriate time for reflection, study and meditation. Thus Rabanus Maurus was exegete, philosopher, poet, pastor and man of God. The Dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, Limburg and Breslau (Wrocław) venerate him as a saint or blessed. His works fill at least six volumes of Migne's Patrologia Latina. It is likely that we are indebted to him for one of the most beautiful hymns known to the Latin Church, the "Veni Creator Spiritus", an extraordinary synthesis of Christian pneumatology. In fact, Rabanus' first theological work is expressed in the form of poetry and had as its subject the mystery of the Holy Cross in a book entitled: "De laudibus Sanctae Crucis", conceived in such a way as to suggest not only a conceptual content but also more exquisitely artistic stimuli, by the use of both poetic and pictorial forms within the same manuscript codex. Suggesting the image of the Crucified Christ between the lines of his writing, he says, for example: "This is the image of the Saviour who, with the position of his limbs, makes sacred for us the most salubrious, gentle and loving form of the Cross, so that by believing in his Name and obeying his commandments we may obtain eternal life thanks to his Passion. However, every time we raise our eyes to the Cross, let us remember the one who died for us to save us from the powers of darkness, accepting death to make us heirs to eternal life" (Lib. 1, fig. 1, PL 107 col. 151 C).

This method of combining all the arts, the intellect, the heart and the senses, which came from the East, was to experience a great development in the West, reaching unparalleled heights in the miniature codices of the Bible and in other works of faith and art that flourished in Europe until the invention of printing and beyond. In Rabanus Maurus, in any case, is shown an extraordinary awareness of the need to involve, in the experience of faith, not only the mind and the heart, but also the senses through those other aspects of aesthetic taste and human sensitivity that lead man to benefit from the truth with his whole self, "mind, soul and body". This is important: faith is not only thought but also touches the whole of our being. Since God became Man in flesh and blood, since he entered the tangible world, we must seek and encounter God in all the dimensions of our being. Thus the reality of God, through faith, penetrates our being and transforms it. This is why Rabanus Maurus focused his attention above all on the Liturgy as a synthesis of all the dimensions of our perception of reality. This intuition of Rabanus Maurus makes it extraordinarily up to date. Also famous among his opus are the "Hymns", suggested for use especially in liturgical celebrations. In fact, since Rabanus was primarily a monk, his interest in the liturgical celebration was taken for granted. However, he did not devote himself to the art of poetry as an end in itself but, rather, used art and every other form of erudition as a means for deepening knowledge of the word of God. He therefore sought with great application and rigour to introduce his contemporaries, especially ministers (Bishops, priests and deacons), to an understanding of the profoundly theological and spiritual meaning of all the elements of the liturgical celebration.

He thus sought to understand and to present to others the theological meanings concealed in the rites, drawing from the Bible and from the tradition of the Fathers. For the sake of honesty and to give greater weight to his explanations, he did not hesitate to indicate the Patristic sources to which he owed his knowledge. Nevertheless he used them with freedom and with careful discernment, continuing the development of patristic thought. At the end of the "Epistola prima", addressed to a "chorbishop" of the Diocese of Mainz, for example, after answering the requests for clarification concerning the behaviour to adopt in the exercise of pastoral responsibility, he continues, "We have written all these things for you as we deduced them from the Sacred Scriptures and the canons of the Fathers. Yet, most holy man, may you take your decisions as you think best, case by case, seeking to temper your evaluation in such a way as to guarantee discretion in all things because it is the mother of all the virtues" (Epistulae, I, PL 112, col. 1510 C). Thus the continuity of the Christian faith which originates in the word of God becomes visible; yet it is always alive, develops and is expressed in new ways, ever consistent with the whole construction, with the whole edifice of faith.

Since an integral part of liturgical celebration is the word of God Rabanus Maurus dedicated himself to it with the greatest commitment throughout his life. He produced appropriate exegetic explanations for almost all the biblical books of the Old and New Testament, with clearly pastoral intentions that he justified with words such as these: "I have written these things... summing up the explanations and suggestions of many others, not only in order to offer a service to the poor reader, who may not have many books at his disposal, but also to make it easier for those who in many things do not succeed in entering in depth into an understanding of the meanings discovered by the Fathers" (Commentariorum in Matthaeum praefatio, PL 107, col. 727 D). In fact, in commenting on the biblical texts he drew amply from the ancient Fathers, with special preference for Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great.

His outstanding pastoral sensitivity later led him to occupy himself above all with one of the problems most acutely felt by the faithful and sacred ministers of his time: that of Penance. Indeed, he compiled the "Penitenziari" this is what he called them in which, according to the sensibility of his day, sins and the corresponding punishments were listed, using as far as possible reasons found in the Bible, in the decisions of the Councils and in Papal Decretals. The "Carolingians" also used these texts in their attempt to reform the Church and society. Corresponding with the same pastoral intentions, were works such as "De disciplina ecclesiastica" and "De institutione clericorum", in which, drawing above all from Augustine, Rabanus explained to the simple and to the clergy of his diocese the basic elements of the Christian faith: they were like little catechisms.

I would like to end the presentation of this great "churchman" by quoting some of his words in which his basic conviction is clearly reflected: "Those who are negligent in contemplation ("qui vacare Deo negligit"), deprive themselves of the vision of God's light; then those who let themselves be indiscreetly invaded by worries and allow their thoughts to be overwhelmed by the tumult of worldly things condemn themselves to the absolute impossibility of penetrating the secrets of the invisible God" (Lib I, PL 112, col. 1263 A). I think that Rabanus Maurus is also addressing these words to us today: in periods of work, with its frenetic pace, and in holiday periods we must reserve moments for God. We must open our lives to him, addressing to him a thought, a reflection, a brief prayer, and above all we must not forget Sunday as the Lord's Day, the day of the Liturgy, in order to perceive God's beauty itself in the beauty of our churches, in our sacred music and in the word of God, letting him enter our being. Only in this way does our life become great, become true life."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

St Alban Roe OSB (Jan 31)

Today a number of monasteries of the English Congregation of Benedictines celebrate the feast of St Alban Roe, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, and in 1642 at Tyburn.

His perhaps particularly a saint for those who tend to rub people up the wrong way, and follow a difficult path to fulfilling their vocation, at least as the account on Wikipedia tells it:

"...Details of Fr.Roe’s life are scanty. He was not typically monastic, but of an explosive and unpredictable temperament. Yet in spite of all this the outstanding characteristic of his life was cheerfulness and tenacity, and his sanctity is unquestionable.

Bartholomew Roe was born in 1583, in Suffolk. He was brought up a Protestant and with his brother James converted to Catholicism; both became Benedictine monks.

...His conversion experience was unusual: he tried to convert an imprisoned Catholic to Protestantism, but found himself defeated in argument. From this time, according to Challoner, “Mr. Roe was very uneasy in mind upon the score of religion; nor did this uneasiness cease till by reading and confessing with Catholic Priests he was thoroughly convinced of his errors and determined to embrace the ancient faith. Having found the treasure of God’s truth himself, he was very desirous to impart the same to the souls of his neighbours.” Consequently in 1607 he entered the English College at Douai (France) to study for the priesthood.

He had a very interesting attitude: he wasn’t only content to rub people up the wrong way, but to make sure they noticed. When the Prior had some cupboards removed from near to his bed, Roe declared: “There is more trouble with a few fools than with all the wise; if you pull down, I will build up; if you destroy, I will rebuild.”

He was expelled in 1610 due his temperament, ‘we consider the said Bartholomew Roe is not at all fitted for the purposes of this College on account of his contempt for the discipline and for his superiors and of his misleading certain youths living in the College and also of the great danger of his still leading others astray, and therefore we adjudge that he must be dismissed from the College’.

Roe didn’t leave quietly, but used his considerable skills to organise a campaign against the authorities. A significant body of monks seem to have seen him as some sort of hero and backed his appeal to the President. This allowed him later in 1613 to join the English Benedictine Community of St. Lawrence at Dieulouard in Lorraine, being ordained in 1615. There is no record of him being at all troublesome at Dieulouard. He became a founder member of the new English Benedictine Community at St.Edmund, Paris, hence his religious name Fr.Alban of St. Edmund.

He was professed in 1612 and after ordination (1615) joined the missions and worked in London, being arrested and deported shortly after his arrival.

He returned in 1618 and was imprisoned until 1623, whereby his release and re-exile was organised by the Spanish Ambassador, Gondomar. He returned two years later and was incarcerated for 17 years in the Fleet prison. Conditions in the Fleet were relaxed and he was able to minister to souls during the day provided he was back in his cell at night. He was zealous for the conversion of souls and lacking a church could be found in ale houses playing cards with the customers. This was permitted under the Constitutions of the English Benedictine Congregation at the time; the stakes were not monetary, but short prayers. Of course, this behaviour scandalised the Puritans, but as he was already a prisoner, there was little more they could do against him. He was also allowed to receive visitors in prison where in addition to strengthening his resolve through private prayer he taught visitors prayers and made many converts. Richard Challoner notes him translating “several pious tracts into English, some of which he caused to be published in print, others he left behind him in manuscript.”

In 1641 he was transferred to close confinement within the strict Newgate prison. In his trial in 1642 he was found guilty of treason under the statute 27 Eliz c.2 for being a priest.

Challoner details his initial refusal to enter a plea. It then transpired that the chief witness against him was a fallen Catholic who he had formerly helped. Thinking he could win him round again, he pleaded not guilty, but objected to being tried by “twelve ignorant jurymen”, who were unconcerned about the shedding of his innocent blood. Clearly the judge was a little bit intimidated by Roe making a mockery of the proceedings so they had a private chat. This didn’t go well, Roe declaring “My Saviour has suffered far more for me than all that; and I am willing to suffer the worst of torments for his sake.” The judge sent him back to prison where he was advised by who Challoner describes as “some grave and learned priests” to follow the example of those before him and consent to being tried by the court. The jury took about a minute to find him guilty. He then (with a bit of mockery) bowed low to the judge and the whole bench for granting him this great favour which he greatly desired.

The judge was so put out he suspended the sentence and sent him back to prison for a few days. This didn’t work either because as a celebrity he had a constant stream of visitors, one of whom smuggled in the necessary for him to say mass in his cell.

At Tyburn he preached in a jovial fashion to the crowd about the meaning of his death. He was still playing to the crowd, holding up the proceedings by asking the Sheriff whether he could save his life by turning Protestant. The Sheriff agreed. Roe then turned to the crowd declaring “see then what the crime is for which I am to die and whether religion be not my only treason?”

His remark to one of his former gaolers was “My friend, I find that thou art a prophet; thou hast told me often I should be hanged.”

He created quite an impression by his death and when his remains were quartered there was a scramble to dip handkerchiefs into his blood and pick up straws covered in his blood as relics. The speech he made is rumoured to have been sent to Parliament and stored in their archives.

He was declared venerable on December 1921 by Pope Pius XI and beatified one week later on December 15. Blessed Alban Roe was canonized nearly 49 years later on October 25, 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales with a common feast day of October 25. His feast day is also celebrated on January 21, the day of his martyrdom."

Monday, January 23, 2017

From the martyrology: SS Emerentiana and Martyrius (Jan 23)

St Agnes cup, c14th

In the Office today we celebrate the feast of St Emerentiana, of whom the martyrology says:

"At Rome, the holy virgin and martyr, St. Emerentiana.  Being yet a catechumen, she was stoned to death by the heathens while praying at the tomb of St. Agnes, her foster sister."

The martyrology also mentions St. Martyrius, a monk, mentioned by St Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, Book I:

"A certain man lived in that province, called Martirius, who was a very devout servant of almighty God, and gave this testimony of his virtuous life. For, upon a certain day, the other monks, his brethren, made a hearth-cake, forgetting to make upon it the sign of the cross: for in that country they use to make a cross upon their loaves, dividing them so into four parts: when the servant of God came, they told him that it was not marked: who, seeing it covered with ashes and coals, asked why they did not sign it, and speaking so, he made the sign of the cross with his hand against the coals: which thing whiles he was in doing, the cake gave a great crack, as though the pan had been broken with the fire: after it was baked and taken out, they found it marked with the sign of the cross, which yet not any corporal touching, but the faith of Martirius had imprinted."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January 17: St Anthony, abbot, Class III

St Anthony (c. 251–356) was not the first monk, but his Life, by St Athanasius, did much to promote the spread of monasticism, particularly in the West.

The Life is an extremely important source for ascetic spirituality.  Here are a few extracts:
"Antony you must know was by descent an Egyptian: his parents were of good family and possessed considerable wealth, and as they were Christians he also was reared in the same Faith. In infancy he was brought up with his parents, knowing nought else but them and his home. But when he was grown and arrived at boyhood, and was advancing in years, he could not endure to learn letters, not caring to associate with other boys; but all his desire was, as it is written of Jacob, to live a plain man at home. With his parents he used to attend the Lord's House, and neither as a child was he idle nor when older did he despise them; but was both obedient to his father and mother and attentive to what was read, keeping in his heart what was profitable in what he heard. And though as a child brought up in moderate affluence, he did not trouble his parents for varied or luxurious fare, nor was this a source of pleasure to him; but was content simply with what he found nor sought anything further.
After the death of his father and mother he was left alone with one little sister: his age was about eighteen or twenty, and on him the care both of home and sister rested. Now it was not six months after the death of his parents, and going according to custom into the Lord's House, he communed with himself and reflected as he walked how the Apostles left all and followed the Saviour; and how they in the Acts sold their possessions and brought and laid them at the Apostles' feet for distribution to then eedy, and what and how great a hope was laid up for them in heaven. Pondering over these things he entered the church, and it happened the Gospel was being read, and he heard the Lord saying to the rich man, 'If thou wouldest be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor; and come follow Me and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.' Antony, as though God had put him in mind of the Saints, and the passage had been read on his account, went out immediately from the church, and gave the possessions of his forefathers to the villagers--they were three hundred acres, productive and very fair --that they should be no more a clog upon himself and his sister. And all the rest that was movable he sold, and having got together much money he gave it to the poor, reserving a little however for his sister's sake.
And again as he went into the church, hearing the Lord say in the Gospel, ' be not anxious for the morrow,' he could stay no longer, but went out and gave those things also to the poor. Having committed his sister to known and faithful virgins, and put her into a convent to be brought up, he henceforth devoted himself outside his house to discipline, taking heed to himself and training himself with patience. For there were not yet so many monasteries in Egypt, and no monk at all knew of the distant desert; but all who wished to give heed to themselves practised the discipline in solitude near their own village. Now there was then in the next village an old man who had lived the life of a hermit from his youth up. Antony, after he had seen this man, imitated him in piety. And at first he began to abide in places out side the village: then if he heard of a good man anywhere, like the prudent bee, he went forth and sought him, nor turned back to his own palace until he had seen him; and he returned, having got from the good man as it were supplies for his journey in the way of virtue. So dwelling there at first, he confirmed his purpose not to return to the abode of his fathers nor to the remembrance of his kinsfolk; but to keep all his desire and energy for perfecting his discipline. He worked, however. with his hands, having heard, 'he who is idle let him not eat,' and part he spent on bread and part he gave to the needy. And he was constant in prayer, knowing that a man ought to pray in secret unceasingly. For he had given such heed to what was read that none of the things that were written fell from him to the ground, but he remembered all, and afterwards his memory served him for books."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 10: St Paul the First Hermit, Memorial

St Paul of Thebes (died circa 341) fled to the desert during the persecution of Decius and Valerianus around 250 AD.  St Jerome's life of the saint relates that he lived in the mountains of this desert in a cave near a clear spring and a palm tree, the leaves of which provided him with raiment and the fruit of which provided him with his only source of food till he was 43 years old, when a raven started bringing him half a loaf of bread daily.

St Jerome also tells the story of the meeting of St Anthony the Great and St Paul, when the latter was aged 113. They conversed with each other for one day and one night. When St Anthony next visited him, Paul was dead. Anthony clothed him in a tunic which was a present from St Athanasius of Alexandria and buried him, with two lions helping to dig the grave.

He is remembered as the first Christian hermit.

You can read St Jerome's Life of the saint here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Saints of the martyrology for January 5: St Telesphorus, Pope;St Apollinaris of Egypt; St Emiliana, virgin

St Telesphorus

St Telesphorus, who is commemorated today in the Extraordinary Form calendar, was pope between around 127 to 136 AD.  He was an anchorite prior to becoming pope.  Martyred under Emperor Antonius Pius, the custom of midnight masses at Christmas, inter alia, is attributed to him.

St Apollinaris of Egypt

St Apollinaris is one of the "desert mothers".  Apparently the daughter of an emperor of Rome, she put on male clothes and lived as hermit as a disciple of St. Macrius. Her true story was revealed at her death.

St Emiliana

St Emiliana was an aunt of St Gregory the Great.  St Gregory came from a saintly family: his mother and two of his paternal aunts are revered as saints, and today we celebrate one of them.  SS Trasilla and Emiliana devoted themselves to a life of virginity, fasting and prayer in their home in Rome.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, after many years in the service of God, St. Felix III, an ancestor, appeared to Trasilla and bade her enter her abode of glory. On the eve of Christmas she died, seeing Jesus beckoning. A few days later she appeared to Emiliana, who had followed well in her footsteps, and invited her to the celebration of Epiphany in heaven.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

St Sylvester OSB (Nov 26)

Saint Sylvester Gozzolini (1177 - 1267) is the founder of the Sylvestrine Congregation:

"Born of the noble family of the Gozzolini at Osimo, Marche, he was sent to study jurisprudence at Bologna and Padua, but, feeling within himself a call to the ecclesiastical state, abandoned the study of law for that of theology and Holy Scripture, giving long hours daily to prayer. On his return home we are told that his father, angered at his change of purpose, refused to speak to him for ten years. Sylvester then accepted a canonry at Osimo and devoted himself to pastoral work with such zeal as to arouse the hostility of his bishop, whom he had respectfully rebuked for the scandals caused by the prelate's irregular life.

The saint was threatened with the loss of his canonry, but decided to leave the world on seeing the decaying corpse of one who had formerly been noted for great beauty. In 1227 he retired to a desert place about thirty miles from Osimo and lived there in the utmost poverty until he was recognized by the owner of the land, a certain nobleman named Conrad, who offered him a better site for his hermitage. From this spot he was driven by damp and next established himself at Grotta Fucile, where he eventually built a monastery of his order.

In this place his penances were most severe, for he lived on raw herbs and water and slept on the bare ground. Disciples flocked to him seeking his direction, and it became necessary to choose a rule. According to the legend the various founders appeared to him in a vision, each begging him to adopt his rule. St. Sylvester chose for his followers that of St. Benedict and built his first monastery on Montefano, where, like another St. Benedict, he had first to destroy the remains of a pagan temple.

In 1247 he obtained from Innocent IV, at Lyon, a papal bull confirming his order, and before his death founded a number of monasteries."

Today the congregation has nineteen houses, eleven of them in Asia, on in Australia, one in the US, and the rest in Italy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21: Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, Class III; St Columbanus, Memorial

The basis for the feast of the Presentation lies in the infancy narrative contained in the Protoevangelium of James, which was possibly written around 145 AD, though the feast itself dates from 543.

Some modern historians claim the Protoevangelium is a fraud, as it does not reflect an awareness of the Judaism of the time, claiming, for example, that the idea of temple virgins is a conflation of Roman practice.

In reality, however, there are explicit Old Testament references to vows of celibacy. In addition, there were several contemporary Jewish groups with close connections to Jesus and his family, such as the Essenes, that did practice celibacy. And we also have from Scripture the story of the Prophetess Anna (Lk 2:25-35), who lived constantly in the Temple.

Accordingly, though not inspired Scripture, the early date of the Protoevangelium of James suggests that it should be taken seriously as relating a genuine early historical tradition regarding to Our Lady.

According to the text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, who had been childless, received a heavenly message that they would bear a child. In thanksgiving for the gift of their daughter, they brought her, when still a child, to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God, and she was educated for her future role there.

St Columbanus

Picture of Saint Columbanus

St Columbanus (540-615) was an Irish monk missionary responsible for founding many monasteries on the continent.  His brand of monasticism was much stricter and more penitential in orientation than St Benedict's, and the two rules were often used in combination.

St Columbanus suffered early temptations, and sought out advice from a holy woman who advised him to retire from the world; his decision was, however, strongly opposed by his parents.

His first master was Sinell, Abbot of Cluaninis in Lough Erne. Under his tuition he composed a commentary on the Psalms. He then went to the monastery of Bangor under St Comgall. There he embraced the monastic state, and for many years led a life conspicuous for fervour, regularity, and learning.

At about the age of forty he seemed to hear incessantly the voice of God bidding him preach the Gospel in foreign lands. At first his abbot declined to let him go, but at length he gave consent.
Columbanus set sail with twelve companions.  They eventually arrived in France around 585.

He and his followers soon made their way to the court of Gontram, King of Burgundy, who invited him to establish a monastery at Annegray in the solitudes of the Vosges Mountains.  After a few years the ever-increasing number of his disciples oblige him to build another monastery, which he established at Luxeuil, in 590.  A third followed at Fontaines.

His efforts ran into opposition from the local bishops, however, in part because he insisted on the Irish rather than Roman date for the celebration of Easter, but after assorted appeals to Rome, appears to have given way on this.

He also ran into trouble with the local king: the young King Thierry, to whose kingdom Luxeuil belonged, was living a life of debauchery, and was encouraged in this by his grandmother (his regent) who wanted no rivals for power.  Thierry, however, continued to visit the saint, who admonished and rebuked him, but in vain.

St Columbanus was taken prisoner but escaped, whereupon the King attempted to deport him to Ireland.   The ship, however, was driven ashore and the captain freed him, and he made his way to Metz, Mainz and Switzerland and Italy to evangelize, ending up at Bobbio.

The Rule of Saint Columbanus embodied the customs of Bangor Abbey and other Celtic monasteries. Much shorter than the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Rule of Saint Columbanus consists of ten chapters, on the subjects of obedience, silence, food, poverty, humility, chastity, choir offices, discretion, mortification, and perfection.

In the seventh chapter, Columbanus instituted a service of perpetual prayer, the laus perennis, by which choir succeeded choir, both day and night.

The Rule of Saint Columbanus was approved of by the Synod of Mâcon in 627, but it was superseded at the close of the century by the Rule of Saint Benedict. For several centuries in some of the greater monasteries the two rules were observed conjointly.

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 11: St Martin of Tours, Class II

St Martin of Tours (316-397) was one of the most popular saints in the middle ages, and holds a special place in Benedictine spirituality too, because it was to him (along with St John the Baptist) that St Benedict dedicated a chapel on Monte Cassino.

He became a catechumen against the wishes of his family at the age of ten, and, as the son of a veteran, was required to become a soldier, which he did at the age of 15.  While a soldier, he famously cut his cloak in half to clothe a scantily clad beggar.  That night he had a dream showing that it was Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away.  Two years later he was released from military service after refusing to fight in an expected battle, and became a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers.

He became first a hermit then a monk, and in 371 was acclaimed Bishop of Tours.  He was an active missionary-monk bishop, famously destroying pagan shrines and replacing them with churches and monasteries (actions St Benedict imitated at Monte Cassino, hence, presumably the dedication).

Pope Benedict XVI commented on him back in 2007:
Today, 11 November, the Church remembers St Martin, Bishop of Tours, one of the most celebrated and venerated Saints of Europe. Born of pagan parents in Pannonia, in what is today Hungary, he was directed by his father to a military career around the year 316. Still an adolescent, Martin came into contact with Christianity and, overcoming many difficulties, he enrolled as a catechumen in order to prepare for Baptism. He would receive the Sacrament in his 20s, but he would still stay for a long time in the army, where he would give testimony of his new lifestyle: respectful and inclusive of all, he treated his attendant as a brother and avoided vulgar entertainment. Leaving military service, he went to Poitiers in France near the holy Bishop Hilary. He was ordained a deacon and priest by him, chose the monastic life and with some disciples established the oldest monastery known in Europe at Ligugé. About 10 years later, the Christians of Tours, who were without a Pastor, acclaimed him their Bishop. From that time, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to the evangelization of the countryside and the formation of the clergy. While many miracles are attributed to him, St Martin is known most of all for an act of fraternal charity. While still a young soldier, he met a poor man on the street numb and trembling from the cold. He then took his own cloak and, cutting it in two with his sword, gave half to that man. Jesus appeared to him that night in a dream smiling, dressed in the same cloak.
Dear brothers and sisters, St Martin's charitable gesture flows from the same logic that drove Jesus to multiply the loaves for the hungry crowd, but most of all to leave himself to humanity as food in the Eucharist, supreme Sign of God's love, Sacramentum caritatis. It is the logic of sharing which he used to authentically explain love of neighbour. May St Martin help us to understand that only by means of a common commitment to sharing is it possible to respond to the great challenge of our times: to build a world of peace and justice where each person can live with dignity. This can be achieved if a world model of authentic solidarity prevails which assures to all inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medical treatment, and also work and energy resources as well as cultural benefits, scientific and technological knowledge.
Let us turn now to the Virgin Mary so that all Christians may be like St Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of love and tireless builders of jointly responsible sharing.
The Life of the saint, written by Sulpicius Severus, is well worth a read.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

St Raymund Nonnatus (EF), Aug 31

St Raymond being nourished by angels
Eugenio Caxes

From the martyrology:

"At Cardona, in Spain, St. Raymond Nonnatus, Cardinal and confessor, of the Order of Mercedarians, renowned for holiness of life and miracles."

The wikipedia notes that:

"According to Mercedarian tradition, he was born at Portell (today part of Sant Ramon), in the Diocese of Urgell, and became a member of the Mercedarian Order, founded to ransom Christian captives from the Moors of North Africa. He was ordained a priest in 1222 and later became master-general of the order. He traveled to North Africa and is said to have surrendered himself as a hostage when his money ran out.

He suffered in captivity. A legend states that the Moors bored a hole through his lips with a hot iron, and padlocked his mouth to prevent him from preaching. He was ransomed by his order and in 1239 returned to Spain. He died at Cardona, sixty miles from Barcelona, either on August 26 or on August 31, 1240. Many miracles were attributed to him before and after his death."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

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

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

From the martyrology:

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

At Benevento, twelve saintly brothers, martyrs."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

St Bernard Ptolemy OSB/ St Jane Frances de Chantal (EF)/St Pius X (OF) - Aug 21

From the martyrology:

"At Siena, in Tuscany, blessed Bernard Ptolemy, abbot and founder of the Congregation of Olivetans."


"At Annecy, in Savoy, the festival of St. Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal, foundress of the Order of Nuns of the Visitation of St. Mary, who is commemorated on the 13th of December."

Monday, August 20, 2012

St Bernard of Clairvaux (Aug 20), Class III/OF Memorial

From the martyrology:

"In the territory of Langres, the demise of St. Bernard, first abbot of Clairvaux, illustrious for virtues, learning, and miracles. He was declared Doctor of the universal church by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VIII. "

Saturday, August 4, 2012

St Dominic (August 4)

From the martyrology:

"St. Dominic, confessor, founder of the Order of Friars Preachers, who on the sixth day of this month rested in peace."

You can read more about the saint here.

Also today:
"In the village of Ars, in the diocese of Belley, France, the birthday of St. John Baptist-Mary Vianney, priest and confessor, renowned for his devotion as a parish priest.  Pope Pius XI placed him in the number of the saints, ordered that his feast should be observed on the 9th day of this month, and appointed him as the heavenly patron of all parish priests."

"At Rome, St. Perpetua, who was baptized by the blessed apostle Peter. She converted to the faith her son Nazarius and her husband Africanus, buried the remains of many holy martyrs, and finally went to our Lord endowed with an abundance of merit."