27 May 2018

The Holy Trinity


It is the foundational belief of every Christian that God is a Trinity of Persons. In fact, that is the very definition of Christianity. It comes to us from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...” [St. Matthew 28:18-20].

26 May 2018

St. Philip Neri


If we had to choose the one saint who always had a funny story to tell, or a harmless practical joke to play, it would be St. Philip Neri, who lived in the 16th century. His sense of humor was for a reason – he said there were plenty of gloomy saints – he wanted to use laughter and good-natured fun as a way of growing closer to God.

Philip’s life wasn’t always easy. His father was a financial failure, and when he was a young man of eighteen, Philip was sent to work with an older cousin who was a successful businessman. During this time, Philip found a favorite place to pray up in the fissure of a mountain that had been turned into a chapel. We don't know anything specific about his conversion but during these hours of prayer he decided to leave worldly success behind and dedicate his life to God.

After thanking his cousin, he went to Rome in 1533 where he was the live-in tutor of the sons of a fellow Florentine. He studied philosophy and theology, but he really wanted to live a life of prayer. During one of his times of prayer, he felt as though a globe of light had entered into him. This experience gave him so much energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking to others about God, everyone from beggars to bankers.

In 1548 Philip formed a kind of confraternity with other laymen to minister to pilgrims who came to Rome without food or shelter. The spiritual director of the confraternity convinced Philip that he could do even more work as a priest, so after completing his studies, Philip was ordained in 1551.

At his new home, the church of San Girolamo, he learned to love to hear confessions. Young men especially found in him the wisdom and direction they needed to grow spiritually. But Philip began to realize that these young men also needed guidance during their daily lives. So Philip began to ask the young men to come by in the early afternoon when they would discuss spiritual readings and then stay for prayer in the evening. The numbers of the men who attended these meetings grew rapidly. In order to handle the growth, Philip and a fellow priest Buonsignore Cacciaguerra gave a more formal structure to the meetings and built a room called the Oratory to hold them in.

Philip understood that it wasn't enough to tell somebody not to do something – they had to have something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when crowds were involved in all sorts of things that could lead to trouble, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a picnic accompanied by instrumental music for the mid-day break. After walking twelve miles in one day everyone was too tired to be tempted!

Eventually, Philip’s success with young people started to make some of the other priests jealous, and the good work he was doing was threatened. But eventually Philip and the others who worked with him were seen to be doing God’s work, so they were able to continue. In fact, St. Philip wouldn’t allow a single bad thing to be said about the people who had tried to destroy him. Eventually he and the others who worked with him realized they needed a center for their activities, and they were able to take up residence at what was known as “Chiesa Nuova,” or the “New Church.”

Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself. Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they always had a humorous side. When one priest gave a beautiful sermon, Philip ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so people would think he only had one sermon. When one man asked Philip if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip gave him permission -- if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes and name-calling he received.

And Philip carried out his own mortifications to learn humility. There are stories of him wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he wanted to seem. When some people came from Poland to see the great saint, they found him listening to another priest read to him from joke books.

But Philip was very serious about prayer, spending hours in prayer. He was so easily carried away that he refused to preach in public and could not celebrate Mass with others around. But he when asked how to pray his answer was, "Be humble and obedient and the Holy Spirit will teach you."

St. Philip Neri died in 1595 after a long illness, at the age of eighty years.

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Whenever we have a parish pilgrimage to Rome, we always visit the magnificent but charming Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, better known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. This served as the center of operation for St. Philip Neri, the fun-loving saint who combined humor with holiness, and whose work resulted in the foundation of the Oratorians.





O God, who didst exalt thy blessed Confessor Philip to the glory of thy Saints: mercifully grant that we, who rejoice in his festival, may learn to follow rightly the example of his virtues; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

24 May 2018

Ember Friday in Whitsuntide


Most merciful God, we beseech thee: that thy Church, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, may nevermore be disquieted by the assaults of her enemies; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

23 May 2018

Ember Wednesday in Whitsuntide


We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"). There are those who say that the word “ember” is a corruption of the Latin title, but it is as likely that it comes from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle." As the year progresses and returns to its beginning, the ember days are part of the circle of the year. These days of prayer and fasting originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine with his arrival in the year 597. The fasting is modified – basically no food between meals – and there are particular things for which we are to pray and give thanks. These days are to be used to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us -- for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it is a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us. Another important aspect of the Ember Days is for us to pray for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during these four periods of time throughout the year.

22 May 2018

Whit Tuesday


Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God: that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 May 2018

George Herbert's "Whitsunday"

Pentecost by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1320


"Whitsunday"
by George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633)

Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and flie away with thee.

Where is that fire which once descended
On thy Apostles? thou didst then
Keep open house, richly attended,
Feasting all comers by twelve chosen men.

Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow,
That th’ earth did like a heav’n appeare;
The starres were coming down to know
If they might mend their wages, and serve here.

The sunne, which once did shine alone,
Hung down his head, and wisht for night,
When he beheld twelve sunnes for one
Going about the world, and giving light.

But since those pipes of gold, which brought
That cordiall water to our ground,
Were cut and martyr’d by the fault
Of those, who did themselves through their side wound,

Thou shutt’st the doore, and keep’st within;
Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
And if the braves of conqu’ring sinne
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.

Lord, though we change, thou art the same;
The same sweet God of love and light:
Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.

19 May 2018

Ss. Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald


In the mid-10th century there was a king in England whose name was Edgar the Peaceable. Not that he was a peaceable man himself – he wasn’t. But he brought peace to the English, and it is that for which he is remembered.

His elder brother, Eadwig, had been king before him. Eadwig was a rather disagreeable man who brought discord to the land. His reign was known most for the conflict between his noblemen and the Church, which Eadwig had fueled by exiling some of the prominent clergy, which included St. Dunstan.

Eventually people tired of the turmoil and disunity under Eadwig, and it was then that they switched their allegiance to Edgar the Peaceable. This opened up all sorts of opportunities for rebuilding a stable society, because Edgar saw the importance of the place of the Church in the nation. He immediately called St. Dunstan back from exile, requesting that he be made a bishop. St. Dunstan remained King Edgar’s advisor for the rest of his reign.

Having St. Dunstan at his side meant that King Edgar could repair the great damage that had been done to the monasteries throughout the land. A series of attacks from the Danes had all but destroyed these important centers of learning and pastoral care, and it was at St. Dunstan’s urging that King Edgar sought out St. Ethelwold and St. Oswald, petitioning also that they be made bishops. The combined efforts of these three saints meant that the monasteries were restored, which assisted in making England unified as a nation.

We see in the story of these three great British saints the importance of seeking cooperation between the Church, with her preaching of the Gospel and her work of teaching and sanctifying, and the State, with its responsibility to uphold the law and good order of society. When the Church and the State work in harmony, each respecting the God-given role of the other, the good fruits which come from that are undeniable. St. Dunstan, St. Ethelwold, and St. Oswald carried out God’s work faithfully. They sought no honour for themselves, but rather they brought honour to God and His Church by teaching the faith, providing the Sacraments, and showing that ultimately God must be the King of every nation.

We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this feast of thy bishops Ss. Dunstan, Ethelwold and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and administering thy church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; 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. Amen.

18 May 2018

St. John I, Pope and Martyr


Pope John I became pope in 523, and inherited the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. The Western Empire had been ruled for 30 years by the Emperor Theodoric, who had embraced the heresy himself, even though he treated the empire’s Catholics with toleration. His policy changed at about the time John was elected pope. Theodoric didn’t like the fact that there was peace between east and west, because he thought it would be a threat to his reign – he really wanted to rule over everything.

When the eastern emperor, Justin, began imposing severe measures on the Arians of his area, the western emperor forced Pope John to head a delegation to the East to soften the measures against the Arians. At first John refused, but then fearing that the king's anger would be taken out on Western Catholics, he agreed to do Theodoric's bidding on every count save one. He boldly told the king that he would not ask the emperor to allow converts to return to heresy.

The pope arrived in Constantinople shortly before Easter in 526, and since he was the first pope to leave Italy, his reception was more than he could have dreamed. He had been met by the entire city at the twelfth milestone, where the clergy led the procession carrying candles and crosses, and even the emperor prostrated himself before the Holy Father. On the day of Easter, Pope John was seated in a throne higher than the one occupied by the patriarch, in the church of Sancta Sophia, where he celebrated Mass in the Latin tradition. John was accorded the highest honor when he placed the customary Easter crown on the head of Emperor Justin.

After meeting with Justin on Theodoric's behalf, the pope made the exhausting trip back to Ravenna. The king's fury raged. Jealous of the pope's grand reception in the East, Theodoric accused the pope of failing his mission by not securing all of the demands put to Justin. The king then ordered John to remain in Ravenna at his disposal.

John was imprisoned when he reached Ravenna because the emperor suspected a conspiracy against his throne. Shortly after his imprisonment, John died, and because of the cruel treatment he had received, he is counted as a martyr for the faith.

O Everlasting Shepherd, mercifully look upon thy flock: and through blessed John, thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church, keep her with thy perpetual protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 May 2018

The Rogation Days


Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: we humbly pray that thy gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labour to gather them; that we, who constantly receive good things from thy hand, may always give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


O Almighty God who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.