28 February 2019

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus


Happy St. David’s Day, as the title of this post says. My Welsh ancestors would want me to make mention of our great patron for his feast day, which is March 1st. Following is an excerpt from an anonymous account of the saint:

Saint David, or Dewi Sant, as he is known in the Welsh language, is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century. During his life, he was the archbishop of Wales, and he was one of many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.

For details of the life of Dewi, we depend mainly on his biographer, Rhigyfarch. He wrote Buchedd Dewi (the life of David) in the 11th century. Dewi died in the sixth century, so nearly five hundred years elapsed between his death and the first manuscripts recording his life. As a result, it isn't clear how much of the history of Dewi's life is legend rather than fact.

However, sources tell us that Dewi was a very gentle person who lived a frugal life. It is claimed that he ate mostly bread and herbs - probably watercress, which was widely used at the time. Despite this supposedly meager diet, it is reported that he was tall and physically strong.

Dewi is said to have been of royal lineage. His father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, who was prince of Ceredigion, a region in South-West Wales. His mother, Non, was the daughter of a local chieftain. Legend has it that Non was also a niece of King Arthur.

Dewi was born near Capel Non (Non's chapel) on the South-West Wales coast near the present city of Saint David. We know a little about his early life. He was educated in a monastery called Hen Fynyw, his teacher being Paulinus, a blind monk. Dewi stayed there for some years before going forth with a party of followers on his missionary travels.

Dewi travelled far on his missionary journeys through Wales, where he established several churches. He also travelled to the south and west of England and Cornwall as well as Brittany. It is also possible that he visited Ireland. Two friends of his, Saints Padarn and Teilo, are said to have often accompanied him on his journeys, and they once went together on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch.

Dewi is sometimes known, in Welsh, as 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the Water Drinker) and, indeed, water was an important part of his life. He is said to have drunk nothing else. Sometimes, as a self-imposed penance, he would stand up to his neck in a lake of cold water, reciting Scripture.

He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn (Rose Vale) on the banks of the small river Alun where the cathedral city of St. David stands today. They had to get up very early in the morning for prayers and afterwards work very hard to help maintain life at the monastery, cultivating the land and even pulling the plough. Many crafts were followed, and beekeeping, in particular, was very important. The monks had to keep themselves fed as well as the many pilgrims and travelers who needed lodgings. They also had to feed and clothe the poor and needy in their neighborhood.

There are many stories regarding Dewi's life. It is said that he once raised a youth from death, and milestones during his life were marked by the appearance of springs of water. These events are arguably more apocryphal than factual, but are very well known to Welsh-speaking schoolchildren.

Perhaps the most well-known story regarding Dewi's life is said to have taken place at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. They were to decide whether Dewi was to be archbishop. A great crowd gathered at the synod, and when Dewi stood up to speak, one of the congregation shouted, 'We won't be able to see or hear him'. At that instant the ground rose till everyone could see and hear Dewi. Unsurprisingly, it was decided, very shortly afterwards, that Dewi would be the archbishop.

It is claimed that Dewi lived for over 100 years, and it is generally accepted that he died in 589. His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. Rhigyfarch transcribes these as 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.'

“Do the little things” (“Gwnewch y pethau bychain”) is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh, and has proved an inspiration to many. On a Tuesday, the first of March, in the year 589, the monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'.

Dewi's body was buried in the grounds of his own monastery, where the Cathedral of St. David now stands. After his death, his influence spread far and wide - first through Britain, along what was left of the Roman roads, and by sea to Cornwall and Brittany.

For those who might like to celebrate St. David’s Day with an authentic comestible, here is the recipe for cawl, which is the dish most commonly served for dinner on the farm during the winter months in the counties of South and West Wales. The broth would be served in basins or bowls, with bread, and the meat and vegetables served as a second course.

2 lb Best end of neck Welsh Lamb
1/2 lb Carrots
2 large Leeks
1/2 oz Flour
1 small Swede or Turnip
1 lb Potatoes
1 oz parsley
Salt and Pepper

Put the meat into the saucepan, cover with cold water, add salt and pepper, bring slowly to the boil and skin carefully. (This can be done beforehand, and the fat allowed to set on the surface. This makes it easier to skim off). Then add the carrots (cut in half), the swede (sliced) and the white of the leeks, and simmer gently for two to two-and-a-half hours. Add the potatoes (cut in flour) and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. When the potatoes are almost cooked, thicken with flour and a little water. Lastly add the green of the leeks and parsley (chopped) and simmer for another 10 minutes and serve in basins while hot.

During Lent, this recipe for Caws Pobi (Welsh rarebit, also known as Welsh Rabbit, although it has nothing to do with rabbits) makes a great Friday night supper.

6 ounces strong Cheddar cheese;
1 tablespoon butter;
1-2 teaspoons Worcester sauce (to taste);
1 level teaspoon dry mustard;
2 teaspoons flour or cornflour;
4 tablespoons beer (about);
4 slices bread toasted on one side.

Put cheese, mustard, Worcester Sauce, butter and flour into saucepan and mix well, moisten with beer, but don't make too wet. Stir over gently heat until all is melted and become a thickish paste. Allow to cool a little while you make the toast. Spread mixture on untoasted side and put under hot grill until bubbling.

And finally, for something deliciously sweet and authentically Welsh, try some wonderful Bara Brith (Welsh fruitcake):

1 lb (450g) mixed dried fruit, such as raisins and currants
1 pint (300ml) tea
2 tbsp marmalade
1 egg, beaten
6 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 lb (450g) self raising flour
honey to glaze

Soak the fruit overnight in the tea. Next day, mix in the marmalade, egg, sugar, spice and flour. Spoon mixture into a greased 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and bake in a warm oven 325°F, 170°C for 1 hour or until the center is cooked through. Check from time to time to see that the top does not brown too much, and cover with a sheet of foil or move down a shelf in the oven if necessary. Once cooked, leave the Bara Brith to stand for 5 minutes then turn out of the tin on to a cooling tray. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top with honey. Served sliced with salted butter and some tasty farmhouse cheddar.

But between bites, remember St. David’s words: Gwnewch y pethau bychain, Do the little things.

25 February 2019

The Lady Chapel


After the act of charity of giving half his military cloak (cappa) to a beggar, St. Martin of Tours wore the remaining portion around his own shoulders as a cape (capella), which then was preserved as a relic after the death of the saint. A small oratory was built in which to place the capella, and the name was used eventually to refer to the building itself, becoming our English word, "chapel." The practice developed of erecting chapels, either as separate buildings or as small oratories within larger buildings, as centers of devotion to a particular saint or mystery, where the Divine Office could be prayed and where the Holy Mass could be celebrated.

One of the most common purposes for separate chapels was to provide a special place of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in those places where such a chapel was located it was referred to as the "Lady Chapel." While not unique to England, it was a rare cathedral or larger parish church in that country which did not have its Lady Chapel. So important was the veneration of our Lady in pre-reformation England, that the whole land was known as "Our Lady's Dowry," and there were more churches dedicated to her there, than to any other saint.

Traditionally, the Lady Chapel was most often situated near the sanctuary of the cathedral or church, in remembrance of the fact that the Blessed Virgin "stood beside the cross" when her Son was crucified. To have her chapel near the high altar where that sacrifice is offered is a constant reminder of our Lady's faithful witness and comfort to our Crucified Lord.

The Lady Chapel at Our Lady of the Atonement Church (pictured above) is adjacent to the main sanctuary, and it is what greets one's eyes when returning to one's place after receiving Holy Communion. Very often, people will make a brief visit to her chapel on their way back to their pews, providing an opportunity to "wait with Mary beside the cross."

Whether lighting a candle, or writing a request for prayer in the Intercession Book located there, the Lady Chapel is a small refuge of its own, and an important place of devotion to our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of the Atonement. It is as though the "capella" of Mary's love enfolds her children who come there.

23 February 2019

St. Polycarp of Smyrna


Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. But being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation had not known. With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose.

Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer -- to be true to the life of Jesus and to imitate that life. As Jesus often responded strongly to the Pharisees, so Polycarp, when confronted by a heretic who demanded respect by saying, "Recognize us, Polycarp," was told by Polycarp, "I recognize you, yes, I recognize the son of Satan."

Polycarp faced persecution the way Christ did. He didn’t seek out martyrdom as some did, but he avoided it until it was God's will. One day, during a bloody martyrdom when Christians were attacked by wild animals in the arena, the crowd became so mad that they demanded more blood by crying, "Down with the atheists; let Polycarp be found." (They considered Christians "atheists" because they didn't believe in their pantheon of gods).

Polycarp was calm but others persuaded him to leave the city and hide at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer for people he knew and for the Church. During his prayer he saw a vision of his pillow turned to fire and announced to his friends that the dream meant he would be burned alive.

As the search closed in, he moved to another farm, but he was discovered. He had a little warning since he was upstairs in the house but he decided to stay, saying, "God's will be done."

Then he went downstairs, talked to his captors and fed them a meal. All he asked of them was that they give him an hour to pray. He spent two hours praying for everyone he had every known and for the Church, "remembering all who had at any time come his way -- small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world." Many of his captors started to wonder why they were arresting this holy, eighty-six-year-old bishop.

But that didn't stop them from taking him into the arena. As he entered the arena, the crowd roared, rather like the animals they cheered. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven above the crowd, "Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man."

The proconsul begged the old bishop to give in because of his age. "Say 'Away with the atheists'" the proconsul urged. Polycarp calmly turned to face the crowd, looked straight at them, and said, "Away with the atheists." The proconsul continued to plead with him. When he asked Polycarp to swear by Caesar to save himself, Polycarp answered, "If you imagine that I will swear by Caesar, you do not know who I am. Let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian." Finally, when all else failed the proconsul reminded Polycarp that he would be thrown to the wild animals unless he changed his mind. Polycarp answered, "Change of mind from better to worse is not a change allowed to us."

Because of Polycarp's lack of fear, the proconsul told him he would be burned alive, but Polycarp knew that a fire which burned only for an hour was far preferable to the flames of eternal fire.

When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed. The fire was lit and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn't being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out.

The proconsul wouldn't let the Christians have the body because he was afraid they would worship Polycarp. The witnesses reported this with scorn for the lack of understanding of Christian faith: "They did not know that we can never abandon the innocent Christ who suffered on behalf of sinners for the salvation of those in this world." After the body was burned, they took away the bones in order to celebrate the memory of his martyrdom and prepare others for persecution. The date was about February 23, 156.

Fulfil, O Lord, the petitions of thy servants who on this day devoutly reverence the passion of blessed Polycarp thy Martyr and Bishop: and accept us, together with him, as a whole burnt offering dedicated unto thee; 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.

20 February 2019

St. Peter Damian


Peter was orphaned when he was very young child, and had the misfortune of being taken in by one of his older brothers who was very cruel to him. Another brother named Damian, who was a priest, saw this unjust treatment, and so took Peter into his own house, and cared for him. Peter was so grateful to this brother’s kindness that he added his name to his own, and was forevermore known as Peter Damian. Because of the previous ill-treatment, Peter Damian was always very good to the poor.  It was quite usual for him to invite the poor to eat with him, and he would care personally for them their needs. Also, because of his brother’s generosity to him, Peter Damian was able to receive an excellent education, and eventually became a university professor in Ravenna.

From early in his life Peter Damian was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, he fasted, and he spent many hours in prayer. Soon he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines. Peter Damian was so eager to pray, and he slept so little, that it began to take a toll on his health, and the other monks warned him to use some prudence in taking care of himself.

When his abbot died, Peter Damian was chosen to take his place, and subsequently founded five more monasteries. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a mediator in various disputes that might arise, or if some cleric or government official had a disagreement with Rome.

Eventually Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to bring about much-needed reform, by encouraging his priests to lead chaste and holy lives, and to maintain scheduled prayer and proper religious observance. He sought to restore discipline among religious and priests, warning them against excessive travel and too comfortable living. He concerned himself with what might seem to be small details – for instance, he once wrote to a bishop to point out that his clergy were sitting down for the psalms in the Divine Office – but he knew that care in small things would lead to carefulness in more important things.

He was eventually allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and he was happy to become once again a simple monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal mediator from time to time. It was when returning from such an assignment in Ravenna that he was developed a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072. In 1828 he was declared a Doctor of the Church.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we may so follow the teaching and example of thy blessed Confessor and Bishop, St. Peter Damian; that learning of him to despise all things earthly, we may attain in the end to everlasting felicity; 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.

17 February 2019

Septuagesima


Septuagesima Sunday is the name for the ninth Sunday before Easter, the third before Ash Wednesday. The term is sometimes applied also to the period that begins on this day and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. This period is also known as the pre-Lenten season or Shrovetide. The other two Sundays in this period of the liturgical year are called Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday.

Septuagesima comes from the Latin word for "seventieth." Likewise, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, and Quadragesima mean "sixtieth," "fiftieth," and "fortieth" respectively. Septuagesima Sunday is so called because it falls within seventy days but more than sixty days before Easter. The next Sunday is within sixty, Sexagesima, and the next within fifty, Quinquagesima. Falling within forty days of Easter (excluding Sundays) the next Sunday is Quadragesima, the Latin word for the season of Lent, which (not counting Sundays) is forty days long. Because every Sunday recalls the resurrection of Christ, they are considered "little Easters" and not treated as days of penance.

The 17-day period beginning on Septuagesima Sunday is intended to be observed as a preparation for the season of Lent, which is itself a period of spiritual preparation for Easter. The “Alleluia” ceases to be said during the liturgy, and the Gloria in excelsis is not used. Likewise, violet vestments are worn, except on feasts, from Septuagesima Sunday until Holy Thursday.

13 February 2019

Ss. Cyril and Methodius


Cyril and Methodius were brothers who were born in Thessalonica in the 9th century, where their father was an army officer. This was a part of Greece where many Slavic people lived – people from central and eastern Europe – and the mother of Cyril and Methodius may well have been Slavic. Both of them were highly educated, and gave themselves in service to the Church, becoming missionaries to the Slavic peoples.

The time came when the Duke of Moravia (the present-day Czech Republic) received political independence from German rule, and also received ecclesiastical autonomy, which meant having their own clergy and their own form of the liturgy. It was in these circumstances that Cyril and Methodius became missionaries, devoting themselves to spreading the Gospel and to strengthening the Church among the Slavic people.

Cyril's first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. The Cyrillic alphabet was formed, being based on Greek capital letters. Together the brothers translated the Gospels, the psalter, St. Paul's epistles, as well as the liturgical books, into Slavonic. They composed a Slavonic liturgy, which was very unusual at that time, since the expectation was that the liturgy would be unified with the liturgy of the Western Church, and would use Latin as its language.

Because of these liturgical differences, the use of a different alphabet, and their free use of the vernacular in preaching, it led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On their visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril died during this visit to Rome, and is buried at San Clemente, but Methodius continued his mission work for 16 more years. There were still many in the Church who fought against what the brothers had been doing, and it seemed as though their efforts would die with them. However, the Slavic people held on to their liturgy and their language, and it continued to spread, as it has done to this day.

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank thee for thy servants Cyril and Methodius, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to the Slavic peoples: raise up, we pray thee, in this and every land, heralds and evangelists of thy kingdom; that thy Church may make known the unsearchable riches of Christ, and may increase with the increase of God; through the same 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.

Chair of St. Peter Novena



NOVENA BEFORE THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

V. In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
R. Amen.

Antiphon: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this Rock I will build my Church.


[Each day’s scripture and intention is read aloud by the leader.  After a brief silence, the final prayers are offered.]


February 13th.
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
- St. Mark 1:16-18
Intention: That we may follow the call of Christ without hesitation.


February 14th.
[Jesus] said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
- St. Luke 5:4-8

Intention: That we may obey our Lord’s commandments with humility.


February 15th.
[Jesus] asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Eljjah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
- St. Matthew 16:13-18
Intention: That we may confidently confess our faith in Jesus Christ.


February 16th.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
- St. Mark 9:2-3
Intention: That with Peter, we may see Christ as he is.


February 17th.
Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
- St. John 6:67-69
Intention: That we may know Christ as the Incarnate Word, and follow him.


February 18th.
[Jesus asked the soldiers,] "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go." Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear.
- St. John 18:7-8,10a
Intention: That we may refrain from hasty or imprudent words and actions.


February 19th.
Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
- St. John 20:3-4, 6-7
Intention: That our lives may give witness to the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.



February 20th.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
- St. John 21:15-17
Intention: That we may remain in close communion with the Successor of St. Peter, through whom Christ strengthens us.


February 21st.
Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”
Acts 2:14
Intention: That in union with St. Peter we may proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.


FINAL PRAYER (to be offered each day)

O Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandedst him earnestly to feed thy flock: make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same; that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; 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.

V. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles;
R. Pray for us.

V. In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
R. Amen.

10 February 2019

Our Lady of Lourdes


Four years after the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854), the Blessed Virgin appeared a number of times to a very poor and holy girl named Bernadette. The actual spot was in a grotto on the bank of the Gave River near Lourdes.

The Immaculate Conception had a youthful appearance and was clothed in a pure white gown and mantle, with an azure blue girdle. A golden rose adorned each of her bare feet. On her first apparition, February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin told the girl to make the sign of the Cross piously and say the rosary with her. Bernadette saw her take the rosary that was hanging from her arms into her hands. This was repeated in subsequent apparitions.

With childlike simplicity Bernadette once sprinkled holy water on the vision, fearing that it was a deception of the evil spirit; but the Blessed Virgin smiled pleasantly, and her face became even more beautiful. The third time Mary appeared she invited the girl to come to the grotto daily for two weeks. Now she frequently spoke to Bernadette. On one occasion she ordered her to tell the bishop to build a church on the spot and to organize processions. Bernadette also was told to drink and wash at the spring still hidden under the sand.

Finally on the feast of the Annunciation, the beautiful Lady announced her name, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

The report of cures occurring at the grotto spread quickly and the more it spread, the greater the number of Christians who visited the hallowed place. The publicity given these miraculous events on the one hand and the seeming sincerity and innocence of the girl on the other made it necessary for the bishop of Tarbes to institute a judicial inquiry. Four years later he declared the apparitions to be supernatural and permitted the public veneration of the Immaculate Conception in the grotto. Soon a chapel was erected, and since that time countless pilgrims come every year to Lourdes to fulfill promises or to beg graces.

This is a day on which we pray especially for the sick.

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling place meet for thy Son: we humbly pray thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; 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.

07 February 2019

St. Josephine Bakhita



On February 8, the Church commemorates the life of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian Sister who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Sudan.

Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869, in a small village in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was kidnapped while working in the fields with her family and subsequently sold into slavery. Her captors asked for her name but she was too terrified to remember so they named her “Bakhita,” which means “fortunate” in Arabic.

Retrospectively, Bakhita was very fortunate, but the first years of her life do not necessarily attest to it. She was tortured by her various owners who branded her, beat and cut her. In her biography she notes one particularly terrifying moment when one of her masters cut her 114 times and poured salt in her wounds to ensure that the scars remained. “I felt I was going to die any moment, especially when they rubbed me in with the salt,” Bakhita wrote.

She bore her suffering valiantly though she did not know Christ or the redemptive nature of suffering. She also had a certain awe for the world and its creator. “Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: 'Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?' And I felt a great desire to see Him, to know Him and to pay Him homage.”

After being sold a total of five times, Bakhita was purchased by Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Two years later, he took Bakhita to Italy to work as a nanny for his colleague, Augusto Michieli. He, in turn, sent Bakhita to accompany his daughter to a school in Venice run by the Canossian Sisters.

Bakhita felt called to learn more about the Church, and was baptized with the name “Josephine Margaret.” In the meantime, Michieli wanted to take Josephine and his daughter back to Sudan, but Josephine refused to return.

The disagreement escalated and was taken to the Italian courts where it was ruled that Josephine could stay in Italy because she was a free woman. Slavery was not recognized in Italy and it had also been illegal in Sudan since before Josephine had been born.

Josephine remained in Italy and decided to enter Canossians in 1893. She made her profession in 1896 and was sent to Northern Italy, where she dedicated her life to assisting her community and teaching others to love God.

She was known for her smile, gentleness and holiness. She even went on record saying, “If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today.”

St. Josephine was beatified in 1992 and canonized shortly after on October 2000 by Pope John Paul II. She is the first person to be canonized from Sudan and is the patron saint of the country.

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us, we pray thee, from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of thy servant, St. Josephine Bakhita, we may serve thee with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

St. Jerome Emiliani


St. Jerome Emiliani was born in the 15th century, and as a young man he became a soldier for the city-state of Venice. During that time he wasn’t terribly religious; in fact, he was fairly selfish, and didn’t think much about other people. He loved the life of a soldier, and was never happier than when he was heading off to do battle against someone else. One day, when he was engaged in a minor battle, Jerome was captured and chained in a dungeon. While he was in prison, Jerome had a lot of time to think. He began to think about his life, and he began to think about God, and gradually he learned how to pray. One day he managed to escape from prison. He returned to Venice to his family, and with nothing else to do, he took charge of the education of his nephews. At the same time, he began his own studies for the priesthood.

St. Jerome was eventually ordained, and settled into the life of a parish priest. But soon after his ordination, God began to call St. Jerome into a new ministry – not in a parish, but a ministry which would reach far beyond a single parish. A terrible plague was sweeping across Europe, and there was widespread famine throughout northern Italy where St. Jerome was. He began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense. While serving the sick and the poor, he made the decision to devote himself and all his resources to assist others, particularly for the care of abandoned children. He founded three orphanages and a hospital.

In about the year 1532, Jerome and two other priests established a religious congregation dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth. Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick. He was eventually canonized, and was named the universal patron of orphans and abandoned children.

O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; 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.

05 February 2019

St. Paul Miki and Martyrs of Japan


Nagasaki, Japan, is known in history as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped in 1945 during the last stages of World War II, killing hundreds of thousands. But some 350 years before that, twenty-six martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his church.

When Christianity first came to Japan, it was tolerated by the shoguns – the leaders – because they thought it would open up trade with the West. However, they soon decided that the Christian faith wasn’t helpful to them, so they outlawed it, and began the systematic destruction of the faith. The martyrs we celebrate today were rounded up and tortured, trying to get them to deny their faith. Each one of them had an ear cut off, and then they were marched for a thousand miles through the winter months, in the hope that they would denounce the faith, and cause others to do the same. All that accomplished was to make their faith grow stronger. The forced march ended at Nagasaki, where the Christians were then crucified on what came to be known as the Holy Mountain.

St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution. He forgave his persecutors and called people to love God and to obey Him. His final words were, "I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain."

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that even though there were no priests and no sacraments other than baptism, the people had secretly preserved the faith.

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the hearts of St. Paul Miki and the Martyrs of Japan: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

04 February 2019

St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr


St. Agatha was born in Sicily, and is one of the many brave and faithful martyrs of the 3rd century. Her family was a wealthy and important one. Agatha was raised as a Christian, and when she was a very young girl she dedicated her life to God alone, and felt no vocation to be married. Because of her beauty and wealth, and because of the importance of her family, there were many men who sought to marry her. She resisted them all, desiring only a life of prayer and charitable service.

There was a man named Quintian, a Roman prefect, who thought his rank and power could force Agatha into a relationship with him. Knowing she was a Christian, and because this was in a time of persecution, he had her arrested and brought to trial. The judge was none other than himself. He expected Agatha to give in to him when she was faced with torture and death, but she simply rededicated herself to God.

Quintian imprisoned Agatha, locking her up with cruel and immoral women, in order to get her to change her mind. After she had suffered a month of being assaulted and humiliated she never wavered, saying that although they could physically lock her up, her real freedom came from Jesus. Quintian continued to have her tortured. He refused to allow her to have any medical care, but St. Agatha was given great comfort by God, who allowed her to have a vision of St. Peter, in which he encouraged and strengthened her.

Finally, because of the repeated torture and mutilation of her body, St. Agatha died in about the year 251, while whispering a prayer of thanks to God.

O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the gentleness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom: grant, we beseech thee; that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of Saint Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain unto thee; 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.

03 February 2019

St. Gilbert of Sempringham


Born in about the year 1083 in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, St. Gilbert’s father was a Norman knight who had decided that his son would follow a different path, and so sent him to France to study and to prepare for ordination.

When St. Gilbert returned to England he was not yet ordained a priest. His father had died, and Gilbert inherited several estates, making him a wealthy man. While many might have chosen a life of ease in such circumstances, St. Gilbert chose to live a simple life, putting himself at the service of the poor by sharing with them his considerable resources. He was ordained to the priesthood, and served as the parish priest at Sempringham, where he had grown up.

There were seven young women in the congregation who had expressed to him a desire to live in community as vowed religious. St. Gilbert took their vocation seriously, and had a house built for them near the parish church. Although their communal life was one of simplicity and austerity, the community grew in numbers. They worked on the land, providing for their own needs and for the needs of the poor. It was St. Gilbert’s hope that the Community would be able to become part of the Cistercians, or one of the other established orders, but that never happened. They became known as the Gilbertines, and they remained as their own order, which continued to grow until King Henry VIII ordered the suppression of all monasteries in 1538.

The Gilbertines developed a beautiful custom in their religious houses, of having what was called “the plate of the Lord Jesus.” On this plate they would place the very best portion of their meals, which would then be shared with the poor. This custom was a direct reflection of St. Gilbert’s own love for the poor, and it continued the charity he had always shown.

Although St. Gilbert came from great wealth, and through inheritance he himself was a man of means, nonetheless he lived the simple life of a devoted parish priest. He ate very little food, and spent many nights in prayer. He lived a life of hardship and sacrifice willingly, as a sign of his love for Christ and for the poor.  He died in the year 1190 at the age of 106.

O God, by whose grace thy servant St. Gilbert of Sempringham, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

01 February 2019

The Presentation of Our Lord


It is a good and just king who obeys his own laws. And at the time of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, God was doing just that. As the Incarnate Word, He conformed Himself to all those laws which were meant to honour Him. And it took place in the very Temple which was built to worship Him. Old Simeon had waited for years and he had seen countless infants brought into the Temple, but by the stirring of the Holy Ghost within him he knew this was the One. The veil was lifted from Simeon’s eyes, foreshadowing the future day when the Temple veil would be torn in two. The Infant in Simeon’s arms was an image of the Victim on the arms of the Cross. And the aged prophet’s words to the Virgin Mother would be fulfilled when she stood beneath the cross, entering into her Son’s suffering.

This is a continuing epiphany, an ongoing revelation of our Lord. It reminds us of the importance of obedience as we see Christ’s obedience. It reminds us of the importance of waiting upon God as we hear of the waiting of Simeon and Anna. And it reminds us of the importance of offering our best love to God as we witness Joseph and Mary offering back to God the Beloved Infant entrusted to them, giving us a foretaste of the Mass itself, in which Christ is offered to the Father.

There are three times in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ when a period of forty days figure in an important way: the feast of His Presentation in the Temple occurs forty days after His Nativity; the forty days in the wilderness, after which He was “presented” to the world and began His earthly ministry; and the forty days after His Resurrection, after which Christ was “presented” in heaven through His Ascension.

God “speaks His mysteries plain,” and His use of these periods of time tells us something of the nature of God; namely, that the Eternal Word has entered into time and space. At each “presentation” in the earthly life of Christ, it was not He alone who was presented, but He has taken our human nature through these things so that we might experience something similar.

And so we do. We have our own “presentation in the temple” in our baptism. As believing and active Catholics we have a “presentation to the world” as we seek to fulfill our vocation to work for the consecration of all creation in the name of Christ. And, God willing, we will have our “presentation in heaven” when God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.