30 June 2020

St. Junipero Serra

Statue of St. Junipero Serra,
located in the National Statuary Hall,
Washington, D.C.

As America was being formed through its revolution in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in the west. Missions were being established under the direction of a grey-robed Franciscan, known to us as St. Junipero Serra. He was born in 1713 in Spain on the island of Majorca. Well into his adult life, until he was thirty-five, he spent most of his time in the classroom, first as a student of theology and then as a teacher. At the same time he was becoming famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed a vocation God had given him; namely, to preach the Gospel to the native people of the New World.

In 1750 he arrived by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico. He and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City, but on the way Junipero's left leg became infected by an insect bite. This would remain a difficult and often life-threatening illness for the rest of his life. For eighteen years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He then went to the area of present-day Monterey, California. The first mission was founded after the nine-hundred-mile journey north in 1769. Other missions followed, making a total of nine missions being founded under the direction of St. Junipero, and twelve more were founded after his death.

Junipero's missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic and prideful military commanders, and even with danger of death from the native people he had come to serve. During his ministry he baptized more than six thousand people and confirmed some five thousand. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought to the people of the New World not only the gift of faith but also the highest standard of living they had ever known. He was deeply loved by the people he served, which they showed by their outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.

He was beatified in 1987 and canonized on 23 September 2015.

O God, who by thine ineffable mercy hast been pleased through the labours of thy Priest Saint Junipero Serra to count many American peoples within thy Church: grant by his intercession; that we may so join our hearts to thee in love, as to carry always and everywhere before all people the image of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 June 2020

The Protomartyrs of Rome

These are the holy men and women who are called the "Protomartyrs of Rome." They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called "disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles' death."

Pope Clement I, third successor of St. Peter, writes: “It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith... Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented... suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize.”

O God, who didst consecrate the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs: grant, we beseech thee; that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love; 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.

[Pictured: "Pochodnie Nerona" (Nero's Torches) by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1853-1902]

28 June 2020

Ss. Peter and Paul, Apostles

On June 29th the Church celebrates the feast day of Ss. Peter & Paul. As early as the year 258 there is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day. Together, the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom there.

Peter, who was named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee. Jesus gave him the name Cephas (Petrus in Latin), which means ‘Rock,’ because he was to be the rock upon which Christ would build His Church. Peter was the first to recognize that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and pledged his fidelity until death.

Although he had his human weaknesses, Peter was chosen to shepherd God's flock. Peter led the Apostles as the first Pope and ensured that the disciples kept the true faith. St. Peter spent his last years in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually was martyred in the year 64. He was crucified upside-down at his own request, because he claimed he was not worthy to die as his Lord.

He was buried on Vatican hill, and St. Peter's Basilica is built over his tomb.

St. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles. His letters are included in the writings of the New Testament, and through them we learn much about his life and the faith of the early Church.

Before using his Gentile name of Paul, he was Saul, a Jewish pharisee who viciously persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Scripture records that Saul was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Saul's conversion took place as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christian community there. As he was traveling along the road, he was suddenly surrounded by a great light from heaven. He was blinded and fell off his horse. He then heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered: “Who are you, Lord?” Christ said: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul continued to Damascus, where he was baptized and his sight was restored. He spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world.

Paul was imprisoned and taken to Rome, where he was beheaded in the year 67. He is buried in Rome in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, "Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; And even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith."

O God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, that they were enabled to bear witness to the truth by their death: grant unto thy Church that, as in the beginning she was enlightened by their teaching, so by their intercession she may continue in the same unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City State

Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome

O God, who by the preaching of thy holy apostles Ss. Peter and Paul didst cause the light of thy gospel to shine upon the nations: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having their life and labour in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to thee for so great a gift, by following the example of their zeal and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

26 June 2020

St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril (born c. 376) is one of the great Greek fathers of the Church. He was the Church’s defender against Nestorius, who denied the unity of Christ’s person. If this heresy had succeeded, Mary would not be called the Mother of God.

 Along with St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, he was one of the greatest defenders of orthodoxy in the history of the Church. His greatest achievement was the successful outcome of the ecumenical council at Ephesus (431), to which Pope Celestine had appointed Cyril as his papal legate. In this council two important dogmas were defined; namely, that there is but one person in Christ, and that Mary truly and rightly can be called the Mother of God (Theotokos).

 His writings show immense depth and theological clarity, which were so necessary at a time when heresies were threatening the orthodox teaching of the Church.

 St. Cyril died in 444 A.D., after having been bishop of Alexandria for thirty-two years.

O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; 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.

23 June 2020

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist was a contemporary of our Lord who was known for preparing the way for Jesus Christ, and for baptizing Him. John was born through an act of God to Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth, who were both advanced in age. According to the scriptures, the Angel Gabriel visited Zachariah to tell them they would have a son and that they should name him John. Zachariah was skeptical and for this he was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will.

The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ praised St. John the Baptist so highly, saying that among those born of women there was none greater, encouraged a special veneration, and so we find a regular cycle of feasts in his honour among the early Christian churches.

It was the firm belief among the faithful from the time of the early Church that John was freed from original sin at the moment of the meeting of his mother with the Blessed Virgin, when the child "leaped in the womb" of St. Elizabeth. Saint Augustine mentioned this belief as a general tradition in the ancient Church, establishing that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb" and, therefore, was born without original sin. Accordingly, the Church celebrates his natural birth by a festival of his "nativity," assigned some six months before the nativity of Christ, since John was six months older than the Lord.

Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant Saint John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour, by preaching of repentance: make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; 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.

22 June 2020

Ss. Hilda, Etheldreda, Mildred, and All Holy Nuns

Hilda of Whitby (c. 614–680) is the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was chosen as the venue for the Synod of Whitby. An important figure in the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England to Christianity, she was abbess at several monasteries and recognised for the wisdom that drew kings to her for advice.

Etheldreda lived from about 636 –  679) is the name for the Anglo-Saxon saint known, particularly in a religious context, as Etheldreda or Audrey. She was an East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian queen and Abbess of Ely.  Her name was attached to a section in London called St. Audrey’s, known for selling inexpensive trinkets, and is where we get our word “tawdry.”

Mildred, was an 8th-century Anglo-Saxon abbess of the Abbey at Minster-in-Thanet, in Kent. She was declared a saint after her death, and later her remains were moved to Canterbury.

We know little of these women, and yet their names come to us as great witnesses to the Faith, and as foundresses of influential religious houses.  There is little left of the work they did in this world, and yet the Gospel which they believed and which they passed on to generations after them continues its work in the world as a testament to women such as these, as well as innumerable saints – known to us and unknown – who were born and baptized, who were faithful in kneeling before the altar just as we do, and who were sustained by the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as we all are.

It is an inspiration to glimpse at lives such as these, reminding us that the anonymous and the little known in previous generations were essential in handing on the Gospel to us.  And most of us, when centuries have passed, will be anonymous and little known, but we will have done our part in believing the Gospel and handing the Faith on to others. What we do here day after day is of essential importance, not just for our own salvation, but for the salvation of unborn generations to come.

O God, by whose grace thy holy Nuns, blessed Hilda, Etheldreda, and Mildred, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became burning and shining lights in thy Church: grant, by their merits and prayers; 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 thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 June 2020

Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More

St. John Fisher studied Theology in Cambridge and became Bishop of Rochester. His friend, Thomas More, wrote of him, 'I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him.' He and his friend St. Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of Marriage.

St. Thomas More was born in London, England and served as Chancellor for King Henry VIII. As a family man and a public servant, his life was a rare synthesis of human sensitivity and Christian wisdom.

On the morning of 19 May 1935 in St. Peter's Basilica, this Solemn Proclamation was made by Pope Pius XI:

"In honour of the Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after mature deliberation and imploring the divine assistance, by the advice of our Venerable Brethen the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, the Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops present in the city, We decree and define as Saints, and inscribe in the Catalogue of the Saints, Blessed John Fisher and Thomas More, and that their memory shall be celebrated in the Universal Church on the anniversaries of their heavenly birth."

Although St. Thomas More was martyred on 1 July, two weeks after St. John Fisher, their respective feast days have been joined together and are celebrated on 22 June.

O God, who didst raise up amongst the English people thy blessed Martyrs John and Thomas to be defenders of the faith and to witness to the primacy of the Roman Church: grant by their merits and prayers; that in the profession of one faith we may all be made one in Christ, and in him continue to be at one with one another; 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.

20 June 2020

"Do not fear..."

Fear is a powerful emotion which can tend to govern, or at least strongly influence human life. Of course, a healthy fear can be a good thing: the fear of dangerous things which could harm us; the fear of offending God or others – these are fears which keep our lives on the right path; they make us better people. But there are other fears which can cripple our lives: the fear which keeps us from doing some good thing because we’re afraid we might fail; or the fear of standing up for some unpopular truth because we might be ridiculed by others. Fear can be a great force for good in our lives, but there are times when it’s a destructive and harmful thing which keeps us from reaching the potential of what God wants us to do and to be.

It’s made clear in the gospel accounts that our Lord Jesus Christ gave the apostles the mission to “seek out the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and He entrusted to them the powers they would need to carry out that mission. He also warned them about the real dangers they would have to face. He told them to “be on guard with respect to others.” He warned them about all the difficulties they would endure because people would not want to hear what they would have to say. They would feel the power of the wrath of others. And having described all the persecutions they would face, He told them, “You will be hated by all on account of me.” But Jesus told His disciples not to be afraid to proclaim His message, and He told them exactly why:

“…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven…” [St. Matthew 10:28-32]

Of course, the message given by our Lord to His apostles is His message to us, too. Our Lord’s words can help us to overcome a common fear that often holds Christians back: that is, the fear of clearly proclaiming the Gospel to others with our words and in our lives – to be public in showing our faith – whether that involves giving our Catholic witness in the workplace, within our circle of friends – and within our own families. How essential it is that parents, but especially fathers, be bold in living their Catholic lives! What greater gift can we give our children than a firm, clear example of what it is to be a faithful Catholic?

The nearly universal message we get from society is that faith is a “private” matter. That’s why there are those who try to change “freedom of religion” into “freedom of worship.” Who cares what you do behind closed doors – just don’t show your faith out in the open. That’s the message we hear today. And people very often make their faith so “private” that others have no real idea that they actually belong to Christ. There are all too many Catholics, whether clergy or laity, who have allowed fear of “what people will think” to make them shy away from a direct and powerful proclamation of God’s truth. This leads to an uneasy peace with the world, seeing the gospel message as something completely private, or perhaps abstract, or useless, or outdated. Even from some of our spiritual leaders, the gospel is sometimes presented in such a way that there is such a wide gap between the gospel and the current values of the world, that seeds of doubt are sown about the value or the validity of Christ’s teachings. When laypeople see uncertainty in their clergy, or when children see confusion in their parents, it’s no surprise that this same uncertainty and confusion is found in the hearts and minds of those who are looking for a strong example.

And as more Catholics give in to silence about their faith, or water down their convictions, so the gap between the word of God and the needs of the world widens. As believers show themselves to be afraid to speak out because they are no longer certain of what they believe, or because they don’t want to seem to be “out of step” with the rest of the world, or because they are fearful of losing employment, so our children and others who are seeking truth are left empty and confused. And because a void eventually must be filled with something, that “something” is all too often some false religion, or an immoral life, or a destructive lack of direction and values.

This fear of “standing up” for the truth is a real fear. We’ve seen faithful priests and religious set upon by their own spiritual fathers for daring to speak words of truth. Jeremiah reflected the horror of being turned upon by one’s own acquaintances when he wrote of hearing others say, “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” And let’s face it: no one really wants to be denounced for some principle which doesn’t seem to be valued even by many of our spiritual leaders. But Jesus is addressing us today, and He wants to strengthen the integrity of our faith so that we can be bold in our witness to Him. So how does He do this?

First of all, He makes a point which is simply plain common sense: “Nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” In other words, people can’t hide God’s truth forever. In any attempt to conceal the truth, the real story eventually comes to light. We know this, even from our human experience in childhood: “Mom and Dad eventually find out.” And so it is with the truth of God: people can try to escape it, but the consequences of trying to live outside God’s truth will eventually catch up. And then Jesus draws a conclusion about this: because the truth cannot be hidden forever, there is really no reason for us to hide or to keep silent about the truth which has been entrusted to us – it’s all going to be revealed eventually anyway.

And then Jesus gets down to a harsh reality. He makes it clear that there is a real danger in proclaiming the truth to a world which is opposed to the truth. The apostles would risk their lives in the mission which was being given to them. And so we might be, too – whether figuratively or even literally. So Christ makes a distinction – a distinction between those who can kill the body, and the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. In other words, Christ is saying that bodily death isn’t the most serious risk. After all, death is the eventual fate of all physical existence. The real danger, Christ, says, would be to let the devil rob us of that eternal life which God has promised – and that’s precisely what would happen if a person refused or was afraid to speak the whole truth which has been revealed to him by Christ through the Church.

Our Lord knew that this would be hard for the apostles, and also for us, to understand, and so He explains it further. He uses the beautiful image of the sparrows that were sold in the marketplace. They were so little regarded that they were sold for next to nothing, and yet each one of them was under the watchful eye of Almighty God. And as for us, every hair of our head is counted. We are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows. Christ’s point (which is a difficult one, but a true one) is that the only risk we face as His witnesses is the risk of bodily death, or perhaps only a death of our reputation in the eyes of the world. But that’s not the essential thing. No one can rob us of our souls unless we show cowardice in proclaiming the truth of our faith. Only we ourselves can put our infinite trust in our heavenly Father – no one can do it for us.

There may well be times when our fear and timidity mean that we fail to show sufficient courage and boldness in proclaiming God’s truth. It isn’t always easy to strike a proper balance between appropriate boldness and the danger of being simply overbearing. Sometimes silence is preferable to making a statement which will only inflame rather than be helpful. But silence must never be prompted by some personal fear of endangering our reputation, or upsetting our worldly comfort. The Lord has called each one of us to speak the word boldly, as a medicine which is needed by a sick world. It’s the solution to every problem. We have heard the Lord Jesus Christ, and we know Him to be true. So let us then be faithful witnesses, so that the whole world may know real peace and true liberty – freedom from fear – which Christ came to give to us all.


[Pictured: "Consolator" by Carl Bloch, Danish painter, 1834-1890.]

19 June 2020

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Following upon the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the commemoration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Here is a prayer for consecrating ourselves to her motherly heart.

O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners; we consecrate ourselves to thy Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life: all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts, and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, and our country. We desire that all that is in us and around us may belong to thee, and may share in the benefits of thy motherly blessing. And that this act of consecration may be truly fruitful and lasting, we renew this day at thy feet the promises of our Baptism and our First Holy Communion.

We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics, who are submissive to all directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and of His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s Day. We pledge ourselves to make the consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all, Holy Communion, an important part of our lives, in so far as we are able to do.

Finally, we promise thee, O glorious Mother of God and loving Mother of men, to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the spreading of devotion to thy Immaculate Heart, in order to hasten and assure, through thy queenly rule, the coming of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of thine adorable Son Jesus Christ, in our own country, and in all the world; as in Heaven, so on earth. Amen.

18 June 2020

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Before the beginning of time, before creation, God existed as the Holy Trinity, in fellowship with Himself, and His love existed within that communion. With the creation, humanity was brought into that communion of divine love. The love of God was the only love there was then, the love of God is the only love there is now, and the love of God is the only love there will ever be. We are not creators of love, but we are the receivers and transmitters of the love of God. And we can transmit only as much as we receive. To tell us of His love, God sent his only Son. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus is the greatest expression of the love of God for us and He is the greatest expression of the human response to that love.

Jesus as the divine Son of God was also human, the son of Mary. He spoke with divine authority but He spoke in human language. He spoke in the simple language of the ordinary people of His day about the things they were most familiar with: the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the sower and the seed, the vine and the branches. When He wanted to tell His apostles how important they were He said that they were the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” And when He wanted to tell us of God’s love He used the heart, the human symbol of love. He told us that we should learn of Him, that He was meek and humble of heart, and we would find rest for our souls.

The contemporaries of Jesus knew this meek and humble heart of Jesus and they knew that it beat with unconditional love for them. Rough, simple fishermen left their boats and nets to follow him. Learned doctors sat at His feet to hear His wisdom. A tax collector left his money table to become His disciple. Multitudes followed Him for days, and so captivated were they that they forgot to bring food to eat. The sick fought their way through the crowds just to touch the hem of His garment. And they all found peace and rest for their souls.

In a time when man desperately needs God’s love, here he can find it, in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Sacred Heart is a refuge where God’s love may be found, a fountain from which God’s love is poured out upon us.

O God, who hast suffered the Heart of thy Son to be wounded by our sins, and in that very Heart hast bestowed on us the abundant riches of thy love: grant, we beseech thee; that the devout homage of our hearts which we render unto him, may of thy mercy be deemed a recompense acceptable in thy sight; 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.

15 June 2020

St. Richard of Chichester

Richard of Wyche was born in 1197 at Droitwyche, the son of a prosperous yeoman farmer. He and his brother were orphaned at an early age, and an incompetent guardian wasted the inheritance. Richard worked long and hard to restore the family property, and when he had succeeded, he turned it over to his brother and went off to Oxford to become a scholar. He was too poor to afford a gown or a fire in winter, but he did very well at his studies, with Robert Grosseteste among his teachers, and he established what would be a lifelong friendship with his tutor, Edmund Rich (Edmund of Abingdon). He studied canon law at Oxford (and probably also at Paris and Bologna) and, having acquired a doctorate, he became Chancellor of Oxford in 1235.

Meanwhile, his tutor had become Archbishop of Canterbury, and soon asked Richard to become his Chancellor. When the Archbishop rebuked King Henry III for keeping various bishoprics vacant as long as possible (because as long as they were vacant their revenues went to the Crown), Henry forced him into exile, and Richard accompanied him to France and nursed him in his final illness. After the Archbishop's death in 1240, Richard studied at the Dominican house in Orleans, and was ordained priest in 1243.

In 1244 he was elected Bishop of Chichester, but Henry would not recognize the election, locked him out of the bishop's residence, and pocketed the revenues. Richard accepted shelter with a village priest, and spent the next two years walking barefoot through his diocese, preaching to fishermen and farmers, and correcting abuses. He held synods to legislate, and insisted that the sacraments must be administered without payment, and the Liturgy celebrated with reverence and order. The clergy were required to be celibate, to wear clerical dress, and to live in the parishes they were assigned to and carry out their duties in person. The laity were required to attend services on all Sundays and holy days, and to know by heart the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed. After two years, Henry was pressured into recognizing Richard as Bishop, but Richard continued to live as he had before.

One of his concerns was that the Muslims then in control of Jerusalem would not admit Christian pilgrims. In 1253 he traveled about appealing for a new Crusade, aimed solely at pressuring the Muslims into permitting pilgrimages. He caught a fever and died in 1253. A well-known prayer written by him reads in part as follows:

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Most merciful Redeemer, who gavest to thy Bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls, and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, and aided by his prayers, we may know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

13 June 2020

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Everything about the Solemnity of Corpus Christi draws our attention to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is the day when the Church gathers up ancient mysteries and makes them new. We look to the mystifying figure of Melchizedek, the king of Salem and high priest to Abram. We look to young Isaac carrying the wood upon which his father Abraham intended to offer him in sacrifice. We envision the children of Israel looking upon the bronze serpent lifted high upon the staff of Moses, and we marvel with the Israelites as they eat their fill of the manna. In all those things, and more, we see the foreshadowing of Jesus Christ our great High Priest who offers Himself for us in sacrifice.

All these things point to Jesus, about whom the scripture tells us, “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

This is the central mystery, brought before us on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi: that is, Jesus Christ humbling Himself, and coming to us, and remaining with us under the forms of bread and wine, all for the sake of His love for us. At the Annunciation He took upon Himself human flesh. At the Nativity the God of creation was cradled in the arms of a human mother. During His Passion the Lord was abused by the very ones He came to save. When He died, the eternal God breathed His last, and when He was buried, the God who is Light consecrated the darkness of the grave. God did this, and then left the Holy Mass as the continual and living Presence of it all.

What was His purpose? What was His plan, and how can we understand it? We should cast our minds back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. Created in the image and likeness of God, they were placed in a perfect communion with their Creator. They were told that all things were theirs, and that there was only one thing they could not do; namely, that they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That, of course, was the one thing that they were tempted to do.

Remember the words of Satan as he tempted Eve. He said, “Surely you will not die... no... your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God Himself, knowing good and evil...” That was their sin: through their disobedience, they grasped at equality with God, and in so doing, they lost their communion with God. St. Paul reminds us that our Lord Jesus “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped...” In other words, Jesus didn’t need to snatch at equality with God.... no, it is His by right. And also, it means that He didn’t clutch at equality with God as something to hold jealously to Himself. Rather, He laid it down willingly for the sake of our salvation.

The fact of all this – the laying down of His life, His sacrifice upon the Cross – are all spoken of by Christ as being a necessity, as something indispensable. The shadow of the Cross stretches over His life. He speaks of His blood as being shed for the remission of sins, and His body as being given for His disciples. He says that He has come to give His life as a ransom for many.

All of this prepares us for what we find in the teaching of the apostles. We find in their teaching a great stress upon the death of Christ, and that the greatest blessings and highest gifts are always connected with His suffering and with the shedding of His blood. Throughout Scripture we read of forgiveness, of redemption, of healing, of cleansing, of sanctification - of atonement - all won for us by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It all comes to us through the great fact of history, that He was lifted up upon the Cross, and there He died – and He has left us the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, which gives us immediate and daily access to all His saving work.

Here is the point that Christ makes: that when He is lifted up upon the Cross, it is the Atonement which He accomplishes – “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto myself...” He says. The great gulf is bridged, and mankind is once more made “at one” with God, just as we were before the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The gates of heaven are opened to us. It is all made possible through the lifting up of Christ, and His death upon the Cross.

He was lifted up upon the Cross so that we can be lifted up to heaven. He was broken so that we can be made whole. The only lesson we need to learn is to be learned at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ – that even though we are sinful and fall short of the glory of God, in spite of it all, God loves us with that yearning, passionate love which led Him to give Himself to be lifted up for us. Our hearts cannot help but be broken open to receive that Love which knows no rest and which never tires until it has found us, and has brought us to our true home in Christ’s kingdom.

So on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi we look to Jesus. We see Him humble Himself by taking upon Himself the outward forms of bread and wine, and we see Him lifted up resplendent in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

And He does it all for a reason. He does all this to be with us, and to allow us to be with Him. He does this so that we can spend time with Him. He does it because of His intense and eternal love for all of us, and He asks us to return that love by giving Him our worship and obedience, by living lives worthy of our calling to be members of His Body.

O God, who in a wonderful Sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy Passion: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood; that we may ever know within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 June 2020

St. Anthony of Padua

The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua is on June 13th, and it's an important day for us here in the city that bears his name. It was on St. Anthony's Day in 1691 that the Franciscan fathers arrived at a small Indian village near the river, and named the settlement after him. From that tiny beginning, San Antonio is now the seventh largest city in the United States, and as far as I'm concerned, a wonderful place to live.

St. Anthony was born in Portugal and entered the Augustinian monastery of Sao Vicente in Lisbon when he was fifteen. When news of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco reached him, he joined the Franciscans at Coimbra. At his own request, he was sent as a missionary to Morocco, but he became ill, and on his return journey his boat was driven off course and he landed in Sicily. He took part in St. Francis' famous Chapter of Mats in 1221 and was assigned to the Franciscan province of Romagna.

He became a preacher by accident. When a scheduled preacher did not show up for an ordination ceremony at Forli, the Franciscan superior told Anthony to go into the pulpit. His eloquence stirred everyone, and he was assigned to preach throughout northern Italy. Because of his success in converting heretics, he was called the "Hammer of Heretics" and because of his learning, St. Francis himself appointed him a teacher of theology.

St. Anthony of Padua was such a forceful preacher that shops closed when he came to town, and people stayed all night in church to be present for his sermons. He became associated with Padua because he made this city his residence and the center of his great preaching mission.

After a series of Lenten sermons in 1231, Anthony's strength gave out and he went into seclusion at Camposanpiero but soon had to be carried back to Padua. He did not reach the city but was taken to the Poor Clare convent at Arcella, where he died. He was thirty-six years old, and the whole city of Padua turned out in mourning for his passing.

Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; 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.


Several years ago I wrote two hymn texts in honour of the Patron of our City and the Archdiocese, and they are published here:

  1.  Praise to God the mighty Father, who didst call Saint Anthony

         from a life of sore temptation to the way of purity.

        Humble work and meek obedience marked his holy way of love;

        now, his earthly task completed, works his wonders from above.

  2. Praise to Jesus Christ our Saviour, who didst give Saint Anthony

        grace to preach with zeal and boldness, giving truth new charity.

        Men, once lost, who heard the Gospel from the lips of Francis' son

        came to know God's grace and favour, and the life which Christ had won.

  3.  Praise to God the Holy Spirit, who inspired Saint Anthony

        in the way of love and service, calling men to charity,

        lifting up the fallen sinner, feeding them with Living Bread,

        showing men the way to heaven, there to live with Christ their Head.

  4.  Gracious Doctor and Confessor, holy Priest with golden tongue,

        joined with all the saints of heaven, praising God the Three in One;

        help us in our earthly journey, keep our thoughts on God most high,

        that with thee, Christ's saint and servant, we may live and never die.

Tune: Rustington, by Charles H. H. Parry (1848-1918)

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

+   +   +   +   +   +   +

           1.  Simple saint and faithful priest,

                 at this Eucharistic feast

                 we recall thy holy face,

                 and with thee our Lord embrace.

                 Give us true simplicity:

                 pray for us, Saint Anthony.

           2.  Word of God thou didst proclaim;

                 unto thee God's Spirit came,

                 bringing faith when thou didst preach,

                 showing truth when thou didst teach.

                 May we speak words truthfully:

                 pray for us Saint Anthony.

           3.  Error flees before God's Light:

                 through thy life Christ shineth bright,

                 showing men the way to peace,

                 evil's hold from them release.

                 Free from evil may we be:

                 pray for us Saint Anthony.

Tune: Bread of Heaven, by William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826-1910)

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

10 June 2020

St. Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

St. Barnabas was not numbered amongst the original apostles, but he has been given the title from the earliest years of the Church because of his apostolic work in spreading the Gospel. His first name was Joseph, but Barnabas (meaning "son of encouragement" or "son of consolation") was added to his name as a description of his nature. He belonged to the tribe of Levi. He was a Jew who lived outside of Palestine and he spoke Greek.

Born in Cyprus, he embraced the Christian faith soon after the death of our Lord, and was a member of the original Jerusalem community. His generosity and strength of character shines forth in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, where the first thing recorded about him is that he sold some of his property and gave the money to the apostles for the support of the Christian community.

Just after St. Paul's conversion St. Barnabas befriended him and introduced him to the apostles. This was at a time when Christians distrusted the rabbi who had so viciously persecuted the Church. Barnabas was the first to recognize Paul's potential for the cause of the Gospel, and it was Barnabas who brought him from Tarsus to teach at Antioch. The first missionary journey, which took place about 45-48 A.D., and which the two made together, was decisive in the establishment of the Church and the spread of the Gospel.

He was present with St. Paul at the Council of Jerusalem, which was instrumental in opening the Church up to the Gentiles. While they were preparing for the second missionary journey, they had a serious difference of opinion regarding young John Mark, and as a result of that argument the two men continued their labours separately.

St. Barnabas went to Cyprus with Mark and there are no further references to him in the Acts of the Apostles. Tradition tells us that he was martyred at Salamis in Cyprus by being stoned and then burned. That same tradition indicates that he was buried there by his kinsman, John Mark. His name has been included in the Canon of the Mass since ancient times.

O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue thy holy Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts of the Holy Spirit: leave us not, we beseech thee, destitute of thy manifold gifts, nor yet of grace to use them always to thy honour and 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.

08 June 2020

St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor

St. Ephrem was born sometime around the year 306 in Nibisis, a Syrian town located in modern-day Turkey, during the time when the Church was suffering under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Baptized at about the age of eighteen, Ephrem was ordained as a deacon, and was a prolific writer of hymns, through which he powerfully preached the Gospel.

He wrote frequently in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he gave us this prayer to honour Our Lady, the Mother of God:

O pure and immaculate and likewise blessed Virgin, who art the sinless Mother of thy Son, the mighty Lord of the universe, thou who art inviolate and altogether holy, the hope of the hopeless and sinful, we sing thy praises. We bless thee, as full of every grace, thou who didst bear the God-Man: we all bow low before thee; we invoke thee and implore thine aid. Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin, from every necessity that presses upon us and from all the temptations of the devil. Be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment; deliver us from the fire that is not extinguished and from the outer darkness; make us worthy of the glory of thy Son, O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother. Thou indeed art our only hope, most sure and sacred in God's sight, to whom be honor and glory, majesty and dominion forever and ever world without end. Amen.

In 1920 St. Ephrem was declared to be a Doctor of the Church, and in a 2007 General Audience on St. Ephrem’s life, Pope Benedict XVI said that St. Ephrem became known as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit” for the hymns and writings of his that sang the praises of God “in an unparalleled way” and “with rare skill.”

O God, who didst will to illumine thy Church with the wondrous learning and splendid merits of blessed Ephrem, thy Confessor and Doctor: we humbly beseech thee, at his intercession; that thou wouldest ever defend her by thy continual power against the snares of error and wickedness; 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.

St. Columba of Iona

St. Columba, or Columkill, apostle of the Picts, was of illustrious Irish descent. He was brought up in the company of many saints at the school of St. Finian of Clonard. Being an ordained priest, and having founded many churches in Ireland, he went to Scotland with twelve companions, and there converted many of the northern Picts to the faith of Christ. He founded the monastery of Iona which became the nursery of saints and apostles. He also evangelized the northern English. He died on June 9, 597 at the foot of the altar at Iona while blessing his people, and was buried, like St. Brigid, beside St. Patrick at Downpatrick in Ulster.

We pray thee, O Lord, inspire our hearts with the desire of heavenly glory: and grant that we, bringing our sheaves with us, may hither attain where the holy Abbot Columba shineth like a star before 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.

06 June 2020

The Holy Trinity

Even the most brilliant theologian would have to say that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity cannot truly and completely be understood. However, the mystery of the Trinity can be known, because our knowledge – and indeed, our experience – of the Holy Trinity has been revealed to us by God Himself, in and by our Lord Jesus Christ.

From Christ we have learned what nature alone could never show us about the Godhead. From Christ we have learned what our own human understanding could never fathom. If we were left to our own understanding, we would probably try to understand the Trinity from a mathematical point of view – one God; three Persons; three equals one, which is an impossibility; therefore God as Trinity is an impossibility.

But Christ has revealed this mystery to us in a completely different way. It’s not about mathematics; rather, it’s about the relationship of Persons within the one Godhead. From Christ we have learned to know God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – Three in One and One in Three – the Father sending the Son to redeem the world, the Holy Spirit being sent from the Father and the Son to dwell in us, and to make us holy, even as God is holy.

When we look back on all that we celebrate throughout the year, we see that the foundation of the Catholic Faith is the reality of the Holy Trinity. From the birth of our Saviour, to His crucifixion; from His resurrection and ascension, to the coming of the Holy Spirit in wind and fire, so we have had the revelation from God Himself that He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Of course, it is through Jesus Christ, and through Him alone, that we truly know Almighty God. Christ has explained and interpreted God to man. Christ has told us, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The Father and the Son are one. The Father and the Son are so united in the majesty and perfect holiness of their divine nature that whoever saw the Son, even though in human flesh, saw the immortal and invisible Father. It was so strange and wonderful a thing, that even his Apostles were astonished and perplexed by it. Remember when St. Philip said to Christ, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will be enough.” And Jesus answered him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you do not know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father…” In Jesus Christ is the fullest and most perfect revelation of what God is, of what God loves, of what God does and of what God will do.

Only in Jesus Christ can we fully know God. Certainly, the world which He made tells us about Him. All around us is the evidence of His power, and in His creation we see His wisdom and His goodness. So whether we look to the stars and sky above, or to any part of creation, these things tell us of the God who created those things. But they tell us only that He “is,” not necessarily Who He is. It is Christ who has brought God close to us, so that we can actually know Him, and not simply know “about” Him.

Christ has shown us the image and holiness of the unseen God. In Christ we know who God is. We are able to comprehend Him. In the mind of Christ we read the mind of God. In the character of Christ we learn everything that we can know of the character of God. In the deeds of Christ we see the love and pity and tenderness and long-suffering of God. In the words of Christ we hear the judgements of God, and in Christ we can know the truth as it is revealed and upheld by God. We see in Christ the spotless goodness of God – and in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross we see what our thoughts and imagination could never have dreamed of, when it comes to the love of God for us. Namely this: that “God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And so in Christ God is love Incarnate. And this love is meant to take root in our own hearts, because God can be known by no one except those who are like Him through the godly love in their hearts. And in this way, Christ teaches us not only of the Father, but of the Holy Spirit, too, who is that very love within us, and who makes us “ambassadors of Christ” in the world. Our vocation is to “incarnate” God’s mercy and love and forgiveness to others.

The mystery of the Holy Trinity – that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God – tells us that we can know God as He wants us to know Him. He is not only the unseen incomprehensible and divine power, who can do as He wills with us, and whose ways we cannot see or even guess at – but God is the one who is the loving Father of us all, the God of truth and righteousness, the God whose eyes are upon all His works in merciful and loving wisdom, who pities the sinner and forgives the sin, who hears the prayer and fills the soul with grace and gladness, whose Spirit dwells in our hearts and whose Incarnation dwells in our tabernacles.

We can know Him as the God who, even though far above us, nonetheless has come down to us, and in fact, into us – giving us peace, speaking within us as that still, small voice – the voice we can always hear, whether in the silence of the soul, or in the busy noise of the world.

Because Christ has revealed the fulness of the God-head, we can know Him and fear Him and love Him, both here in this life, and in eternity when we have passed out of this world. It is God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who reaches out to us so that we can reach out to Him, and find in Him our true hope, and our true home.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: we beseech thee; that this holy faith may evermore be our defence against all adversities; who livest and reignest, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

05 June 2020

St. Norbert, Confessor and Bishop

St. Norbert was born about the year 1080 and his early life was one of ease and selfishness. It was an easy move for him to enter into the pleasure-loving German court. He had no hesitation about availing himself of every opportunity for enjoyment. To ensure his success at court, he also had no qualms about accepting holy orders as a canon and whatever financial benefices that came with that position. However, he did hesitate at becoming a priest, because even in his selfishness and casual attitude toward religion, he realized that the priesthood had serious responsibilities.

One day as Norbert was out riding, a thunderstorm came up suddenly. Norbert, who was always meticulous about his appearance, was buffeted by the high winds, and was soaked by the rains. A sudden flash of lightning startled his horse, throwing Norbert to the ground.

For almost an hour he lay unmoving. When he awoke his first words were, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" In response Norbert heard in his heart, "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."

He immediately devoted himself to prayer and penance, and began the instruction for the priesthood he had avoided previously. He was ordained in 1115. His complete conversion and change in life caused some who remembered him previously to accuse him of hypocrisy. Norbert responded by giving everything he owned to the poor, after which he went to the pope for permission to preach.

With the pope's blessing, Norbert became an itinerant preacher, traveling through Europe with two companions. As a response to his old ways, he now chose the most difficult ways to travel, such as walking barefoot in the middle of winter through snow and ice. Unfortunately the two companions who followed him died from the difficult and demanding way of life. But Norbert was gaining the respect of those sincere clergy who had despised him before.

The pope encouraged him to settle and found a community in the diocese of Laon in northern France. There, in the desolate valley wilderness of Prémontré, Norbert laid the foundations for his religious Order. He chose the rule of St. Augustine for the new community. Communal life was marked by its austerity, its poverty, and its intense liturgical life of prayer.Norbert continued to preach and to attract large numbers to his community.

On July 25, 1126, Norbert was ordained archbishop of Magdeburg and relinquished the leadership of his Order to begin the work of shepherding the vast diocese on the northeastern frontier of the German Empire.

Weakened by his travels and labors, and probably by malaria contracted at Rome, Norbert was in Magdeburg when he died on June 6, 1134.

O God, who didst make blessed Norbert thy Confessor and Bishop an illustrious preacher of thy Word, and through him didst render thy Church fruitful with a new offspring: grant, we beseech thee; that by his intercession and merits, we may be enabled by thy help to practise what he taught, both in word and deed; 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.

Ember Saturday in Whitsun Week

We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts: by whose wisdom we were created, and by whose providence we are governed; 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.

For those to be ordained:

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church: give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; 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.

For the choice of fit persons for the ordained ministry:

O God, who didst lead thy holy Apostles to ordain ministers in every place: grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable men for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, 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.

For all Christians in their vocation:

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and godly serve 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.

04 June 2020

St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Named Winfrith by his well-to-do English parents, Boniface was born near Exeter, Devon. As a boy, he studied in Benedictine monastery schools and became a monk himself in the process. For 30 years he lived in relative peace, studying, teaching, and praying. In his early 40s he left the seclusion of the monastery to do missionary work on the Continent. Because his first efforts in Frisia (now the Netherlands) were unsuccessful, Winfrith went to Rome in search of direction. Pope Gregory II renamed him Boniface, "doer of good," and delegated him to spread the gospel message in Germany.

In 719 the missionary monk set out on what was to be a very fruitful venture. He made converts by the thousands. Once, the story goes, he hewed down the giant sacred oak at Geismar to convince the people of Hesse that there was no spiritual power in nature. In 722 the Pope consecrated him bishop for all of Germany. For 30 years Boniface worked to reform and organize the Church, linking the various local communities firmly with Rome. He enlisted the help of English monks and nuns to preach to the people, strengthen their Christian spirit, and assure their allegiance to the pope. He founded the monastery of Fulda, now the yearly meeting place of Germany's Roman Catholic bishops. About 746 Boniface was appointed archbishop of Mainz, where he settled for several years as head of all the German churches.

Over the years he kept up an extensive correspondence, asking directives of the popes, giving information about the many Christian communities, and relaying to the people the popes' wishes. In 752, as the pope's emissary, he crowned Pepin king of the Franks. In his 80s and still filled with his characteristic zeal, Boniface went back to preach the gospel in Frisia. There, in 754 near the town of Dokkum, Boniface and several dozen companions were waylaid by a group of savage locals and put to death. His remains were later taken to Fulda, where he was revered as a martyr to the Christian faith.

- From various sources

O God, who raised up the holy Bishop and Martyr Saint Boniface from the English nation to enlighten many peoples with the Gospel of Christ: grant, we pray; that we may hold fast in our hearts that faith which he taught with his lips and sealed with his blood; 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.

Ember Friday in Whitsun Week

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.

03 June 2020

Thursday in Whitsun Week

Almighty God, who on this day didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of thy Holy Spirit: shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; 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.

02 June 2020

Ember Wednesday in Whitsun Week

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.