Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30: St Andrew, Class II


St Andrew was the brother of St Peter.  Pope Benedict XVI devoted a General Audience to him on 14 June 2006:

"...Therefore, today we shall speak of Simon Peter's brother, St Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve.

The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name: it is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present. Andrew comes second in the list of the Twelve, as in Matthew (10: 1-4) and in Luke (6: 13-16); or fourth, as in Mark (3: 13-18) and in the Acts (1: 13-14). In any case, he certainly enjoyed great prestige within the early Christian communities.

The kinship between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call that Jesus addressed to them, are explicitly mentioned in the Gospels. We read: "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men'" (Mt 4: 18-19; Mk 1: 16-17).

From the Fourth Gospel we know another important detail: Andrew had previously been a disciple of John the Baptist: and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared in Israel's hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.

He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus as: "the Lamb of God" (Jn 1: 36); so he was stirred, and with another unnamed disciple followed Jesus, the one whom John had called "the Lamb of God". The Evangelist says that "they saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day..." (Jn 1: 37-39).

Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The account continues with one important annotation: "One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus" (Jn 1: 40-43), straightaway showing an unusual apostolic spirit.

Andrew, then, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus. Exactly for this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honours him with the nickname: "Protokletos", [protoclete] which means, precisely, "the first called".

And it is certain that it is partly because of the family tie between Peter and Andrew that the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople feel one another in a special way to be Sister Churches. To emphasize this relationship, my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, in 1964, returned the important relic of St Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican Basilica, to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of the city of Patras in Greece, where tradition has it that the Apostle was crucified.

The Gospel traditions mention Andrew's name in particular on another three occasions that tell us something more about this man. The first is that of the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, it was Andrew who pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had with him five barley loaves and two fish: not much, he remarked, for the multitudes who had gathered in that place (cf. Jn 6: 8-9).

In this case, it is worth highlighting Andrew's realism. He noticed the boy, that is, he had already asked the question: "but what good is that for so many?" (ibid.), and recognized the insufficiency of his minimal resources. Jesus, however, knew how to make them sufficient for the multitude of people who had come to hear him.

The second occasion was at Jerusalem. As he left the city, a disciple drew Jesus' attention to the sight of the massive walls that supported the Temple. The Teacher's response was surprising: he said that of those walls not one stone would be left upon another. Then Andrew, together with Peter, James and John, questioned him: "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" (Mk 13: 1-4).

In answer to this question Jesus gave an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and on the end of the world, in which he asked his disciples to be wise in interpreting the signs of the times and to be constantly on their guard.

From this event we can deduce that we should not be afraid to ask Jesus questions but at the same time that we must be ready to accept even the surprising and difficult teachings that he offers us.

Lastly, a third initiative of Andrew is recorded in the Gospels: the scene is still Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. For the Feast of the Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the city, probably proselytes or God-fearing men who had come up to worship the God of Israel at the Passover Feast. Andrew and Philip, the two Apostles with Greek names, served as interpreters and mediators of this small group of Greeks with Jesus.

The Lord's answer to their question - as so often in John's Gospel - appears enigmatic, but precisely in this way proves full of meaning. Jesus said to the two disciples and, through them, to the Greek world: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (12: 23-24).

Jesus wants to say: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place, but not as a simple, brief conversation between myself and a few others, motivated above all by curiosity. The hour of my glorification will come with my death, which can be compared with the falling into the earth of a grain of wheat. My death on the Cross will bring forth great fruitfulness: in the Resurrection the "dead grain of wheat" - a symbol of myself crucified - will become the bread of life for the world; it will be a light for the peoples and cultures.

Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will be achieved in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which attracts to itself the forces of heaven and earth and becomes bread.

In other words, Jesus was prophesying about the Church of the Greeks, the Church of the pagans, the Church of the world, as a fruit of his Pasch.

Some very ancient traditions not only see Andrew, who communicated these words to the Greeks, as the interpreter of some Greeks at the meeting with Jesus recalled here, but consider him the Apostle to the Greeks in the years subsequent to Pentecost. They enable us to know that for the rest of his life he was the preacher and interpreter of Jesus for the Greek world.

Peter, his brother, travelled from Jerusalem through Antioch and reached Rome to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, instead, was the Apostle of the Greek world. So it is that in life and in death they appear as true brothers - a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special reciprocal relations of the See of Rome and of Constantinople, which are truly Sister Churches.

A later tradition, as has been mentioned, tells of Andrew's death at Patras, where he too suffered the torture of crucifixion. At that supreme moment, however, like his brother Peter, he asked to be nailed to a cross different from the Cross of Jesus. In his case it was a diagonal or X-shaped cross, which has thus come to be known as "St Andrew's cross".

This is what the Apostle is claimed to have said on that occasion, according to an ancient story (which dates back to the beginning of the sixth century), entitled The Passion of Andrew:

"Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift.

"Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you.... O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord's limbs!... Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!".

Here, as can be seen, is a very profound Christian spirituality. It does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.

Here we have a very important lesson to learn: our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ, if a reflection of his light illuminates them.

It is by that Cross alone that our sufferings too are ennobled and acquire their true meaning.

The Apostle Andrew, therefore, teaches us to follow Jesus with promptness (cf. Mt 4: 20; Mk 1: 18), to speak enthusiastically about him to those we meet, and especially, to cultivate a relationship of true familiarity with him, acutely aware that in him alone can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29: St Saturninus, Martyr, Memorial


Saint Saturnin of Toulouse was one of the "Apostles to the Gauls" sent out 250-251 to Christianize Gaul after the persecutions under Emperor Decius had all but dissolved the small Christian communities.

Pope St Fabian sent out seven bishops from Rome to Gaul to preach the Gospel: Saint Gatien to Tours, Saint Trophimus to Arles, Saint Paul to Narbonne, Saint Saturnin to Toulouse, Saint Denis to Paris, Austromoine to Clermont, and Saint Martial to Limoges. 

St Saturnin was martyred by pagan priests who blamed the silence of their oracles on him, and tied by the feet to a bull which dragged him about the town until the rope broke.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 27: First Sunday of Advent



Once more, it is the start of a new liturgical year, and time to swap breviary volumes!  You can find an overview of the changes to the Office for Advent here.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that "During this time the faithful are admonished:

•to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
•thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
•thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.

At Matins the readings start on the Book of Isaiah, but all of the texts for I Vespers and Sunday are proper for the day, and draw out the nature of the new liturgical season.

November 26: St Sylvester OSB, Memorial


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

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

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

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

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

Today the congregation has nineteen houses, eleven of them in Asia, on in Australia, one in the US, and the rest in Italy.  You might perhaps say a prayer to St Sylvester for vocations for them...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 24: SS John of the Cross & Chrysogonus, Memorials

In February 2011, Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on St John of the Cross:

"Two weeks ago I presented the figure of the great Spanish mystic, Teresa of Jesus. Today I would like talk about another important saint of that country, a spiritual friend of St Teresa, the reformer, with her, of the Carmelite religious family: St John of the Cross. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and is traditionally known as Doctor mysticus, “Mystical Doctor”.

John of the Cross was born in 1542 in the small village of Fontiveros, near Avila in Old Castille, to Gonzalo de Yepes and Catalina Alvarez. The family was very poor because his father, Gonzalo, from a noble family of Toledo, had been thrown out of his home and disowned for marrying Catalina, a humble silk weaver.

Having lost his father at a tender age, when John was nine he moved with his mother and his brother Francisco to Medina del Campo, not far from Valladolid, a commercial and cultural centre. Here he attended the Colegio de los Doctrinos, carrying out in addition several humble tasks for the sisters of the Church-Convent of the Maddalena. Later, given his human qualities and his academic results, he was admitted first as a male nurse to the Hospital of the Conception, then to the recently founded Jesuit College at Medina del Campo.

He entered the College at the age of 18 and studied the humanities, rhetoric and classical languages for three years. At the end of his formation he had a clear perception of his vocation: the religious life, and, among the many orders present in Medina, he felt called to Carmel.

In the summer of 1563 he began his novitiate with the Carmelites in the town, taking the religious name of Juan de Santo Matía. The following year he went to the prestigious University of Salamanca, where he studied the humanities and philosophy for three years.

He was ordained a priest in 1567 and returned to Medina del Campo to celebrate his first Mass surrounded by his family’s love. It was precisely here that John and Teresa of Jesus first met. The meeting was crucial for them both. Teresa explained to him her plan for reforming Carmel, including the male branch of the Order, and suggested to John that he support it “for the greater glory of God”. The young priest was so fascinated by Teresa’s ideas that he became a great champion of her project.

For several months they worked together, sharing ideals and proposals aiming to inaugurate the first house of Discalced Carmelites as soon as possible. It was opened on 28 December 1568 at Duruelo in a remote part of the Province of Avila.

This first reformed male community consisted of John and three companions. In renewing their religious profession in accordance with the primitive Rule, each of the four took a new name: it was from this time that John called himself “of the Cross”, as he came to be known subsequently throughout the world.

At the end of 1572, at St Teresa’s request, he became confessor and vicar of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila where Teresa of Jesus was prioress. These were years of close collaboration and spiritual friendship which enriched both. The most important Teresian works and John’s first writings date back to this period.

Promoting adherence to the Carmelite reform was far from easy and cost John acute suffering. The most traumatic episode occurred in 1577, when he was seized and imprisoned in the Carmelite Convent of the Ancient Observance in Toledo, following an unjust accusation. The Saint, imprisoned for months, was subjected to physical and moral deprivations and constrictions. Here, together with other poems, he composed the well-known Spiritual Canticle. Finally, in the night between 16 and 17 August 1578, he made a daring escape and sought shelter at the Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the town. St Teresa and her reformed companions celebrated his liberation with great joy and, after spending a brief period recovering, John was assigned to Andalusia where he spent 10 years in various convents, especially in Granada.

He was charged with ever more important offices in his Order, until he became vicar provincial and completed the draft of his spiritual treatises. He then returned to his native land as a member of the General Government of the Teresian religious family which already enjoyed full juridical autonomy.

He lived in the Carmel of Segovia, serving in the office of community superior. In 1591 he was relieved of all responsibility and assigned to the new religious Province of Mexico. While he was preparing for the long voyage with 10 companions he retired to a secluded convent near Jaén, where he fell seriously ill.

John faced great suffering with exemplary serenity and patience. He died in the night between 13 and 14 December 1591, while his confreres were reciting Matins. He took his leave of them saying: “Today I am going to sing the Office in Heaven”. His mortal remains were translated to Segovia. He was beatified by Clement X in 1675 and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726.

John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His major works are four: The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night, The Spiritual Canticle and The Living Flame of Love.

In The Spiritual Canticle St John presents the process of the soul’s purification and that is the gradual, joyful possession of God, until the soul succeeds in feeling that it loves God with the same love with which it is loved by him. The Living Flame of Love continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the state of the transforming union with God.

The example that John uses is always that of fire: just as the stronger the fire burns and consumes wood, the brighter it grows until it blazes into a flame, so the Holy Spirit, who purifies and “cleanses” the soul during the dark night, with time illuminates and warms it as though it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit which gives us a glimpse of the glory of union with God in eternity.

The Ascent of Mount Carmel presents the spiritual itinerary from the viewpoint of the gradual purification of the soul, necessary in order to scale the peaks of Christian perfection, symbolized by the summit of Mount Carmel. This purification is proposed as a journey the human being undertakes, collaborating with divine action, to free the soul from every attachment or affection contrary to God’s will.

Purification which, if it is to attain the union of love with God must be total, begins by purifying the life of the senses and continues with the life obtained through the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, which purify the intention, the memory and the will.

The Dark Night describes the “passive” aspect, that is, God’s intervention in this process of the soul’s “purification”. In fact human endeavour on its own is unable to reach the profound roots of the person’s bad inclinations and habits: all it can do is to check them but cannot entirely uproot them. This requires the special action of God which radically purifies the spirit and prepares it for the union of love with him.

St John describes this purification as “passive”, precisely because, although it is accepted by the soul, it is brought about by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, like a burning flame, consumes every impurity. In this state the soul is subjected to every kind of trial, as if it were in a dark night.

This information on the Saint’s most important works help us to approach the salient points of his vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose purpose is to describe a sure way to attain holiness, the state of perfection to which God calls us all.

According to John of the Cross, all that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures we may arrive at the discovery of the One who has left within them a trace of himself. Faith, in any case, is the one source given to the human being to know God as he is in himself, as the Triune God. All that God wished to communicate to man, he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. Jesus Christ is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. Jn 14:6). Any created thing is nothing in comparison to God and is worth nothing outside him, consequently, to attain to the perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to the divine love.

From this derives the insistence of St John of the Cross on the need for purification and inner self-emptying in order to be transformed into God, which is the one goal of perfection. This “purification” does not consist in the mere physical absence of things or of their use; on the contrary what makes the soul pure and free is the elimination of every disorderly dependence on things. All things should be placed in God as the centre and goal of life.

Of course, the long and difficult process of purification demands a personal effort, but the real protagonist is God: all that the human being can do is to “prepare” himself, to be open to divine action and not to set up obstacles to it. By living the theological virtues, human beings raise themselves and give value to their commitment. The growth of faith, hope and charity keeps pace with the work of purification and with the gradual union with God until they are transformed in him.

When it reaches this goal, the soul is immersed in Trinitarian life itself, so that St John affirms that it has reached the point of loving God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit.

For this reason the Mystical Doctor maintains that there is no true union of love with God that does not culminate in Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to pass through creatures in order to reach him. The soul now feels bathed in divine love and rejoices in it without reserve.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the end the question is: does this Saint with his lofty mysticism, with this demanding journey towards the peak of perfection have anything to say to us, to the ordinary Christian who lives in the circumstances of our life today, or is he an example, a model for only a few elect souls who are truly able to undertake this journey of purification, of mystical ascesis?

To find the answer we must first of all bear in mind that the life of St John of the Cross did not “float on mystical clouds”; rather he had a very hard life, practical and concrete, both as a reformer of the Order, in which he came up against much opposition and from the Provincial Superior as well as in his confreres’ prison where he was exposed to unbelievable insults and physical abuse.

His life was hard yet it was precisely during the months he spent in prison that he wrote one of his most beautiful works. And so we can understand that the journey with Christ, travelling with Christ, “the Way”, is not an additional burden in our life, it is not something that would make our burden even heavier but something quite different. It is a light, a power that helps us to bear it.

If a person bears great love in himself, this love gives him wings, as it were, and he can face all life’s troubles more easily because he carries in himself this great light; this is faith: being loved by God and letting oneself be loved by God in Jesus Christ. Letting oneself be loved in this way is the light that helps us to bear our daily burden.

And holiness is not a very difficult action of ours but means exactly this “openness”: opening the windows of our soul to let in God’s light, without forgetting God because it is precisely in opening oneself to his light that one finds strength, one finds the joy of the redeemed.

Let us pray the Lord to help us discover this holiness, to let ourselves be loved by God who is our common vocation and the true redemption...."

St Chrysogonus, Martyr




 As well as St John of the Cross, today is also the memorial of St Chrysogonus (pictured above with St Anastasia), who was martyred under Diocletian at Aquileia. A titular church in Rome, probably dating originally from the fourth century, at Trastevere, bears his name.

According to his legend, Chrysogonus was a functionary of the vicarius Urbis, and was the Christian teacher of Anastasia, the daughter of the noble Roman Praetextatus. Being thrown into prison during the persecution of Diocletian, he comforted by his letters the severely afflicted Anastasia. By order of Diocletian, Chrysogonus was brought before the emperor at Aquileia, condemned to death, and beheaded. His corpse, thrown into the sea, was washed ashore and buried by the aged priest, Zoilus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22: St Caecilia, Class III


According to the Wikipedia:

"It was long supposed that she was a noble lady of Rome who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier Maximus, suffered martyrdom, c. 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus.

The research of [nineteenth century archeologist] Giovanni Battista de Rossi, however, appears to confirm the statement of Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 600), that she perished in Sicily under Emperor Marcus Aurelius between 176 and 180. A church in her honor exists in Rome from about the 5th century, was rebuilt with much splendor by Pope Paschal I around the year 820, and again by Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati in 1599. It is situated in Trastevere, near the Ripa Grande quay, where in earlier days the Ghetto was located, and is the titulus of a Cardinal Priest, currently Carlo Maria Martini.

The martyrdom of Cecilia is said to have followed that of her husband and his brother by the prefect Turcius Almachius. The officers of the prefect then sought to have Cecilia killed as well. She arranged to have her home preserved as a church before she was arrested. At that time, the officials attempted to kill her by smothering her by steam. However, the attempt failed, and she was to have her head chopped off. But they were unsuccessful three times, and she would not die until she received the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Cecilia survived another three days before succumbing. In the last three days of her life, she opened her eyes, gazed at her family and friends who crowded around her cell, closed them, and never opened them again. The people by her cell knew immediately that she was to become a saint in heaven. When her incorruptible body was found long after her death, it was found that on one hand she had three fingers outstretched and on the other hand just one finger, denoting her belief in the trinity. The skull of Saint Cecilia is kept as a relic in the cathedral of Torcello."

She is patroness of music because she sang as she lay dying.  Here's a snippet from Purcell's tribute to the saint:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pope urges pray the Office: and there's a new edition of the Diurnal out to help you do it!


Photos and dimension details: Jonah Smith
At his General Audience last week, the Pope concluded his series of talks on the psalms as the prayer-book of the Church by urging everyone to pray Lauds, Vespers and Compline.

And with absolutely perfect timing, the new, seventh edition of the Monastic Diurnal has just been released by the monks of Farnborough Abbey to enable you to do just that! 

The Farnborough Monastic Diurnal provides the day hours of the Office (ie all the hours except the long monastic night Office of Matins) with parallel English and Latin texts, according to the 1963 rubrics.


And unlike the modern Liturgy of the Hours (1970), or even the 1962 Roman Breviary (which uses the 1911 reordering of the psalter), the Monastic Diurnal utilises a traditional ordering of the psalms for each day and hour, namely that set out by St Benedict in his Rule and in use now for over 1400 years.

For those familiar with the previous edition of the book, it is on rather heavier paper, giving increased durability, and its dimensions are 150 mm x100mm x51mm.

At £45.00 plus shipping from the Abbey direct, it is a considerably cheaper option than most other breviaries around.

And thanks too to Father Abbot for giving this blog a bit of a plug!


The monks also have their own blog now, so you can follow their doings.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 20: Last Sunday after Pentecost/Fifth Sunday of November



And so we reach the last Sunday of the liturgical year!

At Matins this Sunday, the Scripture readings are from the prophet Micah (who prophesied around 740-701 BC). Micah and Isaiah were contemporaries, and the Chapter of his book set for Sunday Matins (Ch 1) tells of the coming punishment for Israel's sins. The antiphon for I Vespers though, actually comes from Isaiah 62, and perhaps anticipates the promises contained in later chapters of Micah for the preservation of a remnant, and the coming of the new David in glory.

The Gospel this Sunday, referred to in the two canticle antiphons, is Matthew 24:15-35, which is a prophecy of the end times:

"When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that reads let him understand. Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains: And he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take anything out of his house: And he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child and that give suck in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter or on the sabbath. For there shall be then great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be....And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. And then shall all tribes of the earth mourn: and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. And he shall send his angels with a trumpet and a great voice: and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them... Amen I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass: but my words shall not pass."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 13: Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost/Fourth Sunday of November




After Rubens, 1600-1640
 The Scripture readings for Matins this Sunday, to which the Magnificat antiphon for I Vespers alludes (though it is not Scriptural) are from Hosea, the first of the 'minor prophets' in the Bible, and who preached around the year 750 BC.


The Gospel for this Sunday is from Matthew 22:15-21, which elicits the famous dictum to render unto Caesar the things that are of Caesar, to God the things of God, the subject of the Canticle antiphons for the Sunday.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Norcia film...

For those who like to listen and follow the Office with the Norcia monks, a special alert - they currently have Sunday Prime up on their archive.

Even better, a film about the monastery, filmed over Summer this year, is due to be released in December.  Here is the trailer:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 6: Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost/Third Sunday of November



The walls of Avila
 November suffers from the strange phenomenon of leaping straight to week three in terms of its Matins readings, and hence I Vespers canticle antiphon.

This reflects the fact that the first week of November used to be the Octave of All Saints, which had its own patristic readings, marking the start of the winter three readings schema for Matins in the Benedictine Office. 

The Scriptural readings for Matins are from the Book of Daniel, but in fact the canticle antiphon for I Vespers, 'Muros tuos' (Surround us O Lord with thy impregnable wall), is not scriptural. 


Scot's Church, Melbourne

The Gospel this Sunday, referred to in the Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons, is Matthew 18:23-35, the Parable of the unforgiving servant.

Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4: St Charles Borromeo, Memorial


Saint Carlo Borromeo (2 October 1538 – 3 November 1584) was a cardinal responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests.

The nephew of Pope Pius IV (his mother was a Medici) and son of the Count of Arona, through sheer nepotism he was appointed a titular abbot at the age of 12, and archbishop of Milan at 22.  Despite family pressure to quit the Church, he pursued doctoral studies in civil and canon law and was an active reformer of the Church, playing a large role in the Catechism of Trent and the final sessions of the Council itself.

He is not a saint for the faint-hearted.  In line with the spirit of Trent, he substantially revamped his own cathedral removing much of the ornamentation there, and remodelling the nave so as to segregate the sexes.   He was also a vigorous campaigner against heresy and witchcraft.  Ans so strong was the opposition to his reforms of one religious order in his diocese that an attempt to assassinate him was made.

In 1576, when Milan suffered an epidemic of the bubonic plague, Borromeo persuaded his flock that it was sent as a chastisement for sin, and led religious exercises to bring it to an end.  He also  led efforts to accommodate the sick and bury the dead, avoiding no danger and sparing no expense. He visited all the parishes where the contagion raged, distributing money, providing accommodation for the sick, and punishing those, especially the clergy, who were remiss in discharging their duties.

His cult  became established very quickly after his death in Milan, and he was canonised in 1610.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2: Feast of All Souls



Today's feast is devoted to those in purgatory, that we might free them by our prayers....