Tuesday 29 November 2011

Could you crack a joke in the face of death?

Today is the Feast of St Cuthbert Mayne, first of the secular martyr priests. A man who was sought by the Queen's men and, when finally confronted by the High Sheriff and a gang of 100 followers, was ice cool but still showing a great sense of humour.

The High Sheriff was one, Richard Greenville and he and his men had surrounded the house of a Mr Tregan near Launceston, Cornwall in the hope of capturing the priest.

When Fr Mayne confronted them he said: Who are you looking for? Much as Our Lord once said: "Whom seek ye?"

Greenville replied: "We are looking for a man"

And, quick as a flash Fr Mayne responded: "Well, I am a man"

I believe that riposte was not only funny but, also, a reply that was honest. He was not going to lie and try to pretend that he was not Cuthbert Mayne.

Of course, they seized him and, in so doing, found about his neck an "Agnus Dei" a small disc made of wax imprinted with the symbol of a lamp.

Fisheaters describe the origins of the Agnus Dei -

The symbolism of the Agnus Dei is the same as that of the Paschal Candle; the wax is the pure flesh of Christ, and their protective qualities are like those of other blessed objects, with the Pope's blessing mentioning specifically protection in combat, and protection against tempests, lightning, fire and water; malice of demons and of every adversity; pentilence, sickness, and a sudden and unprovided death.

Normally, the disc would have the imprint of a lamb (Lamb of God) or, as in Fr Mayne's case, a lamp symbolising Christ the light of the world. These discs would also have been blessed by the Pope and were much loved by the Recusant priests.

Fr Mayne was thrown into prison while charges of High Treason were trumped up in order to secure his execution.
Finally, he went to trial but the jury found no charge against him. Nonetheless,  Judge Manhood instructed them that the guilty verdict had to be imposed,
 alleging "that where plain proofs were wanting strong presumptions ought to take their place." Not a very safe basis of law.

Three days before he was executed his gaoler came to tip him off regarding his impending death and he replied: !I wish that I had something valuable to give you for the good news you bring to me..."

The night before he faced the gallows a bright light was seen emanating from his cell, a not uncommon occurrence for those about to receive their martyr's crown (St Maximilian Kolbe's cell also showed the strong, bright light before he died).

A day or two prior to his execution his jailers had approached him offering pardon if he would swear upon the Bible that the Queen was the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

He answered that "the Queen neither ever was nor is nor ever shall be the head of the Church in England" and that answer sealed his fate.

On November 30, 1577, after having been dragged through the streets of Launceston feet first, he was hanged by the neck and then his body was drawn and quartered.

He was not allowed, as was customary, to make a gallows address to the crowd. Instead he humbly bowed his head in silent prayer.

One of The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales he is witness to the great sacrifices made by our priests both then and today.

                     St Cuthbert Mayne Ora pro nobis

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Sunday 27 November 2011

Catholic Church Opposed to Sight Control

Suppose that the whole world, or at least a significant proportion of it, decided that in order to curb the excesses of the human senses, it was necessary to go around blindfold, and with stoppers in one’s ears. Before too long there would be a papal encyclical abhorring this unnatural practice, and proclaiming that the ear was made for hearing, and the eye for seeing.

And then the terribly well-intentioned exponents of hearing and sight control would denounce the Church for being opposed to their programme, declaring everyone’s right to suppress their senses. ‘Who are they to tell me not to wear a blindfold?’ they would self-righteously proclaim. ‘They’re my eyes, and I’ll gouge them out if I want to!’

After a period of normalisation, hearing and sight control would become almost universal, with the Church alone maintaining the natural law, the necessity of using the senses that were given to us. And the practice of gouging out one’s eyes or slicing off one’s ears would become increasingly widespread, with the procedure being provided by the NHS. Any doctor or nurse who refused to become involved in the mutilation would find it increasingly difficult to work in this culture, with many cases of unfair dismissal for those who were pro-sight and hearing.

How many years of this madness would it take before humanity returned to the natural use of the bodies which God gave them?

(I am indebted for this idea to the late Archbishop Sheen. You can find twenty-four wonderful hours of his talks here).

Posted by Anthony Radice (A Tiny Son of Mary)

Saturday 26 November 2011

Advent: Preparing for Our Lord's Nativity and for his coming as Judge of the living and the dead

A voice crying out in the wilderness, make straight the
way of the Lord 
Throughout the year, the Church seeks to aid her children by offering them seasons and times that concentrate on some aspect of Our Lord's life. By meditating on the various mysteries of Christ's life and ministry, we who do so grow in our love for him, become more attached to him and enjoy the benefits of the salvation that he has gained for us. Each year we are given the grace to delve deeper and deeper into the mystery of Jesus Christ as we follow the liturgical seasons and feasts that he himself has given us through his Church.

Advent is a special season in that it helps Christians to prepare for the coming of Christ - his advent. At Christmas, which is what Advent prepares us for, Jesus will be born once more in our hearts. But Advent also prepares us for that other coming of Christ, his Second Coming, when he will come again to "judge the living an the dead." He who comes to set captives free and who comes as the Daystar of our lives is also the judge who is already standing at the door (cf James 5:9). He will grant to our souls at Christmas the same graces which he gave the Shepherds and the Magi at that first Christmas. When he comes again in glory at the end of time, he will judge us on how we used these graces - these free gifts of salvation. Advent is therefore a time of preparation both for the many graces already won for us and still being offered to us through the Incarnation as well as for the day on which we will stand before Jesus Christ face to face. If we love him, we will rejoice in calling out during Advent, "Come Lord Jesus, do not delay!"

In former times, on this First Sunday of Advent, the people of Rome would join their Bishop, the Pope, for a celebration of Solemn Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore (a basilica I mentioned a few days ago on my own blog). This particular church was chosen because it is the Blessed Virgin Mary who gave us Jesus at Christmas and because the relics of the crib in which she placed him are preserved at Santa Maria Maggiore. Of course, Our Lady prepared for Christ's coming more than anyone else - her pregnancy was a precursor to our Advent and along with her fellow Jews she was full of expectation for the promised Messiah, the Saviour. Let us therefore ask Mary, our Mother, to guide us throughout this Advent season - so that, both at Christmas and at the end of time itself, she may show unto us the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.

Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum
(Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just)
Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem
(Let the earth be opened and send forth a Saviour)

Mary With Child
Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli
Porta manes, et stella maris, sucurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat populo: tu quae genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Usque ad diem 23 decembris:

 Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.
 Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Oremus. Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut, qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

A die 24 decembris:

 Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti.
 Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus. Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecudna, humano generi praemia praestitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitae suscipere, Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum. Amen.

O Loving Mother of our Redeemer

O loving Mother of our Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Hasten to aid thy fallen people who strive to rise once more.
Thou who brought forth thy holy Creator, all creation wond'ring,
Yet remainest ever Virgin, taking from Gabriel's lips
that joyful "Hail!": be merciful to us sinners.

Up until the day before Christmas Eve:

 The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
 And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Christmas Eve onwards:

 Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity:
 Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Amen.

Posted by Dylan Parry A Reluctant Sinner
Image attribution for this post can be found on my blog

Blessed James Alberione, pray for us

Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of James Alberione, Founder of the Pauline Family. He was born in San Lorenzo di Fossano (Cuneo), Italy, on 4th April 1884. At the age of 16 he entered the seminary of Alba and was ordained a priest on 29th June 1907.

During a vigil of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament on the night of 31st December 1900, a "particular light" seemed to come from the Host and roused in him a sense of obligation "to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century" - he felt "obliged to serve the Church". The result of this was to gather together men and women who would dedicate their lives to follow in the steps of St Paul to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to all nations.

Today, the Pauline Family is made up of five congregations - the Society of St Paul, the Daughters of St. Paul, Disciples of the Divine Master, Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd and Sisters of Mary Queen of Apostles; four associated institutes - Jesus the Priest, Saint Gabriel Archangel, Mary Most Holy Annunciation and Holy Family; and the Association of Pauline Co-operators. These ten Congregations and Institutes continue the work James Alberione started.

During an audience with the Pauline Family on 28th June 1969, Pope Paul VI said, "There he is: humble, silent, tireless, always vigilant, recollected in his thoughts, which run from prayer to action; always intent on scrutinising the ‘signs of the times,' that is, the most creative ways to reach souls. Our Fr Alberione has given the Church new instruments with which to express herself, new means to give vigour and breadth to her apostolate, new capacities and a new awareness of the validity and possibilities of his mission in the modern world with modern means. Dear Fr Alberione, allow the Pope to rejoice in your long, faithful and tireless work and in the fruits it has produced for the glory of God and the good of the Church."

Pope Paul VI visited Alberione during the final hours of his earthly life, a life which ended on 26th November 1971. On 25th June 1996, Pope John Paul II signed the decree recognising Alberione’s heroic virtues and he was declared Beatus on Sunday 27th April 2003.

The Society of St Paul was founded in 1914, which means we are soon to celebrate our centenary. The Society was given official recognition by the Holy See on 27th June 1949.

Today, more than any other day, the Pauline Family throughout the world asks the prayers of Blessed James Alberione to sustain us in our work and we ask you, the reader, to do the same.

Thursday 24 November 2011

The Sign of the Cross

Early in my investigations of the Catholic faith, I was very struck by a scene in Brideshead Revisited, when Lord Marchmain is visited in his final hours by a priest, and despite having apparently lost consciousness, finally makes the sign of the cross over himself. It is a wonderful image of an encounter with grace at the point of death.

It was in spring and summer of 2010, when I was devouring the Catechism with great wonder and delight, that I began making the sign of the cross over myself. With my Protestant background, it felt like a transgression, but it began to make a difference. At that time I often rode a motorbike to work, and one cannot help being conscious of the proximity of death when biking. Making the sign of the cross before setting off thus takes on an added significance.

And I felt, in a way I can’t really describe, that as I made the sign, I began to step into a more public witness. I was carrying the cross with me wherever I went. It was becoming part of me.

I want to keep remembering that mystical sense of entering into a new world of faith, not by words and ideas but by a simple gesture. May God preserve me from taking lightly this wonderful gift of the sign of the cross.

(Posted by Anthony Radice - A Tiny Son of Mary)

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Vassil Makarinov).

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Souls lost at sea, April 1943

We are still in the month of November, the time dedicated specifically to the Holy Souls and especially to those who died while fighting for the cause of good over evil.

Death comes upon us, often without prior notice.
Equally, we stumble across death in the most unexpected of places.

Freshwater West beach in South Pembrokeshire, is one of the wildest and most beautiful in Britain. It is unknown except in recent years it has provided the main scenic backdrop to Robin Hood a la Russell Crowe and the latest Harry Potter films.

When the film crews and hordes of extras left, the beach returned to its normal solitary existence, the haunt of a few hardy walkers.

In the car park there is a small memorial stone and plaque dedicated to another drama that took place here some 68 years ago. A single poppy is at the foot, a sign that someone or some organisation has not forgotten.

Landing crafts LCG 15 and LCG16 and their crews were on their way from Holyhead to an unknown destination. Tragically, they tried to shelter in Fishguard Harbour but were refused permission to enter. Continuing on  up the Pembrokeshire coast they ran into difficulties and in the dark the two craft lost contact with one another and LCG15 sank. A rescue lifeboat from the nearby HMS Rosemary went to the aid of LCG16 but that sank along with the landing craft.  One can only imagine the horror of the situation; both vessels embroiled in the rough seas and both sunk with the loss of all hands. Little time for a perfect act of contrition. Just men screaming as the panic and realisation set in and some, no doubt, ploughing on in an effort to retrieve the situation.
Seventy nine men died in those seas and their bodies were washed ashore on Freshwater West, some were still warm and locals tried in vain to resuscitate them.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen

26th April 1943

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Saturday 19 November 2011

Christ in Majesty - A reflection for the Feast of Christ the King

The theme of Christ in Majesty is the most magnificent in all iconography. We could say that this is the essential icon. Now that Jesus has ascended and is no longer physically with us, this is the icon which strives most of all to honour and reveal to us what He is. Jesus is God made Man, a mystery beyond our comprehending. This is the mystery in which we live, through faith.

This icon is traditionally written large and prominently displayed. The throne of Jesus, diaphanous and transparent in the light of eternity, is held within a pattern of two geometric shapes of scarlet. First there is a great scarlet diamond, and then, behind it, a hanging oblong with four sharp points. These eight pointed edges represent eternity, because eight is considered the mystical number of fulfilment (God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and on the eighth, all had been accomplished). Between the two areas of scarlet is an elongated oval of the deepest blue, the heavens. Within, swarm the Seraphim, the dark blue angels of wisdom, with their six wings and invisible bodies. Here amidst the white swirl of those glittering wings we can dimly distinguish angelic faces. Within the scarlet of the central diamond, we can see the wings of the angels of love, the Cherubim, and, third highest of the angelic hierarchy, the Thrones, wheel around the base of the throne on which Jesus sits. To complete the complexity of the symbolism, each corner of the scarlet rectangle at the rear contains an image of one of the ‘living creatures’ that Ezekiel saw in his Vision, and John the Evangelist saw in his Apocalypse. There are the symbols of the gospels: eagle (John), man (Matthew), ox (Luke), lion (Mark).

Angels and evangelists are only there in homage to Jesus, now ascended to His natural glory. His garments are bright with gold, yet what transfixes us is the beauty of His face - grave, thoughtful, tender. Different icons show different messages in the book that Jesus holds open. This one has a quotation from St John: "Judge not according to appearances, sons of man, but judge with right judgement". Judgement is one of the themes of Jesus’ teaching: it is a function reserved to the Father. We are told: "Judge not that you may not be judged".

We are asked to tread a delicate line, to see people as they are, and yet not to imagine that we can see into their hearts. The right judgement is the judgement of Jesus, and that will always be loving and true. In this icon, if one hand offers a gentle admonishment, the other offers an unambiguous blessing. However foolish the sons and daughters of men and women, we have "an advocate in the heavens". Christ in His majesty is majestic for our sakes, never for His own.

Picture: Christ in Majesty, 15th century icon. National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev.
Text: Chapter 25 Sister Wendy Contemplates the Iconic Jesus by Sister Wendy Beckett. © ST PAULS Publishing.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Pray the Psalms - an exhortation from the Holy Father

Pope Benedict has made no secret of his wish for the faithful to return to regular and frequent reading of the Psalms, The Divine Office, The Liturgy of the Hours.

He repeated his call at his audience today, attended by over 110,000 pilgrims (see Fr Z for a fuller report).

So, tonight, I have posted Compline complete with English text.

Now, for those who think that Compline is a compound that can be made into a milky drink for invalids, there is little hope!

                                                        Drink this!...

                                                    ....and say this!

Posted by Richard Collins  Linen on the Hedgerow

Sunday 6 November 2011

Christian Christmas postage stamps

The Royal Mail should be praised (perhaps you would like to do so by writing to them) for honouring the birth of Our Saviour in their Christmas stamps this year. The first and second class stamps show Jesus in the Arms of Mary and the Angel appearing to Joseph. The relevant biblical reference from Matthew’s Gospel is clearly given on each stamp.

All Christians should ensure that they buy and use these stamps for their Christmas mail and also encourage their Christian friends and contacts to do so as well. The stamps should be available from all Post Offices and stamp retailers from Tuesday 8th November.

If we as Christians can demonstrate massive support for these stamps, maybe, just maybe, the Royal Mail will reconsider its policy of promoting a purely secular view of this great Christian festival in alternate years. Meanwhile, if we fail in that, remember that the "Madonna" stamps remain available throughout the year and use those in the "secular" years.

Posted by ST PAULS

Thursday 3 November 2011

Air Maria: Media in the Tradition of St Maximilian Kolbe

I recently visited the wonderful Friars of the Immaculate at Lanherne, and they pointed me in the direction of Air Maria, a website following the tradition of St Maximilian Kolbe. What a wonderful resource it is! Here's a link to a succinct and persuasive video on the importance of praying the Rosary.

Video – How to Pray the Rosary – Dr. Miravalle: Mcasts136

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Go forth and blog?

The Catholic blogosphere has mushroomed over the past five years or so and even the Holy Father has paid tribute to the potential value it has as an evangelising force.
But, is it me or are Catholic bloggers just a little bit spiritually retentive?

We relish the snippets of outrage and enjoy the odd internet spat and the learned posts but, we are preaching to one another are we not?
We indulge ourselves and not the masses.

That is a shade overstated; there are, of course, quite a few readers of blogs out there but I do mean quite a few, I do not mean many.

Ask the average Catholic man on the Clapham bus when he last read a Catholic blog and you will be met with a stare of bafflement. Blog? Catholic? What?

Stand in a roomful of Catholics with a glass of something alcoholic in your hand and tell the group you are with that you are a Catholic blogger – and watch their eye movements as they mark the nearest emergency exit.

Blogging, to the uninitiated, still carries a faint twang of something not quite nice; something that Uncle Rupert did on his own in an upstairs room before he emigrated to South Africa in a hurry.

So, the first step must surely be to bring the Catholic range of blogs to the attention of the faithful – we are not (I assume) setting out purely to evangelise when we commence blogging; I am sure that there is a diverse and varied range of reasons for this self inflicted wounding. But, whether we like it or not, there is a strong evangelical element to all that we do and that is a good and fine thing.
Provided that we open ourselves up to all and not to the select few.

I hesitate to speculate as to how many thoroughly decent, everyday Catholics know nothing of Summorum Pontificum and all that accompanies it; most of them do not even know whether an Extraordinary Form Mass is said in their parish (most parishes appear to leave it off the notices) and, as far as the Diocese is concerned, the old Mass is precisely that. It no longer exists.

And then, of course, there is the stigma attached to the Latin Mass – “it’s banned” “it’s turning the clock back” – there is much work for the blogosphere (and for Guild members) here.

At the recent Guild meeting at Blackfen there did not seem to be much enthusiasm for spreading the word with regard to Catholic blogs – or did I read the mood wrongly?

But I believe that it is incumbent upon us to do so. Did not Our Lord tell us to go out and teach?

This concept, I confess, is not my own; it came from another blogger, A Catholic Gadfly. But, I support it totally.
Gadfly’s view was that the Guild should produce an online poster with one or two lines of copy explaining its purpose and the blog address.

This could then be posted up on parish notice boards with the agreement of the PP.

That seems very reasonable to me.

Posted by Richard Collins – Linen on the Hedgerow

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Why do Catholics celebrate the feast of All Saints?

Saints of God: Come to our aid!
One of our greatest abbots and Doctors of the Church, St Bernard of Clairvaux, answered this question in an eloquent homily, parts of which I have reproduced below: -
Of what profit to the saints are our prayers and the honour we pay them? Of what use is this feast-day? Of what use to them are honours paid on earth when our heavenly Father, fulfilling the faithful promise of his Son, has raised them to glory? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Surely we are the ones to benefit, when we venerate their memory. I confess that at the very thought of them I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning to be with them. 
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble college of confessors and the choirs of virgins. In short, we long to be united in the communion of all the saints. The Church of all the first followers of Christ in glory awaits us, but we turn aside; the saints lovingly call us, and we make little of it; the host of the redeemed look for us, and we are not interested. 
Brothers, at long last let us shake off our torpor and rise with Christ to seek the things that are above, to set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and with our prayers come into the presence of those who are looking for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their joy. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no peril in setting our hearts on such glory. 
When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also be made manifest to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until then we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, not with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury when the purple robes are put on him in mockery rather than honour. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendour with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head. 
So, let us strive to attain this glory with a passionate desire and an ambition that is entirely praiseworthy. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own unaided efforts may be granted to us through their intercession. 
                               St Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 2 (emphases mine) 
Today is the Solemnity of All Saints, one of the Church's holiest and most ancient of feasts. This festival has been celebrated on 1 November in the Latin Church since the mid-8th century - although had previously been kept on 13 May since AD 609. Eastern Christians have celebrated this feast since the 5th century, and continue to do so on the Sunday after Pentecost (which is called All Saints' Sunday).

In reality, today's feast is a celebration of the fullness of Christ's glory made manifest in the members of his Body, the Church. Those men and women who conformed themselves to Christ in this life are now one with him in Heaven - they are where we long to be, they have achieved our own life's ambition. The Saints are completely one with Christ, living in the heart of the Trinity. They are the first-fruits of Our Lord's Holy Resurrection.

All Saints is therefore a day when we rejoice in the true and eternal vocation of every human being - one which Christians have been especially called to achieve through God's grace. It is also a day when we should ensure that we do not turn aside from Christ's first followers, or ignore those souls who are already waiting us in the blissful joy that is our heavenly and everlasting home! It is a day, then, for us to rededicate ourselves in our ambition for the things of Heaven.

Omnes sancti Angeli et Archángeli, oráte pro nobis!

Posted by Dylan Parry (A Reluctant Sinner)
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