Click here to read Barrow Blog for 13th September 2020
Reading for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
(Sunday 30th August)
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 20:7-9 in which we hear Jeremiah giving voice to this internal anguish of mind; he hates what he has to say to his people, yet he is compelled by God to say it.
You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a daily laughing-stock, everybody’s butt. Each time I speak the word, I have to howl
and proclaim: ‘Violence and ruin!’ The word of the Lord has meant for me insult, derision, all day long.
I used to say, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more.’ Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it.
The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 12:1-2 in which he tells the Roman Christians (converts, for the most part, from paganism) that they must prove themselves worthy of this great favour, they must live truly Christian lives.
Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.
The Gospel is from Matt. 16:21-27.
Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?
‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’
From all eternity this was God's plan for mankind. But because sin had entered into the world before the Incarnation took place, the Son of God in his human nature had to suffer the violent death of the cross at the hands of sinners. In this very suffering he became the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, as the second-Isaiah had foretold in his "suffering servant" prophecies (Is. 53: 1-7; 42: 1-9 etc). His death, because he was God as well as man, was a sacrifice, an atonement, of infinite value, and therefore obtained forgiveness from the Father for all the sins of the human race.
In foretelling his sufferings and death, which took place some months later, Christ intended to prepare his disciples and other followers for what he knew would be for them a severe crisis of faith. He also took the opportunity to remind his disciples, and all others who would follow him, of what their attitude to suffering and death should be. He told them, and us too, that we must be ever ready to accept sufferings in this life, and even an untimely death if that should be demanded of us, rather than deny our Christian faith.
To prove their loyalty to their faith in Christ thousands of Christians in the early Church, and thousands more during persecutions in later centuries, gladly took him at his word and went joyfully to their martyrdom. It is to be hoped that, aided by God's grace, we would all be ready to imitate their example, if called on to prove our fidelity to Christ and our Christian faith. But at the moment what Christ expects and asks of us is that we should bear the sufferings and hardships of daily life cheerfully and gladly for his sake.
This daily carrying of our Christian cross can be, and is for many, a prolonged martyrdom. Poverty, ill-health, cruelty and hardheartedness met with in the home and in one's neighbours, are heavy crosses which only a truly Christian shoulder can bear. But, if we were offered health, happiness, peace, wealth and power for the next fifty or seventy years on this earth, in exchange for an eternal heaven after death, what rational one among us would accept that offer?
Christians know that this life is a period of training, which makes us ready hereafter to receive the eternal reward which Christ has won for us. Every trainee knows that one must endure certain hardships and sufferings in order to merit graduation into one's chosen profession or trade. On our Christian graduation day we shall, please God, hear the welcome words : "Well done good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater, come and join in your Master's happiness" (Mt. 25: 21). May God grant that every one of us will hear these words of welcome.
(Monday 31st August)
In the seventh century, St. Aidan was the Bishop of Lindisfarne, an island in the North Sea, where he converted the Celts living in England’s far north. Thirteen centuries later, St. Aidan’s name lives on in a Christian ministry half a world away, adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, in Malibu, California. Little is known of the saint’s early life, save that he was an Irishman, possibly born in Connacht, and that he was a monk at the monastery on the island of Iona in Scotland.
St. Aidan lived in a time of conflict in the British Isles. There was conflict between Christianity and the pagan religions of the Anglo-Saxons and also conflict between the Christianity of the Celts and that of the Romans.
In 633, King Oswald of Northumbria determined to bring Christianity to the pagans of his kingdom. From his fortress of Bamburgh, he sent messages to Iona asking for missionary monks to come and minister to his people.
St. Aidan begins his ministry: The first monk sent, Corman, met with little success due to his austere disposition. He returned to the monastery and reported he was unable to achieve anything because the people ‘were ungovernable and of an obstinate and barbarous temperament’. The monks had a conference wondering what to do next. St. Aidan, who had moved to Iona from his birthplace in Ireland, was at the conference and issued these comments to the failed missionary. “Brother, it seems to me that you were too severe on your ignorant hearers. You should have followed the practice of the Apostles, and begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching, and gradually nourished them with the word of God until they were capable of greater perfection and able to follow the loftier precepts of Christ.” This observation by St. Aidan convinced all in attendance that he was the man to attend to the missionary work in Northumbria.
He arrived in Northumbria around AD 635 accompanied by 12 other monks and was established as Bishop of the area. King Oswald gave him the island of Lindisfarne, (now known as the Holy Island) for his Bishopric. It was eminently suitable for him since the island was cut off from the mainland except, twice a day during the periods of low tide, when a land bridge was uncovered. It provided both solitude and a base for missionary work. Here St. Aidan established an Irish-type monastery of wooden buildings…a small church, small, circular dwelling huts, perhaps one larger building for communal purposes and workshops as needed. There the monks spent time in prayer and studious preparation before venturing out into the community to spread the gospel.
Aidan lived a frugal life, and encouraged the laity to fast and study the scriptures. He himself fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, and seldom ate at the royal table. St. Aidan tirelessly engaged in preaching and pastoral work. He traveled mainly by foot and visited all he came across. As St. Bede tells us; "Whether rich or poor, if unbelievers, to embrace the mystery of the faith, or, if already Christians, he would strengthen them in the faith and stir them up, by words and actions, to alms and good works. He was accustomed not only to teach the people committed to his charge in church, but also feeling for the weakness of a new-born faith, to wander round the provinces, to go into the houses of the faithful, and to sow the seeds of God's Word in their hearts, according to the capacity of each."
When a feast was set before him he would give the food away to the hungry. The presents he received were given to the poor or used to buy the freedom of slaves, some of whom entered the priesthood. During Lent Aidan would retire to the small island of Farne for prayer and penance.
Aidan had to ensure that his efforts did not die with himself and his Ionion monks. St. Aidan realised from the first the value of education and established a school in order to train the next generation of Christian leaders for Northumbria. He began with twelve boys, who learned the practical work of being monks, priests and missionaries by observing and working with the older monks. The monastery he founded grew and helped found other monasteries throughout the area. It also became a centre of learning and a storehouse of scholarly knowledge.
Aidan and King Oswald worked hand in hand, especially at first, since St. Aidan and his monks could not speak the language of the people. King Oswald translated for them until they became proficient in English.
In 642 AD, the King Oswald was killed in battle against the pagan King Penda. King Oswin was appointed as Oswald's successor. He also supported Aidan's apostolate.
Aidan preached widely throughout Northumbria, traveling on foot, so that he could readily talk to everyone he met. King Oswin presented St. Aidan with a fine horse and trappings so the Bishop would no longer have to walk every where. No sooner had St. Aidan left the King’s palace when he came across a poor man asking for alms. The bishop gave the man his new horse and continued on his way. King Oswin was most distressed when he heard. St. Bede has left us the following account: "The King asked the bishop as they were going in to dine, ‘My Lord Bishop, why did you give away the royal horse which was necessary for your own use? Have we not many less valuable horses or other belongings which would have been good enough for beggars, without giving away a horse that I had specifically selected for your personal use?’ The bishop at once answered, ‘What are you saying, Your Majesty? Is this child of a mare more valuable to you than this child of God?’"
After that response, the King humbled himself before his Bishop and said, ‘I will not refer to this matter again, not will I enquire how much of our bounty you give away to God’s children.” It was later that evening when St Aidan had a premonition of King Oswin death saying to his attendant, "I know the king will not live very long; for I have never before seen a humble king. I feel he will soon be taken from us, because this nation is not worthy of such a king."
It wasn’t long after this incident in 651 when King Oswin was murdered in Gilling, by his cousin. Eleven days afterward, St. Aidan also died after serving 16 years in his episcopate. He had become ill and a tent was constructed for him by the wall of a church. He drew his last breath while leaning against one of the buttresses on the outside of the church. This beam survived unscathed through two subsequent burnings of the church and at the church’s third rebuilding, the beam was brought inside the church and many reported miracles of healing by touching it.
What St. Aidan had achieved may not have been clear to him at death but subsequent history showed the strong foundations and lasting success of his mission. The missionaries trained in his school went out and worked for the conversion of much of Anglo-Saxon England. Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne is credited with restoring Christianity to Northumbria
St Gregory the Great
(Thursday 3rd September)
Gregory was the prefect of Rome before he was 30. After five years in office he resigned, founded six monasteries on his Sicilian estate, and became a Benedictine monk in his own home at Rome.
Ordained a priest, Gregory became one of the pope’s seven deacons, and also served six years in the East as papal representative in Constantinople. He was recalled to become abbot, but at the age of 50 was elected pope by the clergy and people of Rome.
Gregory was direct and firm. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade taking money for many services, emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine. He was very concerned about the conversion of England, sending 40 monks from his own monastery. He is known for his reform of the liturgy, and for strengthening respect for doctrine. Whether he was largely responsible for the revision of “Gregorian” chant is disputed.
Gregory lived in a time of perpetual strife with invading Lombards and difficult relations with the East. When Rome itself was under attack, he interviewed the Lombard king.
His book, Pastoral Care, on the duties and qualities of a bishop, was read for centuries after his death. He described bishops mainly as physicians whose main duties were preaching and the enforcement of discipline. In his own down-to-earth preaching, Gregory was skilled at applying the daily Gospel to the needs of his listeners. Called “the Great,” Gregory has been given a place with Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, as one of the four key doctors of the Western Church.
A historian has written: “It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great.”
Reflection: Gregory was content to be a monk, but he willingly served the Church in other ways when asked. He sacrificed his own preferences in many ways, especially when he was called to be Bishop of Rome. Once he was called to public service, Gregory gave his considerable energies completely to this work. Gregory’s description of bishops as physicians fits in well with Pope Francis’ description of the Church as a “field hospital.”
(Friday 4th September)
Cuthbert was born in North Northumbria in about the year 635 - the same year in which Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne. He came from a well-to-do English family and like most boys of that class, he was placed with foster-parents for part of his childhood and taught the arts of war. We know nothing of his foster-father but he was very fond of his foster-mother, Kenswith.
It seems, from stories about his childhood, that he was brought up as a Christian. He was credited, for instance, with having saved by his prayers, some monks who were being swept out to sea on a raft. There is some evidence that, in his mid-teens, he was involved in at least one battle, which would have been quite normal for a boy of his social background.
His life changed when he was about 17 years old. He was looking after some neighbour's sheep on the hills. (As he was certainly not a shepherd boy it is possible that he was mounting a military guard - a suitable occupation for a young warrior!) Gazing into the night sky he saw a light descend to Earth and then return, escorting, he believed, a human soul to Heaven. The date was August 31st 651AD - the night that Aidan died. Perhaps Cuthbert had already been considering a possible monastic calling but that was his moment of decision. He went to the monastery at Melrose, also founded by Aidan, and asked to be admitted as a Novice.
For the next 13 years he was with the Melrose monks. When Melrose was given land to found a new monastery at Ripon, Cuthbert went with the founding party and was made guest-master. In his late 20s he returned to Melrose and found that his former teacher and friend, the prior Boisil, was dying of the plague. Cuthbert became prior (second to the Abbot) at Melrose.
In 664AD the Synod of Whitby decided that Northumbria should cease to look to Ireland for its spiritual leadership and turn instead to the continent so the Irish monks of Lindisfarne, with others, went back to Iona. The abbot of Melrose subsequently became also abbot of Lindisfarne and Cuthbert its prior.
Cuthbert seems to have moved to Lindisfarne at about the age of 30 and lived there for the next 10 years. He ran the monastery; he was an active missionary; he was much in demand as a spiritual guide and he developed the gift of spiritual healing. He was an outgoing, cheerful, compassionate person and no doubt became popular. But when he was 40 years old he believed that he was being called to be a hermit and to do the hermit's job of fighting the spiritual forces of evil in a life of solitude.
After a short trial period on the tiny islet adjoining Lindisfarne he moved to the more remote and larger island known as 'Inner Farne' and built a hermitage where he lived for 10 years. Of course, people did not leave him alone - they went out in their little boats to consult him or ask for healing. However, on many days of the year the seas around the islands are simply too rough to make the crossing and Cuthbert was left in peace.
At the age of about 50 he was asked by both Church and King to leave his hermitage and become a bishop. He reluctantly agreed. For two years he was an active, travelling bishop as Aidan had been. He seems to have journeyed extensively. On one occasion he was visiting the Queen in Carlisle (on the other side of the country from Lindisfarne) when he knew by second sight that her husband, the King, had been slain by the Picts doing battle in Scotland.
Feeling the approach of death he retired back to the hermitage on the Inner Farne where, in the company of Lindisfarne monks, he died on March 20th 687AD.
His body was brought back and buried on Lindisfarne.
In our prayers:
Please remember to pray for the following sick or housebound: Bernard Moyers, Patrick Hodgson, Tod Smith, Angela Doyle, Ida De Melo, Maurice Nixon, Eva Shirreffs, Stefania Stasior, Irene Pallot, Ginger Newby.
This week’s prayer intentions include:
Wilf has an appointment at the Leicester Royal Infirmary on the afternoon of 2nd September (the day after Tuesday!) for further investigation of his troublesome throat. Please remember him in your prayers on that day. For those who do not know: as a Sheffield United supporter, Wilf cannot bring himself to say the day of the week beginning with “W” as the other team in the city is “Sheffield W*******y”.
We remember in our prayers all those pupils and their teachers as they begin the new school year after an absence of several months. We pray that they feel safe in their familiar yet strange environment and that the coming academic year will be rewarding and fruitful. Perhaps the thought of Anne Frank below is appropriate for our young people.
“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” (Anne Frank)
Irene Pallot for whom we pray each week will celebrate her 99th birthday on Monday 31st August. Warmest birthday wishes from her daughter, Pauline Dignan, her extended family as well as all her friends from church.
Peter and Brenda Fryer would like to thank everyone for their Mass intentions, prayers, cards and best wishes for our Golden Wedding Anniversary. Brenda came home from hospital after a shoulder replacement operation on the eve of our anniversary so the big day celebrations were rather muted. She is making good progress while Peter’s cooking skills have shown a marked improvement.
Father John contacted me to say how amazed and moved he was by the generosity of parishioners and expressed his sincere thanks for the unexpected gift. The total raised of £1,230 was a magnificent response to the suggestion that we show our gratitude to him for his work among us over the last two years.
If you have any news that you would like to share, please let me know: anniversaries, birthdays, events, people who need our prayers.
Some wit and wisdom
1 - I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 - Borrow money from pessimists - they don't expect it back.
3 - Half the people you know are below average.
4 - 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 - 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 - A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 - A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 - If you want the rainbow, you have got to put up with the rain.
9 - All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 - The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Reading for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
(Sunday 23rd August)
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 22:19-23. Because of the reference to the "key of the house of David" in this text, some Fathers saw in it a messianic prophecy, foretelling the removal from power of the leaders of the Chosen People of the Old Testament, and the transfer of that power to Christ, who in turn handed it to Peter as head of the Church, the new Chosen People.
Thus says the Lord of Hosts to Shebna, the master of the palace: I dismiss you from your office, I remove you from your post, and the same day I call on my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I invest him with your robe, gird him with your sash, entrust him with your authority; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, no one shall close, should he close, no one shall open. I drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house.
The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 11:33-36 in which he offers praise and thanks to God for including everyone in the salvation he offered, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.
How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.
The Gospel is from St. Matthew 16:13-20.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Jesus, the true Son of God, became man in order to make all men his brothers and co-heirs with him, to the divine, eternal kingdom. To carry on his divine mission on earth (after he had ascended into heaven), he founded the Church on the twelve Apostles. This Church was to be God's new Chosen People (hence perhaps the twelve Apostles take the place of the heads of the twelve tribes of the Chosen People of old). It was to be made up of all races from all parts of the world. As its mission was to bring the message of salvation to all men, it was to go on until the end of time. For this Church, this divinely instituted society of human beings, to carry out its mission of helping all men to reach their eternal kingdom, it was necessary to be sure of the road and the aids offered to its members. In other words, the Church should be certain that what it told men to believe and to practise was what God wanted them to believe and to practise. Today's reading from St. Matthew tells us how Christ provided for this necessity. In making Peter the head of the Apostolic College, the foundation-stone of his Church, the guarantor of its stability in the symbol of the keys and the promise that all his decisions would be ratified in heaven, Christ gave him the power of freedom from error when officially teaching the universal Church.
In other words, Peter received the primacy in the Church and the gift of infallibility in his official teaching on matters of faith and morals. As the Church was to continue long after Peter had died, it was rightly understood from the beginning that the privileges given to him and which were necessary for the successful mission of the Church, were given to his lawful successors, the Popes.
This has been the constant belief in the Church from its very beginning. The first Vatican Council solemnly defined this dogma and it was reconfirmed recently in the second Vatican Council. In giving these powers to Peter and to his lawful successors Christ was planning for our needs. In order to preserve and safeguard the right conduct of all its members he provided a central seat of authoritative power in his Church. Through the gift of infallibility he assured us that whatever we were commanded to believe (faith) or to do (morals) would always be what he and his heavenly Father wanted us to believe and to do.
How can we ever thank Christ for these marvellous gifts to his Church, that is, to us? Let us say a fervent: "thank you, Lord; you have foreseen all our needs and provided for them, grant us the grace to do the little part you ask of us in order to continue our progress on the one direct road to heaven."
(Monday 24th August)
In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).
Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.
Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary - without thereby being demeaned - to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word Made Flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.
The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God
(Thursday 27th August)
The circumstances of Saint Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law, and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticised his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.
Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy - ”all flesh is evil” - and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.
When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, Saint Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter 387, Saint Ambrose baptised Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of Saint Augustine, especially his Confessions.
Today, with Google searches, online shopping, text messages, tweets, and instant credit, we have little patience for things that take time. Likewise, we want instant answers to our prayers. Monica is a model of patience. Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant but wayward son, Augustine.
Saint Augustine of Hippo
(Friday 28th August)
Augustine Aurelius was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, North Africa. His father was a pagan, his mother, St. Monica. Still unbaptised and burning for knowledge, he came under the influence of the Manicheans, which caused his mother intense sorrow. He left Africa for Rome, deceiving his mother, who was ever anxious to be near him. She prayed and wept. A bishop consoled her by observing that a son of so many tears would never be lost. Yet the evil spirit drove him constantly deeper into moral degeneracy, capitalising on his leaning toward pride and stubbornness. Grace was playing a waiting game; there still was time, and the greater the depths into which the evil spirit plunged its fledgling, the stronger would be the reaction. Augustine recognised this vacuum; he saw how the human heart is created with a great abyss; the earthly satisfactions that can be thrown into it are no more than a handful of stones that hardly cover the bottom. And in that moment grace was able to break through: Restless is the heart until it rests in God. The tears of his mother, the sanctity of Milan's Bishop Ambrose, the book of St. Anthony the hermit, and the sacred Scriptures wrought his conversion, which was sealed by baptism on Easter night 387. Augustine's mother went to Milan with joy and witnessed her son's baptism. It was what it should have been, the greatest event of his life, his conversion. Grace had conquered. Augustine accompanied his mother to Ostia, where she died. She was eager to die, for now she had given birth to her son for the second time. In 388 he returned to Tagaste, where he lived a common life with his friends. In 391 he was ordained priest at Hippo, in 394 made coadjutor to bishop Valerius, and then from 396 to 430 bishop of Hippo.
Augustine, numbered among the four great Doctors of the Western Church, possessed one of the most penetrating minds of ancient Christendom. He was the most important Platonist of early Christian times, the Church's most influential theologian, especially with regard to clarifying the dogmas of the Trinity, grace, and the Church. He was a great speaker, a prolific writer, a saint with an inexhaustible spirituality. His Confessions, a book appreciated in every age, describes a notable portion of his life (until 400), his errors, his battles, his profound religious observations. Famous too is his work The City of God, a worthy memorial to his genius, a philosophy of history. Most edifying are his homilies, especially those on the psalms and on the Gospel of St. John. Augustine's episcopal life was filled with mighty battles against heretics, over all of whom he triumphed. His most illustrious victory was that over Pelagius, who denied the necessity of grace; from this encounter he earned the surname "Doctor of grace." As an emblem Christian art accords him a burning heart to symbolise the ardent love of God which permeates all his writings. He is the founder of canonical life in common; therefore Augustinian monks and the Hermits of St. Augustine honour him as their spiritual father.
The Story of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist
(Saturday 29th August)
The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honour, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The “voice crying in the desert” did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life? This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. “I am baptising you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).
Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honour of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37).
It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centred on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation, repentance, and salvation.
Reflection:Each of us has a calling to which we must listen. No one will ever repeat the mission of John, and yet all of us are called to that very mission. It is the role of the Christian to witness to Jesus. Whatever our position in this world, we are called to be disciples of Christ. By our words and deeds, others should realise that we live in the joy of knowing that Jesus is Lord. We do not have to depend upon our own limited resources, but can draw strength from the vastness of Christ’s saving grace.
In our prayers:
Please remember to pray for the following sick or housebound: Bernard Moyers, Patrick Hodgson, Tod Smith, Angela Doyle, Ida De Melo, Maurice Nixon, Eva Shirreffs, Stefania Stasior, Irene Pallot, Ginger Newby.
This week’s prayer intentions include:
Paul and Christine Carroll would like to thank everyone for their Mass intentions, prayers, cards and best wishes for our Golden Wedding Anniversary. We spent the weekend with our family down in Cheltenham and had a lovely time.
Happy 13th birthday to Isaac Banks on Thursday 20th from Mum, Dad and Caitlin. Everyone who knows you joins with the family in giving you their best wishes on your special day. Did you know that you share a birthday with David Walliams whom you will know and St Bernard whom you will not know unless you read last week’s “Barrow Blog”?
Your response to the suggestion that we have a collection for Fr John was truly amazing and a reflection of the gratitude you felt for his work among us over the past two years. Including a generous donation from the Friends of St Gregory’s, the total raised was £1,230. This was sent to Fr John at the weekend along with a card.
Please find below the biography of the saints whose feasts occur in the coming few days. I know that some of you commented that you used to enjoy reading this element of the newsletter but I do realise that this document cannot be called a newsletter as it no longer comes with any official link to St Gregory’s. However, it seems a shame that all contacts should be terminated between former parishioners and so I thought that I might continue sending it out unless there are objections.
There seems no reason why you should not continue to send me details of birthdays and anniversaries if you do not mind these details being broadcast as before. And I am sure that our collective prayers for those who are unwell or housebound would be much appreciated.
However, if you would prefer not to receive these irregular mailings, please let me know and I shall delete your name from the circulation list.
Reading for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
First Reading: 1 Chronicles 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2
David gathered all Israel together to bring the ark of God up to the place he had prepared for it. David called together the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the shafts on their shoulders, as Moses had ordered in accordance with the word of the Lord.David then told the heads of the Levites to assign duties for their kinsmen as cantors, with their various instruments of music, harps and lyres and cymbals, to play joyful tunes.They brought the ark of God in and put it inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and they offered holocausts before God, and communion sacrifices. And when David had finished offering holocausts and communion sacrifices, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord.
David assembles all of the twelve tribes and proposes to bring the ark into their midst. The Ark of the Covenant is recovered from Kiriath-jearim, of Judah where, according to the chronicler, it had been since Saul’s reign. David establishes the Levites (the traditional tribe of priests) to bring it in procession before the people and, recalling their desert tradition has it placed in a tent. Placed within the context of sacred history, this event changes the understanding and structure of the Hebrew peoples. They are united in God’s presence represented by the Ark of the Covenant; not simply because of its attributes thought to bring blessings to the people.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This passage is St. Paul’s hymn of victory over death. It concludes his discourse on the resurrection. When the bodies of the elect, by resurrection become incorrupt, death is defeated, prophecy is fulfilled, and the final victory is won. He states how the “sting” of death is vanquished; a reference to the venomous sting of a serpent’s bite, the allegory to sin. The serpent without its sting can no longer harm those clothed in Christ. The hard work of the faithful Christian is not in vain as Christ’s victory is granted and salvation assured.
Gospel: Luke 11:27-28
As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’
You are invited to imagine what it might have been like if you were transported back to the time when Jesus walked the earth . See the woman who has watched the Lord cast out demons and cure the sick. Perhaps one of those cured was her own child, made whole by this holy man. We can see in this picture the gratitude and awe of the woman who, in a surge of love for the Lord, blurts out; “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”
The Lord must have looked at her with tenderness and compassion. It is his way, so intense is his love for all people. He must have seen in her the faith that makes his work on earth possible and in a selfless act, supporting her faith he tells her, gently and consolingly, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
We know that Mary his mother was probably nearby. She was likely in the vanguard of his disciples. Would these words have offended her? No, the Mother of our Lord would understand what her Son was saying to this woman. She would know that God’s Son would give the woman exactly the words she needed to hear to bring forth the Kingdom of God within her. How many times had she heard him say, after he had cured a sick child or had brought a person back from the shadow of death, “Your faith has cured you.”
No, Mary would have heard the woman’s blessing of her role in his mission of salvation and have been pleased, but her own humility would have been echoed in the words her Son gave the grateful woman. And does she not speak for all of us? His mission has not ended. He is still here with us, his Holy Spirit works miracles each day and each day we marvel at God’s creation.
Let our prayer today be a blessing on the womb that bore him and on the breasts that nursed him. Mary our Mother would certainly point to her Son and tell us “Blessed are you who hear the words of my Son and follow him.” This greeting will meet us if we are fortunate to come before the Queen of Heaven.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(15th August - transferred to Sunday 16th August)
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” The pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity. There were few dissenting voices. What the pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church.
We find homilies on the Assumption going back to the sixth century. In following centuries, the Eastern Churches held steadily to the doctrine, but some authors in the West were hesitant. However by the 13th century there was universal agreement. The feast was celebrated under various names - Commemoration, Dormition, Passing, Assumption - from at least the fifth or sixth century. Today it is celebrated as a solemnity.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s Assumptio
When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.n into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as God’s people. Since Mary best embodies the people of both Old and New Testaments, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the woman’s victory.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus’ life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to believe in Mary’s share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.
St John Eudes
(Wednesday 19th August)
How little we know where God’s grace will lead. Born on a farm in northern France, John died at the age of 79 in the next “county” or department. In that time, he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities, and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
John joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, during the plague he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field.
At age 32, John became a parish missionary. His gifts as a preacher and confessor won him great popularity. He preached over 100 parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months.
In his concern with the spiritual improvement of the clergy, John realised that the greatest need was for seminaries. He had permission from his general superior, the bishop, and even Cardinal Richelieu to begin this work, but the succeeding general superior disapproved. After prayer and counsel, John decided it was best to leave the religious community.
That same year John founded a new community, ultimately called the Eudists - the Congregation of Jesus and Mary - devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries. The new venture, while approved by individual bishops, met with immediate opposition, especially from Jansenists and some of his former associates. John founded several seminaries in Normandy, but was unable to get approval from Rome - partly, it was said, because he did not use the most tactful approach.
In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of prostitutes who sought to escape their miserable life. Temporary shelters were found, but arrangements were not satisfactory. A certain Madeleine Lamy, who had cared for several of the women, one day said to him, “Where are you off to now? To some church, I suppose, where you’ll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And all the time what is really wanted of you is a decent house for these poor creatures.” The words, and the laughter of those present, struck deeply within him. The result was another new religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.
John Eudes is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness; Mary as the model of the Christian life. His devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart led Pope Pius XI to declare him the father of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
(Thursday 20th August)
Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today - “golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “foorballer of the century” - that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe’s “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, had to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian, and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these - and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.
In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles, and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years, a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.
His ability as arbitrator and counsellor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions, he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.
Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favour of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.
The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.
Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.
(You may like to watch a short film about life at Mount St Bernard Abbey:
Saint Pius X
(Friday 21st August)
Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.
The second of ten children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at age 68. He was one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.
Ever mindful of his humble origin, Pope Pius stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”
Interested in politics, Pope Pius encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections - a practice that reduced the freedom of the 1903 conclave which had elected him.
In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.
While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake, and sheltered refugees at his own expense.
On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I. Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him. “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks after the war began, and was canonised in 1954.
The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
(Saturday 22nd August)
Pope Pius XII established this feast in 1954. But Mary’s queenship has roots in Scripture. At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “mother of my Lord.” As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, she is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court.
In the fourth century Saint Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Later Church fathers and doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.
The feast is a logical follow-up to the Assumption, and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. In his 1954 encyclical To the Queen of Heaven, Pius XII points out that Mary deserves the title because she is Mother of God, because she is closely associated as the New Eve with Jesus’ redemptive work, because of her preeminent perfection, and because of her intercessory power.
In our prayers:
Please remember to pray for the following sick or housebound: Bernard Moyers, Patrick Hodgson, Tod Smith, Angela Doyle, Ida De Melo, Maurice Nixon, Eva Shirreffs, Stefania Stasior, Irene Pallot, Ginger Newby.
This week’s prayer intentions include:
Good news section:
Peter and Brenda Fryer celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary on Wednesday 19th August. Brenda is having a shoulder replacement operation on the 17th and will be coming out of hospital on the 19th. Peter is preparing to serve cordon bleu menus upon her return. How many other husbands can claim that they have given their wives a new shoulder as an anniversary present? A little prayer for Brenda on Monday would be a lovely thought.