Dedication of the Cathedral – Feast

Thursday in week 13: 1 Kings 8:22-23,27-30; 1 Chronicles 29:10-12; Matthew 16:13-19

Directly following Sts Peter and Paul, our Cathedral Patron Saints, we have the feast of the dedication of the same cathedral.

As we discussed yesterday - names, particularly Biblical ones, are chosen for a reason. Our Cathedral is named for Peter and Paul. It has a fascinating history - recommended reading - which mirrors the reform of the whole church from Vatican II in its location, architecture and growth. Peter, the rock on which we have a firm foundation, Simon, because we listen, and Paul reminding us to be humble. Synodality is written even into the name of our diocesan church!

Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles – Solemnity

Acts 12:1-11; Psalm 33(34):2-9; 2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18; Matthew 16:13-19

Sts Peter and Paul are as it were to co-founders of the Church of Christ, and are celebrated together every year as a solemnity - and a holy day of Obligation. At St Gregory the Great  we have a vigil Mass on Tuesday evening, and Mass with the Parish Primary school at 09:30 on the feast day itself.

St Peter and St Paul were not martyred together, but from very early in church history (some evidence suggesting back to about the year 250 AD) they have been commemorated together in late June (now fixed on 29th June). Paul is noted for his letters (today's to Timothy) and Peter for his recognising Jesus as the Son, The Messiah of the living God. Jesus renamed Peter, a name meaning Rock, from Simon which means 'one who listens',  and said he would build his church on Peter. By conferring a name upon someone, we take them on as our responsibility - we do this when we give our children names, and our children learn to do this when they name pets. From that point on the named one becomes special. Paul is from a Roman name, and meaning a little one, or a humble person.


Saint Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr

Tuesday of week 13 in Ordinary Time: Amos 3:1-8,4:11-12; Psalm 5:5-8; Matthew 8:23-27

St Irenaeus (130 - 202)
Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor (now Izmir in Turkey) and emigrated to Lyons, in France, where he eventually became the bishop. It is not known for certain whether he was martyred or died a natural death.
  Whenever we take up a Bible we touch Irenaeus’s work, for he played a decisive role in fixing the canon of the New Testament. It is easy for people nowadays to think of Scripture – and the New Testament in particular – as the basis of the Church, but harder to remember that it was the Church itself that had to agree, early on, about what was scriptural and what was not.
  Before Irenaeus, there was vague general agreement on what scripture was, but a system based on this kind of common consent was too weak. As people meditated on the intolerable event of the Redemption, dissensions and heresies inevitably arose, and reference to scripture was the obvious way of trying to settle what the truth really was. But in the absence of an agreed canon of scripture it was all too easy to attack one’s opponent’s arguments by saying that his texts were corrupt or unscriptural; and easy, too, to do a little fine-tuning of texts on one’s own behalf.
  So Irenaeus went through all the books of the New Testament, and all the candidates (such as the magical pseudo-Gospels, and the entertaining and uplifting novel The Shepherd of Hermas). He did not simply accept or reject each book, because his enemies could have said that he was doing it to bolster his own arguments: he gave reasons for and against the canonicity of each. Irenaeus’s canon of scripture is very nearly the modern one (he does not quote from three of the short universal epistles), but more important is the fact that he started the tradition of biblical scholarship.
  Irenaeus had to fight against the Gnostics, who believed that the world was irredeemably wicked, and against the Valentinians, who claimed to be possessors of a secret tradition that had never been written down but passed from master to disciple through the ages. This pessimism and this arcane élitism remain with us even today, and each generation must renew the fight against them. Let us pray for the inspiration of St Irenaeus in our battle.

Monday of Week 13 in Ordinary Time

Amos 2:6-10,13-16; Psalm 49(50):16-23; Matthew 8:18-22

There are two kinds of Prophetical writings - those where the prophetic tradition was passed down auraly and later written down ('non-literary prophets') and those who wrote books of their own prophesy to hand on, such as Amos, today's first reading author. Actually the distinction is muddier than that - for example Amos almost certainly did not write the final part of the book of Amos, as the literary style changes somewhat.

In either case it is important to appreciate that Old Testament Prophecy is in no way meant to be a prediction of future events. It so happens, that much of the prophetic writings we have do predict actual events that we can seen the historical record and in archaeology. However - the prophets are often written down after the event has taken place - so we need to think more of OT prophesy as teaching us how to think and feel about situations and events.

Amos then is not so much predicting the downfall of Jerusalem, as warning us that continuing to behave badly will lead to a painful outcome. Overall, Amos's message is against the behaviour of those lucky few who hold all the resources in their control, and that we must change and become generous in our support of others. In Samaria, the capital of Israel, archaeologists have found grand houses of the date Amos was writing, built over the ruins of poorer housing, ‘bulldozed’ to make way for them. We can see this kind of behaviour in our country today - if you have a copy to hand their is a good discussion of this trend in a recent copy of 'The Big Issue' that deals with tearing down 1960's housing estates, the homes of communities of relatively poor people, to be replaced with popular and profitable commuter belt housing. The just thing to do would be to refurbish and improve the existing housing, maintaining the communities therein.

Prophets, with their uncompromising words, often create enemies. Jesus talks in Matthew 8 of this today - foxes and birds have their homes, but those who follow The Lord will have none. Yet -we are called to be prophets.

Immaculate Heart of Mary (25th June)

Lamentations 2.2,10-14,18-19; Psalm 73; Matt 8.5-17

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary originated with St John Eudes (1601-80). Whereas the Sacred Heart of Jesus shows the infinite love of God for humankind, Mary’s Immaculate Heart points to her interior life and presents us with a model for the love we return to God.

Her heart is a ready heart [Psalm 107/108.1], a prepared heart, a whole (integrated) heart. [Psalm 118/119.2] ‘Before she conceived Christ in her womb,’ St Augustine of Hippo wrote, ‘she had already conceived him in her heart.’

St Lorenzo Giustiniani (1381-1456) wrote: ‘Imitate her, O faithful soul. Enter into the temple of your heart that you may be purified in spirit and cleansed of the pollution of your sins.’ We pray this day that a merciful God may make of us worthy temples of his glory, that like her our hearts may be made ready, may be made whole. As she treasured the events of His holy life, storing them up for contemplation and pondering [Luke 2.19], so may we think devoutly on the life of God in our midst, hiding His word in our hearts. [Psalm 118/119.11]

Sacred Heart of Jesus (24th June)

Ezekiel 34.11-16; Ps 22; Romans 5.5-11; Luke 15.3-7

This solemnity is not about the anatomy or internal organs of our Lord, but rather about the way that the God who is love set his heart on his people. [Deuteronomy 7.7] Pope Pius XII wrote that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’without exception.

The most significant source of the devotion comes from the visions of St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a nun of the Visitation order. Our Lord appearing to her asked for more frequent reception of Holy Communion, particularly on the first Friday of each month, and for an hour’s meditation every Thursday evening on his Agony in Gethsemane.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that ‘The prayer of the Church venerates and honours the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins.’

Nativity of St John Baptist (23rd June)

Isaiah 49.1-6; Ps 138; Acts 13.22-26; Luke 1.57-66,80

St Luke presents the births of Our Lord and of his cousin John in tandem: first the angelic annunciation to Zachary, John’s priestly father; then the annunciation to Mary; then the birth of John; and finally, the birth of Jesus. John’s vocation was given before his birth as Jesus’ forerunner with the task of ‘preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’ [Luke 1.17]

St John Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets and our celebration of his birthday marks the dawning of a new dispensation. He himself declared of the coming Lord that ‘he must increase, and I must decrease’ [John 3.30] and, in each of the Gospels, it is John’s imprisonment that marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. [Mark 1.14] St John’s fearless preaching [Matthew 3.7-12] and his insistence that our spiritual lives profoundly determine how we must live in this world [Luke 3.7-14] set the stage for the Gospel that Jesus would proclaim. Many of Jesus’ earliest disciples had previously been disciples of John the Baptist [John 1.35-42], and the Passion of John Baptist [Mark 6.17-29] is a foreshadowing of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

SS John Fisher & Thomas More (22nd June)

II Maccabees 6.18,21,24-31; Ps 30; Matt 24.4-13

St John Fisher and St Thomas More didn’t die together, but they are commemorated together (on the date of John Fisher’s martyrdom) because both of them were put to death, during the reign of King Henry VIII, for defending the validity of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. John Fisher was Bishop of Rochester and Catherine’s confessor; Thomas More served as Chancellor until he resigned because of his opposition to the Act of Succession.

John Fisher (1469-1535) was one of the greatest intellects of his time and as bishop he was active in attacking protestant heretics—and in some cases having them tortured. Erasmus (1466-1536) called him the ‘one man at this time who is incomparable for uprightness of life, for learning and for greatness of soul.’

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) described the mind of Thomas More (1478-1535) as ‘full of light like a house made of windows; but the windows looked out on all sides and in all directions.’ Pope Pius XI, who canonised him, declared him the patron saint of statesmen and politicians, but his interests were far wider than that. He was the very model of the ‘Renaissance man’, and he combined that with a deep and affective piety. He was devoted to his family and managed to maintain a life of prayer amidst his public duties. Chesterton called him the greatest Englishman in history.

St Aloysius Gonzaga (21st June)

II Kings 19.9-11, 14-21,31-36; Psalm 47; Matthew 7.6,12-14

St Aloysius (1568-91) was an aristocrat who became a member of the Society of Jesus in opposition to his family’s intentions for him. He was rather frail and of delicate health, but during the plague that struck Rome in 1591 he first begged alms for the victims and then devoted himself to caring for them in the newly-established Jesuit hospital. Along with many other Jesuits he caught the disease and, though he recovered partially, a relapse led to his death at the age of 23. He was beatified only 14 years later and canonised in 1726. In 1926 Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of Christian youth; more recently he has been considered the patron saint both of AIDS victims and their caregivers.