St Dominic

Habakkuk 1.12—2.4; Psalm 49; Matthew 17.14-20

Dominic (ca 1170-1221) was born in Castile in Spain and joined the Canons Regular of Osma. In 1206 he was sent to France to help uproot the Albigensian heresy, and there with six companions he founded the Order of Preachers (better known as the Dominicans) to assist in this work.

The Albigensians (named for the French town of Albi where a large number of adherents lived) viewed all the physical world as evil. They claimed that the world was the creation of a Demiurge eternally opposed to God. They saw Jesus as an angel, not God-made-man, and denied the efficacy of the sacraments. They taught sexual abstinence in marriage and vegetarianism. They decried the priesthood and denied the existence of Purgatory.

The Order of Preachers was approved by the Holy See in 1216 and has had a huge impact on the life of the church. Among their gifts to the church is the holy rosary, attributed to the preaching of St Dominic. Dominic died, exhausted, in Bologna.

Feast of the Transfiguration

II Peter 1.16-19; Psalm 96; Matthew 17.1-9

Jesus took three of his disciples—Peter and the brothers James and John—up into a mountain (traditionally Mount Tabor) where his glory was revealed to them. He was seen in deep conversation with Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets) and a heavenly voice declared him the Son of God. This revelation was evidently intended to strengthen the faith of the disciples for the trying times which lay ahead.

Strikingly, on the night of his betrayal and arrest, Jesus took these same three disciples with him into a secluded place where, once again, his Glory was revealed as he set himself to fulfil his Father’s will. The disciples were apparently neither strengthened by this, nor were they able to serve as support for him. Instead, they slept.

We saw his glory” St John’s Gospel [1.14] declares. This feast commemorates that vision and its grace gives us strength for the trying times we have to face in our time and circumstances. May we recognise the Glory of Christ alike in his trials and in his eternal glorification.

Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major

Jeremiah 31.1-7; Jeremiah 31; Matthew 15.21-28

The Blessed Virgin Mary was declared Theotokos (the Mother of God) by the Council of Ephesus in 431; in 434 Pope Sixtus III dedicated the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome in her honour. The church had been built by Pope Sixtus’s predecessor, Pope Celestine I. It enshrines the venerated image of Salus Populi Romani, depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary as the help and protectress of the Roman people.

Construction of the basilica was made possible by the benefaction of a childless patrician couple in Rome. Legend has it that a miraculous shower of snow, in the midst of Roman summer, indicated the site on which it should be built on the Esquiline Hill. The legend is commemorated by dropping white rose petals from the dome during Mass on this day.

St John Vianney

Jeremiah 30.1-2,12-15,18-22; Psalm 101; Matthew 15.1-2,10-14

St John Vianney (1786-1859) grew up during the Terror of the French Revolution, when the Cult of Reason was established as the summit of the radical dechristianisation of France.

Napoleon’s Concordat of 1802 enabled the restoration of Catholic life. John Vianney entered the diocesan seminary in 1806, at the age of twenty, though his preparatory schooling had been spotty due to the interruptions of the Revolution and he found academic work very taxing. A further interruption was caused by Napoleon’s draft of soldiers. St John deserted and managed to evade detection. At length an Imperial decree pardoned all deserters and
St John returned to seminary. He was ordained in 1815 and three years later was made parish priest
(Curé) of Ars-sur-Formans, 20 miles north of Lyons; at that time it was a village of 230 inhabitants. He was to remain there nearly 42 years, until the end of his life.

He quickly became aware of the religious ignorance and indifference wrought by the Revolution. He patiently taught the practice of the faith and he dedicated himself to hearing confessions. By 1827 his priestly ministry had become well known and Ars had become a pilgrimage site. By 1855 it is estimated that 20,000 penitents from around the world came annually to make their confessions to the Curé, who spent from 12 to 16 hours each day in the confessional. He was canonised in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, who declared him the patron saint of parish priests.

Wednesday of week 18 – 3rd August

Jeremiah 31:1-7; Jeremiah 31:10-12,13; Matthew 15:21-28

The Cananite woman teaches us a lot about prayer - be persistent! Jesus initially ignores her - he is in fact quite rude to her. This emphasises that Jesus primary mission was to those of faith - the woman from Cana not being an Israelite was not his business. But she continues to beg for her daughter's sake, and Jesus' disciples get fed up with her and join in the pleading for healing. There is a degree of 'banter' between Jesus and the woman, but he does give her daughter health again. The reference to dogs is something of a pun, as the Greek for those from another state was Barbaros - dogs - deriving from the unintelligible noise they make due to the language difference. The woman's quick witted response is clearly appreciated by Jesus, an insight into his human personality. (He also spars verbally with the woman at the well). It shows a willingness to actually listen to a woman which would have been striking in his time and place.

If we read the words of doctors and saints of the church it is often evident that this struggling to be heard by God is common. Mother Teresa for example wrote that she prayed for 40 years without feeling that God was listening to her - but that he did in the end. There will often be times in our lives when our prayers seem to go unanswered. One of the less is to go on praying and to keep on listening for the answer. It will come, we may not find in the expected way, but it will come.

"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" (Julian of Norwich).

St Peter Julian Eymard

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 33(34):2-11; John 15:1-8

He was born in the town of La Mure, France in the year 1811. Ordained a priest and engaged in pastoral work for some time, he later entered the Society of Mary. A fervent disciple of the Eucharistic Mystery, he established two congregations, one for men, the other for women, dedicated to the worship of the Eucharist. He was also the initiator of many other apostolates, aptly chosen to arouse love for the Holy Eucharist among the faithful. He died on August 1, 1868 in the town in which he was born.

A quick tour of the internet will provide ample evidence that pruning of vines (John 15:1-8) is essential to provide a bountiful harvest. The guides provide detailed information about where and when to cut. The point to note is not that some branches are discarded, left to rot, nor that the vine after dressing itself looks dead and dry: but that the thing keeping the vine alive is the sap - the pulsing force which brings new life. For us, that sap is Christs Love - and we are responsible for carrying the sap on to the buds and twigs growing from us.

Laudato Si’ meeting 9th August

Cheltenham Laudato Si' Circle meets ‘face to face’ on Tuesday 9th August

Cheltenham Laudato Si' Circle meets ‘face to face’ on Tuesday 9th August at 11am. Special guest: Dr Susan Porter, Laudato Si’ Animator. All welcome.

Meet in Montpellier Spa Rd by NE Corner of Montpellier Gardens: bring rug or garden chair.

For further details, ring 01242 244182 or email cheltenhamlaudatosicircle@gmail.com.