The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12; Luke 1:39-56

In not very many words, Luke tells us a lot about Mary - indeed, almost all we know about her for sure, comes from his writing. It is difficult to think that anyone could every be a more complete person. She was a Mother, a Wife, and a deeply spiritual person who not only knew the Hebrew scriptures well, but also gave time to ponder upon them. Her most famous prayer, contained in today's Gospel, and recited daily by millions of christians around the world, is the Magnificat. It is constructed from several scriptural quotations, but we should not complain that this is plagiarism! No, it is a synthesis - the sum of the whole is much more than the mere total of the parts used.

It should be said every day by everyone at the end of every day - as it reminds us that throughout the day, God has cared for us in innumerable ways. Often, in ways that we don't know. One could either listen to it being sung, or read it to oneself, in either case take the time to listen to the words.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

Tuesday of week 8 in Ordinary Time

Ecclesiasticus 35:2-15; Psalm 49(50):5-8,14,23; Mark 10:28-31

The long seasons of Lent and Eastertide are over - we are back in Ordinary Time!

With some regret, perhaps, we now leave the daily reading form the Acts of the Apostles, and return to readings taken from the Old Testament, to accompany the daily Gospel reading. The acts had taken us on a rollercoaster ride of discovery as the new church grew and spread around the middle east. Now,  the new church founded by Christ, and given His own Mother too, has to grow and fend for itself throughout the known world without the direct assistance of anyone who ever met Christ as human. We continue today, but are guided by a rich and complex library of books - the Bible. Catholic teaching also emphasises that the ongoing revelation about the meaning of our relationship with God is not frozen in time in the scriptures. They are the pre-eminent source of all knowledge, but we are also blessed with the thoughts of the church Doctors, and should read beyond just scripture itself to help us grow.

Fortunately we also have some excellent authors and students of the bible in our midst, and can locate reliable guides to how to use the daily bible readings for example the recently published "The Diary of God" by John Huntriss. 

Mary, Mother of the Church

Genesis 3:9-15,20; Psalm 86(87); John 19:25-34

Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother"

Christs last act as man on earth, was to bless us by sharing his mother with us, his disciples, telling her that we are her children. This is a two way relationship, as he also told his disciple (us) that she is our Mother. However long ago it may have been, each of us has a mother, who will remember giving birth to us, and nursing us as we grew. Those intimate human acts create a life long bond that whatever life brings to us are not able to be broken. You may well know someone who has spent a lot of time and money to locate their birth mother, such is the strength of that bond it can survive illness, family break up, all sorts of life trauma.

Christ, having given up everything else, to be humbled upon a cross for us, also gave up that relationship, establishing it as a permanent gift to everyone in his church. This is why we have the long tradition in our church of prayer to Mary the Mother of Christ, who has continued to bless us with appearances throughout history, for example Lourdes, Knock, and Walsingham. It is perhaps surprising that the name "Mary, Mother of the Church" was only formally adopted by the church on 21 November 1964, by Pope St Paul VI although he did acknowledge the long history of that relationship, which had been spoken of by St Augustine and St Leo the Great many centuries before.

Salve, Regina!

St Augustine of Canterbury

I Thessalonians 2.2-8; Psalm 116; Luke 10.1-9

In 596, Pope St Gregory the Great appointed Augustine, then the Prior of St Andrew’s Abbey in Rome, to lead thirty monks to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons.  They landed at Ebbsfleet in Kent in the spring of 597, and were cautiously received by King Æthelberht.  The King and his court were converted (his wife, Queen Bertha, was already a Christian who had brought to Kent the Merovingian Bishop Liudhard as her Chaplain) and he donated land for the missionaries to establish a monastery and Cathedral at Canterbury, Æthelberht’s principal city.  Thousands of converts were baptised on Christmas Day of 597.  In 601 a second delegation was sent from Rome (among other things, they brought Augustine the pallium, denoting his archiepiscopal authority), and by 604, Bishoprics had been established at London and Rochester and a school for the training of native clergy had been opened.  St Augustine probably died 26 May 604.  As we give thanks for the apostolate of Augustine, let us pray that we in our time may also be given courage to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.

Solemnity of Pentecost (Children’s)

Sunday, 28 May 2023



St Philip Neri

Acts 20.17-27; Psalm 67; John 17.1-11

St Philip Neri (1515-95) was born in Florence but spent most of his life in Rome, where in the catacombs in 1544 he had a mystical experience when he ‘felt himself divinely filled with the power of the Spirit.’  He has been called the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’ (after St Peter) because of his foundation of a society for secular clergy (i.e., those not in religious orders) known as the Congregation of the Oratory.  He was noted for his work among the sick and the poor of the city, and with prostitutes.

The Oratory began as a series of evening meetings with hymns, prayers, readings from Scripture and the Church fathers, and a lecture on some theological question.  The movement grew and attracted adherents from every class of society.  St Philip (whom Pope St John
Paul II termed ‘the apostle of joy’) had an easy, conversational manner.  Fr Frederick Faber, C.O. (1814-63), the founder of the London Oratory, considered St Philip ‘emphatically a modern gentleman … acquainted with what was going on in the world and taking a real interest in it.’

St Philip died on 25th May 1595, the Feast of Corpus Christi that year, after a day of hearing confessions and receiving visitors.

St Bede the Venerable

Acts 19.1-8; Psalm 67; John 16.29-33

St Bede (ca672-735) is known as the Father of English History for his monumental Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples, completed about 731.  He is the only native of Great Britain to have been declared a Doctor (‘teacher’) of the Church.  Many consider him the most important European scholar of the two centuries between the death of St Gregory the Great (604) and the coronation of Charlemagne in 800.

Born near present-day Jarrow, probably of a well-to-do family, he spent most of his life as a Benedictine monk in the double monastery of St Peter and St Paul in Northumbria.  At the age of about 14 he survived the devastating plague of 686; he was said to be one of two surviving monks in his monastery who were capable of singing the whole of the office.  He was ordained a deacon at the age of 19. About 702 (age 30) he was ordained a priest.

In addition to his astonishing historiography, he wrote scientific and theological works, the range of his interests running from music and metrics to scriptural exegesis.  He died on the Feast of the Ascension; in 1020 his relics were translated to Durham Cathedral, where they remain today.  His accomplishments remind us of the importance of the monasteries in the history of these islands, and encourage us to ask his intercession for monastics and scholars.

St Aldhelm, Bishop

Acts 16.22-34; Psalm 137; John 16.5-11

St Aldhelm (ca639-709) was from a young age a monk of Malmesbury; indeed the town took its name from Aldhelm’s teacher, the Irish scholar Máeldub, who had settled there.  After a short interlude at Canterbury (where he studied with the notable African scholar Hadrian) he returned to Malmesbury and in 675 he became Abbot upon Máeldub’s death. His contemporaries described him as ‘a wonder of erudition’.  As the community at Malmesbury increased he was able to establish new monastic establishments at Frome and at Bradford-on-Avon.  In 705, upon the death of Hædde, the Bishop of Winchester, his diocese was divided, and Aldhelm became Bishop of the western half, centred on Sherborne.  He remained Abbot of Malmesbury as he took up his new episcopal duties.  Nonetheless he was an active and energetic bishop, well known for his public proclamation of the Gospel interspersed with songs in popular style and clowning routines.  He died on an episcopal visitation to Doulting, Somerset.  He was buried at Malmesbury, but in 980 St Dunstan translated his relics to Canterbury.

Tuesday in Week of Easter 7

Acts 20.17-27; Psalm 67; John 17.1-11

Whereas the three ‘Synoptic’ Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) show Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest, praying in staccato bursts ‘Father, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, let thine be done’, St John portrays a much calmer Jesus whose prayer occupies the whole of John’s  Gospel’s 17th Chapter.  Here Jesus is revealed to us as one whose will has been entirely united to that of his Father.  He asks not for relief from the anguish of the hour [cf John 12.27-28] but for complete and perfect Union with the Father who has brought him to this place and time.  This is the prayer of the priestly Jesus, the mediator betwixt God and humanity.  It is the prayer of the Jesus who is at once perfectly and completely God and perfectly and completely man.  He strides like the Colossus across the rupture between the Creator and his creation, in his own body uniting the severed halves. [cf Ephesians 2.14] Even before he has mounted the cross and battered the enemies of God and of his people, this Jesus can confidently assert that he has ‘finished the work you can me to do.’ 

For John the cross is not a picture of Christ’s suffering but of his glorification.  John has no account of the physical ‘ascension’ of Christ, of his return to the Father.  For John Jesus’ perfect submission to the will of his Father effects their reunion.  Jesus can calmly face the ignominy of the Cross because he has learnt that in obedience to his Father lies perfect freedom.