St Etheldreda (Audrey)

II Corinthians 11.18,21-30; Psalm 33; Matthew 6.19-23

Æthelthryth (circa 636-679) remains one of the most popular royal saints of the Saxon period. She was born near Newmarket the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia; he was said to be the descendant of the Norse god Odin. Remarkably, she and her three sisters (all of whom were eventually canonised) all retired from public life and established abbeys. She was twice married, both times for political reasons, but through both marriages she maintained the life of perpetual virginity which she had vowed as a young girl.

Etheldreda founded a double monastery (for both men and women) at Ely in 673 (on the present site of Ely Cathedral); in 870 it was destroyed by the Danes. (A legend holds that those who attempted to vandalise her shrine were struck down by God.) She ruled as Abbess until her death; her sister Seaxburh succeeded her. Etheldreda’s close friendship with Wilfrid, Archbishop of York, led to her bequeathing land for the establishment of various religious houses in Yorkshire, including Hexham Abbey. Etheldreda’s sanctity was recognised by her contemporaries and she was thought of in the Middle Ages as a kind of English Virgin Mary, a holy mother who metaphorically gave birth to a dynasty of religious women whilst maintaining her chastity.

SS John Fisher & Thomas More

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

II Corinthians 9.6-11; Psalm 111; Matthew 6.1-6,16-18

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.

St Alban, Martyr

II Corinthians 8.1-9; Psalm 145; Matthew 5.43-48

St Alban (his birthdate is unknown, and his death date is disputed, between 209-313) is the earliest recorded martyr on British soil. He lived in the town known in Roman times as Verulamium (today the city of St Albans) but his socioeconomic status is unknown. He gave shelter to a priest (traditionally known as Amphibalus, from the Latin word meaning ‘cloak’) who was fleeing persecution. He was so impressed with the priest’s faith and piety that he became a Christian himself, and when soldiers came to his door searching for the priest Alban put on the priest’s cloak and presented himself as the priest they were pursuing. The ruse was discovered, and Alban was himself taken before the authorities, the judge who heard the case outraged that he would protect such a perfidious person. Alban was commanded to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and when he refused, asserting that ‘I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things’, he was condemned to death.

He was led out to be executed. They reached the River Ver where Alban, desiring that martyrdom should come quickly, prayed and the river dried up, allowing Alban and his captors to cross on dry land. At the summit of a hill Alban was thirsty and prayed for a drink; there a well sprung up miraculously. Alban was beheaded and a variety of miracles were attested at the place; a cult of the martyr grew up (perhaps as early as the early 4th Century) and spread to Europe, in the Rhine and Rhone valleys, the French Alps, Switzerland and Italy.

St Romuald, Abbot

II Corinthians 6.1-10; Psalm 97; Matthew 5.38-42

Romuald was born at Ravenna to the aristocratic Onesti family around the middle of the 10th Century. When Romuald was 20 years old, his father killed a relative in a duel over property rights. Romuald was devastated by this event and went to observe 40 days of penitence at the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. He decided to become a monk there, but although the monastery had recently been reformed by St Mayuel, the influential Abbot of Cluny, Romuald found its observances lax and he made himself unpopular in the community by zealous correction of the faults of others. He retired to Venice where he placed himself under the direction of a hermit, Marinus, and lived a life of extraordinary severity.

About 978 he left Venice because of political instability there and with Marinus established a hermitage at Cuxa, where he was to remain for ten years, refining his ideals of monasticism. After that he spent 30 years going around Italy, establishing monasteries and hermitages. The Holy Roman Emperor Otto III persuaded him to become Abbot of Sant’Apollinare, but after a year of attempting to reform the monastery he left in disgust, throwing down his abbatial staff at the feet of the emperor. He returned to a hermit’s life, coming eventually to Camaldoli where, according to legend, a certain Maldolus, having had a vision of a monk ascending into heaven, gave him land. There he established the hermitage which became the mother house of the Camaldolese Order. He died in 1027 after a life of prayer and rigorous penance.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, 18 June 2023

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Children’s)

Sunday, 18 June 2023

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Psalm 102(103):1-4,6-8,10; 1 John 4:7-16; Matthew 11:25-30

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, encouraged by mediaeval mystics and promoted by St Gertrude, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St John Eudes and others, represents a devotion to Jesus in his human nature, in particular referring to the heart as the seat of the emotions. The sacred heart of Jesus has been frequently represented in liturgical imagery - if you have one to hand, meditate on the image for a while today. Let Jesus' love enfold you.

 

 

Matthew 11 (Todays Gospel) is a most encouraging one and reveals just how generous is Gods Love. Despite all the difficulty and shear hard work of daily life - Jesus asks us to come to him, for his yoke is easy and His burden is light. Indeed - so light that it lifts our burdens, and Jesus carries them to the cross. The vision of the sacred heart reminds us of this.

The 'Yoke' might been seen to mean the burden of the Laws of Moses - which could be over applied, so that for one example, Jesus had to tell us that the Sabbath is made for the man, not man for the Sabbath. Jesus' yoke of laws, is set upon us by the spirit living within us - this is how we know, innately, when we have done wrong. The Spirit, being alive in our hearts, lifts us away from any temptation.

Wednesday of week 10 in Ordinary Time

2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Psalm 98(99):5-9; Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus' good news does not over-write the previous covenant between God and his creation, mankind. In todays Gospel from Mark, Jesus clearly states that all of the old laws - based on the 5 books of scriptures that are collectively called the Pentateuch, stand forever - they still apply today.

However Jesus does complete them. So we do need to pay attention when he quotes from them - he usually adds an emphasis and makes clear the real meaning of them. Often He does this by practice - such as asking the crowd, who will cast the first stone? Because if you do, then you will be judged by the same law. None of us is perfect, so none of us can cast that stone.

The dots and strokes that Jesus refers to are a feature of Hebrew text. They work somewhat as vowels in English text, and so can change the meaning of a word completely. It is therefore very important when reading Hebrew (which I can't!!) to observe them - so really Jesus is saying that we need to study these texts carefully, looking for every small detail that can bring meaning to them. Fortunately we have in our diocese some skilled at this.

If you have the time - watch the recorded talks given by John Huntriss on our website (there are several more at the Diocesan website). John is a skilled interpreter of the scriptures, and can help us to understand the texts in a way that makes them relevant to our lives today.