St Camillus de Lellis

Genesis 46.1-7,28-30; Psalm 36; Matthew 10.16-23

Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614) was born in Bucchiamico, Italy (then part of the Kingdom of Naples); his father was an officer in the Neapolitan Army.  Camillus spent his youth as a soldier of fortune.  Left penniless through gambling, he eventually found employment at a hospital for incurables run by the Capuchins in Manfredonia.  Because of infirmity caused by a leg that had been wounded in battle, he wasn’t accepted for the Capuchin novitiate.  He moved to Rome, worked in a hospital, and led a life of extreme ascetic practices.  He took as his spiritual director and confessor St Philip Neri, who encouraged him to enter seminary and seek holy orders.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1584 by Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of St Asaph and the last surviving Catholic bishop of Great Britain. 

Shortly after his ordination he founded the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm.  Better known as the Camillians, this order continues today, their unique fourth vow—‘to serve the sick, even at the risk of their own lives’—defining their particular apostolate.  Camillus de Lellis was canonised by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746; Pope Leo XIII declared him the patron of the sick and of hospitals. 

St Henry

Genesis 44.18-21,23-29; 45.1-5; Psalm 104; Matthew 10.7-15

Henry was born in Bavaria in 972; at the age of 23 he succeeded his father (known as ‘Henry the Quarrelsome’) as Duke of Bavaria.  At the age of 30 he succeeded his cousin as King of Germany; he was the first to take the title Rex Romanorum.  In 1014 he was elected Holy Roman Emperor and crowned (as Emperor Henry II) by the Pope, Benedict VIII.   

He is remembered as a just ruler, a defender of the Church, a friend of the poor and a model of virtue.  His principal task was unification of the German Empire and this aim he largely succeeded in.  He was bereft after the death of his wife, St Cunegund, and thought to resign his imperial power and become a monk.  Instead, he became an oblate of the Benedictines.  He founded a new diocese of Bamberg and built there a monastery and a Cathedral, where he was buried in 1024.  He is the patron of Benedictine oblates. 

Wednesday in Week 14

Gen 41.55-57; 42.5-7,17-24; Ps 32; Matt 10.1-7

We make an enormous leap in our first lesson today.  No longer is Jacob the centre of the story, but Jacob’s penultimate son, Joseph.  And no longer are we in the land promised by God to Abraham and his seed forever.  The scene has shifted to the land of Egypt, a land we are told is suffering from famine. 

Read the intervening chapters of Genesis (29-40) to understand how all this came about, and how Joseph came to be the Pharaoh’s minister. Remarkably Pharaoh told his own people ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you’!   The famine extended beyond Egypt to the lands of Joseph’s family, and his brothers travelled in search of food.  They evidently didn’t recognise him, but he knew them at once.  He understood their language, but they couldn’t understand his. 

Joseph had been greatly wronged by his brothers, but when he saw them he wept.   Over and over Genesis presents us with brothers at enmity with each other.  Here we are presented with the first glimmers of reconciliation.  In a remarkable way these brothers are being offered not only the will but the means to cast out the evil spirits that have come to inhabit them. 

St Benedict, Co-Patron of Europe

Proverbs 2.1-9; Psalm 33; Matthew 19.27-29

On the 4th of September 476 the barbarian Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last western Roman Emperor, and the Senate sent the imperial insignia to the Eastern Emperor.  This upset inaugurated the Dark Ages of Europe. 

St Benedict (circa 480-550) was born in Norcia, in Italy, and went to Rome to be educated.  Appalled at the worldliness he encountered there he resolved at about the age of 14 to life as a hermit and he went to live in a cave of mountainous Subiaco.   Benedict’s fame spread and disciples began to join him; he organised them into twelve small monastic communities.  Eventually he moved to Monte Cassino where he founded an abbey and wrote his Rule which he described as “a little school for the Lord’s service.”  Benedict drew on some Eastern models but his Rule steers a moderate path between individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism.  Benedict is considered the founder of Western monasticism. 

We give particular thanks on this day for the pastoral work of Benedictine monks in the history of this parish, and we pray for all Benedictine communities in this country and throughout the world. 

Monday in Week 14

Genesis 28.10-22; Psalm, 90; Matthew 9.18-26

One of the worst of popular religious songs is one that claims that ‘We are climbing Jacob’s ladder’.  The ladder set between earth and heaven that Jacob saw in a dream was a ladder populated by angels of God going up it and coming down.  This is not a picture of a way that we can by determined effort climb our way into God’s favour.  Rather it is a picture of God’s own determination to fuse the gap betwixt heaven and earth. 

That separation between God and his creation, was made explicit when Adam and Eve were thrust out of the Garden of Eden, the gates to the garden being secured by an angel with flaming sword.  The ladder represents God’s work to close the gap, the angels testifying to its heavenly provenance; mystical theologians have often seen in it a picture of Christ’s cross. 

Jacob, no less than you or I, was a child of Adam, an heir of the sundering of relationship between heaven and earth.  That separation spoilt the relationship between God and Jacob, but it also cast its shadow over Jacob’s relationships with his father, his mother, his brother. Jacob’s pilgrimage was far from over that night on the road to Haran.  By the time God finished with him he had lost everything he held dear, and had gained it back again. 

Saturday of Week 13 Per Annum

Genesis 27.1-5,15-29; Psalm 134; Matthew 9.14-17

The last words of yesterday’s first reading declare that by means of his new love for Rebekah his wife ‘Isaac was consoled for the loss of his mother’. [Genesis 24.67] Subsequent to that death Abraham had remarried [25.1], and to Keturah’s sons, as well as to unenumerated ‘sons of his concubines’ Abraham ‘gave presents’ [25.4-6] but to Isaac ‘Abraham gave all his possessions.’ [25.5]

Today’s lesson leaps forward to a day when ‘Isaac had grown old, his eyes so weak that he could no longer see.’ The time has come for the blessing imparted by God on Abraham and his seed forever to be passed down to another generation. In an elaborate ruse, apparently connived in by their mother, Jacob, the minutes-later younger son, manages to displace his twin brother Esau, and was declared the inheritor of the blessing and the wealth of his father. When Esau discovers the ruse and tries to get his father to withdraw his blessing and bestow it on him, Isaac just mumbles incoherently that he had only one blessing to give and it had been given.

Yet one gets the sense that Isaac knows what he has done, even if he doesn’t understand why. Jacob’s stratagem seems obvious, even transparent. Isaac knows, knows deeply in his soul, that it is Jacob whom God has chosen, not Esau. Since that day on Mount Moriah when Isaac’s squeaky little voice had asked his father ‘Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?’ [22.7] Isaac had known that the ways of God were inscrutable to him. Isaac was neither the garrulous hail-fellow-well-met that his father had been, nor the penetrating theologian he perhaps yearned to be. But when at the age of 180 years Isaac breathed his last and was laid to rest [35.28] he was ‘an old man who had enjoyed his full span of life’ [35.29] in every sense of the word. He had fulfilled his part in God’s plan, and through his sons, Esau and Jacob, who together buried him, that story would go forward.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, 09 July 2023

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Children’s)

Sunday, 09 July 2023