St Nicholas

Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 22(23); Matthew 15:29-37

Nicholas’s existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life except that he was probably bishop of Myra in the 4th century. According to tradition, he was born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara, and, when young, traveled to Palestine and Egypt. He became bishop of Myra soon after returning to Lycia. He was imprisoned and likely tortured during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian but was released under the rule of Constantine the Great. He may have attended the first Council of Nicaea (325), where he allegedly struck the heretic Arius in the face. He was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well known. In 1087 Italian sailors or merchants stole his alleged remains from Myra and took them to Bari, Italy; this removal greatly increased the saint’s popularity in Europe, and Bari became one of the most crowded of all pilgrimage centres. Nicholas’s relics remain enshrined in the 11th-century basilica of San Nicola at Bari, though fragments have been acquired by churches around the world. In 2017 researchers dated one such relic fragment, a piece of hip bone, from a church in the United States and confirmed it to be from the 4th century.

After the Reformation, devotion to Nicholas disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name St. Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country’s English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas.

Under various guises, St. Nicholas was transformed into a similar benevolent gift-giving figure in the Netherlands, Belgium, and other northern European countries. In the United Kingdom, Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas.

St Osmund (1st Monday of Advent)

Hebrews 5:1-10; Psalm 109(110):1-4; John 4:19-24

St Osmund was a Bishop of Salisbury who helped compile the Domesday Book.

A member of the Norman nobility, he was the son of Count Henry of Seez and Isabella, half-sister of King William the Conqueror of England. He took part in the Norman Conquest and served Williamas his chancellor.

In 1078, he was appointed bishop of Salisbury, completing the cathedral there and founding a cathedral chapter of canons regular and school for clerics. Osmund also assisted the king in assembling the massive census which became the Domesday Book. In the dispute over investiture between King William II and St. Anselm of Canterbury, Osmund initially sided with the king, but later he admitted he had made a mistake, and he begged Anselm's forgiveness. Osmund also collected manuscripts for the cathedral library, was a copier and binder of books, authored a life of St. Aldhelm, and was thought to be responsible for drawing up the books governing the liturgical matters for the diocese such as the Mass and Divine Office, the so called Sarum Use. Canonized in 1457 by Pope Callistus III, he was the last English person to be declared a saint until the canonization of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher in 1935.

John Huntriss, Talk on Scripture

The Diary of God - 14th December 2023

We welcome John Huntriss as guest speaker. John is a well known and respected speaker on Scripture, who has recently published "The Diary of God". This book guides us through the entire bible over the three year cycle of the Liturgy of daily Mass, and is recommended by our Bishop who wrote the forward. John will be selling copies after the talk (£5:00, cash only).

This event forms part of our RCIA Journey in Faith program, and like all of these events is open to all of the Parish: all are very welcome to come!

Saturday of week 34

Daniel 7:15-27; Daniel 3:82-87; Luke 21:34-36

A short passage from Luke today - with perhaps three points to notice:

Stay Awake - constantly behave as if the second coming of the Lord is imminent - today - now! You travel through life like someone on a trail - and then suddenly a trap catches you out!

Be Ready - and the way to be ready is though prayer.

Be Confident - Jesus has saved you, so be confident in a welcome front he Lord when the time comes!

I have been told that the letters making the Aramaic word for 'Trap' are the same as those for 'Labour Pains'. (Aramaic is written with no vowels, so it is very possible to read the same letters as two or more very different words!). If that was intended as a pun, then the trap is as certain as labour at the end of pregnancy. Although I would also suggest that we can read more into texts than the Author intended - in the case of Luke, we often find that every single word is carefully chosen by the masterful author that he was - and he was also a Doctor so well able to make good use of imagery about life and health.

We can make use of a three letter biblical acronym - ARC - Awake, Ready, Confident!

Saint Alexander Briant, Martyr

2 Corinthians 6:4-10; Psalm 123(124):2-5,7-8; Matthew 5:1-12a

Alexander Briant (or Bryant) was born in Somerset (1556), and entered Hart Hall, Oxford (now Hertford College), at an early age. While there, he became a pupil of Father Robert Parsons which lead to his conversion to the Catholic Church. Having left the university he entered the seminary at Douai in France, and was ordained priest in 1578. He was assigned to the English mission in August of the following year to work as a priest in his own county of Somerset. After working only briefly he was arrested in April 1581 by a group who were searching for Father Parsons. After spending some time in Counter Prison, London, he was taken to the Tower where he was subjected to tortures that, even in Elizabethan England, stand out for their viciousness. The rack master admitted that Briant was “racked more than any of the rest,” and following a public outcry was imprisoned for a few days for cruelty. With six other priests Briant was arraigned, on November 16, 1581, on the charge of high treason, and condemned to death. In a letter to the Jesuit Fathers in England written from prison he says that he felt no pain during the various tortures he underwent, and adds: “Whether this that I say be miraculous or no, God knoweth, but true it is.” He also asked that he might become a Jesuit, having vowed to offer himself should he be released. Accordingly he is numbered among the martyrs of the Society. He was scarcely more than twenty-five years old on 1 December, the day of his martyrdom. He suffered with Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin.