St Sebastian, Martyr

II Samuel 1.1-4,11-12,17,19,23-27; Psalm 79; Mark 3.20-21

Sebastian (c256-288) was a soldier who came from Milan to enlist at Rome around the year 283.  The Emperor Diocletian, who did not know that Sebastian was a Christian, made him a Captain of the Praetorian guards.  In 286 his Christian faith was revealed.  Diocletian commanded him to be bound to a stake in the middle of a field where Mauritanian archers would shoot arrows at him.  Miraculously, though pierced with a large number of arrows and abandoned for dead, he survived and was nursed back to health by St Irene of Rome.

He positioned himself on a stairway by which Diocletian was going to pass and harangued the Emperor for his cruelties against Christians.  Diocletian ordered him to be seized and cudgelled to death.  His body was thrown into a sewer, but was removed by Christians and buried in the Catacombs of Calixtus.  His tomb was frequently visited by pilgrims. 

In the Middle Ages Sebastian was regarded as a saint with a special ability to intercede for victims of plague, and devotion to him markedly increased during plague times.  He is the patron of doctors and of policemen.

St Wulfstan, Bishop

I Samuel 24.3-21; Psalm 56; Mark 3.13-19

Wulfstan (c1008-95) was born in Long Itchington, Warwickshire, and was probably named for his Uncle Wulfstan, the Archbishop of York.  He became a Benedictine monk at Worcester and, after serving as Precentor and Prior, he was appointed Bishop of Worcester in 1062.  He was the only Englishman to retain his see after the Norman Conquest.  

During his 32 years as Bishop of Worcester Wulfstan struggled to bridge the gap between the old and new regimes. He was known for his benevolence to the poor, and was probably responsible for ending the slave trade from Bristol.  He undertook a number of large-scale re-building projects, including Worcester Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, and Tewkesbury Abbey.  He founded the Great Malvern Abbey and re-founded the monastery at Westbury-on-Trym.  During these years Worcester became renowned as a centre of learned culture.

Thursday in Week 2

I Samuel 18.6-9; 19.1-7; Psalm 55; Mark 3.7-12

The contest between Saul and David continues in today’s first reading.  The outcome of this race is, of course, determined.  God himself has removed his favour from Saul (‘the lord regretted having made Saul king of Israel’ [I Samuel 15.35]) and had put his Spirit onto David. [16.13] Saul is depicted as ‘jealous’ of David [18.9] and as endeavouring to kill him, though without success. [18.11] ‘In all his enterprises David was successful’ [18.14]; moreover ‘all Israel and Judah loved David, because he was their leader in all their exploits’. [18.16]

Saul hatched a different sort of plan.  He offered David his daughter’s hand in marriage.  Such an alliance necessitated the payment of a bride price [cf Genesis 24.53] but David had no resources.  So Saul sent a message to David that ‘the King desires no settlement except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, for vengeance on the king’s enemies.’ [I Samuel 18.25] The narrator notes that ‘Saul was planning that David should fall by the hand of the Philistines’.  David killed 200 Philistines and ‘Saul now realised that the lord was with David, and that all the House of Israel loved him; then Saul feared David all the more and became David’s lasting enemy’. [18.28-29]

Surprisingly, though, Saul’s son Jonathan ‘held David in great affection’ [19.1] and interceded with his father on David’s behalf.  ‘Saul was impressed by Jonathan’s words and took an oath, “As the lord lives, I will not kill him”’. [19.6]  The odd and intertwined relationships between Saul’s and David’s families had been set in motion.

St Antony, Abbot

I Samuel 17.32-33,37,40-51; Psalm 143; Mark 3.1-6

Antony (c. 251-356) is considered the father and founder of Christian monasticism.  A disciple of Paul of Thebes, he began to practice an ascetic life at the age of 20; about 15 years later he withdrew into complete solitude at Mount Pispir near the Nile.  There he entered on a series of combats with the devil.  After the Edict of Milan in 313 made the practice of Christianity licit in the Empire he moved to a mountain between the Nile and the Red Sea; the monastery he established there still stands today.  He ventured twice to Alexandria to preach against Arianism (the heresy which held that Jesus Christ was in some way different from or subordinate to God). Antony attracted disciples who endeavoured by imitating his holy life to combat evil and make the Church a more effective force against the devil, his works and his ways.

Tuesday in Week 2

I Samuel 16.1-13; Psalm 88; Mark 2.23-28

David is characterised as God’s own replacement for Saul.  Samuel is sent to anoint the new King, though Saul is still alive and is still reigning over Israel.  ‘Today the lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you and given it to a neighbour of yours who is better than you’ Samuel declares to Saul [I Samuel 15.28].  Not surprisingly, when Samuel arrives in Bethlehem, the ancestral town of David’s family, the town’s elders fear getting caught in the middle of a civil war between two factions.

Samuel is portrayed in this account as not knowing which of Jesse’s sons God has chosen to be King.  Saul had been chosen as King because he was ‘a handsome man in the prime of life’ who ‘stood head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people’. [I Samuel 9.2] Now, though, Jesse’s handsome, tall son Eliab is rejected [16.7] along with, one by one, all but one of Jesse’s sons.  The chosen one is the youngest, who had been sent out to the pasture to look after his father’s flock of sheep.  He is nonetheless prepossessing, ‘with fine eyes and pleasant bearing’. [16.12] He is anointed, and with the holy oil the Spirit of the lord is seen to ‘seize on David and remain with him from that day on.’ [16.13]  

Monday in Week 2

I Samuel 15.16-23; Psalm 49; Mark 2.18-22

The two sequential books of Samuel record the history of Israel through the focus of the first named prophet, Samuel.  Samuel’s own death is recorded in I Samuel 25.1 (he makes a spectral re-appearance in I Samuel 28) but the narrative continues without him.  Samuel was the transitional figure between the judges and the monarchy [I Samuel 8.1-5], and again the transitional figure between the reigns of King Saul and King David.

Samuel had an at best ambiguous attitude towards the monarchy as a form of government for Israel.  (The book of Judges, in which Samuel plays no part, is punctuated by the repeated refrain ‘In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did as he pleased’. [e.g. Judges 21.25]) The book of Samuel in our Bibles, though, is an editorial construction, contrasting the points of view of an anti-royalist [I Samuel 8; 10.17-24; and chapter 12] with that of a royalist [I Samuel 9—10.16 and chapter 11].  Samuel himself is made into a kind of bridge between the two positions.  Saul is depicted as an unworthy monarch [I Samuel 13.13-15] so Samuel breaks with him in order to advance the royalist position.  Samuel declares the judgement of the lord himself to Saul: ‘He has rejected you as king.’ [I Samuel 16.23]

David is portrayed as ‘a man after [the lord’s] own heart’ [I Samuel 13.14] but his descendants are mostly decried as unworthy.  The monarchy is brought to an end by the Babylonian invasion.  Yet even in exile the nation hoped that a King ‘like David’ would arise again.

Confirmation Program

Confirmation - What is it?

Our first session in this years confirmation program takes place this Sunday 14th January upstairs in the Old Priory directly after the 09:30 Mass

If you have missed signing up but still want to come - please turn up and ask for Maggie and Graham (who are the administrators). You must be Able to provide a Parent or Guardian's phone number. The session concludes at 12:30.

The Creed – January 11th 2024

Some notes for further reading, and a video you may wish to watch

First of all, read pages 28 and 29 of the Yellow YouCat book.

At this session, we discussed the creed – or rather, two creeds, both of which we read together at Mass. The Nicene Creed is the most commonly read one, the Apostles Creed is more frequently used at Easter, during Lent and at Confirmation, Baptisms, etc.

In the words of the Creed we profess “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” These four characteristics or “marks” of the Church indicate the essential features of the Catholic Church, her origin and her mission in the world. The Church does not possess these characteristics; rather we believe that it is Christ who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, makes his Body, the Church, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”

The word “Church” (Latin ecclesia) originally meant a convocation or assembly gathered for a religious purpose. In Christian usage the word “church” refers to the worshipping community, the local community or “parish” and the entire universal community of believers. (CCC, 751 – 752)

In the Old Testament God called the chosen people of Israel to be his holy people. The first Christians saw themselves as a continuation of that assembly. God created the world for communion with divine life and the Church is that community founded by Jesus Christ through which we grow in communion with God and with one another. In the Church, God now calls together all people into one community of faith, hope and love.

The Church was inaugurated by Jesus’ preaching and teaching and by his choice of twelve apostles with Peter as the head of the community. Ultimately the mystery of the visible and invisible reality of the Church is born from Jesus’ total self-giving on the Cross.

Jesus Christ makes the Church “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” Only in fidelity to Jesus’ teachings and his saving mission can the Church realize fully each of these qualities (CCC, 811-822)

The Church is “ONE” because of her founder and source: Jesus Christ. But from its very beginning, the ONE Church is marked by a diversity that comes from the variety of gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Among the Church’s members there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. (CCC 813 – 815)

The oneness of the Church is held together by “bonds of unity” or visible bonds of communion which are: above all charity, the profession of one faith received from the apostles, common celebration of the sacraments, and apostolic succession through Holy Orders (CCC, 815)

The “sole Church of Christ is that which our Savior entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and pastor it…this Church, constituted and organized as a society in this present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by bishops in communion with him. Elements of sanctification and truth are also found outside its visible confines.” (CCC, 816)

From the beginning divisions arose in the Church. Through the centuries large communities of Christians became separated from full communion – for which people of all sides were to blame. These divisions in the Body of Christ are a wound to Christian unity and contrary to the will of Christ. (CCC, 817-822)

The Church is the “HOLY” People of God made holy by Christ, her founder. While holy the Church is composed of sinful members who are constantly in need of conversion. (CCC, 825 – 827)

From time to time the Church canonizes saints, in whom the holiness of the Church shines. In canonizing saints the Church recognizes God’s sanctifying power in the lives of holy men and women and offers them to us as models of Christian living. (CCC, 828 – 829)

The Church is “CATHOLIC” meaning universal. Christ is present in the Church and she proclaims the fullness of faith to all peoples and is present everywhere in the world. (CCC, 830 – 856)

The Church is “APOSTOLIC” in that she is founded on the faith of the apostles. She continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the successors of the apostles, the bishops, assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Pope (CCC, 857 – 865)

 

Scripture References and Quotations

John 17: 21 Acts 2: 43- 47 Ephesians 4: 3-5 Matthew 16: 18

“The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect. In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired. Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state – though each in his own way – are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect” (CCC, 296)

“You are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son…” (Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles, I)

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING:

Universal Catechism, “The Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” Articles 811 – 870.

Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, Chapter I, articles 1-8

Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church, Chapters 3 and 4, articles 26-46 SUMMARISED