Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Isaiah 7.1-9; Psalm 47; Matthew 11.20-24

Carmel is associated with Elijah; indeed in Arabic the mountain is called “the mount of Saint Elias.”  Elijah apparently lived in a grotto on Carmel, and it was there that he summoned the priests of Baal to a contest, to determine whether the people of Israel would worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or the foreign deities imported by Ahab and his Sidonian wife Jezebel.  [I Kings 16.29-34; 18.16-40]

During the Crusades, Christian hermits established themselves in caves on Mount Carmel; a religious order was established there in 1209.  They claimed that they were the spiritual descendants of Jewish hermits who had lived on the site without interruption since the time of Elijah.  They dedicated their new monastery to Our Lady, Star of the Sea—Stella Maris, possibly because Carmel is geographically close to Nazareth.  “Mother of Christ, Star of the Sea: pray for the wanderer, pray for me.”

St Bonaventure

Isaiah 1.10-17; Psalm 49; Matthew 10.34—11.1

John di Fidanza (1221-74) was born at Bagnoregio, near Viterbo.  Little is known about his childhood, but his father was a physician and a man of means.  There is a legend that St Francis of Assisi healed him as a four-year-old boy of a dangerous illness.  At the age of 22 he joined the Franciscans and took the religious name of Bonaventure.  He went to the University of Paris to study theology; at the age of 27 he was appointed Professor of Theology.  He became a close friend of St Thomas Aquinas.  

His academic life was cut short when in 1257 he was elected Minister General of the Franciscans.  He governed the order for the remainder of his life.  In 1265 he was chosen to be Archbishop of York, but he declined the appointment.  In 1273, however, Pope Gregory X insisted that he accept the bishopric of Albano and the dignity of the Cardinalate.  He was entrusted with direction of the Council of Lyons (1272-74), which was convened in an effort to heal the breach between the Eastern and Western churches.  Bonaventure fell ill after the third session and died between the 14th and 15th of July 1274.  He was canonised in 1482 and was declared a Doctor (teacher) of the Church in 1587.

Saturday of week 14 in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 92(93):1-2,5; Matthew 10:24-33

The past few day's Gospels from Matthew are collectively known as the mission discourse: the words of advice and encouragement given tot he twelve apostles as Jesus set them out on their travels to being good news to the Israelites (and which they later continued on into the whole known world at the time).

All of them (other than Judas and John) were martyred, yet the church asks us to essentially, do the same - take the good new out into the world. Are we to expect the same treatment? Well, it is not impossible, but it is unlikely. We are far more likely to encounter 'civil' opposition. For example we might preach the joy of life lived from natural conception to natural death - but we will certainly meet with those who champion the 'right to choose' point of view. In that particular case we might well remember that we believe in a right to life, not a right to choose death: ours is a positive viewpoint. Jesus did not promise that the Father would prevent the sparrows falling to the ground! Nor is it always easy to respond to such slurs with the patience and generosity as well as the truthfulness which Jesus would have shown. ‘A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar’, said St Francis de Sales. (HW - Universalis).

Do not be afraid - the Lord says over and over again - do not be afraid, for I will give you the words, take you to the places where people do want to hear me, and value you far more than anything else in my creation.


Friday of week 14 in Ordinary Time

Hosea 14:2-10; Psalm 50(51):3-4,8-9,12-14,17; Matthew 10:16-23

Hosea is full of prophesies of doom - the theme of being punished for turning away from God is present in almost every paragraph.

But at the end, and also at its heart emotionally, is todays' reading, full of love and care - come back to me says the Lord! "I will fall on them like dew" - does that sound familiar? It is in the eucharistic prayer, and is a wonderful image of refreshment and completeness - no wetness is wetter than being soaked to the skin by dewfall!

We have been warned to do what is right, but we are also encouraged by knowing that from wherever we have strayed to, God longs for us to return.

Feast of St Benedict

Proverbs 2:1-9; Psalm 33(34):2-11; Matthew 19:27-29

L I S T E N  carefully, my child,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father's advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,
whoever you may be,
who are renouncing your own will
to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,
and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all,
whatever good work you begin to do,
beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,
that He who has now deigned to count us among His children
may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.
For we must always so serve Him
with the good things He has given us,
that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,
nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
deliver us to everlasting punishment
as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

With these words begins the great Rule of St Benedict, upon which have been built successful communities that have endured for generation after generation. Indeed, the underlying principles have also shaped western society, so profoundly wise are they. Therefore Benedict is Patron of Europe.

Benedictine communities after the Bible, place the rule as so important that they read it in sections, data by day, the whole rule being read three times in a year. This practice is commendable and also easy to do: follow the link below to find the section of the rule to be read today.


Wednesday of week 14

Hosea 10:1-3,​7-8,​12; Psalm 104(105):2-7; Matthew 10:1-7

The start of Mathew 10 introduces us to the twelve apostles - those called out by Jesus to a special ministry of spreading the good news. Interestingly the other gospels have slightly different lists! But always there are 12 - a special number, for there were 12 tribes of Israel. Note that they are sent here exclusively to the people of God - Israel only, although as we know (we would not be here ourselves otherwise!) they actually went throughout the known world following the resurrection.

Simon(Peter) is given first place and Matthew points that out. Linguistically that is un-necessary as there he is, first named, but note that Andrew and Simon were called at the same time. So perhaps Simon(Peter) was given some leadership role in this group. The other apostles are quite a mixed crew - collaborators with the occupying Romans (collecting their taxes) are int he same group as the 'sons of thunder' (James and John) who might have been seen as terrorists by that same occupation.

All of them, other than John (who must have been quite young a this time) and the sad Judas, became martyrs for the faith. On these shoulders are built our church: despite their differences and arguments, one faith in one Lord.

Tuesday of Week 14

Hosea 8:4-7,​11-13; Psalm 113B(115):3-10; Matthew 9:32-37

Quite a contrast today between the first reading, and the Gospel.

Hosea is in striking graphical language condemning those who seek to reap from the earth that which they have not invested: a theme common to Hosea and Amos. They both strongly warn us not to set up princes - we are all equal and those in authority need to remember that they have a vocation to serve! We need to avoid worshiping false idols - focus our attention on The Lord and each other, not on synthetic values symbolised by the false gods of the times. And we must avoid accumulating wealth which then becomes our master: put money to good use - the good of all.

Having been thus warned buy the old testament, in his Gospel Matthew then tells us that in our time - 'the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few'. God has sown the richest of all harvests, that of faith in human hearts, and needs us all to gather it in. Our mission then is to seek the Lord in the lost, the weak, the poor.

Monday of Week 14

Hosea 2:16,17-18,21-22: Psalm 144:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26

Two women are healed, though which Matthew tells us two glorious things about Jesus:

The young girl is raised from death: Matthew is telling us that Jesus is the Lord of Life! Through him we can find true life.

An adult woman is cured of an haemorrhage: Matthew tells us that Jesus knows about and cares about our burdens, and we only need to reach out to him to find consolation.

Jesus could not act in either of these healings without those in need asking: that is allowing their faith (a gift from God to all) to prompt them to act. For the little girl, unable to act for herself, her father had to act for her - something that we need to remember as we all have responsibility for one another.

The Psalmist (as they so often do!) reminds us of the core of this message in just one line - the response to today's Psalm

The Lord is kind and full of compassion


St Maria Goretti

Amos 9.11-15; Psalm 84; Matthew 9.14-17

She was born in 1890 to a farming family in Coronaldo.  When she was 10 years old her father died and the family were forced to leave their farm.  They moved to share a farm with another family, the Serenellis.  Maria took over the housekeeping duties whilst other family members worked in the fields.

One afternoon Alessandro Serenelli, 20 years old, made sexual advances on Maria, then 11.  When she refused him he stabbed her 14 times.  Twenty-four hours later she died of her wounds, having expressed forgiveness for Alessandro and having stated that she wanted him to be in Paradise with her.  (During Alessandro’s subsequent imprisonment he repented and upon his release he became a lay brother of the Capuchins.  He died in 1970 at the age of 87.)

Maria was beatified in 1947 and canonised in 1950. Maria's Mother was present at his vows and Marias' relics lie in the altar at St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford.

She is the patron saint of rape victims.