St Ambrose

Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 117(118):1,8-9,19-21,25-27; Matthew 7:21,24-27

When I think of St Ambrose, I am impelled to remember Fr Ambrose, who was a Priest in our Parish before my time, and like many of the Benedictines from Douai, retired to be Parish Priest at St Benets, Kemerton. Fr Ambrose was a big influence in my early life, as my grandparents were parishioners at Kemerton and attended daily Mass. I remember him for his lovely almost singing delivery of the canon of the Mass, my parents generation would remember him for his calm and supportive nature. Like many he is of course a Saint - he just is not in the official list.

In some cultures Saints Days are more important than birthdays - they are the day we remember our ancestors on. So if you had a certain Ambrose, Claire, Nicholas or Joan in your Family, find out their saints day, and when it arrives, remember them in your prayers.


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Nicholas’s existence is not attested by any historical document, so nothing certain is known of his life except that he was probably bishop of Myra in the 4th century.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.

Saint Andrew, Apostle

Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 18(19):2-5; Matthew 4:18-22

"follow me  - - - I will make you Fishers of men " and it is striking how they do just that - with no hesitancy, even, leaving their nets dangling in the water. And thus Jesus calls Simon Peter, and today's Saint Andrew, and a little later, Simon and James, all fishers on the sea of Galilee.

Would we be able to drop everything and follow Jesus when He calls us? Many of those with a visible vocation, such as myself, actually spent years avoiding the call (in my case to the permanent diaconate). And yet - on the day of ordination, there was an insistent and urgent call to take those few steps from a seat in the congregation, forward to our Bishop who in the person of Christ conferred ordination. And most days, there is someone that needs to be listened to, and a response of giving time and presence there and then, immediately, is needed. Most of us, also, have many calls - to a vocation of work, marriage, prayer perhaps.

Perhaps as you read this you also are aware of a calling forward to something. If it is Christ calling you, then Christ will not stop - so carry on listening and if the call continues, some day, make an immediate response. And let us pray for each other's vocations, that God may bless us with a sure knowledge of what they are, and the courage to say Yes, Lord - I follow.

Tuesday of week 34

Daniel 2:31-45; Daniel 3:57-61; Luke 21:5-11

All three of the synoptic Gosples (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell of Jesus prophesying about the end times. However, Luke differed from he others in three ways:

Luke talks only of the destruction of the Temple, not of 'everything'. As the temple was destroyed by Roman military action in AD70 this is usually taken as evidence that Luke was writing after AD70. Note that prophesy does not mean 'prediction of time and place' for events. Instead read prophesy as a way of describing consequences for behaviour.

Matthew and Mark both place Jesus on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem, while Luke has Jesus in the temple complex. The importance of the Temple to Luke is clear - as his Gospel both begins and ends in the temple, and Jesus visits the Temple several times.

Luke has Jesus speaking of work that the disciples must do between now and the ned times. In this way Luke is telling the people of God that we need to permanently be making ourselves ready. The end times are going to come, but not necessarily imminently. For both Mark and Matthew, the end times are in our own lifetime. By AD 70 most if not all of those who had met Jesus in His lifetime would have been dying out - so the end times are at least more than one lifetime away.

Monday of week 34

Daniel 1:1-6,8-20; Daniel 3:52-56; Luke 21:1-4

It is said that the Temple had metal horns set up so that when bags of money were poured in a loud noise would be made, to allow everyone to know exactly how lavish the wealthy were in their giving. The ting ting of two small light coins dropping in from a poor widows' hand would make a barely audible noise in contrast. But Jesus noticed the noise, and knew exactly how much those coins meant to the widow.

It can hardly be said to be a bad thing that wealthy people give well to the Church - indeed many good projects result with outcomes that help all to build the church. We do need to remember the contributions that are less visible, less audible, and un-noticed - as for God, the amount given is not measured by the good the gift can achieve, but the goodness of the heart that is giving. It is especially important as we head into Advent (which does not start for another week yet!!!) that when we give, that we are motivated by what God is looking for, and not in order to make a show of our generosity.


Catherine of Alexandria

I Maccabees 6.1-13; Psalm 9; Luke 20.27-40

St Catherine was a learned woman of the fourth century.  Tradition has it that she was a well-born maiden of Alexandria in Egypt who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Maxentius after refusing to worship pagan gods.   She was condemned to be executed on a spiked wheel but at her touch the wheel shattered and she was instead beheaded.  Though it has proved difficult to verify her historically and it is possible that she was a kind of composite figure drawn from many stories of women condemned for Christian faith, it is clear that from very early days a cult surrounded her.  Through the Middle Ages she was among the most venerated of Christian martyrs.  At her death it was said that a milk-like substance flowed from her neck rather than blood.  Legends claim that her body was taken by angels to Mount Sinai, where a monastery was built in her honour.

St Catherine is venerated as the patron of philosophers and preachers, and she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the canonised saints noted for their intercessory powers.  She was adopted as patroness of the city of Bath.