Sunday, 10 December 2017

Second Sunday in Advent



But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by Him at peace, without spot or blemish.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

St Nicholas



Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also called Nikolaos of Myra, was Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey), and is a historic Christian saint.

Due to the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus (“Saint Nick”) through Sinterklaas.

The historical Saint Nicholas was born at Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor (now Turkey). In his youth he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Palestine area. Shortly after his return he became Bishop of Myra and was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian. He was released after the accession of Constantine and was present at the Council of Nicaea. According to Western Christian tradition, Italian merchants took his body to Italy in 1087.

It is said that in Myra the relics of Saint Nicholas each year exuded a clear watery liquid which smells like rose water, called manna (or myrrh), which is believed by the faithful to possess miraculous powers. After the relics were brought to Bari, they continued to do so, much to the joy of the new owners. Vials of myrrh from his relics have been taken all over the world for centuries, and can still be obtained from his church in Bari. Even up to the present day, a flask of manna is extracted from the tomb of Saint Nicholas every year on December 6th (the Saint's feast day) by the clergy of the basilica. The myrrh is collected from a sarcophagus which is located in the basilica vault and could be obtained in the shop nearby. The liquid gradually seeps out of the tomb.

In 1993, a grave was found on the small Turkish island of Gemile, east of Rhodes, which historians believe is the original tomb of Saint Nicholas. On 28 December 2009, the Turkish government announced that it would be formally requesting the return of Saint Nicholas's skeletal remains to Turkey from the Italian government. Turkish authorities have asserted that Saint Nicholas himself desired to be buried at his episcopal town, and that his remains were illegally removed from his homeland. In 2017, an archaeological survey at St Nicholas Church, Demre, was reported to have found a temple below the modern church, with excavation work to be done that will allow researchers to determine whether it still holds Saint Nicholas’ body.


Subsequent to talks between the Pope and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch in May 2017, a portion of the relics of Saint Nicholas in Bari were sent on loan to Moscow. The relic was on display for veneration at Christ the Saviour Cathedral before being taken to St Petersburg in mid-June prior to returning to Bari. More than a million people lined up in Moscow for a momentary glimpse of the gilded ark that holding one of the saint's ribs.




Santa Claus evolved from Dutch traditions regarding Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas). When the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam, they brought the legend and traditions of Sinterklaas with them. Howard G Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York existed in the early settlements of the Hudson Valley, although by the early nineteenth century had fallen by the way. St Nicholas Park, located at the intersection of St Nicholas Avenue and 127th Street, in an area originally settled by Dutch farmers, is named for St Nicholas of Myra.

In Roman Catholic iconography, Saint Nicholas is depicted as a bishop, wearing the insignia of this dignity: a bishop's vestments, a mitre and a crozier. The episode with the three dowries is commemorated by showing him holding in his hand either three purses, three coins or three balls of gold. Depending on whether he is depicted as patron saint of children or sailors, his images will be completed by a background showing ships, children or three figures climbing out of a wooden barrel (the three slaughtered children he resurrected).


Thursday, 30 November 2017

St Andrew



Andrew, Peter's brother, and John were the first disciples to follow the Lord. St Andrew was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, a fisherman by trade, and a former disciple of John the Baptist. He was the one who introduced his brother Peter to Jesus, saying, "We have found the Messiah." 

Overshadowed henceforth by his brother, Andrew nevertheless appears again in the Gospels as introducing souls to Christ. After Pentecost, Andrew took up the apostolate on a much wider scale, and was martyred at Patras in southern Greece on a cross which was in the form of an "X." This type of cross has long been known as "St Andrew's cross." When Andrew was led to the place of martyrdom, on beholding the cross from a distance he cried out:

"O good Cross, so long desired and now set up for my longing soul I confident and rejoicing come to you; exultingly receive me, a disciple of Him who hung on you."

Forthwith he was nailed to the cross. For two days he hung there alive, unceasingly proclaiming the doctrine of Christ until he passed on to Him whose likeness in death he had so vehemently desired. The account of this saint's martyrdom presents to us the mysticism of the Cross of later times.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

All Souls Day



"On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavoured to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city." — Roman Martyrology

Every priest is permitted to say three Masses on this day and it would be a good practice for the laity to attend three Masses and offer them for the Poor Souls.


All Souls Indulgences

An indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, silently or otherwise, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the first to the eighth of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (November 2nd - as well as on the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints' Day) piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion. These conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit.


All Souls Day

The Church, after rejoicing yesterday with those of her children who have entered the glory of heaven, today prays for all those who, in the purifying suffering of purgatory await the day when they will be joined to the company of saints. At no place in the liturgy is stated in more striking fashion the mysterious union between the Church triumphant, the Church militant and the Church suffering; at no time is there accomplished in clearer fashion the twofold duty of charity and justice deriving for every Christian from the fact of his incorporation in the mystical Body of Christ. By virtue of the consoling doctrine of the communion of saints the merits and prayers of each one are able to help all; and the Church is able to join her prayer with that of the saints in heaven and supply what is wanting to the souls in purgatory by means of the Mass, indulgences and the alms and sacrifices of her children.

The celebration of Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary continued on our altars, has ever been for the Church the principal means of fulfilling towards the dead the great commandment of charity. Masses for the dead are found in the fifth century. But it was St Odilo, fourth abbot of Cluny, who was responsible for the institution of the general commemoration of all the faithful departed; he instituted it and fixed its celebration on November 2nd, the day after All Hallows. The practice spread to the rest of Christendom.

Daily in a special Memento in the Canon of the Mass, at which the priest remembers all those who have fallen asleep in the Lord, the priest implores God to grant them a place of happiness, light and peace. Thus there is no Mass in which the Church does not pray for the faithful departed; but today her thoughts are directed towards them in a particular fashion, with the maternal preoccupation of leaving no soul in purgatory without spiritual aid and of grouping them all together in her intercession. By a privilege that Benedict XV's decree has extended to the whole world every priest can today celebrate three Masses; for the liberation of the souls in purgatory the Church multiplies the offering of the sacrifice of Christ, from which she draws forever on behalf of all her children, infinite fruits of redemption.




Wednesday, 1 November 2017

All Hallows Day



All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, Hallowmas, Feast of All Saints, or Solemnity of All Saints, is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. The Christian holiday falls on November 1st, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2nd, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

All Hallows Day Vigil



The significance of Hallowe'en is in its name, ie All Hallows Eve. It designates the vigil of All Hallows Day, more commonly known as All Saints Day, which is celebrated on November 1st.

Both the feast of All Saints Day (November 1st) and its vigil (October 31st) have been celebrated since the early eighth century, when they were instituted by Pope Gregory III in Rome. A century later, the feast and its vigil were extended to the Church at large by Pope Gregory IV. 

All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation.


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

St Raphaël



The feast day of Raphaël was included for the first time in the General Roman Calendar in 1921, for celebration on October 24th. With the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar in the wake of Vatican II, the feast was transferred to September 29th for celebration together with archangels Michael and Gabriel. Like all traditionalists, we remain with the October 24th feast day for this saint.

The name of the Archangel Raphaël appears in the Biblical Book of Tobit. The Book of Tobit is considered deuterocanonical by Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglicans. Raphaël first appears disguised in human form as the travelling companion of Tobit's son, Tobiah, calling himself "Azarias the son of the great Ananias." During the course of the journey the archangel's protective influence is shown in many ways including the binding of a demon in the desert of upper Egypt. After returning and healing the blind Tobit, Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphaël, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" Tobit 12: 15. He is thereafter venerated as Saint Raphaël the Archangel.

Regarding the healing powers attributed to Raphaël, there is his declaration to Tobit (Tobit, 12) that he was sent by the Lord to heal him of his blindness and to deliver Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, from the demon Asmodeus, who kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. Due to his actions in the Book of Tobit and the Gospel of John, Saint Raphaël is accounted patron of travellers, the blind, happy meetings, nurses, physicians, medical workers, matchmakers, Christian marriage, and Catholic studies. As a particular enemy of the Devil, he was revered in Catholic Europe as a special protector of Catholic sailors.

The Archangel Raphaël is said to have appeared in Cordova, Spain, during the sixteenth century. In response to the city's appeal, Pope Innocent X allowed the local celebration of a feast in the Archangel's honour on May 7th, the date of the principal apparition. Saint John of God, founder of the Hospital order that bears his name, is also said to have received visitations from Saint Raphaël, who encouraged and instructed him. In tribute to this, many of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God's facilities are called “Raphaël Centres” to this day. The eighteenth century Neapolitan nun, Saint Maria Francesca of the Five Wounds is also said to have seen apparitions of Saint Raphaël.



Sunday, 15 October 2017

St Teresa of Ávila



Teresa of Ávila became the reformer of Carmel, mother of the Discalced Carmelite nuns and friars, “spiritual mother” (as is engraved under her statue in the Vatican Basilica), patron of Catholic writers (from 1965) and Doctor of the Church (1970), the first woman with Saint Catherine of Siena to ever receive this last title. She was born at Ávila in Castile, Spain, on 28 March 1515, and died in Alba de Tormes, near Salamanca, on 4 October 1582 (a correction due to the Gregorian reform of the calendar that year, as the following day was officially 15th October). She was beatified in 1614, canonised in 1622, and her feast day occurs on October 15th.

Her life needs to be understood in the light of the plan that God had for her, with the great desires experienced in her heart, with the mysterious illness to which she was subject in her youth (and with the ill health from which she suffered throughout her life), and with the “resistance” to divine grace for which she blamed herself more than she should. Running away from home, she entered the Carmel of the Incarnation in Ávila on 2 November 1535. As a result, partly of the prevailing conditions in the community and partly from her own spiritual difficulties, she had to struggle before arriving at what she called her conversion at the age of thirty-nine. But, benefiting from various spiritual directors, she then began to make great strides towards perfection.

In 1560, the idea first emerged of a new Carmel, where the Rule could be followed more closely, and this was realised two years later when the monastery of St Joseph was founded without any endowments and “following the Primitive Rule”: a phrase that needs to be clearly understood because both then and later it was a notion which was more nostalgic and “heroic” than practical. Five years later, Teresa obtained from the Prior General of the Order, John Baptist Rossi, then visiting Spain, permission to increase the number of monasteries and a licence to found two communities of contemplative Carmelite friars (later to be called Discalced) who would be the spiritual counterparts of the nuns and, as such, able to help them. At the death of Saint Teresa, there were seventeen monasteries of nuns in the Reform, and the communities of friars also quickly outstripped the original number, some founded with permission from the Prior General Rossi but others, especially those in Andalusia, established against his will, relying on the approval of the apostolic visitors, the Dominican Vargas and the young Discalced Carmelite Jerome Gracian (a close spiritual companion of Teresa, for whom she vowed to do whatever he asked her, as long as it was not contrary to God’s law).

There followed a series of unedifying quarrels, made worse by the interference of the civil authorities and other outsiders, until in 1581, the Discalced were formed into a separate Province. Saint Teresa was then able to write: “Now all of us, Discalced and Calced, are at peace and nothing can hinder us from serving the Lord.”

Saint Teresa of Ávila is among the most important figures of all time for Catholic spirituality. Her works – especially the four best known (The Life, The Way of Perfection, The Mansions and The Foundations) – together with her more historical works, contain a doctrine which encompasses the whole of the spiritual life, from the first steps right up to intimacy with God at the centre of the Interior Castle. Her Letters show her occupied with a great variety of everyday problems. Her doctrine on the unity of the soul with God (a doctrine which was intimately lived by her) follows the Carmelite tradition which had preceded her and to which she herself contributed in such a notable way, enriching it as well as passing the tradition on, not only to her spiritual sons and daughters, but also to the whole Church she served so unsparingly. When she was dying, her one joy was to be able to affirm that “I die a daughter of the Church.”


The kernel of Saint Teresa's mystical thought throughout all her writings is the ascent of the soul in four stages (The Autobiography Chapters 10-22):

The first, Devotion of Heart, is mental prayer of devout concentration/contemplation. It is the withdrawal of the soul from without and especially the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence (Autobiography 11.20).

The second, Devotion of Peace, is where human will is surrendered to God. This is by virtue of a charismatic, supernatural state given by God, while the other faculties, such as memory, reason, and imagination, are not yet secure from worldly distraction. While a partial distraction is due to outer performances such as repetition of prayers and writing down spiritual things, yet the prevailing state is one of quietude (Autobiography 14.1).

The third, Devotion of Union, is absorption in God. It is not only a supernatural but an essentially ecstatic state. Here there is also an absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble. This state is characterised by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, or a conscious rapture in the love of God.

The fourth, Devotion of Ecstasy, is where the consciousness of being in the body disappears. Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. The subject awakens from this in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, producing a trance. Indeed, she was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.

Teresa is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer, and her position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences. Her deep insight and analytical gifts helped her to explain them clearly. Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us." She used a metaphor of mystic prayer as watering a garden throughout her writings.

Saint Teresa, who reported visions of Jesus and Mary, was a strong believer in the power of holy water, claiming to have used it with success to repel evil and temptations. She wrote:

"I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water.

"Let nothing disturb you.

"Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices."

— St Teresa, The Bookmark of Teresa of Ávila


Saturday, 1 July 2017

Feast of the Most Precious Blood



When Pope Pius IX went into exile at Gaeta in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1849), he had as his companion Father Giovanni Merlini, third superior general of the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood. After they had arrived at Gaeta, Don Merlini suggested that His Holiness make a vow to extend the feast of the Precious Blood to the entire Church, if he would again recover possession of the Papal States. The Pope took the matter under consideration, but a few days later, on 30 June 1849, the day the French army conquered Rome and the insurgents of the Roman Republic capitulated, he sent his domestic prelate Joseph Stella to Father Merlini with the message: "The pope does not deem it expedient to bind himself by a vow; instead His Holiness is pleased to extend the feast immediately to all Christendom."

On August 10th of the same year, he officially included the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on the first Sunday in July, the first Sunday after 30 June, the anniversary of the liberation of the city of Rome from the insurgents.

In reducing the number of feasts fixed for Sundays, Pope Pius X assigned the date of July 1st to this feast. Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica always celebrates this feast day on July 1st despite it being downgraded by the Second Vatican Council.

In 1933, Pope Pius XI raised the feast to the rank of Double of the 1st Class to mark the 1900th anniversary of Our Lord's death.



Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017

He Is Risen



"He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said." (Matthew 28: 6)