How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: White.
|Bl. Nazju Falzon (1813 - 1865)|
He was born into a legal family: his father and maternal grandfather were both judges, and he and his three brothers all became lawyers. Two of his brothers became priests, but Nazju himself (the name is a form of “Ignatius”) did not feel worthy of the priesthood. He taught the catechism to children and gave away all the money he had to help the poor. He also found a special apostolate among the British soldiers and sailors who were using the island as a base, teaching the catechism to those who were interested and making many converts. See also the Nazju Falzon
web site and the article in Wikipedia
|Other saints: St Oliver Plunkett (1625 - 1681)|
England, Ireland: 1 Jul
Arundel & Brighton: 2 Jul
Oliver Plunkett was archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland from 1668, at a time when the country was in a state of civil and religious disorder after the interventions of Oliver Cromwell. He persevered for ten years in his effort to ameliorate this state of affairs, until the discovery of a non-existent “Popish Plot” against the English government (invented and revealed by Titus Oates, who implicated many before he was executed for his part in it) gave the authorities an excuse to act against many prominent Catholics. Plunkett was arrested in Ireland but taken to London for trial; one of his companions was saved by being appointed as Bavarian Ambassador to London and therefore acquiring diplomatic immunity, but for Plunkett there was no such escape, and he was hanged at Tyburn, cheating his executioners by dying before he could be ceremonially disembowelled.
His remains are preserved at Downside Abbey, together with such other relics as the notes for his defence at his trial; on the occasion of his canonization in 1975 his casket was opened and some parts of his body given to the cathedral at Drogheda in Ireland.
|Other saints: St Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681)|
England, Ireland: 1 Jul
Arundel & Brighton: 2 Jul
Oliver Plunkett was born in County Meath in 1625, and died at Tyburn in 1681. Little is known about his early life except that he was educated privately by a Cistercian cousin, Dr Patrick Plunkett, who eventually became bishop of Meath. Ordained in Rome in 1654, he was professor at the college of Propaganda Fidei until 1669, when he was appointed archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. He held synods and visitations and promoted the reforms initiated by the Council of Trent. It was a time when persecution was less severe, though he would often have to dress as a layman. In 1673 the English Parliament forced the king, Charles II, to behave more strictly towards Catholics, and edicts were issued banning bishops and all religious from Ireland. For the next few years he was able to continue his work clandestinely and was even able to hold a provincial synod. Despite the danger he went to visit his uncle, Bishop Plunkett, who was dying. He was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, he was tried on the extraordinary charge of having planned to bring seventy thousand French troops into Ireland. There was clearly no hope of a successful conviction in Ireland he was taken to London and duly found guilty of the charge. He was executed in London, the final victim of the ‘Popish Plot’ and the last person to be executed for the faith in England. He is remembered for his pastoral zeal and for the friendly relations he established with those who did not share the Catholic faith. His body rests at Downside Abbey, his head at Drogheda.
|Other saints: Blessed Junipero Serra (1713 - 1784)|
He was born on the Spanish island of Mallorca, and became a Franciscan. He taught at the university for a number of years before finally giving in to his vocation to be a missionary and sailing to America.
After spending some years in Mexico, he became a missionary in California, then being newly taken over by the Spaniards. Over a period of fifteen years he founded nine missions with about six thousand converts. He frequently came into conflict with the authorities over their treatment of the native population, but nevertheless, when he died, he was buried with full military honours. He was beatified in 1988, and canonized by Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. on 23 September 2015.
|Today's Gospel: "With all your mind"|
Sometimes there is a message for us in some words of the Gospel that even the evangelists don’t notice. There is an example here, hidden in words so uninteresting that we can’t even be sure who said them. Matthew and Mark say Jesus, while Luke says the scribe.
Jesus (or the scribe) appears to be quoting from the Old Testament, but one phrase does not exist in any text of the Commandments: that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind.
It is easy not to notice this phrase, and indeed Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t notice it. We know this because normally when Jesus departs from the Old Testament it is noticed, and remarked upon, and made the subject of a whole “But I say to you…” discourse.
There are two aspects to this. One is what it says about the past, the other is what it says to us. The past is straightforward. The Jews have never been “people of the Book” in the sense of believing in the Bible and nothing but the Bible. They have, it is true, had a peculiar reverence for every sacred word, but they have lived not in unthinking obedience to those words alone but in a dialogue, you might even say in a relationship, with the sacred text. So the fact that “all your mind” appears here, without attracting notice or comment, must mean that it had become a part of the generally accepted interpretation of the words of Scripture. When, centuries after the Pentateuch, the Jews came across the new, Greek ways of thinking – as the Wisdom literature shows that they did – they immediately realised that this new thing called “mind” was included, no doubt about it, in the commandment to love.
What this says to us is more important than just a footnote in the history of ideas. It is the foundation and justification of all science. God does not command the impossible. If he is to be loved with the mind, that can only be because he is lovable with the mind, or, to detheologize the language, because Ultimate Being can be related to rationally. The Gospel phrase tells us that things make sense and that we have the equipment to make sense of them.
What does omnipotence mean? Does it mean that the Omnipotent can do anything at all? If that were true, all science would be at an end. If God willed that when I dropped a glass on the floor it would shatter, then even if God had willed the same whenever anyone in the past had ever dropped a glass, that would still not bind God. God would still be free to decide, if I dropped a glass on the floor now, that this particular glass, alone among all the glasses in history, should bounce and not break.
Which is to say: on this interpretation of divine omnipotence, science is impossible. We cannot predict the result of an experiment, because next time God may decide differently. We cannot even lay down laws of nature based on previous experience, because to call a law a “law” is to claim to be able to bind God, which is blasphemy.
This is not merely an academic quibble. When the 11th-century Muslim philosopher al-Ghazāli propounded this very idea, it captured the mainstream of Islamic thinking and led to the virtual suicide of science in Islam and the abandonment of rational thinking about the physical world, as being unnecessary, or sacrilegious, or both.
We are saved from this by this one little phrase in the Gospel, about loving God with all our mind. It is more than mere permission, it is a command to understand, to go out and do science, and it was followed whenever Christians had leisure to think. It led to the dazzling 13th-century renaissance and the birth of modern science, and we are still living through its consequences.
As for divine omnipotence, this is not the place to go into it in detail, but the answer to al-Ghazāli must surely be that God can indeed make the glass bounce, but God cannot make the glass bounce and still be God, since to break the laws and regularities of nature whimsically and without reason would be to abandon lovability-with-the-mind. This is exactly the argument that theologians use against pointless or frivolous miracles, but it applies to science as well, and to the possibility of doing science at all.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)|
Augustine was born in Thagaste in Africa of a Berber family. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church early and spent a great deal of time seriously seeking the truth, first in the Manichaean heresy, which he abandoned on seeing how nonsensical it was, and then in Neoplatonism, until at length, through the prayers of his mother and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he was converted back to Christianity and baptized in 387, shortly before his mother’s death.
Augustine had a brilliant legal and academic career, but after his conversion he returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. He wrote an enormous amount and left a permanent mark on both philosophy and theology. His Confessions, as dazzling in style as they are deep in content, are a landmark of world literature. The Second Readings in the Office of Readings contain extracts from many of his sermons and commentaries and also from the Confessions.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Other notes: The Solemnity of the Precious Blood|
This feast started in Spain in the 16th century. It was introduced to Italy by St Gaspar del Bufalo in 1815. The feast was extended to the universal Church by Pope Pius IX in 1849, to celebrate the victory of Papal and French troops over the revolutionary forces that had captured Rome and sent him into exile. Initially celebrated on the first Sunday of July, the feast was later moved to July 1, and Pope Pius XI raised it to the rank of a Solemnity to mark the 1900th anniversary of the Crucifixion.
One of the aims of the liturgical reform of 1970 was the simplification of the calendar and in particular a reduction in the number of feasts that took precedence over the celebration of Sundays. Accordingly the feast of the Precious Blood was merged into the solemnity of Corpus Christi, which is now the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Romans 13:8,10 ©|
Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.
|Noon reading (Sext)||James 1:19-20,26 ©|
Be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper; God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger. Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Peter 1:17,18,19 ©|
You must be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home. Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ.