Alleluia! Christ ascends into heaven as Lord. Come, let us adore him. Alleluia!
Liturgical Colour: White.
Other saints: St Luke Kirby (c.1549-1582)
30 May (where celebrated)
Luke Kirby was born in the north of England about 1549, was brought up in the new faith and is said to have graduated M.A., probably at Cambridge. Having been reconciled to the Church at Louvain, he entered Douai College in 1576, and was ordained priest at Cambrai in September the following year. He left Reims for England on 3 May, 1578, but very soon returned to the English College in Rome, where he took the college oath to serve on the English mission. In June 1580, he came to England, landing at Dover. He was immediately arrested and committed to the Gatehouse, Westminster. From there he was transferred to the Tower, where he was subjected to the “Scavenger’s Daughter” for more than an hour. (This was a device named after Sir Leonard Skeffington, Lieutenant of the Tower of London; it was an A-frame shaped metal rack, the head being strapped to the top point of the A, the hands at the mid-point and the legs at the lower spread ends; swinging the head down and forcing the knees up in a sitting position so compressed the body as to force the blood from the nose and ears). He was condemned, 17 November, 1581, and from 2 April till the day of his death on 30 May 1582 he was kept in irons.
Other saints: The Yorkshire Martyrs
Margaret Clitherow (née Middleton, born 1556) married John Clitherow, a butcher, when she was 15. She became a Catholic three years later and did all she could to hide Catholic priests, it being a capital offence to work as a priest. Mass was said regularly in her house and next door. In 1586 she was arrested for harbouring priests. She refused to testify to prevent her children being forced to give evidence. She was executed by being crushed to death. Her body was secretly taken away by friends and has never been found. A plaque marks the site of her execution.
Henry Walpole (1558-1595) was a lawyer who converted to Catholicism when he was 22. After being ordained a priest abroad he came to England and was arrested within days of his arrival. He was tortured brutally in London over a period of nearly two years. He was eventually taken to York (having originally landed in the north) where he was executed.
Margaret Clitherow and Henry Walpole lead a company of twenty Blessed Martyrs and thirty Venerable Martyrs, put to death within the County of York in penal times. Their names may be joined by those other confessors to the Faith who died in the prisons of York and Hull, and to those other martyrs, such as John Fisher and Luke Kirby, natives of the county, who suffered elsewhere.
Other saints: St Joan of Arc (c.1412 - 1431)
Joan was born to a peasant family in Domrémy in what is now Lorraine in eastern France. She herself was not sure of the year in which she was born, but at the time of her trial in 1431 she reckoned herself to be about 19.
At a time in the Hundred years’ War when the kingdom of France seemed powerless against the duchy of Burgundy to the east and against the kings of England (who, according to the Treaty of Troyes, were now kings of France as well), she received visions of St Michael, St Margaret of Antioch and St Catherine of Alexandria, calling her to save France from foreign occupation. It was to prove the turning-point of the Hundred Years’ War and the saving of the kingdom of France.
Aged seventeen, Joan embarked on the task of convincing successive great men of France of her mission, until at last she met Charles VII himself, the as yet uncrowned King of France (she refused to call him “king” for that reason). She prophesied the liberation of the besieged city of Orleans, the king’s coronation at Rheims cathedral (where all the kings of France are crowned), and the liberation of Paris. She was sent by the king with a relief convoy to Orleans, where she inspired the French defenders to such good effect that the English gave up the siege. She persuaded Charles to travel to Rheims, in the heart of Burgundian territory, to be crowned King of France. She led an attack on Paris while the king hesitated, to free it from the Burgundians, but the attack failed (Joan herself was wounded) and the king forbade any further attacks. Joan henceforth led her own troops, which conducted minor skirmishes against local Burgundian forces but with little real success.
Joan went to Compiègne to help it withstand a Burgundian siege, but in a sortie on 23 May 1430 she was captured by the Burgundians. On 21 November 1430 the English bought her from the Burgundians for a substantial sum. They took her to Rouen, where she was imprisoned, and severely interrogated starting in January 1431. Her trial started on 21 February 1431, once enough judges had been found who feared for their lives enough to be likely to give correct verdicts. There was some difficulty in formulating adequate charges, but some seventy of them were eventually found, from leaving her parents’ home without their permission to being in familiar relations with demons. The University of Paris gave its own report: Joan was a schismatic, an apostate, a liar, a sorceress, suspect of heresy, errant in faith, and a blasphemer against God and his saints. Joan appealed to the Pope but the tribunal ignored her appeal. Instead she was orally promised a sentence of incarceration in an ecclesiastical prison if she would abjure her errors, and when she signed the document she was given to sign (with a cross, since she was illiterate), was sent to a secular English prison instead. Having been thus cheated, she withdrew her signature two days later, whereupon she was re-accused, this time on the more serious charge of having relapsed into error, and was condemned to death by burning.
On 20 May 1431, after having confessed and received communion, Joan was publicly burned in Rouen before high officials including Cardinal Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, and his guests. The Cardinal insisted that Joan should be burned three times: the first (in which the fumes rapidly killed her) being followed by a second and a third burning so that no scrap of her should remain for future veneration or sorcery.
On 15 February 1450, shortly after re-taking Rouen, Charles VII made formal declaration that ‘Joan’s enemies having had her killed cruelly and for no reason’ he demanded an inquiry into the affair. Eventually, in 1455, on the request of Joan’s mother, Pope Calixtus III set in process an inquiry which looked into every detail of the first trial, taking evidence from many eye-witnesses and participants in the process. The final judgement, on 7 July 1456, declared the first trial ‘null, void, without value and without effect’ and completely rehabilitated Joan and her family.
These two trials make the events of the end of Joan’s life among the best documented in mediaeval history.
Although she was unjustly killed by the English using the juridical techniques that they would later employ to such effect at the Reformation, Joan is venerated as a virgin rather than a martyr because she did not die for being a Christian. She was finally beatified on 18 April 1909, and canonized on 16 May 1920, being named Secondary Patron of France.
Other saints: Saint Walstan (11th century)
Walstan was probably born in the 11th century at Bawburgh in Norfolk, and spent his life as a farm labourer in Taverham and Costessey, being renowned for his charity to all in need. Although he was probably a pious working man, biographers gave him the rank of prince, claiming that he fled from his royal background to live with ordinary people.
His shrine at Bawburgh was very popular with the local farm people before it was destroyed during the Reformation. In truth, all that is known about him is his legend, while his cult, albeit local, is undisputed.
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.
Liturgical colour: white
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.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||(Apocalypse 1:17-18) ©|
I saw the Son of Man, and he said to me, ‘Have no fear! I am the First and the Last. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld.’
|Noon reading (Sext)||Hebrews 8:1-3 ©|
Our High Priest has his place at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens, and he is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent of Meeting which the Lord, and not any man, set up. It is the duty of every high priest to offer gifts and sacrifices.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Colossians 3:1-2 ©|
Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth.