Come before the Lord, singing with joy.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: Green.
St Peter Damian (1007 - 1072)
Peter Damian was born in Ravenna in 1007 and studied theology and canon law, becoming a renowned teacher in both Parma and Ravenna. In his late twenties he abandoned all this and joined the hermitage of Fonte Avellana, near Gubbio, where he became prior in 1043: a position he held until his death. He strongly promoted the religious life in many parts of Italy. The Church at that time was in a terrible state and he supported the Popes in their efforts at reform, both by his writings and as a papal envoy. Pope Stephen IX named him a cardinal and Bishop of Ostia. He died on 21 February 1072 and was immediately acclaimed as a saint. See the article in Wikipedia
Other saints: St Robert Southwell (1561 - 1595)
Arundel & Brighton, East Anglia
Although a Norfolk man by birth, Robert Southwell spent part of his boyhood at Roughway (now Roffey) Place near Horsham, which belonged to his mother’s family. She was a Copley, and her own mother a Shelley – both staunch Sussex Catholic families. Robert’s cousin Margaret Copley married John Gage of Firle. It was she who pressed through the crowd to ask Robert’s blessing on his way to Tyburn, and who was subsequently imprisoned for harbouring priests.
At the age of fifteen, in 1576, Robert was sent to school at Douai and then to Paris. Before he was seventeen, he had decided to apply to join the Jesuits. The Belgian novitiate was closed because of the war between Spain and the Netherlands, so he walked to Rome and was accepted there. He was ordained priest in 1584 and for a time was Prefect of Studies at the Venerable English College in Rome.
His great desire was to return to England, and in 1586 he was sent here with Father Henry Garnet. Before the end of the year he was established at Arundel House in the Strand, as chaplain to Anne, the wife of St Philip Howard, who was then imprisoned in the Tower. From Arundel House Robert conducted a remarkable apostolate. He had great gifts as a writer. His letters to St Philip Howard played a great part in strengthening Philip’s resolve during the long years of his imprisonment. Later they were printed, from a secret place in London, as “An Epistle of Comfort”. He also wrote many poems, the best-known being “The Burning Babe”, and among his prose works was “A Humble Supplication to Her Majestie”, on behalf of persecuted Catholics. His writings were widely read and held in high esteem by the literary men of the time.
Robert was an organiser as well as a poet, and was reckoned by the authorities as “the chief dealer for the papists in England”. He was responsible for getting candidates for the priesthood out of the country for their training abroad, and for finding accommodation for those returning to work here. Small wonder that he was the priest most ardently sought by the infamous priest-hunter, Richard Topcliffe.
By 1592, after Robert had spent six years in England, Topcliffe was hard on his heels. He knew that Robert had been at Roffey that year, but did not attempt to arrest him in that Catholic stronghold. But later that year Topcliffe put pressure on a Catholic girl, Anne Bellamy, to betray Robert. She asked him to come to see her at her home near Harrow. Topcliffe and his men arrived, and surrounded the house. When Robert realised that he had been betrayed, he came forward. Topcliffe had to be forcibly restrained from killing him there and then.
Robert Southwell was a great prize. Topcliffe took him to his own house, and there had him tortured ten times over a space of four days, “worse than the rack”. Constantly questioned under torture to betray his friends, he consistently refused to give any names, even at the beginning his own. He was then moved to the Gatehouse Prison, and after a month there in the most squalid conditions he was committed to the Tower, where he remained for two and a half years. All this time he had not been brought to trial, and in the end he asked that he should be tried. In February 1595 he was tried for treason, on the ground that he was a priest remaining in the country against the law of 1585, and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. The following day, 21 February 1595, the sentence was carried out. As he stood on the cart at Tyburn, after praying for the Queen, he said: “I acknowledge that I am a priest (I thank God most highly for it), and of the Society of Jesus. I commend into the hands of Almighty God my poor country, desiring him for his infinite mercy’s sake to reduce it to such perfect insights, knowledge and understanding of the truth that they may learn to praise and glorify God, and gain their soul’s health and eternal salvation.” Then he died, aged 33, and we are told that there was not one bystander to cry “Traitor”.
Some time before his arrest he had written to his Superior General: “It seems to me that I see the beginning of a religious life set on foot in England, of which we now sow the seed in tears, that others hereafter may with joy carry in the sheaves to the heavenly granaries. We look for the time (if we are not unworthy of so great a glory) when our day shall come.” He was canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Ambrose of Milan (340? - 397)
Ambrose was born in Trier (now in Germany) between 337 and 340, to a Roman family: his father was praetorian prefect of Gaul. Ambrose was educated at Rome and embarked on the standard cursus honorum of Roman advocates and administrators, at Sirmium, the capital of Illyria. In about 372 he was made prefect of Liguria and Emilia, whose capital was Milan.
In 374 the bishopric of Milan fell vacant and when Ambrose tried to pacify the conflict between the Catholics and Arians over the appointment of a new bishop, the people turned on him and demanded that he become the bishop himself. He was a layman and not yet baptized (at this time it was common for baptism to be delayed and for people to remain for years as catechumens), but that was no defence. Coerced by the people and by the emperor, he was baptized, ordained, and installed as bishop within a week, on 7 December 374.
He immediately gave his money to the poor and his land to the Church and set about learning theology. He had the advantage of knowing Greek, which few people did at that time, and so he was able to read the Eastern theologians and philosophers as well as those of the West.
He was assiduous in carrying out his office, acting with charity to all: a true shepherd and teacher of the faithful. He was unimpressed by status and when the Emperor Theodosius ordered the massacre of 7,000 people in Thessalonica, Ambrose forced him to do public penance. He defended the rights of the Church and attacked the Arian heresy with learning, firmness and gentleness. He also wrote a number of hymns which are still in use today.
Ambrose was a key figure in the conversion of St Augustine to Catholicism, impressing Augustine (hitherto unimpressed by the Catholics he had met) by his intelligence and scholarship. He died on Holy Saturday, 4 April 397.
Liturgical colour: green
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the season in which we are being neither especially penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Galatians 5:13-14 ©|
My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Galatians 5:16-17 ©|
Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Galatians 5:22,23,25 ©|
What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.