How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: A(II). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
Saint Kenneth (515-599)
Saint Cainnech of Aghaboe is also known as Saint Canice in Ireland, Saint Kenneth in Scotland, Saint Kenny and in Latin Saint Canicus. He was an Irish abbot, monastic founder, priest and missionary.
He was born in 515 or 516, at Glengiven, near Dungiven in Ireland. He spent his early years watching his chieftain’s flocks. In 543 he became a pupil at Finian’s monastic school at Clonard. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied at this monastery. Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, Kenneth was one of these. It was at Clonard that he became a friend and companion of St Colmcille (Columba).
In 544 he studied under St. Mobhi at the school of Glasnevin, with Kieran of Clonmacnoise and St. Comgall of Bangor. When plague scattered that community, he went to Saint Cadoc’s monastery of Llancarfan in Glamorganshire in Wales, where he was ordained priest in 545. He left for Rome to obtain the blessing of the reigning pontiff. In 550 he had returned to Glengiven, where he converted his foster-brother, Geal-Breagach, who afterwards assisted him in founding Drumachose, in nearby Limavady.
In 565 he joined Columba in Scotland. He built a church in the place now known as Saint Andrew’s. He built monastic cells on the island of Ibdon and Eninis, an oratory called Lagan-Kenny on the shores of Loch Laggan, and a monastery in Fife on the banks of the Eden. His name is still recalled in the ruins of an ancient church, Kil-Chainnech on Tiree Island, in a burial ground, Kil-Chainnech, in Iona and Inch Kenneth off Mull
He spent a good deal of his time in Ireland, in County Meath and in Ossory in what is now County Laois. In Ossory he had a good repute with the king, Colman son of Feradach, who gave him grants of land including Aghaboe (“the field of the Ox”) which became his principal monastery. Aghaboe grew in importance, and in the 7th century sent St. Fergal as a missionary to the church of Salzburg, Austria. Aghaboe was for a time the site of the bishop’s see until under Norman influence in the twelfth century the see transferred from Aghaboe to Kilkenny.
He died and was interred at the Abbey of Aghaboe in 599/600.
Other saints: St Wilfrid (634 - 709)
Wilfrid was born in Northumbria in 634. As a boy he was educated in the monastery of Lindisfarne. Later he travelled to Rome in the company of Benet Biscop, spending a considerable time at Lyons on the way. This wider, continental experience had a profound effect upon the young man and, on his return, he showed himself to have become a keen supporter of the traditions of the Roman Church as against the prevailing ‘Celtic’ customs introduced by the Irish missionaries from Iona under St Aidan. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Abbot of Ripon, and sometime later he was ordained priest.
After the death of Aidan, the differing customs of the Romans and the Celts became the cause of bitter dispute. In 664 a Synod was held in Whitby, in the famous monastery of St Hilda, to settle the question and Wilfrid took a leading part in the debate, successfully arguing for the abolition of the Celtic traditions and the imposition of the church discipline of Rome.
Within twelve months he had been appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne. He chose to be consecrated in Paris, and was absent in France for so long that St Chad, one of Aidan’s pupils, was consecrated bishop in his place. Wilfrid had to appeal to St Theodore of Canterbury, his metropolitan, before he was able to take possession of his diocese. He established himself at York, but encountered much hostility being opposed at various times not only by some of the secular rulers of his day but even by men of great sanctity like St John of Beverley. A particular dispute arose in 678 when Theodore made an attempt to divide the large, unwieldy diocese of Lindisfarne/York into two parts. Wilfrid objected to the division and made an appeal to Rome against his archbishop. Not only was he successful, but in doing so he became the first Englishman to take a law suit to the Roman courts.
In spite of this, his return to Northumberland was much less successful. For a while he was imprisoned by the King of Northumbria and eventually escaped to Sussex. It is a tribute to his courage and dedication that he was able to use this time well, carrying on an energetic mission to the South Saxons and also for a brief period among the people of Friesland, so beginning the great English mission to the Germanic people that was to be continued by his pupil, St Willibrord.
Wilfrid returned to Northumbria in 686, but was not allowed to remain long in the area. Once again he appealed in person to Rome. But in the end he accepted a compromise solution under which he became Bishop of Hexham while retaining his monastery at Ripon. There he introduced many additional Roman customs and reorganised the monastery under the rule of St Benedict. He died in 709.
Other saints: Blessed Jan Beyzym (1850-1912)
Poland: 12 Oct
Madagascar: 3 Oct
Jan Beyzym (1850-1912) was born in Beyzymy Wielkie, which was then in the Russian-occupied Kingdom of Poland and is now in the Ukraine. His father was sentenced to death for his part in the October Uprising of 1863. Jan entered the Jesuit novitiate at Stara Wieś in 1872. After his ordination as priest in 1881, he taught in schools for seventeen years, and was given charge of the school infirmary. In 1898, at the age of forty-eight, in response to his desires, he was appointed to Madagascar to work among lepers. He was the first priest in the mission to live among the lepers. He personally dressed and bandaged their wounds. He begged for finances to provide them with food and clothing. He raised funds to build a well-equipped hospital for them. The lepers called him “rayamendreny” — father and mother — which he truly was.
Other saints: Our Lady of Aparecida
The statue of Our Lady of Aparecida has been venerated since it was found by fishermen in October 1717 after they had prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The statue was kept at the house of one of the fishermen for fifteen years, until the local parish priest had a chapel built for it. The devotion to Our Lady grew and the site attracted numerous pilgrims, so that the construction of a larger church was started in 1834: it was consecrated on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1888. Princess Elizabeth of Brazil visited the shrine in 1868 and, in 1888 she donated a golden crown and blue cloak for the statue in fulfilment of a vow.
In 1894 Redemptorist missionaries arrived to the site to look after the many pilgrims who were coming to the shrine. In 1928 the locality was granted municipal status with the name “Aparecida”. A new basilica was started in 1955 and consecrated in 4 July 1980 by Pope John Paul II.
Many miracles have been ascribed to the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida.
In 2007 the General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean held a conference at Aparecida whose concluding document, the “Aparecida Document”, has been the inspiration for a new flowering of the Church’s life in Latin America, especially where lay people and movements are concerned.
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: Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/7 - 527/ 533)
Fulgentius was bishop of the city of Ruspe in the Roman province of Africa, which is in modern-day Tunisia. At that time Africa and parts of the Near East were ruled by the Vandals, who were Arians, calling themselves Christians but denying the divinity of Christ. As a result Fulgentius’ early career was marked by a series of flights from persecution, as Catholics tried to maintain their faith under Vandal rule. It was a complicated time. In 499 he was tortured for saying that Jesus was both God and man; the next year the Vandal king Thrasamund, impressed by his talents, invited him to return from exile and become a bishop (Fulgentius declined, since he knew that Thrasamund had ordered that none but Arians should be bishops); two years later he was persuaded to become bishop of Ruspe in Tunisia but shortly afterwards he was exiled to Sardinia. Thrasamund invited him back in 515 to debate against the Arians but exiled him again in 520.
In 523, following the death of Thrasamund and the accession of his Catholic son Hilderic, Fulgentius was allowed to return to Ruspe and try to convert the populace back to the faith. He worked to reform many of the abuses which had infiltrated his old diocese in his absence. The power and effectiveness of his preaching were so profound that his archbishop, Boniface of Carthage, wept openly every time he heard Fulgentius preach, and publicly thanked God for giving such a preacher to his church.
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)||Leviticus 20:26 ©|
Be consecrated to me, because I, the Lord, am holy, and I will set you apart from all these peoples so that you may be mine.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Wisdom 15:1,3 ©|
You, our God, are kind, loyal and slow to anger, and you govern all things with mercy. To acknowledge you is indeed the perfect virtue, to know your power is the root of immortality.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Baruch 4:21-22 ©|
Take courage, my children, call on God: he will deliver you from tyranny, from the hands of your enemies; for I look to the Eternal for your rescue, and joy has come to me from the Holy One at the mercy soon to reach you from your saviour, the Eternal.