Christ is the chief shepherd, the leader of his flock: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
St Wilfrid (634 - 709)
The conversion to Christianity of the people of Sussex, the last in England to receive the Gospel, was only one episode, though an important one, in the life of St Wilfrid. Born in about 633 A.D., a northerner, he had begun his education at Lindisfarne, but had gone on to study at Rome and Lyons. On his return to England he was appointed Abbot of Ripon, and at the Council of Whitby (663 or 664) he was the chief protagonist of the Roman method (as distinct from the Celtic practice) of calculating the date of Easter, which from then on became the norm in the country. Very soon he was chosen as Bishop of Northumbria, and because he was uneasy about the validity of ordinations performed by Celtic bishops, went to France for his episcopal consecration. But by the time he returned, he found that the king in the meantime had appointed Chad bishop of York. Wilfrid had to be content for the time being with Ripon. It was three years before Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury was able to depose Chad and instal Wilfrid in York as Bishop of the whole of Northumbria.
But after some eight years Wilfrid found himself under attack on two sides. He lost the support of the new King of Northumbria, and at the same time found that Archbishop Theodore had divided his see into four over his head. Wilfrid, Roman that he was by training, took the bold step of appealing to the Pope (he was the first Anglo-Saxon to do so), and was successful. But the King would have none of it. Insisting that the papal documents were forged, he had Wilfrid imprisoned. After several months he was released, but only on condition that he left the kingdom. And so Wilfrid came south. The year was 680, and Wilfrid was 47.
As Bishop in Northumbria, Wilfrid had shown himself as a determined churchman and politician. But there was another side to his character. While on his way to conduct his appeal in Rome, he had actually delayed in Frisia to preach the Christian faith to the pagan inhabitants. He in fact began a tradition of English missionary work on the continent of Europe, which would be continued by Boniface and Willibrord.
He must have had no illusions about the difficulties he would have to face in Sussex. Fourteen years before, when returning to England from his consecration as bishop, his ship was blown onto the Sussex coast and beached. The inhabitants, sensing rich pickings, advanced to attack them, urged on by their pagan priest. Wilfrid tried unsuccessfully to parley with them, and the crew had to fend off the attackers three times. As the Sussex men prepared for a fourth onslaught, the incoming tide refloated the ship and the little party escaped. Eddius, Wilfrid’s biographer, says that the tide came in early at Wilfrid’s prayer.
However, by the time Wilfrid arrived in 680 the King of the South Saxons, Æthelwealh, had become a Christian. There was even a small monastery of Irish monks established at Bosham. But the local aristocracy and the ordinary people were still pagan. Wilfrid began his preaching with the royal approval, and found that the earldormen and gesiths were in fact quite ready to receive the Gospel.
The ordinary people presented a different problem – one which has to be faced by many missionaries to this day. When Wilfrid arrived, as Bede tells us, they were suffering a drought, and famine was driving many of the people to suicide. Wilfrid had first to teach them to fish, and thereby “the bishop won the hearts of all, and they had the greater hope of heavenly blessings from the preaching of one by whose aid they had gained temporal blessings.” By his practical Christianity great numbers were disposed to hear the Gospel and receive baptism.
King Æthelwealh gave Wilfrid some land at Selsey, where he founded a monastery, later to become the episcopal seat. Among the people there who were baptised were some 250 slaves, and to these Wilfrid gave their freedom.
During this time King Æthelwealh was attacked and killed by Caedwalla, king of the neighbouring West Saxons, and Sussex was brought under the rule of Wessex. Wilfrid, who may or may not have had prior dealings with Caedwalla, certainly gave him his support on the annexation.
After six years in Sussex, Wilfrid was reconciled with the aged Archbishop Theodore, with the aid of Erconwald, bishop of London, and was reinstated as Bishop of Ripon. He left Sussex, though he may have returned briefly to accept the gift of lands in the Isle of Wight, recently annexed by Caedwalla.
Five years passed; and Wilfrid again raised his claim to the whole Northumbrian diocese. But this led only to his expulsion once again, and to further appeals to Rome. The final result was a compromise: Wilfrid was restored to Ripon and given charge of Hexham, but not of York. By this time he was in his seventies, and four years later, in 709, he died at his monastery at Oundle. He was buried at Ripon.
Wilfrid’s continual struggle for acceptance in his diocese was not merely due to his determination to have his rights; it was an expression of his clear understanding of the authority of the Pope, whose decisions should be vindicated by churchmen and kings alike. A man of Wilfrid’s tenacity was needed to ensure in practice that the developing English Church would be both Catholic and Roman.
Wilfrid was a many-sided man. That is shown particularly during his period in Sussex. In those short six years, he established the Christian faith, founded monasteries and churches, and laid the foundations for a future diocese at Selsey (later Chichester). His groundwork as apostle and missionary was at least as important to future generations of Englishmen as his ability to deal with kings and popes. That is why he is revered as a saint to this day.
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.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Bede the Venerable (673 - 735)
Bede was born in the north of England, near the monastery of Wearmouth. He joined that monastery, and spent all his life there or at Jarrow, teaching and writing. He was the outstanding ecclesiastical author of his time. He wrote commentaries on Scripture; an ecclesiastical history of the English people, which is a unique and irreplaceable resource for much of early English history; and the first martyrology (collection of saints’ lives) to be compiled on historical principles. He was also the first known writer of English prose, though this has not survived. He died at Jarrow on 25 May 735, teaching and working until the last moments of his life. He is venerated as the “light of the Church” in the Dark Ages, and as a forerunner of the 8th and 9th century renaissance of the Western 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)||1 John 3:17-18 ©|
If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him? My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Deuteronomy 30:11,14 ©|
This Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Isaiah 55:10-11 ©|
|The word that goes out from my mouth does not return to me empty|
Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’