The Lord is the king of martyrs: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: Red.
St Edmund Arrowsmith (1585 - 1628)
He was born at Haydock in Lancashire. His father was a yeoman farmer and his mother was a member of an important Lancashire Catholic family. At the age of 20 he left England and went to the English College at Douai to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in Arras on 9 December 1612 and sent on the English mission a year later He ministered to the Catholics of Lancashire without incident until around 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican Bishop of Chester. Edmund was released when King James I of England ordered all arrested priests to be freed. He joined the Jesuits in 1624.
In the summer of 1628, he was denounced to the authorities. He was put on trial, and sentenced to death for being a Roman Catholic priest in England. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster on 28 August 1628. His final confession was heard by Saint John Southworth, who was imprisoned along with Edmund.
Other saints: Blessed Ghebre Michael (1790 - 1855)
He was born in Ethiopia in 1790. He entered an Orthodox monastery, where he proved to be a gifted student. His name, “Ghebre-Michael” means “servant of Michael”.
He took an intense interest in the history of monasticism and, concerned at the deterioration of monastic standards in Ethiopia, travelled around the country, visiting monasteries, researching their history and the manuscripts in their libraries, and inspiring a small group of monks in each place with a zeal for reform.
Having come to the conclusion that the root cause of the trouble was the monks’ poor theological education, he determined to travel to Jerusalem to continue his studies. He had intended to travel alone, but at this time an important coincidence supervened and changed the course of his life.
Ethiopia had only one Orthodox bishop, who was appointed by the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, and in 1840-41 the see was vacant. A delegation was being sent to Alexandria to ask the Patriarch for a new bishop and to visit Jerusalem on the way back, and Ghebre-Michael was invited to join the group. He made one stipulation: that the return journey should include Rome as well as Jerusalem, with the aim of lessening the suspicion of the Catholic Church among the Orthodox. On this journey he first met the Catholic missionary Justin de Jacobis, whose holiness and way of life made a great impression on him.
To everyone’s dismay, the bishop chosen by the Patriarch was in every way unsuitable. Educated by Protestants, he had his own political agenda. He set himself against Ghebre-Michael’s project of reform and theological purification, and his followers tried to poison Ghebre-Michael himself.
In September 1843 Ghebre-Michael sought out Justin and asked to be received into the Catholic Church (at that time about three dozen Ethiopians had become Catholics). They discussed the matter for nearly six months, and visited many monasteries together to study their ancient manuscripts. Finally, in February 1844, Ghebre-Michael was received into the Church.
In July 1854, together with four other converts, Ghebre-Michael was arrested by the bishop and tortured with the aim of getting him to renounce Catholicism. This torture continued for many months. When a new emperor of Ethopia was crowned in February 1855 he had Ghebre-Michael put in chains and took him with him wherever he went. He was put on trial in the presence of the British Consul in May 1855, and, still refusing to apostasize, was sentenced to be shot. The Consul interceded for him, his life was spared, but he died on 28 August 1855 as a result of the harsh treatment he was receiving. He was buried at the side of the road; the exact site is unknown.
Other saints: Saint Fiacre
He was born in Ireland in the seventh century, and was ordained priest. He lived in a hermitage in Kilkenny, but disciples flocked to him there and he went to France in search of greater solitude. He was kindly received by St Faro, Bishop of Meaux, and given land at Breuil on which to build a hermitage. The town of Saint-Fiacre-en-Brie stands on the site of the hospice he built for travellers. See the article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Thomas à Kempis (1379 - 1471)
The first thing to know about The Imitation of Christ is that it was published anonymously and that its attribution to Thomas à Kempis is not uncontested. Other possible authors have included (as his translator Betty I. Knott points out) thirty-five different people, including Gerhard Groote; Walter Hilton, the English mystic; St Bernard; St Bonaventure; Pope Innocent III; and John Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris. But on the whole Thomas à Kempis himself is still in the lead. (In any case, “Do not ask who said this,” says Book I chapter 5, “but listen to what is said”).
The late 14th and early 15th centuries saw a miraculous outpouring of mysticism and spirituality all over western Europe, encompassing The Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, and even the maddening Margery Kempe. Much of it was lay, and even Thomas à Kempis, who became a priest, belongs not to any of the great monastic or preaching orders but to the Brethren of the Common Life, a movement which started in the Netherlands and Rhineland in the late fourteenth century. The birth of the movement was the teaching of Gerhard Groote, who preached and taught a simple prayerful way of life which people could follow in their own homes. Groote shared most of his own large house in Deventer, in the Netherlands, with a group of devout women who lived together as a community (without taking formal vows), and Florentius Radwijns, one of the cathedral clergy and a follower of Groote’s, then hosted a similar community of men. The Brethren of the Common Life aimed to live a communal life in imitation of the simplicity and poverty of the earliest Christians, devoting themselves both to contemplation and to active works. In the time of relative ecclesial peace which preceded the Reformation the Brethren were allowed to grow and develop largely without too much interference. In due course a progression was also established whereby those Brethren who desired a more formal commitment founded, or joined, houses of regular Augustinian canons or canonesses.
Thomas à Kempis himself was born in Kempen, a small town not far from Cologne. He went to a school founded by Gerhard Groote, and in 1399 became a member of the recently founded Augustinian house of which John, his elder brother, was the first prior. He remained a member of this community for the rest of his life.
It was a custom of the Brethren to make collections of sayings on spiritual topics, and Thomas followed this practice from his schooldays onwards. Thus some of the Second Readings from the Imitation that we use in the liturgy read almost like a sequence of “bullet points”. In a sense this is the best use of the Imitation – as a bedside book to be read one chapter out of each night, as Monsignor Ronald Knox did in his later years. Thomas à Kempis manages, in each short chapter, to propound a theme or even sketch a situation, and to bring out of it a moral or a conclusion, food for the spirit. Knox tells us that in the days when English Protestants treated The Pilgrim’s Progress as a sort of extra book of the New Testament, The Imitation of Christ was practically the Catholic equivalent. But that does not make it a warm bath to sink oneself into. As Knox puts it:
“The whole work… is a sustained irritant which preserves us… from sinking back into relaxation: from self-conceit, self-pity, self-love. It offers consolation here and there, but always at the price of fresh exertion… Heaven help us if we find easy reading in The Imitation of Christ.”
Liturgical colour: red
Red is the colour of fire and of blood. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit (for instance, at Pentecost) and the blood of the martyrs.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Jeremiah 31:33 ©|
This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Jeremiah 32:40 ©|
I will make an everlasting covenant with them. I will not cease in my efforts for their good, and I will put respect for me into their hearts, so that they turn from me no more.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Ezekiel 34:31 ©|
You, my sheep, are the flock I shall pasture, and I am your God – it is the Lord who speaks.