The Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
Other saints: Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1473 - 1541)
Arundel & Brighton, Christchurch, Havant
Margaret Plantagenet was the niece of King Edward IV, and was born in 1473. These were troubled times. Her father, the Duke of Clarence, was executed for treason, by the King, his own brother, while she was still a small child. Her brother Edward of Warwick might have been King of England but for the establishment of the House of Tudor by Henry VII after Bosworth Field in 1485. She herself could have posed a threat to the new dynasty, but instead of having her imprisoned or executed the King arranged for her marriage to a loyal supporter of his, Sir Richard Pole. The couple lived at Lordington, near Chichester, where probably their children, including the future Cardinal, were born.
Before long the Poles were appointed to the household of Prince Arthur and his wife Catherine of Aragon. Margaret and Catherine became firm friends. But within a year Arthur died; and within three years her husband also died, leaving her to bring up their five children. However, for a time all went well. Margaret successfully petitioned for the restoration of her titles and property, confiscated at her father’s attainder, and was admitted to her title of Countess of Salisbury. No doubt because of her friendship for Queen Catherine, whom Henry VIII had married after the death of Arthur (with papal dispensation), she was appointed as governess and head of the household to Princess Mary, (later Queen Mary Tudor). At that time the King used to say that his kingdom did not contain a nobler woman than the Countess.
But in the 1530’s came the King’s “great matter”, his divorce from Queen Catherine. Needless to say, Margaret disapproved strongly, as did her son Reginald, who was forced to take refuge on the Continent from the King’s anger. The divorce and Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn brought England into schism. The King tried hard to get Reginald on to his side, but of course to no avail. His book “De unitate” enraged the King, and when the Pope made him a Cardinal, that was the last straw. He vented his anger on the Cardinal’s family. It was now the year 1539. Margaret’s eldest son, Lord Montague, and other relatives, were executed for treason; and Margaret herself was subjected to a long period of interrogation, first at her own home near Havant, and then at Cowdray Park near Midhurst, the property of one of her interrogators, the Earl of Southampton. They sought evidence of treason, whether by support of her son the Cardinal, or by proving some involvement with the uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.
The reports of the interrogators give us some indication of the remarkable steadfastness of this elderly lady, now approaching seventy years of age. Not only did her questioners fail to extract any admission of guilt, even after rough handling; it is clear that they both feared and grudgingly respected her. Cromwell was unable to bring her to trial for lack of evidence, so he persuaded a subservient Parliament to pass an Act of Attainder by which she was condemned purely on suspicion, without any trial.
The Countess was taken to the Tower. The sentence for treason was death, but Henry forbore to have it executed, and for two years she was kept in the Tower, suffering greatly from the cold and damp.
It was finally the fact of her royal blood that brought about her execution. The King feared a rebellion of Yorkist sympathizers, following a Rising in the North. Margaret, the “last of the Plantagenets”, must be eliminated, and he ordered her execution. She was beheaded on East Smithfield Green, within the precincts of the Tower, on 27th May 1541, and buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
But the underlying cause of her death was undoubtedly the fact that the King could not silence the opposition to him in Europe, in which her son the Cardinal had so large a part, coupled with her own indomitable refusal, from the time of the divorce onwards, to compromise the unity of the Church. Her last words were, “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake”.
The Church formally gave her the title Blessed in 1886.
Other saints: Bl. Mary Bartholomew Bagnesi OP (1514 - 1577)
28 May (where celebrated)
Virgin and Lay Dominican.
Blessed Mary Batholomew Bagnesi was born in Florence on August 15, 1514, and there received the habit of a Dominican Sister of Penance in 1547. For forty-five years she was confined to her bed and with great courage bore the pains she suffered. By her spirit of faith and acceptance of God’s will, she was able to encourage and console many who came to her. She died on May 28, 1577, and was buried at the Carmelite monastery in Florence.
Today's Mass reading: The God-fearers
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows us the ‘God-fearers’, the non-Jews who revered Judaism without actually becoming Jews themselves. We tend to forget them in our view of history because they don’t fit easily into our ‘either-or’ categories, but the Jews were aware of them to the extent – for example – of having rules about which parts of the Temple they were or were not allowed to enter.
In today’s pagan world there are also many who are ‘God-fearers.’ We have a duty to them just as the Jews did. On the one hand we must deny them nothing that might nourish them, on the other hand (just like the Jews) we must not pretend that there is no difference between them and us: to say that there is no difference would be to deny the very thing that they revere. On the other hand, to go all-out enthusiastic about bringing them into the fold is usually the best way of chasing them away from it. You lead a horse by walking beside it, not by pulling it from the front. To catch a fish, you do not jump into the water and splash around trying to grab it.
There is no simple instant formula. We don’t know what God’s plan for our friend’s soul is – nor for ours. But there is a plan, and one way or another each of us can be a means of grace for anyone, a channel through which the Spirit will do his work.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Pope St Clement I
Clement was Bishop of Rome after Peter, Linus and Cletus. He lived towards the end of the first century, but nothing is known for certain about his life. Clement’s letter to the Corinthian church has survived. It is the first known Patristic document, and exhorts them to peace and brotherly harmony.
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)||Acts 2:32,36 ©|
God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. For this reason the whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Galatians 3:27-28 ©|
All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Corinthians 5:7-8 ©|
Get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.