Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 17; St. Hugh of Lincoln

Icon of St. Hugh in Lincoln Cathedral with the swan that was known to follow him around.

St. Hugh was born at Avalon, France around 1140. A son of the Lord of Avalon, Hugh entered a Carthusian abbey at an early age. He made his way up in the order, eventually becoming a priest and the procurator of the Grand Chartreuse, the mother house of the order. In 1179, Hugh traveled to Dorset to fill the post as Prior of the first Carthusian House in England. Upon arriving at the newly chartered abbey in Witham, he found the land given by the king, Henry II unimproved. Hugh worked to get the Henry II to support the establishment. His relationship with Henry caused him to unveil problems with the English church. Henry had been keeping diocese vacant to draw the diosesan income into the royal treasuries. Hugh pushed for reform and Henry agreed to let elections proceed to fill the vacant sees. In 1186 the chapter of Lincoln Cathedral twice elected Hugh to be Bishop. After his consecration in Westminster he quickly established his own power separate from the king. Hugh was know n to be charitable to all in his diocese of which he kept constant supervision. He raised the standard of education at his own cathedral and protected the Jews from persecution. He rebuilt Lincoln Cathedral in the gothic style. He died in 1200 and was buried in the cathedral. he was canonized only 20 years later.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 28, Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude

Le Martyre de Saint Simon et Saint Jude. French medieval illumination.

Jude, or Jude Thaddeus, was one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus. His mother, Mary, is known as as a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the Pentecost, Jude brought the gospel to the Armenians along with St. Bartholomew after preaching in Judea and Syria. Simon, to be distinguished from Simon-Peter, but also one of the twelve, evangelized in Egypt and in other parts of northern and eastern Africa, where he became known to the Berbers. He then made his way back to Judea and into Syria. In A.D. 65 both St. Simon and St. Jude were martyred in the roman city of Beirut.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17; Feast of St. Etheldreda, Abbes of Ely

Stained Glass of Etheldreda holding her church at Ely

St. Etheldreda was born around the Fenlands in of Mercia and East Anglia in 636. She married King Tondberct of the Fens early on but remained chaste. He presented Etheldreda with the Isle of Ely, to which she retired after hi death. She was, however, remarried to Ecgfrith, King of the Northumbrians but soon ran away to become a nun. Ecgfrith was not going to let her get away, so he pursued her. But when Etheldreda heard of his intent, she quickly fled back to the Isle of Ely where she established a double monastery. When King Ecgfrith finally arrived the sea became rough and a storm came off the North Sea so that he was unable to cross to the isle. Etheldreda was left in peace and continued to expand an build up the Monastery at Ely. When she died she was remembered as a holy person, and she was buried in a white marble tomb. Ely Cathedral became a great center of pilgrimage in the middle ages as hundreds flocked to her shrine. She still lies in Ely although the shrine was destroyed and Ely Cathedral remains a holy place for this purpose.

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 15; St. Teresa of Avila

Bernini's St. Teresa in Ecstasy. 
St. Teresa was a Carmelite nun born in 1515 outside the Castilian city of Avila. Her Grandfather was a Jew making her family converts. As a child Teresa was inspired by the faith of the saints particularly martyrs and at age seven, trying to escape to the Moorish lands, was eager to display the same faith along with her older brother. She quickly returned to Avila, however, and became a nun in a Carmelite convent. There she came down with an illness which increased her faith and she became penitent. What followed was a series of visions culminating in an appearance of Christ him self. She recorded the experience writing,

"I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it..."

Teresa spent much of the rest of her life writing several books on theological subjects, including prayer, aestheticism, mysticism, and the soul, all in reaction to her visions. Her new thinking lead her to push reform for the Carmelite Order in Spain. She began to establish new monasteries under a rule even more strict than the regular rule. The first of such monasteries was the convent of San Jose in Avila, its members taking a vow of absolute, apostolic poverty. They lived among and for the poor, and since they were shoe-less  they came to be known as the "Discalced Carmelites." Throughout the 1560s, Teresa was granted permission to spread her order, which was unpopular because of its renunciation of property, not only on an individual basis but on a communal basis. Teresa, joined by another mystic, St. John of the Cross, traveled all over Spain and established monasteries for both men and women. The last of her seventeen convents was the Convent of the Annunciation in Alba de Torres, where she also spent time on writing about her visions and revelations before her death. 

The example that St. Teresa has left for the Church is essential to the Church's mission; to its likeness to Christ. It is the willingness of people like Teresa to live to help other, dedicating their lives to do Christ's work, that helps carry the Church from generation to generation. The Church is the body of Christ, and therefore its actions must be as true to Christ's actions as the human condition permits. St. Teresa's mission embodies a reciprocal relationship: the Church's duty is to draw people under its protective wing, in doing so it must comfort them with the saving words of Christ, and in doing that it draws them into his body; the Church. 

Merciful God, who by your spirit raised up your servant Teresa of Avila to reveal to your Church the way of perfection: grant that her teaching may awaken in us a longing for holiness, until we attain to the perfect union of love in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

-Festivals and Lesser Festivals of the Church of England. 

In just 2008, the first Carmelite convent in the Episcopal Church was established in Rising Sun Maryland. The Convent is dedicated as The Episcopal Carmel of St. Teresa of Avila. It is a growing community, and it serves as a first for a hopeful revival in the Anglican Church for the religious life, dedicated to the work of Christ and prayer for our Church and our world. 

October 13th; Feast of St. Edward the Confessor

Medieval manuscript showing pilgrims at St. Edward's shrine.

St. Edward lived from about 1005 to 1066 and was the last great Saxon King. He was the son of Ethelred Unread and Emma of Normandy distantly relating him to Duke William of Normandy. Growing up in the disruption of his father's turbulent reign and enduring the last stretch of viking attacks with the occupation by King Canute of Denmark, Edward grew up to be very faithful in belief and in his actions as king. He endowed and rebuilt an abbey at what was then called Thorny Island and called the church the "West Minster" because it was west of London. There are several miracles associated with Edward, the most famous being that he came across a beggar out side a church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, Edward presented his ring to him after he asked for alms. Yet  later the ring was presented back to some pilgrims traveling in the Holy Land by a man claiming to be St. John. The man asked them to return the ring to Edward and to tell him that they would be meeting in 6-months time. Edward died 6 months later on January 5, 1066. He was buried in his church at Westminster where his relics remain enshrined in the medieval tomb.

St. Edward the Confessor reminds us, along with other pious kings such as St. Louis or St. Henry II, that no matter how well known we are, how high profile our lives or jobs may be it is important that we outwardly confess our faith just as much as we inwardly practice it. These kings lived in a society where a pious leader was admired, but their positions also tested their faith. We now live in a time where it can be, in some cases, 'unpopular' to be openly Christian, and that religion should be restrained to one's private life. But the Christian faith was not meant to be hidden or private, and it has certainly suffered times where it was 'unpopular' before. We must then, as St. Edward did, live our lives, both private and public, ever-mindful of Christ and our faith in him.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 12th, Feast of St. Wilfrid of York

Stained glass in Chichester Cathedral, depicting St. Wilfrid

St. Wilfrid was born in the kingdom of Northumbria in 633. After becoming a monk at Lindisfarne, he traveled around studying in different ecclesiastical centers in England and the continent. He returned to Northumbria establishing  a monastery Ripon, now a Cathedral, and argued for the Roman rites and calculations of Easter at the controversial Synod of Whitby causing much distress among the Celtic Church which had been taken on in the north of the Kingdom and accepted by the royal family. Eventually the roman side won, and many of the Celtic monks at Lindisfarne returned to Iona from whence they had been called by King Oswald. Wilfrid was rewarded for his argument at the synod and appointed to the episcopal see of York. As the premier bishop of Northumbria he had jurisdiction over the other northern bishoprics. Wilfrid left to be consecrated in Gaul but did not return for several years and as a result St. Cedda of Lichfield was installed as the Bishop. He was more concerned about the state of the diocese, but when Wilfrid returned Cedda was deposed and returned to be bishop of Lichfield. Be for Wilfrid's death in 709, he established another monastery at Hexham, which became a bishopric under the supervision of St. Theodore of Canterbury. The holiness of Wilfrid is often disputed, many think that his argument during the Synod of Whitby was not genuine; that his reason for canceling the rites of the Celtic Church was really an impetus for power, which he later revived as Bishop of York. Even as Bishop, however, Wilfrid seemed to neglect his diocese and recognize it only as a title.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Feast, September 19; Theodore of Tarsus

St. Theodore of Canterbury.
St. Theodore, also known as Theodoric of Canterbury, was born an Asiatic Greek in 602. He studied as a scholar for part of his life in Athens and was known well in the church even though he was only a sub-deacon.
After meeting with the patriarch Vitalian in Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Upon his arrival in 669 he made a whole tour of Anglo-Saxon England, after which he called together the synod of Hertford, one of the most important synods in English Church History. In this council the Church approved of particular reforms that applied to the division of diocese, the power of diocesan bishops, and the governing of the monastic settlements. Theodore greatly rearranged the Saxon church at this time adding, dividing, and defining diocese. He participated several other synods, including the controversial synod at Whitby. He established many monastic foundations and ecclisiastical schools, and died on 19 September, 690.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Feast, September 16; St. Ninian

     Pilgrim's cross, carved into rock inside St. Ninian's Cave.
Ninian often went there to pray alone in retreat.
     Saint Ninian, Known as the first apostle to the Picts, was born in the 360s in the Galloway area, just north of Hadrian's wall, and therefore outside of Roman jurisdiction. he was born the son of a minor British king, but devoted his time to reading and studying the scriptures, consistently educating himself. Christ's choosing of Peter as the "rock I will build my church" upon particularly grasped Ninian. and in an effort to continue his education he set out across Britain and Gaul where he came to Rome. There he pursued his education with the pope Damasus.
     But Damasus's successor to the papacy, Siricus after learning that Scotland had not yet been exposed to the gospel, consecrated Ninian, sending him to be their missionary and bishop. On his way back, Ninian stopped once again in Gaul where he met St. Martin of Tours. As he reached his missionary diocese he began building Scotland first stone church at Whithern. And upon the news of St. Martin's death, Ninian dedicated it in honor of Tours' great bishop. The Church was made of white stone and would be known as the Candida Casa or Whitehouse for centuries to come. It came to be the center of ecclesiastical training for Scotland, northern England, and Ninian missions in Ireland, and remained so for a few centuries. But it's importance dwindled as missions in Ireland and Scotland came after Ninian. Ninian is attributed for the conversion of the southern Picts, Scotland's Britons, and some of Irish. He set up dioceses, establishing monasteries and churches and turned Whithern into a great center of Christian learning. Ninian died in the fifth century, and his relics were kept enshrined in the Candida Casa at Whithern until the reformation, when cathedrals were pulled down and art destroyed by Christian pretenders. His cult has been restored in the Anglican Communion and many churches in the Scottish Episcopal Church have been dedicated to him, including the cathedral at Perth.

Ninian remains important to us today for his missionary zeal; his willingness to travel to some of Scotland's unforgiving peoples and joyfully bring them the good news of Christ. The Church must must continue today, Ninian's work to bring the faith to new lands and maybe more importantly to re-evangelize in lands like Scotland, or England, France, the United States and may other countries that have known Christ for a long time but that have lapsed in the faith.

OGOD, who by the preaching of thy blessed servant Saint Ninian didst cause the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland; Grant, we beseech thee, that having his life and labours in remembrance, we may shew forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the example of his zeal and patience in continuing to spread this light; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.

References from St. Columba and Iona, the Early History of the Christian Church in Scotland, by Alphons Bellesheim.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feast, September 14; Holy Cross Day

The feast of the Holy Cross is the designated day for the veneration of the True Cross. This feast was actually started because the consecration of the Emperor Constantine's great Jerusalem Church of the Resurrection (more widely known as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) took place on this day in the year 335. The church is built over what is believed to be the Hill of Golgotha and the Holy Sepulcher. Both of which were uncovered when St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, lead an excavation in Jerusalem and also found large fragment of the True Cross. Above is the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the dome  houses the garden tomb and high altar.

Feast, September 13; Cyprian of Carthage

St. Cyprian of Carthage.
St. Cyprian was born in Carthage around the year 200. In his early life he was a known aristocrat, and taught rhetoric until 245 when he converted to Christianity. Just two years later he was elected as the bishop of Carthage writing several treatises, books while continuing to preach the gospel. Some of his subjects included the Lord's Prayer where he says that we say 'Hallowed be thy Name' because we desire that his name be made holy within us and that we may continue what we have been made through baptism (Lesser Feasts and Fasts). He also wrote on the importance of episcopacy, and many of his works survive. He went into hiding during the persecutions under the Emperor Decius, but continued to rule his church in secret. It was during the second persecution that he endured, when he was captured in Carthage an put to death on September 14th, 258.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8th; Feasts of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Ethelburga of Kent

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated on this day since Pope Sergius I introduced it to the calendar in the 7th century. Daughter to Sts. Anne and Jochim, Mary birth was an omen of the coming of Christ, though no one knew it at the time. All that is written of it is strictly apocryphal, but it was told by one of the 12 disciples - possibly St. James the Greater.

 Birth of the Virgin Mary.

St. Mary and St. Ethelburga's church at Lyminge.

St. Ethelburga, who's feast is also celebrated today, was the daughter of the converted Christian king, St. Ethelbert of Kent. She originally was married to St. Edwin, King of Northumbria, but after his death resulting from the Mercian pagan attacks she fled with Paulinus, Archbishop of York, back to Kent. She then founded a convent at Lyminge, where she, as abbes, dedicated the rest of her life to the work of the Lord. Her relics were venerated until the dissolution of the monasteries in Canterbury.

Feast, September 3rd; Gregory the Great

St. Gregory blessing St. Ethelbert, King of Kent.
(He is often depicted with the dove and the book)

Gregory was born in Rome in the 540s, and his first career was actually the prefect of Rome in573, after-which he took vows and became a monk. He worked for Pope Pelagius, and it was during this time that he came across some slaves in the markets at Marseilles and was told they were angles from Britain, and were not Christians. He bought the slaves, hoping to lead a mission their himself. Instead he was elected pope, succeeding Pelagius to the papacy in the year 590. Soon after he became pope, however, he sent Augustine, a monk of his own monastery, other monks, and the freed Angle slaves, to convert the Anglo-Saxons invading Christian Britain. In doing this Christianity would be restored to what is now England. Bede credits St. Gregory as he does Augustine as an Apostle to the English.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, St. Aidan of Lindisfarne

Statue of St. Aidan on Holy Island
The southern part of the kingdom of Northumbria in what is now northern England had been converted by 627 when Paulinus established a bishopric at York, but by 632 the Mercians had taken over and restored paganism under King Penda. When King Oswald of Northumbria came out of exile later on he decided to bring back a mission to his kingdom. So, as Oswald had spent his exile with the Celtic Christians of Iona, St. Aidan, a monk of Iona was sent to spread the gospel to the Northumbrians. He was consecrated bishop and established an Abbey-church at Lindisfarne or Holy Island to serve as the seat of his episcopal see. He spent much time evangelizing on foot to all people he came across and was revered as wise and holy. The Venerable Bede wrote "He neither sought nor lovedanything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the poor whatever was given to him by kings or rich men of the world". In 651 Aidan died at Bamburgh, two miles south of Holy Island, and is credited for converting the peoples of Northumbria and even down into Mercia. His relics were taken with Cuthbert's and Oswald's* to Chester-Le-Street and then to Durham, where they now rest in St. Cuthbert's tomb. The establishment of Durham Cathedral is descended from Aidan's foundation at Lindisfarne.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adirondack Churches

 Church of the Transfiguration, Blue Mountain Lake
 West window, Blue Mountain Lake
 Nave window, Blue Mountain Lake
 Nave, St. Luke's Saranac
 Nave window with loon, Saranac
 South transept window, St. Eustace, Lake Placid 
(with St. Eustace, stag, and ADK landscape)
 Chapel crucifix, Lake Placid
All Soul's Chapel, St Hubert's
As I spent a couple weeks in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York this summer, I visited Episcopal churches and missions in the west-central wilderness area and in the area around Lake Placid and Saranac. Many of them in reflection of their isolated and wild locality displayed characteristics in architecture and scenery associated with the Adirondacks. One, in Blue Mountain Lake, was built of logs and was complete with stained glass windows featuring lily pads, loon and beavers. As I continued viewing more churches I noticed that many of the stained glass windows continued to depict the sweeping Adirondack landscape which, in some cases, was tied in with the more usual ecclesiastical subjects. Often the Virgin Mary could be seen on a green mountainside with a view of a land covered in green hills, lakes and pine trees; I could not help remembering some dutch Altarpieces depicting the crucifixion and behind a landscape complete with Gothic Cathedrals, pinnicled castles, and an assortment of Flemish looking cities. This is similar but with Adirondack elements.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Feast, 5 August; Oswald of Northumbria

Oswald was the King of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in the early seventh century. Convinced that Christianity was the true faith he called to the great abbey at Iona in the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada for an Apostle to come and preach the gospel to the Northumbrians. The first monk to come from Iona was unsuccessful with his manner of teaching to produce any new followers. So Oswald sent for another monk called Aidan, who established an Abbey at Lindisfarne, a few miles north of Oswald's residence at Bamburgh, from which he was successful in several missions to convert the locals. Here Aidan became bishop, and a close friend of Oswald's. At one point, after Oswald had given the food from his own table to the poor who waited outside the royal fortress, Aidan said to him that his hands were blessed and would not perish. The hands were preserved in a reliquary for hundreds of years, fulfiling the prophecy by remaining in-corrupted. Finally in 642 in the battle of Maserfield, between the Christian Northumbrians and the Pagan Mercians lead by the King Penda, Oswald was slain while praying for the souls of his soldiers. Afterward they laid his body (which had been mutilated by the pagans) in a nearby Church, where it was said to give off light in the night's darkness. His head was later buried with the body of St. Cuthbert where it remains in the tomb of that Saint at Durham Cathedral. Above is Cuthbert with the head of St. Oswald.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feast, July 31; Germanus of Auxerre

Saint Germanus or Germain d'Auxerre was the Gaulish bishop of Auxerre in the late fourth to early fifth centuries. After serving for a while as the Bishop of Auxerre he was sent to Britain after the Romans had left to stamp out the pelagic views that some of the British bishops had adopted. He succeeded in this but stayed in Briton, establishing several churches, and to help battle against the invading Saxons and Picts, which he did without bloodshed. Later on he defended the cause of the rebelling Bretons to the Roman Emperor. He died on July 31 in 448 in Ravenna and is remembered for his holiness and for miracles he preformed. Buried in Auxerre, the Abbey there was a pilgrimage destination throughout the Middle Ages, and remains so. His cult was popular in Britain in France where there are numerous dedication to him. At top is the Abbey of St. Germans in Cornwall, which was originally an early medieval bishopric, and below that is the Cathedral of Auxerre in Burgundy, France.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feast, July 29; Olaf of Norway

Saint Olaf was the King of Norway in the eleventh century. Originally he was the son of a  Norwegian lord, but after fighting for King Ethelred Unread against the Danes, and becoming a christian he returned to Norway and usurped the throne. However, after doing so, he reigned kindly and justly, and succeeded in expanding the church in Norway, which included the founding of the Archdiocese of Nidaros in what is now Trondheim. Olaf was later exiled in 1029 after a rebellion against his Christian enthusiasm. In 1030 he tried to return by fighting at the battle of Stiklestad on July 29. He was buried but water springing from his grave was quickly reported along with other miracles. His body was later translated to a shrine in the Nidaros Cathedral ( where it remains behind the high alter) by Grimkell, the Archbishop. His cult was one of the most popular in the Scandinavian kingdoms, and was also popular in the British Isles, and the pilgrimage route (known as St. Olaf's way) to Trondheim is still traveled. His attributes are a crown and an ax, with which he was killed. At top is the Nidaros Cathedral and below that is a crosier depicting St. Olaf with the ax.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feast, July 26; Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Saints Anne and Jochim is celebrated today. Little is known about Jochim, in fact the name was supposedly given to him much later. The cult of St. Anne however is much more wide-spread as she is venerated as the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is also attributed for presenting Mary at the temple. And in the Orthodox Churches there is a lesser feast for the Dormition of Anne. In iconography she is often depicted holding the young Mary as the later is depicted holding the baby Jesus. Above is an Icon of Anne holding Mary and an eighth century Coptic image of St. Anne.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feast, July 25; St. James the Greater

Saint James most famous for being one of the first disciples of Jesus and for being the only Apostle whose martyrdom was recorded in the Gospels. After Pentecost James preached the Gospels to the Galicians in northern Spain.  James is the patron Saint of Spain due to the finding of his tomb in Galicia in the early Middle Ages. Since then he has been venerated at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where a shrine withholding his relics is kept. Compostela ranked as one of the major pilgrimage sites in Christendom, attracting pilgrims by the tens of thousands along several pilgrimage routes, one of which was mapped out in the 12th century Clunaic manuscript called Codex Calixstinus. The Cathedral Still attracts thousands of pilgrims, and it still continues the ancient tradition of censing the pilgrims at the mass with a giant thurible. It is also the only mass during the year when the Cathedral is aloud to use the medieval Spanish rite, instead of the universal Roman one. The thurible is still used, and this Sunday, the 25, a pilgrims mass will be held at the Cathedral. At top is a view of the Cathedral, then a leaf from the Codex Calixstinus, and finally an image of the thurible.

Feast, July 23; Bridget of Sweden

Saint Bridget of Sweden lived from 1303 to 1373, and is the patron saint of Sweden. In the first part of her life she spent time as a lady-in-waiting for the royal house of Sweden during the reign of King Magnus II. during this time she experienced several visions of the Nativity. In response to these visions she went on several pilgrimages including the one to Trondheim Cathedral (the site of St. Olaf's shrine) and to Santiago de Compostela. After the death of her husband she founded a monastery at Vadstena, where she also established her own rule. She died in Italy after receiving approval for her order. She was canonized in 1391. Her relics survive in a shrine at the re-founded nunnery at Vadstena which is pictured above.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feast, July 22; Mary Magdalene

Saint Mary Magdalene was a close friend and follower of Jesus, and is known as an equal or even as one of the Apostles. At the Last Supper it was she who washed and anointed the feet of Jesus, an act which has become a penitential tradition celebrated on Maundy Thursday. Later at the Crucifixion she stayed, kneeling before the cross, with St. Mary the Virgin and with St. John. And most importantly she was the first to go to the tomb and see the risen Christ. Her cult is wide-spread, and she continues to be venerated in the Lutheran, Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox churches. Above is an image of the Stabat Mater scene, Mary Magdalene is kneeling before the cross.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Feast, July 21; Arbogast of Strasbourg

Saint Arbogast was one of a series of missionaries who came to preach the Gospel to the Germanic peoples in the seventh and eight centuries. Living first as a hermit in a nearby forest, he was later consecrated the bishop of Strasbourg in the 600s on command of King Dagobert. During his episcopate he founded several churches including the monastery at Surbourg, and was credited for many miracles. He died in 678, and sadly his relics were destroyed by Protestants during the Reformation. Above is his Abbey at Surbourg.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Feast, July 20; Margret of Antioch

St. Margaret lived during the prosecution under the Emperor Diocletian. She was a shepherdess who converted many followers to Christianity in the area around Antioch. Both she and those she had converted were martyred in the time of the prosecution. Before she died she proclaimed " that those who dedicate churches and burn lights in her honor will receive they need through prayer". Her Cult was wide spread in England where more than 200 churches are dedicated to her. Above is an illuminated manuscript portraying St. Margret with the dragon.

Feast, July 18; Edburga of Bicester

St. Edburga lived in the early seventh century, and was the daughter of the ruthless pagan king, Penda of Mercia. She became a nun at Castor and later the Abbess of a nunnery she built with her sister St. Edith at Aylesbury. Her relics were later translated to a house of Austin Canons in Bicester where the base of her shrine survives. Above is an image of pilgrims venerating her relics at the shrine.

Feast, July 16; St. Osmund

Osmund was the first Norman Bishop of Sarum England (now Salisbury). He was consecrated bishop in 1078 under William I. During his episcopate he built the cathedral at Old Sarum within the Norman castle, and helped put together the Domesday book for William I, presented to the king at Sarum in 1086. Osmund was admired for his kindness which was unusual for the Norman hierarchy in his time, as his reverence for the Anglo-Saxon saints such as St. Aldhelm Whom Osmund greatly respected. He had a love for books, making several of them himself and is credited for putting together the Sarum Rite, by collecting the various rites used across England. He died in 1099 and although pilgrims came to his tomb soon after, he was not canonized until 1457 when his relics were translated to a new shrine on this day. His tomb in Salisbury Cathedral is pictured above.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cloisters Museum & Gardens, and St. John the Divine (Cathedral)

Last week I visited the cloisters museum in NYC. Its a museum especially for medieval religious art. The building itself is made up of bits and pieces of monasteries from all over Europe, including several chapels, cloisters, decorated doorways, and a chapter house. The collection is every thing from paneled altarpieces to gilded reliquaries, and even a monastic garden in one of the cloisters. (3 top photos)

After the cloisters I visited the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Cathedral in the world, and third largest church. the nave is in the Gothic style but the rest is more Romanesque, the crossing being a dome and the apse rendering an impression of Canterbury's trinity chapel. The chapels in the retro-quire are dedicated to a variety of saints and are built in the most well known style of its saint's nation. (3 bottom photos)
On Sunday I also passed the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, NY. The Cathedral is relatively small, but its stone work is exquisite and it is very tall.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Feast, July 15; St. Swithun

St. Swithun was the Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century. He was favored by king Egbert of Wessex in his early life, and was later chosen as bishop by King Ethelwulf. During his lifetime the kingdom of Wessex's importance in the Anglo-Saxon  hepitarchy greatly increased which elevated the bishopric of Winchester, Wessex's Royal diocese, to a more revered position. St. Swithun is remembered for his charity and humility, both qualities uncommon for his lordly episcopal colleagues and especially for the bishop of one of England's wealthiest dioceses, performing numerous small miracles that assisted commoners and inviting the poor of Winchester to great feasts rather than other clerics or nobles. Swithun traveled around his diocese on foot, both establishing new churches and taking great care in fostering and growing the older churches. He ordered that at his death he should be buried outside of the Saxon cathedral, in the graveyard with the poor, where his tomb would be worn by the rain-perhaps the origin of the famous St. Swithun's day nursery rhyme:
"St. Swithun's Day if thou dost rain
then forty days it shall remain
St. Swithun's day if thou be fair
for forty days 'twill nae rain mair."
When the great Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Dunstan, was working to revive monastic life in the Church in England and to reform its dioceses in the 10th century, the minster was rebuilt and St. Swithun's relics were translated into a shrine in the new church. His relics were translated into the retrochoir when the Norman Cathedral was built for the convenience of the thousands of pilgrims travelling between Canterbury and Winchester. The medieval shrine is gone, but in 1962 a new one was placed over his relics in Winchester Cathedral.
St. Swithun remains important to the Church today in his role as bishop or as any person with an high-profile job. Besides bringing the light of the Gospel to new lands, the Church must diligently maintain the light where it has been established. As St. Swithun traveled around his diocese on foot to care and nurture every parish in his diocese, the bishops of the Anglican Communion today should be careful to give aid to parishes and to make sure that the faith is being both accurately maintained and zealously evangelized. But St. Swithun's message and example extend beyond bishops to every priest and all the laity; who should just as carefully proclaim Christ and carry out his mission in caring for those with any kind of restraint or disadvantage.

Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the feast of your servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness the people committed to his care, so we, rejoicing in our christian inheritance, may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

The 'holy hole' in the retro choir of Winchester Cathedral where pilgrims used to climb to get closer to the relics and the new shrine of St. Swithun over the spot where he is buried.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Feast, July 13; Henry II

Henry II was born the son and heir to the Duke of Bavaria in 973. He was crowned King of the Germans in 1002, King of Italy in 1004, and finally crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1014. Henry remained Pious throughout his reign, he established the diocese of Bamberg, and eagerly patronized the Benedictine order. His relics lie in the Cathedral at Bamberg- pictured at the top.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feast, July 12

Feast of Saints Nabor and Felix, Moorish soldiers who were converted to Christianity in Milan in the 3rd century. They were later martyred under the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian in 303, and were buried in what is now a basilica in Milan. Later their relics were taken to Cologne Cathedral where the bones were enshrined with those of the Magi. Above are their images on the reliquary.