Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Monday, December 24, 2012

St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 29 December. (Also known as Thomas of Canterbury)

Stained glass image of St. Thomas from Canterbury
     December 29 is the day on which one of England's most famous churchmen, Thomas of Canterbury, is remembered as the saint who stood up for the Church and was killed in the Cathedral Church of Christ at Canterbury. Thomas' actions leading up to his martyrdom are sometimes criticized as self-serving but all of these actions, and the martyrdom which surpassed them all, were and remain symbols of the Church's rightful position next to or above civil and secular authority in the world.
     Thomas was born into a Norman merchant family in London in around 1120. He was educated in a few monastic schools in London and spent some time in Paris before he returned to England to serve the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec, who was a Norman like Thomas and perhaps even related to him. Thomas was made the Archdeacon of Canterbury and held several ecclesiastical positions in Kent, the Cathedrals at London and Lincoln and even at the Yorkshire Benedictine Abbey at Beverly. His success as an administrator in these churches allowed him to become the Chancellor to King Henry II. During his time as chancellor, Thomas and Henry became close friends, and he for now, enjoyed the freedoms of a secular administrator. But after the death of Theobald, Henry nominated Thomas for Archbishop of Canterbury, the primate of all the Church in England,  thinking that as a friend Thomas would resolve the Church vs. State controversy by acknowledging Henry as his superior.
     On becoming Archbishop however, Thomas decided that his allegiance now lay directly and primarily with Christ and his Church. He also adopted a lifestyle of asceticism, wearing a hair shirt to mortify his skin and a black benedictine habit under his episcopal robes to symbolize humility and the vow of poverty. His first conflict with civil authority came at the Council of Clarendon, when Henry tried to take more control over the Church from Rome. Thomas refused to sign and was tried before the for not cooperating. In 1164, Thomas fled to France where he took sanctuary in the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigy in Picardy. Before his return in 1170, Henry tried to secure the succession of his son to the English throne by holding a coronation for him. Since Becket was not present, Henry allowed the Archbishop of York instead to crown the prince, which was traditionally a prerogative of the Archbishops of Canterbury. For this, Becket excommunicated York, the other bishops who attended the ceremony and a whole cast of candidates for privileged ecclesiastical offices who had taken to traveling with Henry. Finally after six  years of living as a monastic in exile,  Thomas was allowed to return to England. From Calais, he left for Canterbury in early December 1170. But Henry, while at Rouen, soon learned of the excommunications and, naturally infuriated by them, uttered that fateful phrase: "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" as T.S Elliot wrote it. Meanwhile, Thomas preached a sermon on Christmas Day on Christian martyrdom which included a prediction that this would be his last sermon. On the 29th of December, four knights, who had been with the King at Rouen, arrived at the Palace of the Archbishop in Canterbury. Thomas was leaving with his attendant to go to vespers in the Cathedral. He was pursued through the cloister  but turned to face his murderers at a pier near the entrance of the chapel of St. Benedict. The knights demanded that he renounced the excommunications or come with them out of the Church. Thomas refused to do either and held fast to the pier while one of the knights tried to drag him out. Another knight struck him on the head and after falling to his knees where he received two more blows, saying "I  commend my soul to Christ and the Church." The tomb began to attract pilgrims immediately and hundreds of miracles were recorded. He was canonized just three years later and in 1174, Henry II did penitence there, receiving three blows from each of the eighty monks of Canterbury. His relics were translated into a new shrine in 1220 under Archbishop Langton into the chapel behind the high alter. The shrine remained there until 1538, when Henry VIII had it demolished and Thomas proclaimed a rebel in an effort to eliminate all vestiges of papal power in England.
The Place of Martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral. The metal swords and cross                                                                  make a great memorial though the small altar is a bit of a let down.
     As says a booklet from Canterbury Cathedral, now the mother-Church of the Anglican Communion and still a place of pilgrimage for those who "seek the holy blissful martyr quick" (from Chaucer), "there is a law higher than the will of worldly princes, and that secular tyranny, in God's name, be resisted even unto death." By his example in martyrdom, Thomas shows that to protect the Church and its faith, martyrdom may even come by the hand of another Christian. Like Thomas, it is essential that all priests, especially bishops, must guard the traditional and continuing mission and faith of the Church perhaps even to other bishops. There are bishops in the Anglican and the Roman Churches who believe that the faith is too 'medieval' for modern Christians, and that the Church should be stripped of its faith to become a sort of moral, community force without borders. That is the very act of abandonment of Christ's mission to us, his Church. So, like St. Thomas of Canterbury, every archbishop, bishop, priest and layperson must stick fast to the Church and to its faith even if it means to be shunned, to be scolded, to be mocked, to be insulted, and yes, to be martyred. There is nothing more precious than the blood which is the love which Christ shed for us and we must be willing to shed that blood also for the love of Christ and his Church.
The Martyrdom on the tomb of Henry IV of Lancaster.
O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel and who are willing to serve your holy Church even unto death; through our Lord Jesus Christ the Shepherd of our souls who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
Canterbury Cathedral high altar. Behind is where Thomas's shrine stood.

An artist's interpretation of the shrine of St. Thomas.
Pilgrim's badge depicting the shrine.
The Shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury. 
     As the most popular pilgrimage site in England and in much of northern Europe, the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury became one of the most lavishly decorated shrines in Christendom. When the Cathedral was rebuilt after the fire of 1174, the east end was designed with the tomb in mind. Behind the high altar steps were built up into a sort of second chancel which formed a smaller gothic apse. Pilgrims could pass the quire and the altar and ascend into the apse to circumnavigate the shrine which was built in the center of the apse. The shrine itself was a typical English one in structure. The golden reliquary-coffin which contained the body of St. Thomas rested on raised arches into which pilgrims could crawl to be closer to the relics. Over the reliquary was another lid, in the same shape as the reliquary and draped in precious cloths. This could be lowered and raised to allow pilgrims to view the reliquary and to protect the precious shrine from thieves. Over most of the ensemble there was a golden net upon which the gifts of any pilgrims from smaller relics to jewelry to ex-votos were hung. At the foot of the shrine was an altar and around the shrine were large, free-standing candlesticks. This kind of 'table'shrine was very popular in England and can still be seen with the shrine of St. Frideswide at Oxford, St. Alban, St. Thomas Cantilupe at Worcester and St. Edward at Westminster. In around the year 1500, a Venetian pilgrim left this account of the shrine: 

“The tomb of St. Thomas the Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury, exceeds all belief.  Notwithstanding its great size it is all covered with plates of pure gold ; yet the gold is scarcely seen because it is covered with various precious stones, as sapphires, ballasses, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds ; and wherever the eye turns, something more beautiful than the rest is observed, Nor, in addition to these natural beauties, is the skill of art wanting ; for in the midst of the gold are the most beautiful sculptured gems, both small and large, as well as cameos ; and some cameos are of such a size that I am afraid to name it ; but everything is far surpassed by a ruby, not larger than a thumb nail, which is fixed at the right of the altar.  The church is somewhat dark, and particularly in the spot where the shrine is placed ; and when we went to see it the sun was near setting, and the weather was cloudy : nevertheless, I saw that ruby as if I had it in my hand. They say it was given by a king of France.”

Canterbury Cathedral, which already hosted the shrines of many saintly Anglo-Saxon archbishops, was turned wholly into a church built for pilgrims. St. Thomas's shrine was the most important part, but like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem there were many other altars and shrine's associated with Becket. 
The following is a list of the various shrines in Canterbury associated with Thomas and the offerings made at them on April 18th, 1303. Each of these were relics associated with Becket's martyrdom (It was common atin English Cathedrals to build a separate shrine for the saint's head as it was at Lincoln with St. Hugh, Lichfield with St. Chad, and at Croyland Abbey with St. Guthlac). Becket's crown (of his head), which was struck of when he was killed, was kept in a part of the Cathedral called 'Becket's Crown,' a chapel at the extreme east end which is circular in shape. 

"At the Shrine of S. Thomas the Martyr, one brooch of gold.
At the same shrine in money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7s.
At the Head of the same saint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . 7s.
At the Point of the Sword whereby the same saint
     underwent his martyrdom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7s.
At the Cloak of the same saint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7s.
At the Tomb of the same saint in the vault . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7s."
-From J. Charles Wall's Shrines of the British Saints

As Becket became an 'international saint,' there are images of him and his marytrdom all over Europe, here are some of my favorites: 
Some vestments worn by Thomas at Sens Cathedral.
Boss in Norwich Cathedral 
Sens Cathedral, the burial.
The Martyrdom in Bayeux Cathedral. 

The Martyrdom on a Limoges reliquary. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

St. Dominic of Silos, 20 December. (Santo Domingo de Silos)

St. Dominic depicted in the robes of a mitered abbot. 
     Santo Domingo de Silos, as he is called in the Spanish language, was born in the rural town of Canas in Castille around the beginning of the 11th century. He was a shepherd for much his childhood and his family was part of the Spanish peasant class, which endured some of the worst conditions of all of Europe's lower classes. His career is all the more remarkable in light of his humble birth. While still young, he entered the benedictine abbey at La Rioja, called San Millan. There he eventually became Prior but was deposed by the King of Navarre, Garcia III, when he refused to allow the confiscation of some of the Priory's land. A refugee of that northern Spanish kingdom, Dominic won the patronage of King Ferdinand I of Leon, who placed him as the Abbot of the Abbey at Silos, where only six brothers lived in its ruinous state. Dominic gradually rebuilt the monastery, increasing the number of brothers, and establishing a library and scriptorium and thus, increasing its reputation, especially as a center for the Mozarabic Liturgy, the rite of the ancient Visigoth Church. Remembering his humble origins, much of the new wealth of the Abbey at Silos was used to free Christian slaves from the Muslim Moors, who occupied almost the entire southern half of Spain in the 11th century, territory which, previous to Moorish control, was Christian. Dominic died on this day in 1073. Three years later, his relics were translated into the Abbey Church where they became the center of his cult and where, in 1170, Joan of Aza, prayed for a child, promising to name him Dominic-who would became the famous Spanish saint and founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Dominic of Silos is venerated in both the Roman and Anglican Churches.

     Dominic became the head of a dying church. But with a combination of liturgical and historical studies, charity for Christian neighbors and the insistence of the importance of the monastery's involvement and prominence, and that of the greater Church in general, in secular society. His life and works remain significant to the  modern church as a model to rebuild redundant churches and establish new ones as centers of ecclesiastical liturgy and study, and as dispensers of charity might which could bring the church back to its position as a center of public devotion and relief.

The romanesque, 'double decker' cloister of the Abbey. 

The Abbey, in Leon, Spain, actually dates to the Visigothic Church of the 7th century. The Abbey remained a center of the Mozarabic Rite after the death of St. Dominic although, like rest of the Church, except for the Archdiocese of Milan, it eventually switched to the  Latin Rite. As monasticism has had little part in the core of the Roman Catholic Church for sometime, Silos seems to have begun to disintegrate again in the 19th century, when it sold many of the manuscripts from its library. Since then, the monastery has rejuvenated itself as a center of Gregorian Chant, for which it is known world wide....St. Dominic's mission continues.

Chant from the Mozarabic Antiphonary of the Abbey.

One of the Abbey's many recordings of Gregorian Chant: Puer Natus in Bethlehem.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

St. John of The Cross, 14 December.

     John of the Cross was born into a poor Jewish family, similar to his contemporary and co-founder  St. Teresa of Avila, in the 1540s near the Town of Avila in Castille, Spain. For the first part of his life, John studied in colleges and universities, including that of Salamanca, across Spain and became an acclaimed scholar before he met the humble Teresa at Avila in 1567. The two saints began the beginning of a movement that would see the foundation of reformed Carmelite houses all over Spain and that sought a more personal, contemplative, and humble relationship with Christ when they made the journey from Avila to Valladolid to found a new house in 1568. In the path of the nun and friar lay an old argument within the Carmelite order in Spain which forbid each side from establishing houses in the territory of the other. John and Teresa founded several houses in the region called Andalusia, in southern Spain, where the 'calced' or 'observant' Carmelites, who rejected the reforms of Teresa's 'discalced' order and the disagreement was settled but only after John spent some time in a Spanish prison. John had many layers within his character. He was very wise and acted not only as the prior of many Carmelite friaries but also acted as a spiritual director to several of Teresa's nunneries. Many of the treatises and teachings of his come from his instruction to these nuns and to his own friars but also from his time in prison, where he composed and memorized poetry which he later set down in writing. He was extremely pious, especially in his devotion to the celebration of the mass. Though learned, he was approachable by any person of any status and in fact had a special affection for the poor and so earned the title: "patron of the afflicted." After he died on December 14, 1591 at 49 years old, he was buried in one of  his friaries at Segovia. For his humility, devotion, charity to the dispossessed, and deep knowledge and teacher of the love of God, he is venerated as a saint in both the Roman and Anglican Churches.

     John's perseverance in remaining entrenched in his and Teresa's movement back towards religious humility is the same quality of the martyrs. The Church today must resist accusations from secular society that it is arcane and too narrow-minded for modern society with an answer in the form of St. John of the Cross: humility and charity, comfort and affection for the dispossessed is neither arcane nor narrow minded. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa are examples of what the Church stands action as well as belief. The Church needs to re-strengthen its relationship with society, Christ's relationship with society, by reviving its St. Johns; its purpose wholly dedicated to the bearing of the cross for the good of the world.

Almighty God, the judge of all, who gave your servant John of the Cross a warmth of nature, a strength of purpose and a mystical faith that sustained him even in the darkness: shed your light on all who love you and grant them union of body and soul and the same courage to take up the task of bearing the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, One God, forever and ever. Amen 

The Virgin of Mt. Carmel with Sts. Teresa and John of the Cross

Friday, December 14, 2012

St. Drostan of Deer, 15 December

Speaking of monastic saints...

St. Drostan was a disciple of St. Columba on his missions through the Kingdom of the Picts in the 6th century. He established a monastery at Deer, which is now called by the related name Aberdour (or Inchcolm), which became the most important Church in that part of Scotland where it secured Christianity. Of this monastery, which fell into decay in periods but held religious communities until the Reformation in the 1500s, Drostan was abbot and perhaps also bishop, as many Celtic abbots were, and probably received a lot of royal support for it because of its proximity to the Pictish capital of Craig Phadrig, near Inverness. Towards the end of his life he left his abbey in the hands of the next abbot and became a hermit in the Scottish Highlands where he continued to preach to and give relief to the poor.

Anyhow, Drostan's abbey at Deer was instrumental in establishing churches and securing Christianity in the Moray-Grampians area. Thus, Drostan's Abbey, which was the mother of so many Christian churches in Eastern Scotland, was itself a daughter of Iona, the mother-house of all Scottish Churches (except for Whithorn), and of Iona it could be said, since it was established by St. Columba, was daughter to Clonard Abbey in Ireland and so forth. The seeds of missionary monasticism grew quickly and spread Gospel in the British Isles quickly once they were planted. It is the same today. With modern St. Finnians (teacher to Columba), we can have more St. Columbas. And with more St. Columbas we can have many more St. Drostans: many more churches and cathedrals filled: many more people comforted by the presence of Christ.

Above: St. John the Evangelist and the first chapter of his Gospel "In Principia erat Verbum" from the Book of Deer, a Celtic gospel book illuminated at St. Drostan's monastery.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Early Medieval Monasticism and the revival of the Church.

St. Ninian at Whithorn
St. Columba and his monks land on Iona.
     If the Church, is ever to once again be the center of attention for communities and to stay that way, then it will have to look back towards the methods it used to spread Christianity when it did completely dominate society. I do not mean the methods of the inquisition or of other ecclesiastical courts of the later Middle Ages but the monastic missionaries of the 6th, 7th or 8th centuries, who often brought people Christianity not by force but by comfort.

     The parish system of today’s Church is a system that was designed not to expand Christianity but to maintain it. (Originally it is derived from the system of local churches established around the diocese of Tours by St. Martin the the 5th century to keep the converted pagans Christian.) The fact that parish Churches have lost many members shows that the parish system has been unable to maintain Christianity and that the Church needs to revert back to a system of evangelization. I think that the answer to rebuilding the Church lies in the revival of monastic missionaries, whose duty it is,  not to meditate within the walls of great abbey churches, but to establish themselves in small communities everywhere, and draw people into the parish churches. The way that the islands of Great Britian and Ireland, Frisia and Germany were turned Christian in just a couple centuries was by the establishment of monasteries. St. Patrick began the conversion of Ireland by the establishment of semi-monastic colleges of bishops in the 5th century. St. Comgall and St. Coemgan strengthened Christianity there by establishing monasteries based on the abbey of St. Martin at Whithorn in Galloway, established by St. Ninian. St. Columba began the conversion of the Picts with the establishment of Iona Abbey, St. Boniface the same for the Germans at Fulda, St. Augustine for the English at Canterbury, St. Aidan the Northumbrians at Lindisfarne, St. Piran in Cornwall, St. Wilfred at Echternach and the list goes on. If the Church is to bring Christianity to as many people and communities as these saints did then it must revive the same methods that they used.

     My idea for a revival of missionary monasticism includes a model where the order would draw members from the dispossessed; the poor, the homeless, the lonely, the addicted, the unemployed or those who are looking for new meaning in their life...of course anybody could join the order. The order would educate new members in monasteries before they took either term (a period of a few years like a service commitment) or life vows. The 'monasteries' would probably be parish churches that provided for the relatively comfortable shelter of the brothers and sisters, who during the day would go out into the community to help people in any way from acting as nurses, to musicians, to after-school care, to parish-based charity-anything for the good of the community. All of the work would be in the name of Christ and the members would make sure the people who they helped knew this and would provide additional instruction in the be overseen by the local parish priest or local priors and prioresses. The monasteries where new members would be educated would not be associated with parishes but would be their own institutions, designed for the very purpose of educating candidates for religious orders in the Anglican faith, and then sending them to various places to help communities and draw members into the comfort of Christ. The order would hope to eventually begin to establish its own parishes, where small 'colleges' of brothers and sisters were based (somewhat like civic chantry chapels) and could begin new congregations by drawing the people they helped to the chapels where the order lived...previous houses or apartments.

     Contemplative monastic orders have given a lot of meaning to devoted individuals during and after the Middle Ages, but while so much of society has, as many of these early saints might have said, "relapsed into paganism"(though deism or atheism would be more appropriate for today), those who want to dedicate their lives to God's work rework their monastic rules around the spreading and strengthening of Christianity in specific communities.

     The point here is that such an order would provide for the comfort and betterment of people's lives where ever it was established, and that it would renew the Church's mission to continue to spread the blessing of Christ in new places and to make it stronger in the places where it already is. 

     If Christianity is ever to bee as meaningful to people and to whole communities as it was under the leadership and successors of these early saints, then the Church needs to revive their methods and zeal in spreading the faith so that the Church, which is the Body of Christ, can reach out to, comfort, aid and included as many people in as many places as possible. 

Almighty God, for love of your Son Jesus Christ, alight in us the missionary zeal of the ancient saints, who dedicated their lives to the spreading of your comforting word, so that the Church, which is the Body of Our Savior, can revive its holy mission in all places and among all peoples in this world, in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Ambrose of Milan, 7 December, and the Ambrosian Rite and Liturgy.

St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan.
     St. Ambrose lived in the 4th century A.D. and was, before he became Archbishop of Milan, the Roman Governor of Aemilia and Liguria, a province of what is now Lombardy with the capitol at Milan. Upon the death of the Arian bishop of Milan, Ambrose went to the council of bishops who were to elect the new archbishop to prevent conflict but found himself instead as elected to take that office, which he humbly accepted. Ambrose allotted all his wealth to the poor except for some which he reserved for his sister, as did St. Anthony the Great when he entered the desert of Egypt to become a hermit. He is similar to St. Hugh of Lincoln in his lifestyle as bishop where he practiced humility and asceticism in one of the highest and most public offices in the Roman empire. Also as a precursor for later medieval saint-bishops such as Hugh or Thomas Becket, he came into great conflict with the Roman Emperors and other secular authorities through his suppression of the Arian heresy. The Arians were still at large in the 4th century and demanded the right to worship in some of Milan's greatest Churches, which Ambrose refused, incurring the anger of the Emperor Valentinian, whose wife was an acclaimed Arian. He also excommunicated the Emperor Theodosius after massacres in Greece. Throughout his episcopate, Ambrose was staunch in maintaining the true faith of the Nicene Creed and the practice of Christian Charity and mercy. He died in 395 and is buried in the Basilica of St. Ambrogio in Milan.
As one of the first 'Doctors of the Church,' Ambrose is remembered as a great hymnist, liturgist, and theologian as St. Augustine of Hippo was his greatest student. Many of his works survive and among his most prevalent focuses are human sin, ethics,  and divine grace, but his writings also influenced the growing importance of the sacraments of of specific doctrines of the Church. He influenced liturgy through music and through the composition of the rite. As a hymnist, he composed a form of chant now honored to him as Ambrosian Chant which involves a chanted dialogue between the officiant of the office and the congregation and is still used in the Archdiocese of Milan. He, like the writers and composers St. Jerome or Gregory the Great, is often depicted in a scriptorium. At one point as Archbishop, Ambrose got into an argument with Churchmen in Rome about Milan's distinct liturgy from the Roman Rite. He resolved that when ever he went to Rome he would use their customes but in Milan he would keep practicine the Ambrosian Rite. His decision is purpetuated in a common saying which survive today when he wrote in a letter "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
     The example of Ambrose as a Church figure involved in every aspect of the Church's and its members lives is important in a world that is constantly growing more secular. Although many believe that no religion should have any official place in government this does not mean that archbishops, bishops, and priests should remain un-involved and unspoken. They should by no means attach themselves to a political party...but the Church should make itself known through public outcry and involvement that it is a body of citizens whose beliefs will not allow for certain trespasses of the state to be acceptable. Ambrose's deep influence in regional liturgy and music also shows that priests and bishops should look towards the perfection of a liturgy that will best satisfy the devotion of the Church's members.
     Most importantly, the careful guardianship of the faith by Ambrose against rogue bishops in the church who upheld the Arian heresy, shows us the importance of preserving the faith, especially when it is assaulted by our own bishops, our successors to the apostles, and other forces from within the Church. The faith in Christ-of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church- is the only real treasure. It must be protected from people in the church who deny the faith and its leaders and members must continue to fulfill its eternal bring Christ, to bring the Church, to as many people in the world for their comfort from the knowlage that Christ is Our Savior...from everything that could challenge our happiness in this world and the next.

The Ambrosian Rite and Liturgy.
     The Ambrosian Rite is the only non-Roman Rite liturgy that is allowed to be used in any diocese of the Roman Catholic Church except for the Gallician Rite, which can only be used in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain on the Feast fo St. James, 25 July, who is buried there. It is the main use of the parishes in the Archdioces of Milan, where Ambrose was bishop. The rite could be described as more byzantine than the roman rite in its arrangement of the Mass and the Divine Offices  and even the liturgical calendar. Perhaps most remarkably, the services of Holy Week are distincly different from any other latin rite, and both the seasons of Lent and Advent are longer than the ususal Roman observance. Ambrosian Chant, which is distinct from Gregorian Chant, is Gallo-Roman in nature, more similar to the Mozarabic Chant of Spain or the chant used in Gaul. The Ambrosian Chant often calls for a treble (boys choir) section. The chant also includes  a part for the congregation, who is supposed to join in the chant both at Mass and at daily offices, esspecially in the singing of the psalms. The Basilica of St. Ambrogio in Milan is known to use the Ambrosian Chants and Rite regularly.

O God, who gave your servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Ambrosian chant - Alleluia. Hodie in Bethlehem puer natus est.

The Gospel Alleluia from the Ambrosian Rite in Milan Cathedral.

Preces and responses in the Ambrosian Rite in the Basilica of S. Ambrogio, Milan, where St. Ambrose is buried. The church seems to be the most well known for its use of the rite.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

St. C.S. Lewis, 22 November.

C.S. Lewis still has presence in our lives today as if he had died only yesterday. This is perhaps because of his many books, which attract the interest of all ages, are widely read. I know very little about Lewis. But  the little that I do know about him and all that I have read from his works shows him to be a holy man and a saint of the Church in all its meanings.
     Lewis grew up in County Ulster, Ireland and was a member of the the Church of Ireland as a child but lost his faith as a teenager. He attended the University of Oxford for Literature, especially interested in Norse literature, and after which he fought in World War One in 1917. He remained a staunch atheist for a long time, supporting it in many of his early debates and writings. But, after teaching at Oxford for some time he rejected atheism, converted to Christianity, and joined the Church of England in 1931, partly influenced my J.R. Tolkien and other colleagues. He described the end of the process as stubborn resistance to God and then in "Trinity Term...I admitted that God was God, and knelt down and prayed, perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. Later, in one of the Oxford debates of the 1930s when the question was posed "does God exist?," for the existence of God and additionally, though in a different setting, that Jesus was the Son of God, much to the surprise and contempt of many Oxford fellows. He married the Jewish American Joy Davidman in 1957, while she was in a hospital bed for treatment of bone-cancer. His faith spurred the dozens of books that he published, many of them written to support aspects of orthodox Christianity. These books include "Miracles," which supports divine miracles, and "The Problem of Pain," which explains the existence of pain and suffering in a world made by God.  His books "The Chronicles of Narnia" are based around deep Christian symbolism. He died in 1963 and was buried at his parish, Holy Trinity Headington Quarry.
     Lewis's sanctity exists in many parts and perspectives of his life. Lewis, as both well accomplished as a secular scholar and theologian; as both a for-some-time atheist and then a faithful, orthodox believer, stands for, among many things, the compatibility of natural knowledge and the orthodox Christian faith. In a time where the Christian faith has been attacked as archaic, superstitious, without reason, and hypocritical, orthodoxy is important and fortunately Lewis, certainly a man of reason and natural knowledge  has also provided us with a defense from these questions. As he himself was a non-believer who used reason to criticize the Church, his acceptance of Christ and defense of Christian religion serves as an motive for the Church's continuing support of orthodoxy. He serves as an example to the faithful and to the questioning that the Christians can fully accept orthodox Christianity and accept natural and scientific fact and reason at the same time, which is why he is so important to the modern Church.

Lewis was added to the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church of the United States in 2011 for November 22 with the following collect:

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike; Surprise us also with thy joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Narnia window at Holy Trinity Headington Quarry, Lewis's parish church.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

St. Hugh of Lincoln, Protector of the Oppressed, 17 November.

St. Hugh of Lincoln on a Carthusian altarpiece in Spain.
     St. Hugh was born at Avalon, France around 1140. A son of the Lord of Avalon, Hugh became affiliated with the Augustinians at an early age but eventually became a friar at the Grand Chartreuse  the head Carthusian monastery, because he desired a more isolated and contemplative life. It was during this time that Hugh became friends with the Cistercian Archbishop, St. Peter of Tarentaise, a man famously devoted to charity and humility, who became Hugh's mentor. Hugh  eventually became a priest and the procurator of the Grand Chartreuse which was a big deal for the Carthusian because unlike Black Benedictines, Cistercians or most other religious orders, only some Carthusian friars were ordained. In 1179, Hugh traveled to Witham in Dorset to fill the post as Prior of the first Carthusian House in England. Hugh nourished the community at Witham and settled disputes with the local villagers. It was at Witham that Hugh began his troublesome relationship with English Royalty, extending through the reigns of Kings Henry II, Richard I and John. In 1186 the chapter of Lincoln Cathedral elected Hugh as Bishop much to his surprise.
     It was during Hugh's episcopate that he really became a saint. Hugh worked to wrestle the church out from under royal authority, reminding several kings that they were not exempt from hell, and were, in fact, well into the journey there. His humility, a relic of his Carthusian day, was a trend in Hugh's episcopate that set him apart from most other bishops of his time, challenging the behavior of the Church. King Richard one said of him "If all the bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, no prince among us could raise his head against them." He regularly visited his diocese, moving systematically from palace to palace. On his visits he established a variety of charities for the disposed and never hesitated in counselling any person who approach him whether king, child or leper. It was recorded that he enjoyed children in particular and many times ate with lepers, instead of nobles, and washed their feet, a sincere demonstration of pious humility. He had a particular affinity to the burial of the dead, so that whenever he and his episcopal retinue came across neglected dead bodies, he would would personally bury them according to the appropriate rites preformed with deep piety, or when he came into a town where there was a funeral, he would ask permission to say the Mass. While Lincoln Cathedral was being built, Hugh helped to work on the its construction by carrying a yoke to and from the work site. He also protected the Jews of his diocese in Lincoln and Oxford from popular violence. It was recorded that all the Jews participated in his funeral procession along with the 3 Archbishops, 14 bishops, 100 abbots, 3 kings and thousands of others when he died on this day in 1200.
     If all the bishops of the modern Anglican Church were like St. Hugh of Lincoln, not only would all secular rulers be unable to raise their head against them, but the Church would be strong in faith and unity, and the greatest example of charity and care for human life in all the world.
     Even if just a few bishops, personally worked in communities to strengthen both people's role in society and relationship to Christ and the Church, by washing people's feet, by calling the homeless to sleep inside, to visit the homes of the lonely, the elderly, the afraid ...the list does not end, the Church would be what it really is...the body of Jesus Christ, living and doing what Christ did and does.
     The example of people like St. Hugh is key to the existence and mission of the Church. From his time to our time, the population for whom he showed so much Christian love had increased exponentially-and it its the Church's job to grow and do what he did-what Christ wants us to do-for all those people. The primary role of the Church is to maintain its true faith, to bring it to all people, and to treat them as Jesus would. There are other specifics, but in general it cannot afford to dwell elsewhere.

Almighty God, who sent your servant Hugh to minister to kings and princes, children and lepers alike; to be an example of apostolic ministry for the Church and an example of Christian charity and humility for the world; grant that we, as the Church and as individuals, may minister to the world with the same penetrating humility, undaunted faith, and caring charity in the message of our Savoir Jesus Christ, Your son, who with You and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Hugh is often depicted with the goose that followed him around in one town in the diocese as here in stained glass from York and on a poly-chrome reredos.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Feast of the Consecration of St. Samuel Seabury: the Bestowal of the American Episcopate: The first Bishop in the United States of America.

This feast annually marks the official establishment of the Anglican Church in the United States and is therefore as important to Episcopalians as the arrival of St. Augustine in Kent is to the Church of England, and the whole Anglican Communion. Samuel Seabury is to the U.S. what St. Aidan was to Northumbria, what St. Columba was to the Picts, what St. Patrick was to the Irish, and, as said before, what St. Augustine was to the English. He was the missionary who finally secured the Apostolic line on America. And for this reason he is a man of 'blessed memory,' as St. Bede would have said it, to the Church in the United States. 

     Seabury grew up in the Colony of Connecticut and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1753. He became a member of a missionary group in the colonies and successively served as Rector to the parishes of Christ Church New Brunswick, NJ, Grace Church Jamaica, NY, and St. Peter's Westchester County, NY. Both before and after the Revolutionary War, Seabury remained loyal to the Church of England and advocated for the establishment of a bishopric in the colonies. After the war, he was elected in a meeting of the Church in Connecticut to seek Episcopal consecration in England. He was denied consecration by the Archbishop of Canterbury because Church of England Bishops had to swear an oath to the king, which was problematic for the now American Seabury. So he sought consecration by the non-juror bishops of Scotland, who were in hiding because they refused to recognize the Hanoverian dynasty and, as Episcopalian in structure and catholic in worship, were suppressed by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Scots agreed to consecrate Seabury on the conditions that they call themselves the 'Episcopal' Church, to get back at the Hanoverians in England, and that the Americans included the Epiclesis after the words of institution in the rite for Holy Communion. Seabury was consecrated on this day in 1784 by the bishop and suffragan of Aberdeen, and the bishop of Ross and Caithness in Aberdeen. He went on the establish the Church in Connecticut and Rhode Island, participated in the first consecration of a bishop in America, Claggett of Maryland, and served as the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. He died in 1796 and in buried in St. James Church, New London. 

Consecration of St. Samuel Seabury from St. Paul's Edinburgh.
     St. Samuel Seabury is an important example for the Episcopal Church, and all Churches of the Anglican Communion, as an enthusiastic missionary, supporter of the faith, and father of the Church. Both diocesan and missionary bishops can look up to him when they work to penetrate their own diocese with the Gospel or to bring it to new places and establish new Churches. As I said in my post The Church is in Need of Her Saints, "the Church owes much of her existence to these men and women who died for the faith or kept clean the Church of corruption. Today by placing a candle before the image or relic of a saint we are both thanking our mortal ancestors for giving us the Church and praying that we as Christians might be able to imitate the extreme dedication to Christ that these saints exercised." Samuel Seabury is saint, father, and missionary of the Anglican Church, whose work, as a mortal follower and herald of Christ, we members of the modern Church, should hope to emulate. When we say a prayer remembering St. Samuel Seabury we are thanking Christ for his sacrifice, and for our salvation; for all the comfort that we get from him because holy men and women like Samuel Seabury secured the faith for us. 

Eternal God, you blessed your servant Samuel Seabury with the gift of perseverance to renew the Anglican inheritance in North America: Grant that, joined together in unity with our bishops and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The miter of St. Samuel Seabury.
Because Samuel Seabury was the first of any bishop in America, there is some literature surrounding his miter, (which I think should be treated as a relic). It is kept by the Diocese of Connecticut in Hartford. The following poem is by A. Cleveland Coxe.

THE rod that from Jerusalem
  Went forth so strong of yore;
That rod of David's royal stem,
  Whose hand the farthest bore?
St. Paul to seek the setting sun,
  They say, to Britain prest:
St. Andrew to old Caledon;
  But who still further West?

Go ask!--a thousand tongues shall tell
  His name and dear renown,
Where altar, font, and holy bell,
  Are gifts he handed down:
A thousand hearts keep warm the name,
  Which share those gifts so blest;
Yet even this may tell the same,
  First mitre of the West!

This mitre with its crown of thorn,
  Its cross upon the front;
Not for a proud adorning worn,
  But for the battle's brunt:
This helmet--with Salvation's sign,
  Of one whose shield was faith;
This crown--of him, for right divine
  Who battled unto death!

Oh! keep it--till the moth shall wear
  Its comeliness to dust,
Type of a crown that's laid up where
  There is nor moth nor rust;
Type of the LORD'S commission given
  To this, our Western shore;
The rod of CHRIST--the keys of heaven,
  Through one, to thousands more.

They tell how Scotia keeps with awe
  Her old Regalia bright,
Sign of her independent law,
  And proud imperial right;
But keep this too for Scotland's boast;
  'Twill tell of better things,
When long old Scotia shall have lost
  Those gewgaws of her kings.

And keep it for this mighty West
  Till truth shall glorious be,
And good old Samuel's is confest
  Columbia's primal see.
'Tis better than a diadem,
  The crown that bishop wore,
Whose hand the rod of David's stem
  The furthest Westward bore.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

St. Dyfrig of Wales, 14 November. (Also known as St. Dubricius or Devereux)

Bardsey Island where St. Dyfrid retired, North Wales. "The island of one thousand saints."
     St. Dyfrig was a monk and bishop of sixth century Wales. Raised a Christian he established abbeys at Hentland, where the parish church is dedicated to him, and Moccas, both in Herefordshire, which became renowned centers of Welsh Christian learning and produced many more saints. He acted as a missionary bishop to parts of Herefordshire and southern Wales and eventually became the Archbishop of Caerleon, Primate of the ancient Welsh Church. As Archbishop he fostered the Welsh monasticism to which he was so accustomed on a much larger scale establishing more abbeys and churches with the help of his friend, the Abbot St. Illtud and St. Cadog the hermit, and consecrating some of Wales' most important saints bishops, including St. Samson and St. Deiniol. In 545, he is said to have called a synod Llandewi Brefi for the Church to uniformly reject the Pelagian heresy, which suggests his possible association with St. Germanus of Auxerre. It was at this synod that Dyfrig passed the Archbishopric of Caerleon to St. David of Wales, and retired to Bardsey, the Island of Saints, where he died at the famous monastery. His relics were translated in the 12th century to the Cathedral at Llandaff, where they still rest. Though St. David is dully remembered as the great saint of the Welsh people, Dyfrig was key to the stability of the Welsh Church. Monasteries would remain the core of Celtic Christianity for centuries to come and Dyfrid greatly contributed to their establishment in Wales, securing the strength and ability of the Christian religion in a tumultuous time period with no end in sight. Dyfrig, although not the founder of Christianity in Wales should be considered one of its greatest fathers, and thus one of the fathers of Christianity in Britain and of the whole Anglican Church.
     The time period in which Dyfrig lived is dark with uncertainty. But what we do know about Dyfrig and his passionate nurturing of the faith is precious to our Church's history and modern life when she looks back to her roots to see who watered the seedling that became the tree. Although Dyfrig may seem, then, like an obscure, eclipsed figure, our Church is directly descended from his work and only through the revival of his work can the Church continue the mission established by Our Savior and nurtured by St. Dyfrig 1460 years ago. There are many saints like Dyfrig, whose lives are partly missing to us in the fog of time but who's examples and works passed the Church to us so that we, though we too may someday be obscured in the same fog, can pass on the same beloved faith for generations 1460 years from now.
Llandaff Cathedral, established by St. Dyfrig.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, elected Archbishop of Canterbury.

     Today, the one hundred and fifth Archbishop was announced following the Queen's approval at Lambeth Palace to be the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham. 

"In his opening statement at Lambeth Palace, Bishop Justin said he was “astonished and excited” to be taking over from Dr Rowan Williams, who stands down as Archbishop at the end of December. Acknowledging the many challenges faced by the Church, he said it will be a privilege to provide leadership "at a time of great spiritual hunger"."

From the website of the Archbishop:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feast of St. Willibrord, Apostle to Frisia, 7 November and the Dancing Procession of Echternach

St. Willibrord: Apostle to Frisia, first Archbishop of Utrecht.
     St. Willibrord was one of the earliest of the Anglo-Saxon missionaries to the Germanic peoples. His mission to the pagans of what are now the Netherlands sparked a century of English sponsored missions to bring the Gospel to Frisia and Germany. Many saints would follow this first Archbishop of Utrecht, penetrating deep into barbaric lands and placing their lives in jeopardy. Willibrord was born near York in Northumbria A.D. 658 and was educated in the abbey of St. Peter at Ripon by St. Wilfrid. When he returned to England in 690, he organized a mission with twelve other monks to bring Christ to Frisia. He gained support for his mission from Pippin II of the Franks and Pope Sergius who consecrated him a bishop. Willibrord soon established a cathedral at Utrecht and a flourishing monastery at Echternach, now Luxembourg, in much the same fashion that St. Augustine established the Church in Kent a century before. He was repelled once and his churches burned, but he returned and rebuilt everything and even sent further missions into Denmark and Germany. He died in 739 and his body was enshrined at the Abbey at Echternach where it remains.

    Willibrord's life is important to the modern Church as an example of missionary perseverance. The Church has lost members all over the world, and it is in need of leaders like St. Willibrord to penetrate into each and every community, even, and especially where there are church congregations already. The setbacks that Willibrord experienced to his work was much more forceful and damaging than the silent yet quick declination that the Church today is experiencing, and so a reformulated interest in his example and thanksgiving in the his work and the work of the many saints like him is important to the revitalization to the Church where she exists and to spread the love of Christ where it has yet to thrive.

     The Dancing Procession of Echternach
     The cult of St. Willibrord became very strong in Luxembourg, Belgium, and in the Netherlands, where, to this day, Europe's only dancing procession is held every year on St. Willibrord's day. The procession begins with the chanting of the Litany of St. Willibrord and then the procession dances through the city, into the abbey and right down into the crypt to pass the shrine of St. Willibrord, while the bishop sits over the entrance to the crypt, blessing pilgrims as they pass beneath him.

This video, though a bit dramatic in presentation, captures both older and more recent films of the St. Willibrord Dance. 
And this, from last year:

     O Lord our God, who dost call whom thou willest and send them whither thou choosest: We thank thee for sending thy servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve thee, the living God; and we entreat thee to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of thy service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, we ask you especially on this day when a new Archbishop of Canterbury has been chosen to give him the strength and perseverance of St. Willibrord and all thy saints, that he may help to heal the Church and extend its mission to all corners of the earth; we ask this through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen

Shrine of St. Willibrord at Echternach Abbey.
The Litany of St. Willibrord:

Lord, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy,
Christ, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear our prayer!
God the Father in heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Trinity, Have mercy on us.
Blessed Mary, pray for us.
Blessed Mother of God, pray for us.
Blessed Virgin of all virgins, pray for us.
St Willibrord, pray for us!
St Willibrord, Guiding Light of the Church,*
*pray for us, St Willibrord
St Willibrord, Bright-shining star of our country,*
St Willibrord, Missionary to our homeland,*
St Willibrord, special protector of this our land,*
St Willibrord, first apostle of the Netherlands.*
St Willibrord, founder of monasteries and churches,*
St Willibrord, promotor of progress and knowledge,*
St Willibrord, teacher of truth,
St Willibrord, passionate interpreter of the teaching of Christ,*
St Willibrord, ceaseless proclaimer of the Holy Gospel,*
St Willibrord, teacher of true faith,*
St Willibrord, founder of peace and justice,*
St Willibrord, model of hope and reconciliation,*
St Willibrord, conqueror of injustice and discord,*
St. Willibrord, Architect of Community and Unity,*
St Willibrord, Destroyer of idols,*
St Willibrord, Patron Saint of children,*
St Willibrord Gentle guide of the lost,*
St Willibrord , Support of the homeless,*
St Willibrord, Friend of the persecuted,*
St Willibrord, Light of the blind,*
St. Willibrord, Refuge for the sick,*
St Willibrord, Gentle father of the poor,*
St Willibrord, Comforter of the afflicted and sorrowful,*
St Willibrord, Helper to the suffering,*
St Willibrord, True voice of God,*
St Willibrord, Humble servant of Jesus Christ,*
St Willibrord, Mighty advocate in heaven,*
St Willibrord, Miraculous healer,*
St Willibrord, True witness and confessor of Christ,*
St Willibrord, Saviour of those who doubt their faith,*
St Willibrord, Supporter of the carer and educator,*
St Willibrord, Hope of those who pray,*
St Willibrord, Model of patience and gentleness,*
St Willibrord, Example of active love,*
St Willibrord, Master of joy and life,*
St Willibrord, Disciple of Christ,*
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Lord, hear our prayer!
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Feast of St. Winifred, 3 November (also called St. Winefride, Gwenffrewi or Wenefreda)

Fragments of St. Winifred's Shrine at Shrewsbury Abbey.
     Winifred was a welsh princess of the 7th century, who decided to become a nun instead of marrying, joining a monastery in northern Wales. The legend follows that her suitor, Caradog, was enraged with her decision and pursued her, similar to the stories of St. Frideswide and of St. Etheldreda in faraway East Anglia who chose the religious life much to the dismay of the young King Ecgfrith of Northumbria. Caradog struck of the head of Winifred and where it fell a spring appeared, a reoccurring theme in the cult of saints in Wales. Winifred picked up her head and brought it to the renowned missionary and abbot, St. Beuno who restored her to life. Winifred proceeded to become the abbess of Gwytherin, a monastery in Denbighshire, and made a pilgrimage to Rome. She died in A.D. 660 and was buried at Gwytherin but was translated by benedictine monks in the 12th century to the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Shrewsbury, where her relics were venerated in a shrine up to the reformation. The well, where her head landed, continues to be maintained as a pilgrimage site. Winifred is featured in the "Cadfael" series, by Ellis Peters, which takes place at Shrewsbury Abbey during the 12th century.
     Although few of us will ever have the honor of witnessing a miracle exactly like that of St. Winifred, her story remains part of the larger Christian journey. Her persistence to enter a life fully dedicated to the work and thought of Christ, is an example for all Christians today who may becoming priests or religious themselves or who may be looking for a way to integrate Jesus into every aspect of life outside of the religious life and find others who discourage them from doings so or suggest that a person's Christian life should be more private. Followers of Christ carry on a faith that must be expressed in every aspect of life and so by no means can we both live Christianity privately and support the faith fully. St. Winifred is among those saints who lead all Christians to seek full intimacy with Christ in an ordained religious, or lay life despite any form of persecution or discouragement. With St. Winifred's example, we, as Christians, must embody the faith in our own lives and proclaim the love of Christ for the rest of the world to know also.
Gwytherin Church; probably built on the foundations of Winifred's monastery.
The Martyrdom of St. Winifred in Shrewsbury Abbey.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

St. Frideswide, October 19 (also called St. Frithuswith).

Medieval stained glass in the chapel of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral. St. Frideswide is in the middle.
Frideswide was born in the late seventh century to King Didan and Queen Selfrida, rulers of a Mercian (the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Midlands) sub-kingdom. At an early age, Frideswide showed interest in becoming a nun and requested that her father give money for her to establish a nunnery in Oxford, then the capital of Didan's little kingdom. She was successful in establishing and nurturing a prominent nunnery, and her reputation as a miracle worker and a holy woman in general contributed to the hallowed story that surrounds her. The legend, from a twelfth century life, is told as such: Frideswide established her community of nuns on the edge of Oxford when the King Algar of Leicester demanded that she marry him. Frideswide refused Algar's request but was sized by Algar's men, who were stuck blind upon touching her. Algar then decided to find her himself, but Frideswide was warned and escaped to the river Thames where she was transported in a boat by an Angel to Bampton, where she took cover with some of her companions in the house of a swineherd in the forest. There she stayed for several years, after establishing a community and gathering a reputation as a miracle worker. Algar was struck blind in his pursuit upon entering the city. Frideswide moved back to her Oxford nunnery from her community at Bampton where she ruled as abbess and where her fervent prayers yield still more miracles until her death in 727. Frideswide is associated with a particular well at Binsey where she hid for a time founding a chapel and working miracles and a cult grew around her simple grave. By the twelfth century, however, the monastery at Oxford had become a house of secular canons and so the Augustinians, whose special purpose, they believed was to establish centers of learning for priests hospitals for the poor and to revive shrines of saints who had fallen out of popularity. St. Frideswide's became an Augustinian monastery and in approximately 1180 after much fasting and keeping of vigils the canons were revealed her grave by miracles. The bones were translated into a shrine on 12 February 1180 and again in 1289 were they remained until the reformation when they were interred with the body of Catherine Martyr.
The Shrine of St. Frideswide at Oxford has recently been rebuilt and dominates a chapel to the north side of the high altar in Christ Church Cathedral. Frideswide is an example, as the first among the people of Oxford to give up the '"inordinate love of things of this world," for us to follow Christ by throwing away all the treasures of this world and dedicate our lives to his work. We can do this in little ways, by sacrificing small, everyday distractions so that we can focus more on Christ, what he gave to us and what we can do to spread his love. Frideswide, like many other saintly monastics, is a model for how we can do this, give up earthly distractions. Not everybody is supposed to be exactly like Frideswide, not everybody should hide themselves in the cloister, rather Frideswide's many works show us how we can do what she did on our own terms.

Heavenly Father, who inspired thy servant Frideswide to give up earthly desires for a life of prayerful dedication to the work of your son, Jesus Christ; inspire us also to cast off earthly distraction and clothe ourselves in a life in the footsteps of our savior, through the same thy Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Shrine of St. Frideswide. The widow tells her legend.