Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feast of the Venerable St. Bede, May 26.

St. Bede writing in a scriptorium, and the shrine of St. Bede.

Bede entered into the monastery of Monkwearmouth, Northumbria as a young boy. He was educated from early on in the Benedictine, monastic tradition by the Abbot Benedict Biscop, so called for his patronage of the rule and lifestyle of St. Benedict, and later by Abbot Ceolfrith. He narrowly escaped death with Ceolfrith, as the only literate survivors of a plague that killed monks at his monastery in the late 7th century. Bede was ordained in A.D. 703 at age 30, as was the tradition (therefore he was born in 673). Bede is best known for his many written works, many of which are the soul sources for their time that have survived until now. His Lives of the Abbots follows the works of the abbots of Monkwearmouth, namely Benedict and Ceolfrith. He also wrote the Vita Sancti Cuthberti, which is a biography of St. Cuthbert and reveals much about the growing Northumbrian cult. The best known work is the Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum, or the Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples, which covers the geography of the island, and traces Christianity in Britain through St. Columba, St. Ninian and the Scottish and Welsh Churches, and the history of the Church among the Anglo-Saxons going all the way back to St. Augustine and Pope Gregory. Bede best covers the Anglo-Saxon Church, recounting the lives of many saints including St. Etheldreda, St. Chad, St. Hilda, St. Wilfrid, St. Theodore, St. Cuthbert, St. Aidan, St. Oswald and many others, as well as ecclesiastical events such as the synods of Hertford, and Whitby. He was so devoted to his writing and to his other monastic duties that he died singing the 'Gloria Patri.' His relics were enshrined at Jarrow, where he died, but later taken to Durham, where they lie still in the Galilee chapel. Bede is venerated as one of the great lights of the ancient Church of England, St. Boniface himself said "The candle of the Church, lit by the Holy Spirit, was extinguished."

Heavenly Father, who dist call thy servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to thy service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship; Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring riches of thy truth to his generations, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make thee known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sources...Oxford Dictionary of Saints, and 1979 BCP

Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury, first Archbishop of Canterbury, May 26.

Icon from Canterbury Cathedral with Pope Gregory presenting the pall to St. Augustine. And the 11th century Chair of St. Augustine, the throne of the Archbishops of Canterbury behind the high altar of the cathedral.

St. Augustine is best remembered as one of the Fathers of the Anglican Church as the founder of the Archbishopric of Canterbury. Although there were many other bishops in Britain, Augustine would be the first among the Anglo-Saxons. Augustine was originality the prior of St. Andrew's Abbey in Rome and a close friend of Pope Gregory the Great. At one time before Gregory had been elected to the papacy, he was in a Roman slave market where he encountered three Angle slaves from Britain. Noting that the slaves were pagans, Gregory would later send St. Augustine to Britain to convert the Anglo-Saxons. In 596 Augustine left Rome, arriving in Kent in 597. He went first to the King of Kent, Ethelbert and his wife, Bertha who was already a christian, baptized at Paris. Ethelbert was impressed with Augustine, but still took 3 years to decide weather or not to accept the Christian faith. Finally in 601, Ethelbert was baptized and allowed for many of his subjects to also be baptized. Augustine sent for more priests and monks from Rome, and built the first Cathedral at Canterbury. In the following few years he would establish St. Augustine's Abbey, outside the Canterbury city walls, an abbey at Reculver, and the dioceses of Rochester and London. Due to Ethelbert's overlordship of southern England and the strong and fast-growing presence of the archbishopric in Canterbury and the other bishoprics, Christianity never lapsed in that area and the city would be used as a base for all of the future missions to convert the Anglo-Saxons of neighboring kingdoms in the following century. Augustine died in 604 at the end of a short bu successful episcopate. His relics were the most prized of the many saints whose bones lay in the abbey of St. Augustine outside of Canterbury. As the apostle to the Anglo-Saxons, Augustine is rightly considered the 'church father' of all Anglicans, and is still widely venerated in all provinces of the Anglican Communion. It is right, as Anglicans that we thank God for giving Augustine the strength and perseverance to bring the faith to the English.

Holy God, who sent forth thy servant Augustine as the first Archbishop of Canterbury to bring the Gospels of thy Son Jesus Christ to the English people: strengthen all the bishops of our own time, to remember their holy gifts, and strengthen the Holy Church which has sprung from the chair of Augustine to righteously extend the same Gospels to all the world. Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Feast of St. William of Rochester (or Perth), May 23.

Stained glass from Rochester Cathedral depicting St. William as a Pilgrim. 
William grew up in Perth, Scotland in the 12th century. A pious man, he attended masses daily and as a fisherman and a baker and gave much of what he produced and earned to the poor of Perth. He was additionally involved in helping orphans, adopting the boy, David, as his son, and saving an infant, who had left at the door of a church, from the cold. In 1201 he set out from Scotland with his adopted son, David, to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, taking with him enough for he and his companion to survive and the rest to give to the poor along the way. But while in Rochester, David turned on him and murdered him for what little he had. A madwomen later found his body and adorned it with flowers and herbs, and who upon touching the body was healed of her madness. The monks of Rochester later brought the body to the Cathedral where it would attract pilgrims by the thousands until the Reformation. William was venerated for his charity, piety, pilgrimage, and martyrdom, and is typically depicted as a pilgrim with the scallop shell. His tomb survives Rochester and he has been re-incorporated into the chain of saints associated with Rochester.
     What is important to remember about St. William of Rochester is that he was a laymen. Most saints are ecclesiastics: bishops, monks and nuns, and the few saints who were laypeople are often monarchs who established great churches. St. William is a lay-saint, and it is not his death which did not make him one, but his charitable life, abruptly ended on a devotional and humble journey. He may, for many, by a more approachable saint because of this. Though there is little known about him and his cult was never very large in England, he may remain with other saintly laypeople an enduring example of how anyone, not just bishops or religious, can attain such holiness.
Rochester Cathedral west window. The gothic additions to the originally Norman Church were probably funded by donations from pilgrims who stopped at the shrine of St. William. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, May 15

Iglesia San Isidro el Real en Madrid

St. Isidore was born in Madrid in around 1070. Known for his piety, he was constantly attending masses at his local parish church in Madrid and late to work in the fields because of his deep and persistent prayer. It was often said that as he ploughed there were angels accompanying him on either side so that his work equaled that of three men. Upon the ground where he farmed the crops grew with ease and water welled up from the ground upon his command. His wife, St. Maria Torriba, was also known for miracles involving water, which would have been especially precious in the semi-arid landscape that surrounds Madrid. St. Isidore is a patron saint of farmers and of the city of Madrid as his relics are enshrined within the Church of San Isidro el Real. Both he and his wife were invoked in times of famine or drought.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lady Julian of Norwich, 8 May... "All shall be well"

Little is known of the Lady Julian. But she was about 30 in 1373 when she experience a series of 16 visions all portraying a theme of Divine Love. Soon after her visions, she was miraculously healed of the deathly illness for which a priest had delivered last rites to her just a few days before. She later attached herself to the parish church of St. Julian of Le Mans in Norwich (where she gets her name) as an anchoress where she spent the rest of her live blessing pilgrims and writing her account and interpretation of the visions called The Revelations of Divine Love. Julian is notable for her book because of the low literacy rate and her stance on the theology of Divine Love as a women. Today the Church of St. Julian of Le Mans in Norwich is the site of the restored Anglican shrine of the Lady Julian, where her cell has been rebuilt as a chapel for modern day pilgrims. The Lady Julian in demonstrates, to the Anglican Church, the Divine Love that was and is extended to all people through the Passion. The persistence of the Lady Julian to show to us the intensity of Jesus' love sets the example for Anglican Church to be inspired by the love of Christ demonstrated in his sacrifice and to proclaim that love to all in the world who need it.

Some Quotes from Revelations of Divine Love...

"I desired in many ways to know what was our Lord's meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end."

"There were times when I wanted to look away from the Cross, but I dared not. For I knew that while I gazed on the Cross I was safe and sound, and I was not willingly going to imperil my soul."

"It behoved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Website for the Shrine of the Lady Julian.