21 February 2018 – Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

21 February 2018 – Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Jonah 3:1-10, Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, Luke 11:29-32

Jonah 3:6-10 – Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.
Luke 11:29When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”wed of the first week - 21 feb 2018

It’s quite a mystery – that Jonah, a mere man and a reluctant prophet was able to bring an entire city back to God.   But Jesus, who is God in person, fails.   What can we make of this?   Maybe we can just settle for the perverseness of fallen human nature – our unwillingness to respond to divine goodness, even when, at times, we recognise it.

Sin itself is a mystery.   We know what harm it does to ourselves and to others and yet we deliberately choose to commit it.   Would we have been converted by the preaching of Jesus?   Does His presence now, in the Gospel, bring us back to Him?   Why is it that year after year, we need the preaching, of Jesus, of John the Baptist, of the prophets?

I suspect that part of Jonah’s effectiveness resulted from the kind of motivation he inspired – he SCARED the Ninevites into conversion.   Inspired by fear or not, the conversion was genuine and the Lord God “saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way”.

All this throws light on our own Lenten journey, it makes us examine our motives for these Lenten practices.   We don’t have to observe a strict fast as in the old days but the Church will never give up telling her people of the serious need for self-discipline in their lives.   She knows that if we do not control our appetites, they will control us and deprive us of our humanity and any chance of eternal life.

“With all your heart turn to me” says the Lord, ” for I am tender and compassionate” (Gospel Verse)

And it is noteworthy that the Church has us respond to the story of the Ninevites’ conversion by putting into our hearts and mouths the familiar penitential Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and righty spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy holy Spirit from me.   Restore to me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

What are my motives for these Lenten practices?
Have I appetites that tend to overpower me?
What can I do to ‘turn around’ and amend my life?

Fr E Lawrence OSB – Daily Meditations for Lent

I Wish to Clasp Your Hand – Do Not Refuse Me!
Prayer of Eugene de Ferronays

“Dear Lord! It is just when I am in the world
that I have most need of You
because You know it is full of snares
that the devil has set for me.
You must hold my hand, dear Lord,
if You will not abandon me.
A little of the world is not bad for me;
it is even good, for it teaches me how small it is
and I feel the greater happiness
when I come back to You.
But that I may surely do so,
You must only loose Your hold a little,
that it may not try me too far,
You must not entirely leave hold.
Do You see dear Lord?
I wish to clasp Your hand – do not refuse me!”i wish to clasp your hand - do not refuse me - eugene de ferronays - 21 feb 2018 - lenten prayer

Posted in DOCTORS of the Church, MORNING Prayers, SAINT of the DAY

Thought for the Day – 21 February – The Memorial of St Peter Damian O.S.B. (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church

Thought for the Day – 21 February – The Memorial of St Peter Damian O.S.B. (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church

Born in Ravenna, Italy, in 1007, Peter Damian knew hardship as a child.   He became a successful teacher professor but only for a short time.   He was ordained to the priesthood and in 1035, he entered a Benedictine monastery.   The monks lived in small hermitages, with two monks in each.   Peter was known for his fasting, penance and long hours of prayer.   In 1043, he was elected abbot.   Peter began re-organising the rules of the order to return to the original spirit and purpose of the order.   Men were drawn to the monastery and Peter started five other foundations.

In 1057, Peter was made cardinal and bishop of Ostia.   Soon he was called upon by the Church to settle disputes, attend synods and fight abuses.   He devoted much energy to helping the clergy, as well as the leaders of the empire.   With his letters, biographies, sermons, stories and poems, he encouraged others to restore discipline to their lives.  He wrote many letters.   Some 170 are extant.   We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote.   He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings.   The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin  .Through all his diplomatic missions, Peter Damian remained a monk at heart.   He served the Church as he was asked, however and as best he could.   He died February 22, 1072, and in 1828, was declared a Doctor of the Church.

Peter was a reformer and if he were alive today, would no doubt encourage the renewal started by Vatican II.   He would also applaud the greater emphasis on prayer, that is shown by the growing number of priests, religious and laypersons who gather regularly for prayer, as well as the special houses of prayer recently established by many religious communities.

St Peter Damian, intercede for us that we may learn to pray!st peter damian - pray for us - 21 feb 2018


Quote/s of the Day – 21 February – The Memorial of St Peter Damian O.S.B. (1007-1072) and St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595)

Quote/s of the Day – 21 February – The Memorial of St Peter Damian O.S.B. (1007-1072) and St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595)

“He pours light into our minds,
arouses our desire and gives us strength…
As the soul is the life of the body,
so the Holy Spirit is the life of our souls.”he pours light into our minds - st peter damian - 21 feb 2018

“Through a woman [Eve]
a curse fell upon the earth;
through a woman [Mary] as well,
there returned to the earth a blessing.”through a woman (eve) - st peter damina - 21 feb 2018

“When you are scorned by others
and lashed by God, do not despair.
God lashes us in this life,
to shield us from the eternal lash in the next.”

St Peter Damian (1007-1072) Doctor of the Churchwhen-you-are-scorned-by-others-st-peter-damian-21 feb 2018

“God gave Himself to you:
give yourself to God.”god gave himself - st robert southwell - 21 feb 2018

“Where sin was hatched, let tears now wash the nest.”where-sin-was-hatched-st-robert-southwell-29-jan-2018

“Christianity is warfare
and Christians are spiritual soldiers.”

“Not where I breathe
but where I love,
I live.”

“When Fortune smiles,
I smile to think, how quickly she will frown.”

St Robert Southwell (1561-1595)christianity is warfare - st robert southwell - 21 feb 2018


Posted in Blessed JOHN HENRY Cardinal NEWMAN, LENT, MORNING Prayers, PRAYERS of the SAINTS

Our Morning Offering – 21 February – Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Our Morning Offering – 21 February – Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

The Grace of Thy Love
By Blessed John Henry Newman  (1801-1890)

O My God,
strengthen me with Thy strength,
console me with Thy everlasting peace,
soothe me with the beauty of Thy countenance,
enlighten me with Thy uncreated holiness.
Bathe me in Thyself
and give me to drink,
as far as mortal man may ask,
of the rivers of grace
which flow from the Father and the Son,
the grace of Thy consubstantial,
co-eternal Love.
Amenthe grace of they love - bl john henry newman - 21 feb 2018


One Minute Reflection – 21 February – The Memorial of St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595)

One Minute Reflection – 21 February – The Memorial of St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595)

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.   And those who find it are few...Matthew 7:14

REFLECTION – “The path to Heaven is narrow, rough and full of wearisome and trying ascents, nor can it be trodden without great toil and therefore wrong is their way, gross their error and assured their ruin who, after the testimony of so many thousands of saints, will not learn where to settle their footing.”…St Robert Southwell (1561-1595)the path to heaven is narrow, rough and full of - st robert southwell - 21 feb 2018

PRAYER – Lord of heaven and earth, You blessed us this day with the grace of the Martyr St Robert Southwell.   Grant that, through his intercession, we may, like him, drink from that cup which Christ drank and so rise to eternal life.   We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amenst robert southwell - pray for us - 21 FEB 2018


Saint of the Day – 21 February – St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595) Martyr

Saint of the Day – 21 February – St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595) Martyr, Religious Priest, Poet, Hymnodist, Writer,  clandestine missionary – Additional Memorials:  25 October as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales and 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai.   He was born in 1561 in Horsham Saint Faith, Norfolk, England and he was martyred by being hanged, drawn and quartered on 21 February 1595 (aged 33) in Tyburn, London, England.   St Robert was Canonised on 25 October 1970 by Blessed Pope Paul VI.

The Life of St Robert Southwell below, is written by Servant of God, Fr John A Hardon S.J. (1914-2000) – one of my heroes, so I hope you enjoy his chatty style as much as I do which was, as you can tell, presented live.

Our saint for this evening is St Robert Southwell, the English Jesuit, poet and martyr.   He was born in 1561, died in 1595 at the ripe old age of thirty-three.   He was canonised – took a long time, in 1970.   His family on his mother’s side was related to the Shelleys’, the other English poet.   By this time the Catholic faith was proscribed in England – English Catholics, had to go into hiding. If they wanted a catechetic education they had to leave the country.   In case you haven’t been told, it’s getting closer and closer to that in the United States.   He was therefore sent to Douay, which as you know, is the place where the first and official English translation of the Bible was made, Douay, later on revised, the Douay-Rheims.web-saint-robert-southwell-england-flag-001-public-domain-and-shutterstock-aleteia-comp

It was while studying at Douay that he first met some Jesuits, including the famous Leonard  Lessii, a great Jesuit theologian, who’s best known work is on the ‘Attributes of God’.   Then he went on to Paris and by this time, he was just seventeen.   Incidently, young people matured much earlier in those days.   It is thirty-one years that I have been working with the daughters of St Mary of Providence in Chicago.   As you know their special apostolate is caring for the handicapped, say, the retarded.   I would say this is a very common phenomenon.   In other words, that young people nowadays are really young.   It takes them a long time to grow up – thirty years old and they behave like young adolescents.

When Southwell applied to enter the Society of Jesus, he was seventeen.   They turned him down because he was too young.   Well, just before his eighteenth birthday, they figured, he qualifies.   He was ordained in 1584 at the age of twenty-three.   Two years after his ordination, by that time he had taken his final vows, he was sent back to England to try to reconvert his fellow ex-Catholic, English people.   The actual time span of his attempted evangelisation mission work would be about six years, that’s all.   He got himself a position as chaplain to a certain Anne who was Countess of Arundel.   Her husband suffered a great deal for defending priests who were trying to hide out from those who were trying to root out the Catholic faith.   It’s well to know that the hostess who hid Robert, her husband, had since been declared blessed.   What is remarkable about St Robert Southwell, is that although he worked quite openly in the sense that it was not a big secret that he was a priest.   He did, of course, try to work in disguise but, he was allowed extraordinary freedom.   A number of factors were in his favour, he was naturally of a gentle disposition, he was quiet.   In other words, he did not make unnecessary noise or create a scene or you might say, irritate those who were out to destroy the Church.   He avoided, as much as he could, controversy.

As I re-read a short biography of St Robert Southwell, well, I was reminded how over the years, there are certain of my confreres that have stood out as models for me to try to imitate, Robert Southwell was one.   There are not too many of us, Jesuits, who have survived nationally, mainly of course, God’s grac, but one reason I think, is avoiding as far as possible, controversy.   Keep proclaiming the truth, keep insisting on what the faith really teaches and avoid either unnecessary exposure as a critic of those who don’t go along with the Church’s teaching – in a word, keeping as much as you can, in the background, so as not to irritate those who are still nominally Catholic, but My Lord, who have lost their faith.

In 1592, Robert Southwell was arrested by an infamous spy by the name of Topcliffe who had to his credit many English martyrs, including Robert Southwell.   Significantly, it was a young girl in the household of this Countess of Arundel, one of her daughters that betrayed the priest.   Topcliffe brought Southwell to his own home – we have record of nine separate severe, cruel tortures.   You may have seen pictures or descriptions of some of the machinery in which the people were tortured.   For example, they would be stretched over a barrel, either way, either face down or back down, of course the back down would break your back and the two hands were made to touch the two feet and they would keep twisting and twisting until the one under torture couldn’t stand it any longer and then would confess, as the expression goes, to what his torturers wanted to get out of him.   What did they want to get out of Robert Southwell – they wanted him to betray his fellow Catholics, who were in hiding;  those who had hidden him, those that helped him escape, those who helped him work in disguise.   He refused.   We don’t know how many times he was tortured, all we know is many times during three years in prison.   One reason they kept torturing him is because they were hoping to break down his resistance and get him to implicate many other Catholics to really root out the faith. Topcliffe was a very successful torturer in the quaint English of those days, remarked, ‘I never did take so wavey a man if he be rightly used.’   In other words, ‘if we could break down Southwell’s resistance, he would be very useful.’

Being three years in prison, he finally insisted that he should be tried or freed.   In other words, it was a request he made, ‘either put me on trial or get me out of prison’, so they said, “all right.”   They put him on trial and they found him guilty and he was condemned to death because of his priesthood.  The opposition didn’t even attempt to disguise his martyrdom on political grounds.  He was hanged and drawn – that means cut into pieces and quartered into four pieces on 21 February 1595, which has, over the centuries remained his feast day, 21 February.

The bystanders that watched his being martyred by hanging pleaded with the executioners to let him die on the scaffold and only then, that is, after the body was really dead, to then cut him into pieces, which was as you know, the familiar English form of execution – John Fisher, Thomas More and here Robert Southwell.   Just to remind ourselves, I like the date.   Thirty-three years old, exactly my age at ordination.   In fact, I was ordained on my birthday.San Roberto Southwell

Robert Southwell, on the grounds we have so far seen, was not unlike other martyrs whose lives either we’ve talked about or that we are familiar with.   His age of course – he was a young man but what makes Robert Southwell stand out among Jesuit saints and among the Church’s martyrs, is the fact that he has left us so much for a man of thirty-three, has left us so much in writing that has made world literature.   Southwell, he is called, is one of the great writers of the English-speaking world.   He wrote prose, he wrote poetry.

Just a few statements to I think to be exact from his prose writing touching on the spiritual life.   Remember, he was turned down when he applied for the Jesuits because of his age, sixteen is young but once he was admitted, here’s what he said:   “How great a perfection is required of a member of the Society of Jesus.   He should be ready at a moment’s notice to go to heretics, pagans or barbarians.”   That moment’s notice is almost a quotation from St Ignatius.   As I think I told the people this afternoon, you may have heard, the priest who was to have conducted the day of recollection, forgot.   So somebody else pinch-hitted until I got there.   Lucky I took my cassock along, on general principles.   But I told the people and I can tell you because that’s what this is all about. All we have to know, that’s all, what is God’s will and in a moment’s notice, with the twinkling of an eye, you do it.   As weak human beings our temptation is to hesitate, or in Christ’s words, “We turn around.” and the key is, the moment we know God wants us don’t even put a comma – do it.   It is dangerous to speculate, once you know that God wants something, because then human reason, being very shrewd, they’ll find reasons, otherwise known as rationalisation for not doing it.

The second quotation, “we should be prepared for being cast into chains” – I like this – “by the heretics.”   The worst persecutors of the Church have not been native born pagans, they have been Christians who have lost their faith.   The vicious hatred of the Communists is born of God’s punishment for having rejected Christ.   We should be prepared for being cast into chains by the heretics, starved by hunger, seduced and tortured.   I like that combination-seduced and tortured.   Between the two, I would choose torture to seduction.   What Southwell is saying is, that in his day and, of course in ours, you rub your eye, shake your head and we can’t quite be sure we’re seeing right – people we’ve known, whose faith we’ve admired; priests, for example, who may have been instrumental in leading us closer to God, who allow themselves to be seduced or are afraid of being starved by hunger and, my friends, the deepest hunger of the human spirit is not for food but for recognition.

Pray acceptance – take it from a man who knows. Southwell knew and that’s why I thought I picked some choice quotations and I ended up with those two.   Almost from the time that he entered the Jesuits, he felt that he would be a martyr.   He was getting constant reports from home about one more being put to death for the faith or languishing in prison.   Long before he was martyred himself, the account of the first Jesuit English martyr, St Edmund Campion S.J., was already in print.   He read it, admired it and hoped to die the same.   Among his many letters, I should keep reminding us that he was only 33 when he died, his run to the superior in England, Father Parsons – you couldn’t write an ordinary letter about things religious, so being educated Jesuits they could read between the lines;  they have their own crypto-language.   Here’s a quotation, see what you make of it:  Robert Southwell is writing to Parson, superior in England, he is writing about Edmund Campion who had already been martyred – he doesn’t mention Campion’s name, but he says, I quote:  “He has had the start on you” – Parsons later on was also martyred – “he has had the start on you in leading his vessel with English wares (a business letter) and has successfully returned to the desired port. Day by day we are looking for something similar from you.”

In 1586, two years after his ordination, he wrote to the father general, I quote:  “I do not much dread the tortures as I look forward to the crown.” st robert southwell large

There are two books, prose writings, that Robert Southwell wrote that are worth reading. They are of course written in 16th century English but, powerful, written to encourage his fellow Catholics to remain firm in their faith.   The one is called ‘Mary Magdalene’s Funeral Tears’.   And the other one is called ‘Epistle of Comfort‘.   We would probably call it a letter of encouragement.   His poetry – we don’t know exactly when he began to write but it must have been very young because he wrote a great deal of which we have the record and by now the English speaking world knows Robert Southwell.   His two outstanding poems are ‘The Burning Babe’ and ‘The Virgin Mary to Christ On The Cross.’

The Burning Babe, by Saint Robert Southwell

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
It’s not surprising, it’s one of the great poems of the English language.holy-poet-martyr-st-robert-southwell-and-the-burning-babe-199-william-hart-mcnichols

Now some comments on St. Robert Southwell’s spirituality.   I know of no martyred saint who has left us a longer and more detailed record of his desire for martyrdom than Robert Southwell.   One reason no doubt because he wrote so much that he died so soon. In any case what he is telling us, is not only not wrong but, quite all right to pray for a martyr’s crown.

There have been 21 general councils of the Church including the Second Vatican.   My business is to read these councils because that’s my profession.   I know of none that is ever written as clearly and expensively on martyrdom as the peak of Christian perfection as has the Second Vatican Council.   I’ve mentioned this, I’m sure, to you before, it’s well worth repeating.   The Church has had more martyrs since 1900 than in all the 19 centuries before.   We are living in an age of martyrs.   You better believe it, because if you don’t, you will not measure up to the kind of loyalty to Christ that today’s world demands.   Ordinary Catholics will not survive, not today.   I’m not even asking you to believe it;  it’s too obvious.   So St. Robert Southwell’s desire for martyrdom is something we can legitimately ask God to grant us.   And among other things that I think I’ve learned from experience, I’m not sure, not really, which is more demanding – living a martyrs life or dying a martyrs death.

Second feature of his spirituality.   Robert Southwell was an Englishman to the tips of his fingers, quiet, gentle, compassionate and consequently, you would expect that naturally speaking he dreaded what supernaturally he desired, am I clear?   He proves what God’s grace can do with fallen human nature given strength and courage that is impossible to nature alone.

And finally, Robert Southwell put so many of his prayers into writing, that I recommend that we all, at least, on occasion do the same.   It is a wonderful way of praying and a most effective way of remembering the insights that God gives us and even the effort we make to go over and over what we may write in the prayers we compose so they express exactly the sentiments we want to say.   With apologies for this late evening conference. We invoke St.Robert Southwell, pray for us.   In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Posted in DOCTORS of the Church, JESUIT SJ, SAINT of the DAY

Memorials of the Saints – 21 February

St Peter Damian (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)

St Avitus II of Clermont
Bl Caterina Dominici
Bl Claudio di Portaceli
St Daniel of Persia
Bl Eleanora
St Ercongotha
St Eustathius of Antioch
St Felix of Metz
St George of Amastris
St Germanus of Granfield
St Gundebert of Sens
Bl Noel Pinot
St Paterius of Brescia
St Pepin of Landen
St Peter Mavimenus
St Randoald of Granfield
St Robert Southwell S.J. (1561-1595)

St Severian of Scythopolis
St Severus of Syrmium
Bl Thomas Pormort
St Valerius of San Pedro de Montes
St Verda of Persia

Martyrs of Sicily – 79 saints – Seventy-nine Christians martyred together in the persecutions of Diocletian.   They were martyred in c 303 on Sicily.

Martyrs of Hadrumetum – A group of 26 Christians martyred together by Vandals. We know little more than eight of their names – Alexander, Felix, Fortunatus, Saturninus, Secundinus, Servulus, Siricius and Verulus.   c 434 at Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia)

Martyrs Uchibori – Three Japanese laymen, all brothers, all sons of Paulus Uchibori Sakuemon, one a teenager, one only five years old and all martyred for their faith in the persecutions in Japan.   21 February 1627 in Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan.   Beatified 24 November 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.