Thought for the Day – 3 February – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
Religion and Devotion
“Religion, should not be a cold, mehcanical practice of obedience to the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church. Deep spiritual devotion and supernatural charity are necessary, as well as religion. In other words, religion should not be merely external but, should spring from the mind and heart, this is devotion, which is the spirit of religion. “Devotion,” wites Aquinas, “seems to be the determination to give one’s self readily to the service of God” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q 82, a 2, ad 1). But this determination should be loving and effective because, as St Thomas also observes, “charity generates devotion” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q 82, a 2, ad 2).
St Francis de Sales analysed and expanded these ideas. “True and living devotion,” he writes, “presupposes the love of God – indeed, it really is a true love of God… but a love… which has reached that height of perfection at which it not only causes us to act but, to act zealously, frequently and promptly…” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Bk I, C 1). He continues: “Since devotion consists in an unique degree of charity, it not only makes us prompt, active and zealous in the observance of all the divine commands but, incites us, furthermore, to perform readily and lovingly, as many good works as we can… even if they are only recommended or suggested” (Ibid). From this solid and sincere devotion flows, that taste for divine things, that inner gentleness and peace of spirit which the Saints enjoyed, even in the midst of sorrow and disillusionment. It is the spontaneous homage of the mind and heart, that God wants most of all.”
Quote of the Day – 3 February – The Memorial of St Blaise Bishop Martyr (Died c 316)
The Blessing of the Throats is a Sacramental of the Church, ordinarily celebrated today, the Feast day of Saint Blaise.
Saint Blase was, according to various accounts, a Physician before becoming a Bishop. His cult spread throughout the entire Church in the Middle Ages because he miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died due to a fishbone in his throat. From the eighth century he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat.
If the Blessing is conferred during Mass, the Blessing follows the homily and general intercessions, or, for pastoral reasons, the Prayer of Blessing may take the place of the final Blessing of the Mass. When the Blessing is given outside Mass, it is preceded by a brief celebration of the Word of God. If the Blessing is to be celebrated at Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, it is given after the Reading and Responsory (and homily) and before the Gospel Canticle.
The Blessing may be given by touching the throat of each person with two candles which have been Blessed yesterday, on the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. The candles are held together in the form of a Cross.
THE BLESSING of ST BLAISE
Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” – Mark 6:2
REFLECTION – “The Father sent the Word to appear to the world, who was dishonoured by His people, preached through Apostles and believed in by pagan nations. It is He who was from the beginning (Jn 1:1), who appeared new and proved to be old and is ever born young in the hearts of saints. He is the eternal, today counted a son (Ps 2:7). Through Him the Church is enriched and grace unfolding is multiplied in the saints, affording understanding, revealing secrets mysteries, making them understand the signs of the times, rejoicing over the faithful, given to those who seek for it, by whom pledges of faith are not broken and the boundaries set by the Fathers are not passed over. Then the fear of the law is praised in song and the grace announced by the prophets is learned and the faith of the gospels is established and what has been handed down from the Apostles is guarded and the Grace of the Church exults for joy. If you do not offend this Grace, you will learn what the Word talks about, through those through whom He wishes to talk, when He pleases … Draw near, then and listen earnestly to them and you will know what God bestows on those who truly love Him, who become a garden of delight, causing to grow in themselves a thriving tree bearing all kinds of rich fruits. For in this place are planted the tree of knowledge and the tree of life (Gn 2:9) … Let your mind be knowledge and the Word of truth become your life. If this tree grows in you and, if you ardently long for its fruit, you will always gather the vintage of God’s best gifts.” – A Letter to Diognetus (c 130) – 11, 3-7; 12, 1-2 and 7-8;
PRAYER – Lord our God, make us love You above all things and all our fellow-men, with a love that is worthy of You. May we look to Your Divine Son in love and imitation. Grant too, that by the prayers of St Blaise, we too may be granted the grace to follow Your only Son, no matter our sufferings, to one day reachYou, in our heavenly home. We make our prayer, through Christ our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever amen.
Lord, for Tomorrow and its Needs By Sister Mary Xavier (1877)
Lord, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray; keep me, my God, from stain of sin, just for today. Let me both diligently work and duly pray; let me be kind in word and deed, just for today. Let me no wrong or idle word unthinking say; set thou a seal upon my lips, just for today. And if today my tide of life should ebb away, give me Thy sacraments divine, sweet Lord, today. So, for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray but keep me, guide me, love me, Lord, just for today.
Saint of the Day – 3 February – Blessed John Nelson SJ (1535-1578) Priest Martyr, English Jesuit Martyr who was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I. Born in 1534 at Skelton, Yorkshire, England and died by being hung, drawn and quartered on 3 February 1578 at Tyburn, London England. Additional Memorial 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai.
John Nelson was born in Yorkshire in 1535 and was the son of Sir Nicholas Nelson. He was known for his intense practice of the faith and never feared to practice Catholicism openly although Queen Elizabeth’s government was unfavourable to Catholics and spies abounded. John was convinced that it was only by the shedding of blood that England could again be restored to the faith and driven by this firm conviction, at the age of 40, he left for Flanders and studied at the English college at Douai. He was delighted when his younger brothers, Martin and Thomas, followed him to Douai in 1574 and 1575 respectively. John was Ordained a Priest in 1576 at Bynche and 5 months later, he and 4 other newly Ordained Priests, left the continent for their native land England.
Fr Nelson spent only 1 year in his Priestly ministry and was forced to celebrate Mass secretly in Catholic households. On 1 December 1577, as he was reading his Breviary in the evening at his London residence, Priest-hunters surprised him and arrested him on suspicion of him being a Catholic Priest. He was brought to London’s Newgate Prison. A week after he was arrested, he was taken before the Queen’s High Commissioners but he adamantly refused to recognise the Queen’s authority over the Church. When asked who then was the Head of the Church, he unequivocally answered, that it was the Pope. He also boldly declared, when asked of the Queen’s position, that she was a schismatic, a heretic and that the religion practiced in England was of her own making. At his trial, he repeated the same remarks and because he refused to take the oath acknowledging the Queen’s supremacy in religious matters, he was found guilty of High Treason and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor.
Fr Nelson spent the last two days of his life in a dark, damp, vermin-infested dungeon where he spent his time fasting, praying and preparing for death. On his execution day, 3 February 1578, he refused to see several Protestant ministers, after meeting with family members. When asked to beg pardon of the Queen, he responded, “I will ask no pardon of her, for I have never offended her.” He was then dragged to Tyburn for execution. Just before he was hanged, Fr Nelson asked the Catholics present to pray with him and aloud he recited the Creed, the Our Father and the Hail Mary, all in Latin. He then encouraged the bystanders to remain steadfast in their faith, asked forgiveness of all whom he might have offended and beseeched God to forgive his enemies and executioners. Just as he was finishing these words he was hanged. He was cut down while still alive to make him further suffer disembowelment. His severed head was then displayed on London’s Bridge and portions of his body exhibited at each of the city’s four gates.
Fr Nelson had been an admirer of the Jesuits since he had met them in France and as there was no Jesuit mission in England until 1580, 2 years after his death, he had written to the French Jesuits during his imprisonment for permission to be admitted to the Society. The Jesuits were happy to accept him, especially one about to be Martyred for Christ.
Fr John Nelson was Beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 9 December 1886, togetherWITH other Jesuit martyrs of England and Wales.
Outside of Palestine one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Mother of God in the Levant, is a Convent of Orthodox nuns, – Dair as-Sagura, located within the walls of an ancient fortress on a hill near Damascus. It is thought to be the site where Abel, the murdered brother of Cain, is buried and, is also the site of one of the world’s most ancient Monasteries.
Saidnaya, (or Saydnaya or Sednaya), is a city located in a mountainous region of Syria about 17 miles north of Damascus. The word Saidnaya means “Our Lady” and refers to a famous icon of the Virgin Mother of God that is still kept in the main Church. The origin of the Shrine of Our Lady of Saideneida goes back to a time long before the separation of the Orthodox Church from Old Rome. In fact, there is a tradition, that associates the Shrine to at least the time of the Roman Emperor Justinian I (died 565). According to this tradition, the Roman Emperor Justininian I was leading his army through the desert in modern day Syria. His army was suffering greatly from a lack of water and was near despair, when the Emperor saw a beautiful gazelle in the distance. Justinian chased the animal, which came to a rocky knoll where there was a spring of fresh water. He was preparing to shoot the animal when it suddenly transformed into an icon of the Mother of God which shone with a heavenly light. A voice could be heard to say, “No, thou shalt not kill me, Justinian but thou shalt build a Church for me here on this hill.” The light then faded and the beautiful figure disappeared. The water from the spring saved his army and Justinian told his commanders what he had seen. He ordered them to draw up the plans for the Church Our Lady had requested. The architects complained of insurmountable problems and the Blessed Virgin appeared to the Emperor in a dream and gave him the plan for the Church and convent, of which she herself would be the protectress. The project was completed on the Feast of Our Lady’s nativity.
Once constructed, the convent became so renowned that it was second only to Jerusalem as a site of pilgrimage. The icon, called Our Lady of Saideneida and attributed to St Luke, was said to have been brought to its home in the year 870 from Jerusalem. The holy Abbess of the convent, a woman named Marina, spoke to a Greek pilgrim named Theodore who had stopped at the convent for rest on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Since he was on his way to Jerusalem, the holy abbess Marina asked Theodore to purchase an icon of the Blessed Virgin in the Holy City and bring it back to the convent. The hermit, once in Jerusalem, forgot about the Abbess’s request and began making his way home, when he was stopped by a voice which asked, “Have you not forgotten something in Jerusalem? What have you done in regard to the commission from the Abbess Marina?” Theodore turned back and purchased a beautiful icon of the Theotokos that he knew would be acceptable to the Abbess. His journey back to the convent was fraught with difficulties, as he and his companions were set upon by bandits and suffered the attack of wild beasts. The hermit turned to the Blessed Virgin in all these dangers, invoking her intercession as he prayed before the icon. Despite all the attacks and violence, all those in the caravan were miraculously saved from every danger through the aid of the Mother of God.
The hermit Theodore, was convinced of the powerful aid of the icon and was tempted to keep it for himself. He decided to return home by another route to avoid the Abbess and Saideneida completely. He paid to take ship but the vessel encountered such a furious storm that they were forced to turn back rather than be lost. Repenting of his error, he returned to the road he had taken and made his way back to Saideneida. Once back at the convent, the days passed and he found that he did not want to part with the icon. He lied to the Abbess, telling her he had not purchased the icon she had requested and planned to depart from the convent in secret rather than face the disappointed abbess again. Moving in the darkness the following morning, the hermit made his way soundlessly to the gate so as to begin his trek back to his homeland. As he attempted to pass through the convent gate, however, there was an invisible power that would not allow him to pass. It was as if he were trying to walk through a wall of solid stone, though nothing could be seen that barred his way. When he realised that he would not be able to leave the convent, he turned back and faced the Abbess, admitting to her that he had lied and had intended to keep the icon for himself. With tears of gratitude, the Abbess Marina gave glory to God and His Holy Mother and the icon found its home. That same icon, known as the Shaghoura, meaning “the illustrious,” is kept in a pilgrimage Shrine that is separate from the rest of the chapel. It is hidden in an ornate niche with silver doors. Childless couples especially and pilgrims seeking miracles of cures, still come seeking the Blessed Virgin’s intercession. The Shrine was formerly well known in the West, where from about 1200 it was popularised by the stories of miracles and miraculous cures. A German chronicler, during the ages of the crusades, wrote of his pilgrimage to the convent and spoke of the special properties of a miraculous, holy oil that was emitted from the icon. It was believed, that the oil could cure the sick and Templar knights, especially, would go to the Shrine to obtain the holy oil for their Churches. Interestingly, not only Catholics but also Moslems go to the Shrine as pilgrims. It is remembered, that a sultan, in thanksgiving for a prayer answered through the icon, set a lamp to burn perpetually before the image of Our Lady. The Middle Ages were certainly a time of faith and there were many images of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin and various Saints that were produced for the edification of the people. Inflamed with a true zeal for the faith and anxious to give glory to God, there were many Shrines all over Europe, many of which are now long forgotten in our age when the world struggles mightily to extinguish the Light of Christ.
Bl Alois Andritzki St Anatolius of Salins St Ansgar OSB (801-865) “Apostle of the North”, Bishop Biography: https://anastpaul.com/2019/02/03/saint-of-the-day-3-february-saint-ansgar-osb-801-865-apostle-of-the-north/ St Anna the Prophetess St Berlinda of Meerbeke St Blasius of Armentarius St Blasius of Oreto St Caellainn St Celerinus of Carthage St Claudine Thevenet St Clerina of Carthage St Deodatus of Lagny St Eutichio St Evantius of Vienne St Felix of Africa St Felix of Lyons St Hadelin of Chelles Bl Helena Stollenwerk Bl Helinand of Pronleroy St Hippolytus of Africa St Ia of Cornwall St Ignatius of Africa Bl Iustus Takayama Ukon Blessed John Nelson SJ (1535-1578) Priest Martyr Bl John Zakoly St Laurentinus of Carthage St Laurentius of Carthage St Lawrence the Illuminator St Liafdag St Lupicinus of Lyon St Margaret of England Bl Marie Rivier St Oliver of Ancona St Philip of Vienne St Remedius of Gap St Sempronius of Africa St Tigrides St Werburga of Bardney St Werburga of Chester — Benedictine Martyrs: A collective memorial of all members of the Benedictine Order who have died as martyrs for the faith.