Thought for the Day – 21 January – Monday of the Second week in Ordinary Time – and The Memorial of St Agnes (c 291- c 304) Virgin and Martyr
Seeing as it is the Memorial of St Agnes and we are thinking about martyrdom, I have included the post below, which is an excerpt from my post on St Robert Southwell’s Memorial – 21 February. It is talk by Servant of God, Fr John A Hardon SJ (1914-2000) (a hero!). If you wish to read the whole post, it is here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/saint-of-the-day-21-february-st-robert-southwell-s-j-1561-1595-martyr/
“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 St Robert Southwell SJ (1561-1595) Martyr
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.