Thought for the Day – 16 November – The Memorial of St Edmund Rich of Abingdon (1175-1240) Archbishop of Canterbury
St Edmund’s best-known work in the Middle Ages was his Speculum Ecclesie. It’s a work on the contemplative life, offering (among other things) meditations on different moments in the life of Christ, aiming to help the reader to enter imaginatively into the scenes of His Passion and feel intense compassion for His sufferings. I don’t know whether people read the Speculum Ecclesie today, but most students of Middle English will have read a poem which survives as part of it. This is one of the earliest, shortest and most popular devotional poems in Middle English:
Nou goth sonne under wod,
Me reweth, Marie, thi faire rode.
Nou goth sonne under tre,
Me reweth, Marie, thi sone and thee.
Now goes the sun under the wood, I grieve, Mary, for your fair face. Now goes the sun under the tree, I grieve, Mary, for thy son and thee.
This short poem is designed to be a spur to meditation on the Crucifixion, perhaps at the appropriate hour of the day when the sun begins to set. Apparently very simple, the poem is dense with meaningful wordplay – as the sun sets behind the wood, so Christ the Son is shrouded in darkness on the wood of the cross, the tree; that is, the ‘rode’, which means both ‘face’ and ‘rood’ (cross). And here we have another pair of a mother and her son, and their strong emotional bond (like St Edmund himself and his mother). The poem encourages the reader to meditate and dwell on Christ’s Crucifixion by approaching the Son through the Mother, to feel compassion for His suffering as it is reflected in her grief (underlined by that wordplay on ‘rode’ – (His cross and her face). How wonderful it is that this poem should be associated with a saint whose mother was such an important presence in his life.
Back in Abingdon, the Catholic church is dedicated to him and to the Virgin Mary, the mother and bride who was so constant a presence in his spiritual life.
One Minute Reflection – 16 November – Saturday of the Thirty Second week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 18:1–8 and The Memorial of St Edmund Rich of Abingdon (1175-1240) Archbishop of Canterbury
“And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?” … Luke 18:7
REFLECTION – “ Pray at all times ” commands the apostle Paul (1 Th 5:17). Calling to mind this precept, Clement of Alexandria writes: “We have been commanded to praise and honour the Word, which we know to be our Savior and King and through Him, the Father, not on certain select days as others do but continually, our whole lives long and in every possible way.”
Amidst our daily occupations, at times when we overcome our egoistical tendencies, when we experience the joy of friendship towards others, at all such times, Christians must discover God. Through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, Christians gain intimacy with God the Father and run along the way, as they seek that kingdom which, although it is not of this world (Jn 18:36), is prepared for, in this world and begins in this world.
We need to go regularly to Christ in the Word and the Bread, in the Eucharist and prayer. And stay with Him frequently, as one stays with a friend, a truly alive person – just as Christ is, being risen… Christ, the risen Christ is our companion, our Friend. A companion who is only to be seen in the semi-darkness but whose reality fills our lives and makes us want His company permanently. “The Spirit and the Bride say: ‘Come!’ Let those who hear say: ‘Come!’ Let anyone who thirsts come forward and let those who desire it receive the gift of life-giving water… He who gives this testimony says: ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rv 22:17.20).” … St Josémaria Escriva de Balaguer (1902-1975) – Sermon of 26/03/67 in ‘Es Cristo que pasa’
PRAYER – Holy Father, grant us a strong Faith! Poor Your graces into our hearts that we may believe with all our hearts, minds and souls and that in believing, we may constantly raise our entire being to You in prayer and supplication, in prayer and adoration, in prayer and love. May the intercession of St Edmund Rich of Abingdon, a man of deep prayer from his youth, strengthen our perseverance. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever, amen.
Saint of the Day – 16 November – Saint Edmund Rich of Abingdon (1175-1240) Archbishop of Canterbury, Confessor, Apostle of Prayer and Charity, Mystic, Doctor of Divinity/Theology, eloquent Preacher, Ascetic, highly regarded Professor lecturer, Reformer, Writer, peacemaker, social activist and negotiator. Born, it is thought, on 20 November c. 1175 at St Edmund’s Lane, Abingdon, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), England and died on 16 November 1240 at Soisy-Bouy, Seine-et-Marne, France. Patronages – Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth; St Edmund’s College, Cambridge; St Edmund Hall, Oxford, St Edmund’s College, Ware.
Of English birth, he became a respected lecturer in mathematics, dialectics and theology at the Universities of Paris and Oxford, promoting the study of Aristotle. Having already an unsought reputation as an ascetic, he was ordained a priest, took a doctorate in divinity and soon became known, not only for his lectures on theology but as a popular preacher, spending long years travelling within England, and engaging, in 1227 preaching the sixth crusade. Obliged to accept an appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Gregory IX, he combined a gentle personal temperament with a strong public stature and severity towards King Henry III in defence of Magna Carta and in general of good civil and Church government and justice. He also worked for strict observance in monastic life and negotiated peace with Llywelyn the Great. His policies earned him hostility and jealousy from the king and opposition from several monasteries and from the clergy of Canterbury Cathedral. He died in France at the beginning of a journey to Rome in 1240.
St Edmund was born circa 1174, possibly on 20 November (the feast of St Edmund the Martyr), in Abingdon in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), 7 miles south of Oxford, England. He was the oldest of four children.
“Rich” was an epithet sometimes given to his wealthy merchant father, Reynold. It was never applied to Edmund or his siblings in their lifetimes. His father retired, with his wife’s consent, to the monastery at Eynsham Abbey, leaving in her hands the education of their family. Her name was Mabel, she was a devout woman who lived an ascetic life and encouraged her children to do the same. Both her daughters took the veil.
Edmund may have been educated at the monastic school in Abingdon. He developed a taste for religious learning, saw visions while still at school and at the age of twelve took a vow of perpetual chastity in the Virgin’s church at Oxford. His early studies were in England but he completed his higher learning in France, at the University of Paris. He became a teacher about 1200, or a little earlier. For six years he lectured on mathematics and dialectics, apparently dividing his time between Oxford and Paris and helped introduce the study of Aristotle.
Edmund became one of Oxford’s first lecturers with a Master of Arts but was not Oxford’s first Doctor of Divinity. Long hours at night spent in prayer had the result that he often “nodded off” during his lectures. There is a long-established tradition that he utilised his lecture-fees to build the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s in the East at Oxford. The site where he lived and taught was formed into a mediaeval academic hall in his name and later incorporated as the college of St Edmund Hall.
His mother’s influence then led to his taking up the study of theology. Though for some time Edmund resisted the change, he finally entered upon his new career between 1205 and 1210. He spent a year in retirement with the Augustinian canons of Merton Priory, received ordination, took a doctorate in divinity and soon became known as a lecturer on theology and as an extemporaneous preacher. In this capacity he gained some reputation for eloquence. He spent the fees which he received in charity and refused to spend upon himself the revenues which he derived from several benefices. He often retired for solitude to Reading Abbey and it is possible that he would have become a monk if that profession had afforded more scope for his gifts as a preacher and expositor.
His spiritual fervour, eloquent and effective preaching led to miracles and conversions. He constantly encouraged the faithful to pray. “A hundred thousand people are deceived by multiplying prayers,” he said once. “I would rather say five words devoutly with my heart, than 5,000 which my soul does not relish with affection and intelligence.”
He was known for his great self-discipline – under his clothes, he wore a sackcloth pressed close to his skin by metal plates and he slept only a few hours at night in order to spend time in prayer and meditation. On one occasion, he was observed levitating, consumed in prayer.
In 1233 he was named the 46th Archbishop of Canterbury against his wishes. He advised King Henry III and presided at the king’s confirmation of the Magna Carta in 1237. Edmund was at the centre of relations between Rome and England and spoke truth to power on both sides. He admonished the king for having favourites in his court and travelled to Rome to urge reforms in the Church.
Because he was so truthful and did not vary from what he saw as just and right, many people found him inconvenient. Political movements forced Edmund’s resignation in 1240 and he moved to France and became a Monk. He died later that year and miracles at his grave were reported soon after his burial. His relics rest in the Reliquary Chapel in the Basilica. “I have sought nothing else but Thee, O God.” – St Edmund’s Dying Words.
In less than a year after Edmund’s death, miracles were wrought at his grave. Despite Henry’s opposition, he was Canonised only 6 years after his death, on 16 December 1246 by Pope Innocent IV. A few years later, the first chapel dedicated to him, St Edmund’s Chapel, was Consecrated in Dover, by his friend St Richard of Chichester (c 1197-1253), making it the only chapel dedicated to one English Saint by another.
Edmund’s body was never translated to Canterbury, because the Benedictine community there resented what they regarded as Edmund’s attacks on their independence. After his death he was taken back to Pontigny Abbey, where his main relics are now found in a baroque reliquary tomb dating to the 17th century.
An arm is enshrined in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption at St Edmund’s Retreat on Enders Island off the coast of Mystic, Connecticut. The retreat is operated by the Society of the Fathers and Brothers of St Edmund.
In 1853, the fibula of the Edmund’s left leg was presented to St Edmund’s College, Ware,by Cardinal Wiseman. Many local cures of serious illnesses were attributed to the intercession of St Edmund, one of the earliest of these was of a student who nearly died after a fall in 1871. His complete healing led to the accomplishment of a vow to extend the beautiful Pugin chapel with a side chapel to honour the saint.
St Edmund’s silk chasuble, which Edmund had with him at his death, remains in a local church, with a stole and maniple. His works, Speculum Ecclesiae (Mirror of the Church)
and Provincial Constitution, are still relevant today. He holds the sad honour, of being the last Archbishop of Canterbury, to be Canonised. The Society of St Edmund, formed in his honour in France in the 1840s, operates from the US – you can read about them here: http://www.sse.org/history.html.
Patronage of Our Lady: Feast permitted by a 1679 decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites for all provinces of Spain, in memory of the victories obtained there over infidels. Pope Benedict XIII granted it to the Papal States and it may now be celebrated with due permission by churches throughout the world.
Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn/Our Lady of Ostra Brama: is the prominent Catholic painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated by the faithful in the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania. The painting was historically displayed above the Vilnius city gate; city gates of the time often contained religious artefacts intended to ward off attacks and bless passing travellers.
The painting is in the Northern Renaissance style and was completed most likely around 1630. The Virgin Mary is depicted without the infant Jesus. The artwork soon became known as miraculous and inspired a following. A dedicated chapel was built in 1671 by the Discalced Carmelites. At the same time, possibly borrowing from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the painting was covered inexpensive and elaborate silver and gold clothes leaving only the face and hands visible.
In 1702, when Vilnius was captured by the Swedish army during the Great Northern War, Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn came to her people’s rescue. At dawn, the heavy iron city gates of the gate fell crushing and killing four Swedish soldiers. After this, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Army successfully counter-attacked near the gate.
In the following centuries, the cult grew and Our Lady became an important part of religious life in Vilnius. This inspired many copies in Lithuania, Poland and diaspora communities worldwide. On 5 July 1927, the image was canonically crowned as Mother of Mercy. The chapel was visited by St Pope John Paul II in 1993. It is a major site of pilgrimage in Vilnius and attracts many visitors, especially from Poland.
St Afan of Wales
St Africus of Comminges
Bl Agnes of Assisi
St Agostino of Capua
St Alfric of Canterbury
St Anianus of Asti
St Céronne St Edmund Rich of Abingdon (1175-1240)
Bl Edward Osbaldeston
St Elpidius the Martyr
St Eucherius of Lyon
St Eustochius the Martyr
St Felicita of Capua
St Fidentius of Padua
St Gobrain of Vannes
St Marcellus the Martyr
St Othmar of Saint Gal
Bl Simeon of Cava
Martyrs of Africa – (11 saints)
Martyrs of Almeria – (9 saints): Soon after the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Communist-oriented Popular Front had all clergy and religious arrested and abused as they considered staunch Christians to be enemies of the revolution. Many of these prisoners were executed for having promoted the faith and this memorial remembers several of them killed in the province of Almeria.
• Adrián Saiz y Saiz
• Bienvenido Villalón Acebrón
• Bonifacio Rodríguez González
• Diego Ventaja Milán
• Eusebio Alonso Uyarra
• Isidoro Primo Rodríguez
• Justo Zariquiegui Mendoza
• Manuel Medina Olmos
• Marciano Herrero Martínez
Beatification – 10 October 1993 by St Pope John Paul II
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