St Darerca of Ireland St Deghitche St Epaphroditus of Terracina (1st Century) Bishop St Failbhe of Iona Bl François-Louis Chartier St Harlindis of Arland Bl Hugolinus Zefferini St Lea of Rome Bl Marian Górecki
Notre-Dame-de-Citeaux / Our Lady of Citeaux, France built by St Robert (1098) – 22 March:
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “On Palm Sunday, in the year 1098, Saint Robert, Abbot of Moleme, retired with twenty-one of his Monks to the Diocese of Chalops-sur-Saone, where he built, in honour of Our Lady, the celebrated Monastery of Citeaux, the head house of the order.”
The Notre-Dame de Citeaux Abbey is the first Abbey of the Order of Citeaux, or the Cistercian Order. The original Abbey dates back to 1098, where in the Duchy of Burgundy, Robert of Molesme, Abbot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Molesme, founded the Church. Constructed in the Gothic style, which was current in the 11th century, it was dedicated to Mary, Mother of God and placed under the protection of the Dukes of Burgundy. Having left the Abbey of Our Lady of Molesme, a small group of twenty-one Monks, led by Robert of Molesme, went to Citeaux to apply the Gregorian reform and live in the spirit of prayer and poverty of the rule of St. Benedict. The low country was a land sparsely populated, well forested but also an unwelcoming and hostile place. The beginning was very difficult, for what was required to develop the land was beyond what they possessed. The disciples of Robert suffered from extreme poverty but Pope Pascal II, in the year 1100, gave his protection to the new Monastery and the Duke of Burgundy provided the Monks with what they needed for construction and supplied funding for food and the overall maintenance of the religious.
Difficulties with the water supply at the original site required Aubry, successor of Robert after 1099, to settle the new community two kilometers further south. New buildings were constructed, including a Chapel, which was built of stone and dedicated to Our Lady. After the death of Abbot Aubry in 1109, Stephen was elected as the third Abbot. He faced great problems, for their voluntary poverty appeared so strict, that they had a reputation for too much austerity and there were few vocations. The community was shrinking and some appeared at the gates of despair because they feared to have no successors. Depending directly on the Papal States by pontifical right, the Cistercian Order was officially approved in 1119 by Pope Calixte II, with the purpose that it spread and enforce the Gregorian reform throughout the Christian West. The Abbey of Citeaux, thus became the founding mother of more than two thousand Monasteries from the Kingdom of France and throughout the Christian West to Transylvania in the East, during the 12th century. The Abbey of Citeaux, whose founding was so difficult, became a major spiritual center which profoundly influenced the spiritual, economic and social life of men in the Middle Ages. It was from this place, that new Cistercian Abbeys sprung up all over Europe for the benefit of all mankind. The Christian West returned to a more rigorous respect for the rule of St Benedict and none of this, is to even begin to mention, the influence of the great Saint and Monk, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). The famous Saint Bernard actually left Citeaux to found his Monastery at Clairvaux in the year 1115. The Monastery at Citeaux suffered pillaging several times throughout the Hundred Year’s War and the Monks were often forced to take refuge elsewhere during those perilous times. It was not until the 16th century, that the community once again numbered over 200 Monks but then, with the Wars of Religion, the number of Monks began to decrease again. Finally, in 1791, the Abbey was struck by the French Revolution. The property was illegally seized and sold as national property by the government. In 1898, twenty Cistercians returned to occupy the Abbey, although the Church had been completely destroyed. Still, it is one of the few sites that has regained at least something of its spiritual tradition. The Church has been rebuilt and there are currently about 30 brothers living there. The Abbey of Citeaux was classified as an historical monument in 1978.
Thought for the Day- 22 March – The Memorial of St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) Martyr – “The Priest Hole Maker”
Saint Nicholas Owen possessed great faith and courage and he is highly respected for this, for he is a Saint. However, what also makes him memorable, is how he used a rather obscure skill and talent for the good of God. His ability to make hiding places ultimately became a tool of God for protecting the Church.
Saint Nicholas reminds us that any of our talents, regardless of how seemingly unusual or unimportant, can be put to good use for the good of God and our neighbour. What are your talents and how can you use them for good?
Dear God, please use me to do Your will. St Nicholas Owen, pray for us!
One Minute Reflection – 22 March 2018 – Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent and the Memorial of St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) Martyr
Rejoice … in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly...1 Peter 4:13
REFLECTION – “Let us strive to face suffering with Christian courage. Then all difficulties will vanish and pain itself will become transformed into joy.”…St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) Doctor of the Church
PRAYER – Jesus, Man of Sorrows, in every suffering keep my eyes fixed on You. Let me keep ever before my mind the glory to come and so face the suffering with true Christian courage. Lord our God please grant that by the intercession of St Nicholas Owen, who suffered beyond all our understanding, for love of You, we may learn to suffer in silence and with true courage, amen.
Saint of the Day – 22 March – St Nicholas Owen S.J. (1562-1606) The Priest-Hole Builde, Martyr , Lay Brother of the Society of Jesus, Assistant to St Edmund Campion- born in the 16th century in Oxford, England and was tortured to death on 2 March 1606 in London, England. Also known as • John Owen and • Little John. St Nicholas was a Jesuit lay brother who was the principal designer and builder of priest holes during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I of England. He was Canonised on 25 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
St Nicholas was born in Oxford, England, around 1562 into a devoutly Catholic family and grew up during the Penal Laws. His father, Walter Owen, was a carpenter and Nicholas was apprenticed as a joiner in February 1577 where he acquired skills that he was to use in building hiding places. Two of his older brothers became priests. St Nicholas served as St Edmund Campion’s (1540-1381) assistant and was arrested for protesting Campion’s innocence. Upon his release, he entered the service of Henry Garnet S.J. around 1588 and for the next 18 years built hiding places for priests in the homes of Catholic families. He frequently travelled from one house to another, under the name of “Little John”, accepting only the necessities of life as payment before starting off for a new project. He also used the aliases “Little Michael”, “Andrewes”, and “Draper”. During the daytime he would work as a travelling carpenter to deflect suspicion.
Owen was only slightly taller than a dwarf and suffered from a hernia, as well as a crippled leg from a horse falling on him. Nevertheless, his work often involved breaking through thick stonework and to minimise the likelihood of betrayal he often worked at night and always alone. Sometimes he built an easily discovered outer hiding place which concealed an inner hiding place. The location of the secret room was known only to himself and the owner of the house. Examples of his work survive at Sawston Hall (Cambs),[Oxborough] [Norfolk] Huddington Court (Worcestershire) and Coughton Hall (Warwickshire). Harvington Hall in Worcestershire has seven “priest holes”. Due to the ingenuity of his craftsmanship, some may still be undiscovered. Below are 3 at Harvington Hall, the first 2 pics are the entrance and inside the hole. The third is another in the staircase.
For many years, St Nicholas worked in the service of the Jesuit priest Henry Garnet and was admitted into the Society of Jesus as a lay brother. He was arrested in 1594 and was tortured at the Poultry Compter but revealed nothing. He was released after a wealthy Catholic family paid a fine on his behalf, the jailers believing that he was merely the insignificant friend of some priests. He resumed his work and is believed to have masterminded the famous escape of Father John Gerard from the Tower of London in 1597.
Early in 1606, St Nicholas was arrested a final time at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire, giving himself up voluntarily in hope of distracting attention from his master Fr Garnet who was hiding nearby with another priest. Realising just whom they had caught and his value, Secretary of State Robert Cecil exulted: “It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest… knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”
After being committed to the Marshalsea, a prison on the southern bank of the Thames, St Nicholas was then removed to the Tower of London. He was submitted to terrible “examinations” on the Topcliffe rack, dangling from a wall with both wrists held fast in iron gauntlets and his body hanging. As his hernia allowed his intestines to bulge out during this procedure, the rackmaster strapped a circular plate of iron to his stomach. When he remained stubborn, it is believed that he was transferred to the rack, where the greater power of the windlass forced out his hernia which was then slashed by the plate, resulting in his death. He revealed nothing to his inquisitors and died in the night between 1 and 2 March 1606. Father Gerard wrote of him:
I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.
St Nicholas was canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970. Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic consider St Nicholas Owen the patron saint of Illusionists and Escapologists, due to his facility at using “trompe l’oeil” when creating his hideouts and the fact that he engineered an escape from the Tower of London.
There is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Nicholas Owen in Little Thornton, Lancashire.