Thursday, 31 December 2015

A few small changes .....

Traditionally, the last day of the year has been a day of happenings. For some, a day of endings, for others a day marking new beginnings. On this day .....

  • 1759 – Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and started brewing Guinness.
  • 1879 – Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public for the first time, in New Jersey.
  • 1923 – The chimes of Big Ben were broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC.
  • 1991 – The Soviet Union was officially dissolved.

Recently, I came across this poster,

Whilst chuckling at it's wit I also realised that it only takes a few small changes to make a big difference. A difference in my own life and in the lives of others. Often it's a matter of perspective. So this evening I shall be thinking of those small changes that I might make, some marking endings, some new beginnings, as we head into a new calendar year packed with promise, potential, joys, heartache, victories, failures and surprises. It's often a matter of perspective. It's often a matter of a few small changes. 

31st December - New Year's Eve

Until relatively recently, people in Scotland celebrated the New Year and ignored Christmas, and people in England did the reverse. This was largely a result of the different pathways each country took in the 17th Century. Christmas was banned by Puritan order and at the restoration of the monarchy people were encouraged to welcome back “Old Father Christmas”. The Scottish Church frowned upon the notion, continuing to celebrate the New Year.

New Year had traditions of its own such as exchanging gifts and sending greetings but for the English it was an ambiguous feast, halfway between Christmas and Twelfth Night. Things changed when, in 1974, New Year’s Day became a Bank Holiday and now, for many, it holds more significance than Twelfth Night.

Today, for many, New Year is a time to celebrate with parties and fireworks, and say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new year with hope. 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

30th December – Eugenia Ravasco

Eugenia, the third of six children born to Francesco Matteo and Carolina Mozzoni Frosconi. Eugenia's mother died when she was three, her father moved with some of the children to Genoa, Italy to find work, and Eugenia was raised in Milan by her aunt. Eugenia's father died in 1855 and she moved in with relatives (and their ten children).

Eugenia grew up in a time when opposition to the Church and the clergy was on the rise. Her family were open and active in their faith. Eugenia felt a call to religious life and she began teaching catechism and helping poor girls, especially those who lived on the street. Other young women joined in her work, and she founded the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary to teach catechism and open secular schools for the poor. Eugenia worked with great courage in the face of growing anti-clerical persecution in her region. She travelled Italy, France and Switzerland to start new communities, teach and give direction to new sisters.

Today the Sisters work in Albania, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela, Africa and the Philippines in schools, parishes and missions, dedicated to youth, the poor, and promoting the dignity of women.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

29th December - Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London and Thomas à Becket (1119-1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Becket was born on the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle. When he was 10, Becket was sent as a student to Merton Priory in England and later attended a grammar school in London, perhaps the one at St Paul's Cathedral. Becket was ordained a priest on 2 June 1162 at Canterbury, and on 3 June 1162 was consecrated as Archbishop. King Henry may have hoped that Becket would continue to put the royal government first, rather than the church. The famous transformation of Becket into an ascetic occurred at this time.

In June 1170, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, and the Bishop of Salisbury, crowned the heir apparent, Henry the Young King, at York. This was a breach of Canterbury's privilege of coronation, and Becket excommunicated all three. 

Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed. The king's exact words are in doubt and the most commonly quoted is "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" Or perhaps "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"

Whatever Henry said, it was interpreted as a royal command, and four Knights set out to confront the Archbishop. They arrived at Canterbury and informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands to submit to the king's will that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

28th December - The Holy Innocents

Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, or Innocents’ Day, is a day commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus. In the early church these children were regarded as the first martyrs.

This day was also one of a series of days known as the Feast of Fools, and the last day of authority for boy bishops. Parents temporarily abdicated authority. In convents and monasteries the youngest nun and monk were allowed to act as abbess and abbot for the day. These customs mocked formal expressions of religion. In medieval England the children were reminded of the mournfulness of the day by being whipped in bed in the morning; this custom survived into the 17th century. The day is still observed as a feast day and, in Roman Catholic countries, as a day of merrymaking for children.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

27th December - Feast of the Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family honours Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary, and his father Joseph as a family. The purpose of the feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families. From 1969 the feast is celebrated on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day. 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

26th December - Stephen the Martyr

Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was a Deacon and a preacher. While preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews, who believed his message to be blasphemy, dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. In the crowd, on the side of the mob, was a man who would later be known as St Paul the Apostle. Patron against headaches and patron of brick layer, casket makers, coffin makers, deacons, horses & stone masons.

Friday, 25 December 2015

25th December – Christmas Day

Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ prepared for by the season of Advent and heralds the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night.

Customs of the day include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas music and caroling, lighting a Christingle, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. Father Christmas, St Nicholas and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

24th December – Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the evening or day before Christmas Day and is observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.

Christmas celebrations often begin on the night of the 24th, due in part to the Christian liturgical day starting at sunset, a practice inherited from Jewish tradition and based on the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day." Since tradition holds that Jesus was born at night, Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth.

During the Reformation many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.

In many parts of the world gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. In Spain, gifts are traditionally opened on the morning of January 6, Epiphany day. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

23rd December - John Cantius

 “Fight all error, but do it with good humour, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.” 

John Cantius, (1390 – 1473), Polish, brilliant student, Priest and Professor of Theology. John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. He made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem and four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. He is patron of Poland and Lithuania.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

22nd December - Frances Xavier Cabrini

Frances, (1850 – 1917), was one of thirteen children raised on a farm. She received a convent education, and trained as a teacher. Poor health prevented her joining the order of nuns and so for six years she taught at a girl's school, the House of Providence Orphanage in Cadagono, Italy. She took religious vows in 1877, and acquitted herself so well at her work that when the orphanage closed in 1880, her bishop asked her to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Pope Leo XIII then sent her to the United States to carry on this mission. She and six Sisters arrived in New York in 1889. They worked among immigrants, especially Italians. Mother Cabrini founded 67 institutions, including schools, hospitals, and orphanages in the United States, Europe and South America. She became a United States citizen during her life and after her death she was the first US citizen to be canonized.

Monday, 21 December 2015

21st December – Peter Canisius

Peter Canisius, (1521 – 1597), was a Priest and Doctor of the Church. He was educated in Cologne, studying art, civil law and theology, being awarded a master's degree at age 19. He was ordained in 1546 and travelled and worked with Ignatius of Loyola, his spiritual director. He led the Counter-Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Switzerland, and his work led to the return of Catholicism to Germany. His catechism went through 200 editions during his life, and was translated into 12 languages. He became a noted preacher and often worked with children. He taught, preached, edited books, and worked to support the Catholic press and printers. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

20th December - Dominic of Silos

Dominic, (1000 - 1073), was one of the most beloved of Spanish saints. A shepherd, Benedictine monk, Priest. Novice master and Prior of the house. He turned around the monastery at Silos which was in terrible trouble. He sorted out the spiritual life, straightened out its finances and rebuilt its structure. The house became a spiritual centre noted for book design, printed art, its gold and silver work, and charity to the local poor. 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

19th December - Manirus of Scotland

Manirus, (700-824), missionary bishop to the Highlanders of northern Scotland. He had an on-going battle of words and ideas with the local pagans, but there was apparently little violence from either side during his work. His church is where the royal family of Great Britain worship when they are at Balmoral.

Friday, 18 December 2015

18th December - Winebald of Heidenheim

Winebald (701 – 761), an English missionary who evangelised Europe. He was born a prince, the son of Richard the King and Wunna of Wessex; brother of Willibald and Walburga; nephew of Boniface. During a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands he became ill and spent seven years in Rome, recovering and studying before finally returning to England. He became a missionary to Germany with Boniface. He was ordained in 739, worked in Bavaria and Mainz and founded a monastery at Heidenheim, serving as its first abbot.

He is patron of construction workers and engaged couples

Thursday, 17 December 2015

17th December - John of Matha

John of Matha (1160-1223) was born into Provencal nobility. He was educated at Aix, then lived as a hermit at Faucon. He earned a doctorate in theology and was ordained in 1197.

At the first Mass he celebrated, John received a vision of an angel clothed in white with a red and blue cross on his breast. The angel placed his hands on the heads of two slaves who knelt beside him. With the encouragement of Pope Innocent III, he founded the Hospitaler Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of Captives to ransom Christian prisoners of the Moors. The congregation received papal approval in 1209. Hundreds of prisoners were ransomed and returned to their homes.

Today there are around 600 members of the Order working in prison ministries in over twenty countries, and they recently celebrated their 800 year anniversary.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

16th December - Adolphus (and Arnaldo and James)

Adolphus was one of three Mercedarian friars who, in 1314, went to Tunis to free Christian captives. On the trip home, their ship was captured by pirates, and they were imprisoned. While in captivity Adolphus ministered to other prisoners and talked about Christ. His jailers murdered him to stop his speaking up.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

15th December - Offa of Essex

Offa was King of Essex until 709, when he abdicated to take up life in a monastery in Rome. He was the son of Sigeheard of Essex, and, according to some sources, St. Osyth.

Bede described Offa as "a youth of most lovely age and beauty, and most earnestly desired by all his nation to be their king. He, with like devotion, quit his wife, lands, kindred and country, for Christ and for the Gospel, that he might receive an hundredfold in this life, and in the world to Come life everlasting.”

Monday, 14 December 2015

14th December - John of the Cross

John (1542-1591) was born in poverty and cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina del Campo, Spain. He became a Carmelite lay brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived more strictly than the Rule required and was ordained Carmelite priest aged 25. When he took up the barefoot reform within the Carmelite Order, he took the name John of the Cross. After becoming master of novices and spiritual director, his reforms did not set well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina del Campo. He refused, and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, escaping after nine months and then becoming Vicar-general of Andalusia. His reforms revitalized the order and he was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

13th December (2015) - Gaudete Sunday

In 2015, the 13th December falls on a Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. It takes it's name from the Introit for the Latin Mass, taken from Philippians 4:4,5: "Gaudete in Domino semper" ("Rejoice in the Lord always").

The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of St Martin (12 November), it was often called "St. Martin's Lent"—a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. In the ninth century, Advent was reduced to four weeks. Gaudete Sunday is a counterpart to Laetare Sunday, and provides a similar break about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord's coming.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

12th December - Edburga of Thanet

d751 at Minster-on-Thanet

Only daughter of King Centwine and Queen Engyth of Wessex, the 8th century royal family of Kent. Edburga became a Benedictine nun. She was a friend and spiritual student of St Mildred of Thanet. Edburga became Abbess of Minster-on-Thanet Abbey in 716 where she built a new church. Edburga was a skilled scribe and calligrapher.

Friday, 11 December 2015

11th December - Daniel the Stylite

Daniel the Stylite* (c409 – 493) was born in Maratha in upper Mesopotamia, Turkey. He entered a monastery at the age of twelve and lived there until he was thirty-eight. During a voyage he made with his abbot to Antioch, he passed by Tellnesin and received the benediction and encouragement of Simeon Stylites. Then he visited the holy places, stayed in various convents and retired in 451 into the ruins of a pagan temple.

He established a "very large pillar" four miles north of Constantinople. The owner of the land where he placed his pillar had not been consulted, and he appealed to the emperor, Gennadius. He organised for Daniel to be evicted but for some reason ordained him a priest against his will, standing at the foot of his pillar. When the ceremony was over Daniel administered the Eucharist by means of a ladder. Daniel lived on the pillar for 33 years. By continually standing, his feet were covered with sores, cuts and ulcers. 

The following is the advice he gave to his disciples just before his death:
"Hold fast humility, practice obedience, exercise hospitality, keep the fasts, observe the vigils, love poverty, and above all maintain charity, which is the first and great commandment ....."

* A stylite, pillar dweller, or pillar-saint is a Christian ascetic who live on pillars, preaching, fasting and praying. Stylites believe that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. The first stylite was probably Simeon Stylites the Elder who climbed a pillar in Syria in 423 and remained there until his death 37 years later.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

10th December - John Roberts

One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

Son of John and Anna Roberts; his ancestors were princes in Wales. Raised Protestant, John always felt an affinity for Catholicism. He studied at Oxford but left without a degree and then studied law and was ordained in Spain.

He returned to England as a missioner, was quickly arrested and exiled.

He returned to England and worked with plague victims in London. He was, again, arrested and exiled.

He returned to England and during a search for suspects involved in the Gunpowder Plot he was arrested again. Though he had no connection to the Plot, he spent months in prison and was exiled ….. again.

He again returned to England, was arrested and sent to prison. He escaped and spent a year working in London but was again arrested. His execution was arranged, was reduced and he was exiled yet again.

Returned to England a few months later, he was arrested while celebrating Mass on 2 December 1610. He was convicted on 5 December 1610 of the crime of priesthood.

He was hung, drawn and quartered on 10 December, 1610, at 33 years old. It was usual for the prisoner's innards to be drawn when still alive, but the large crowd which gathered at his execution would not allow this. He was very popular among the poor of London because of the kindness he'd shown them during the plague.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

9th December - Syrus

Syrus of Pavia, also known as Cyril, served as first the bishop of Pavia, Italy in the 1st century. Tradition says that he was appointed by the Apostles, and an old legend says that he was the boy with five loaves and two fishes who appears in the Gospels. And if not true, I wonder where the boy ended up?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

8th December - Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Mary, which is celebrated on September 8. It is one of the most important Marian feasts celebrated in the liturgical calendar and is generally considered a Family day. The Church first celebrated this day as early as the 5th century in Syria.

Monday, 7 December 2015

7th December - Ambrose

Ambrose, (340-397), bishop of Milan, one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. Ambrose is credited with promoting "antiphonal chant", a style of chanting in which one side of the choir responds alternately to the other. He was one of the four original doctors of the Church, and notable for his influence on St. Augustine.

The title "Honey Tongued Doctor" was given to Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. This led to his association with bees, beekeepers, chandlers & wax refiners. 

Patron of bee keepers, bees, bishops, candle makers, chandlers, domestic animals, geese, learning, livestock, police officers, schoolchildren, security personnel, starlings, students & wax melters.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

6th December - St Nicholas

Hooray for St Nicholas' Day! St Nicholas is celebrated as a bringer of gifts.

St Nicholas (270 – 343), was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Bishop of Myra. He is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker and he had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on this feast day.

Other practices include:
  • In Germany and Poland boys would dress as bishops begging alms for the poor.
  • In Ukraine, children wait for St Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows.
  • In the Netherlands, children put out a clog filled with hay and a carrot for St Nicholas' horse.
  • In the USA, some children leave their shoes in the foyer in hope that St Nicholas will place some coins in them 
  • In France a little donkey carries baskets filled with children's gifts, biscuits and sweets.
  • In Italy St Nicholas is the patron of Bari where it is believed he is buried. At the Festa di San Nicola the relics of the saint are carried on a boat on the sea in front of the city with boats following. As St Nicholas is said to protect children and virgins, on 6 December there is a ritual called the Rito delle nubili: unmarried women wishing to find a husband can attend an early-morning Mass in which they have to turn around a column 7 times. A similar tradition is currently observed in Sassari, where during the day of St Nicholas, patron of the city, gifts are given to young women who need help to get married.

Our modern day Father Christmas is derived from St Nicholas. Santa Claus is derived in part from the Dutch Sinterklaas, the saint's name in that language.

He is the patron of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers and pawnbrokers.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

5th December - Sabbas of Mar Saba

 Also known as Sabbas the Sanctified & Sabbas the Great

Sabbas (439 – 532) was known as a simple man with little education but with a firm belief in the spiritual benefits of simple living. He was a hermit from the age of 20 and an anchorite from age 30. He lived in a cave and devoting himself to prayer and manual labour, weaving ten willow baskets each day. On Saturdays he would take them to the local monastery and trade them for a week's food and a week's worth of willow wands for more baskets. He eventually took over the leadership of over 1000 monks and hermits in the region.

Sabbas led a peaceful uprising of 10 000 monks who demanded the end of the persecutions of Palestinian bishops. At age 90, Sabbas travelled to Constantinople where he successfully pled for clemency from Justinian for Samarians who were in revolt.

Friday, 4 December 2015

4th December - Nicholas Ferrar (Little Gidding)

Nicholas Ferrar, together with the wider family, moved to Little Gidding after the collapse of their merchant business. On arrival they found the church used as a barn and the house, uninhabited for 60 years, in need of extensive repair. The household grew to about 40 in number. A school was established for the children of kinsmen and friends and family. One wing of the house became an almshouse for four elderly and infirm women. A dispensary was set up in the house to provide broth and medicines to the local people.

Nicholas was ordained deacon and he established regular prayer and established matins, the litany, and evensong. He also began a round of hourly devotions in the house, augmented by nightly vigils. Nicholas devised a Harmony of the four gospels. Individual lines were cut from the four gospel narratives and pasted together to make one continuous text and the pages were also illustrated with engravings.

When King Charles heard of the Harmony’s existence, he borrowed it, returning it only when the family agreed to make another for him. The family also made others for family and friends as well as for other royals and members of the nobility. Fifteen volumes survive, four in the British Library.

The Ferrar household was an example of a godly family, neither unique nor monastic, but firmly committed to the Church of England and its Prayer Book and to God’s service. Their pattern of life placed them in a middle way. The church at Little Gidding, with its reading desk and pulpit carefully placed at equal heights on either side of the church, expressed their vision of an appropriate balance of liturgy and preaching, a balance of tradition and scripture, interpreted by reason, that remains the heritage of the present Church of England.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

3rd December - Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier, (1506 – 1552), was born to the nobility of the Basque reqion. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris and planned a career as a professor. His friend, of Ignatius of Loyola, convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel.

In Goa, India, while waiting to take ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He is said to have converted the entire city.

He criticised King John of Portugal over the slave trade: "You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country's riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise."

He was a successful missionary in India, the East Indies and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. He is reputed to have dined with head hunters, washed the sores of lepers in Venice, taught catechism to children in India, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He travelled thousands of miles, mostly barefoot.

Patron for missions, missionaries & navigators and is often represented by a crucifix, a preacher carrying a flaming heart, a bell, and a globe.

The best way to acquire true dignity is to wash one's own clothes and boil one's own pot.

Francis Xavier

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

2nd December - Liduina Meneguzzi

Liduina Meneguzzi, also known as “Ecumenical Flame” was born to a poor farm family. She attended daily Mass, prayed often and taught catechism as soon as she was old enough. At age 14 she began working as a servant to local wealthy families, and in local hotels. In 1926 she joined the Sisters of the Congregation of Saint Francis de Sales.

She worked for years at the Santa Croce boarding school as housekeeper, sacristan, nurse and big sister to the girls. In 1937 she left for Dire-Dawa, Ethiopia, working as a nurse in the Parini Civil Hospital first with civilian patients, and after the outbreak of World War II, with injured soldiers. When the city was bombed she worked in the streets.

Her work with people of different cultures, different races and different religions gave her opportunities to talk about the goodness of God the Father. She died in 1941 of cancer in Dire-Dawa, Ethiopia and was buried in the military graveyard at Dire-Dawa at the insistence of the soldiers she cared for.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

1st December - Charles de Foucauld

Born to an aristocratic family; orphaned by age six, he and his sister Mary were raised by their grandfather. He joined the 4th Hussar regiment and in 1880 his unit was sent to Setif, Algeria. He was discharged from the service for misconduct, and moved to Evian.

He spent 15 months learning Arabic and Hebrew and then travelled into Morocco. He received the Gold Medal of the French Geographic Society for his work. He lived very simply, sleeping on the floor, spending hours each day in prayer at home and in church. Pilgrim to the Holy Lands and spent much time in spiritual retreats.

In 1890 he joined the Trappist monks at the monastery of Notre Dames-des-Neiges; he moved to the monastery of Akbes, in Syria.

He made multiple pilgrimages through the Holy Lands on foot before returning to France to study for the priesthood. After ordination he moved to the Oran region near Morocco to establish a base and found an order to evangelize Morocco. he began a program of buying slaves in order to free them, he began evangelizing nomadic Tauregs in the area of south and central Sahara. He translated the Gospels into the language of the Tauregs.

He was killed when caught in the middle of combat between French forces and Arab insurrectionists.

As soon as I believed there was a God, I understood I could do nothing else but live for him, my religious vocation dates from the same moment as my faith: God is so great. There is such a difference between God and everything that is not. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

30th November – Feast of St Andrew

Andrew, the first Apostle. A fisherman by trade and brother of Simon Peter. Andrew went through life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece, and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland and was martyred on an saltire (x-shaped) cross. He is said to have preached for two days from it.

Some peculiar marriage-related superstitions have attached themselves to St Andrew’s feast day.

  • An old German tradition says that single women who wish to marry should ask for Saint Andrew’s help on the eve of his feast, then sleep naked that night; they will see their future husbands in their dreams.
  • Another says that young women should note the location of barking dogs on Saint Andrew’s Eve: their future husbands will come from that direction.
  • On the day after Andrew’s feast, young people float cups in a tub; if a boy‘s and a girl‘s cup drift together and are intercepted by a cup inscribed “priest”, it indicates marriage.
  • There are several explanations for why Andrew became the patron of Scotland.

Patron against convulsions, against fever, against gout, against neck pain, against sore throats and against whooping cough

Patron for anglers, boatmen, butchers, farm workers, fish mongers, fishermen, happy marriages, maidens, mariners, miners, old maids, pregnant women, rope makers, sail makers, sailors, single lay women, singers, spinsters, textile workers, unmarried women, water carriers, women who wish to become mothers

29th November - First Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for Christmas; the time we celebrate as the anniversary of the Birth or Coming of Christ. It includes four Sundays, the first Sunday of Advent is the nearest to the feast of St Andrew the Apostle (30 November). 

It is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, Happy New Year everybody! 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

28th November - Stephen the Younger

Stephen the Younger, also known as Stephen the New, was a monk at the monastery of St Auxentius at age fifteen and later, Abbot there. He retired to live as a hermit. Soon after, the iconoclast movement became very active in the area, led by Emperor Constantine. The emperor tried to enlist Stephen in the movement, but the holy hermit refused, and was exiled. Years later he returned, and to prove how important it was to respect icons and other religious art, Stephen went to the emperor, pulled out a coin that bore the emperor’s likeness, threw it onto the floor, and stomped on it; as the emperor understood the importance of his own image, he imprisoned Stephen for 11 months. On his release, Stephen returned to the court and resumed the argument as though nothing has happened. He was scourged, stoned and dragged to death through the streets of Constantinople.

He is patron of coin collectors and smelters.

Friday, 27 November 2015

27th November - Barlaam & Josaphat

The stories of Barlaam and Josaphat are remarkably similar to earlier Buddha stories. Many people in India were converted by Thomas the Apostle. Stargazers foretold that the son of King Abenner would one day become a Christian and to prevent this, Abenner began persecuting the Church and had his son, Josaphat, placed under house arrest. In spite of these precautions, Barlaam, a hermit, met him and converted him to the faith. Abenner himself later became a Christian, abdicated the throne, and became a hermit. Josaphat governed for a time, then abdicated, too. He travelled to the desert, found Barlaam, and spent his remaining years as a holy hermit. Years after their deaths, the bodies Josaphat and Barlaam were brought to India; their joint grave became renowned by miracles.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

26th November - John Berchmans

Son of a shoemaker, and one of five children, three of whom entered religious life. John had great devotion to his position as an altar boy which led to devotion to all he did later in life. He was a Jesuit noviate and a student at the Jesuit College in Belgium. John had a dream of helping and teaching multi-lingual migrants and he studied the languages of Europe. However, he died of unknown causes following his participation in a public debate; he did not live to be ordained.

John Berchmans was not noted for any extraordinary feats, but he made kindness, courtesy, and constant fidelity an important part of his life. The path to holiness can lie in the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

25th November - Catherine of Alexandria

We know little of Catherine other than stories which may have been embellished as the years go by. We believe she was of noble lineage and learned in science. She converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. When she was 18 years old, during the persecution of Maximinus, she debated with pagan philosophers. Many were converted by her arguments, and immediately martyred. Maximinus had Catherine scourged and imprisoned. The empress and the leader of the army of Maximinus were amazed by the stories and went to see Catherine in prison. They too were converted and were martyred. Maximinus ordered Catherine broken on the wheel. She was beheaded.

Catherine was popular during the Middle Ages, there were many chapels and churches devoted to her throughout Western Europe. 

Due to her popularity, Catherine is patron to many, including; apologists, craftsmen who work with a wheel, archivists, barristers, lawyers, jurists, dying people, educators, teachers, girls, knife sharpeners, librarians, libraries, maidens, unmarried girls and women, mechanics, millers, nurses, old maids, philosopher,  potters, preachers, scholars, schoolchildren, students, scribes, secretaries, spinners, stenographers, tanners, theologians, turners, the Universities of Heidelberg & Paris & wheelwrights


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

24th November - Albert of Louvain

You couldn't make it up! I sometimes think Eastenders is far-fetched! Albert was appointed bishop, elevated to cardinal, ordained deacon, ordained priest, ordained bishop and assassinated, all in the space of 1 year! What a year! However, he wasn't content with these ecclesiastical positions, he was also a canon and an archdeacon.

Son of Duke Godfrey III of Brabant he was made a canon of Liege, at age 12. However, this was a political appointment for guaranteed income rather than a religious vocation. He gave up the position at age 21 to become a knight and eventually realized that religious life was calling him. He became a canon of Liege again, this time as a true vocation.

He became archdeacon and provost of Brabant and later, Bishop of Liege in 1191. However, others had an eye on the top job and he was ousted. Albert didn't give up easily and the pope reinstated him but the new incumbent refused to give up the position and they had trouble finding a bishop to ordain Albert. He was persistent and eventually regained the position of bishop and was duly assassinated. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

23rd November - Clement

Clement found faith in Christ either through St Peter or through St Paul. He was one of the Seventy Apostles and was consecrated as a bishop by St Peter. Clement is mentioned in Philippians 4:3. The Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome, one of the earliest parish churches in the city, is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. 

Clement is counted as the third bishop of Rome. His predecessors are Linus and Cletus, about whom almost nothing is known. Clement wrote a letter to the Corinthians, which was highly valued by the early church, and has been preserved to the present day. The letter is addressed from the congregation at Rome to the congregation at Corinth.

One story about Clement is that he was put to death by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. Accordingly, he is often depicted with an anchor, and many churches in port towns intended to minister chiefly to mariners are named for him.

Patron of marble workers, sailors, sick children & stonecutters

Almighty God, who chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability: Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and may evermore be kept blameless in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

22nd November - Cecilia

Cecilia, a young woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. Her husband was converted and he and his brother developed a ministry of the burial of martyred Christians. In their turn they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at her villa on the Apprian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods; when she refused, she was also martyred. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

21st November – Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Commemorates the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a child in the Temple where, according to tradition, she was educated. The accounts are not recorded in the Gospels but are in apocryphal books. The feast originated in the Orient probably about the 7th century. The scene has been re-created by many artists.

In Eastern Orthodox tradition, this is one of the days when women named Mary celebrate their Name Day, similar to a birthday.

Friday, 20 November 2015

20th November - Edmund, King of the East Angles

Born in Germany, King of East Anglia at age 14, crowned on Christmas Day 855, Edmund was a model ruler, concerned with justice for his people and his own spirituality; he spent a year at Hunstanton learning the Psalter by heart. Following one of a series of armed engagement with invading Danes, he was captured. He was ordered to give his Christian people to the pagan invaders; he refused and was beaten, whipped, shot with arrows “until he bristled with them like a hedgehog”, and beheaded at Hoxne, Suffolk, in 870.

He is patron against plague ad patron for East Anglia, kings, torture victims and wolves

Thursday, 19 November 2015

19th November - Raphael Kalinowski

Raphael Kalinowski, 1835 -1907
Raphael was a Polish Discalced Carmelite friar (barefoot Carmelites, dedicated to prayer) inside the Russian partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in Vilnius. He was a teacher, engineer, prisoner of war, royal tutor, and priest, who founded many Carmelite monasteries around Poland after their suppression by the Russians.

The Russians strictly limited opportunities for further education, so in 1853 he enlisted in the Imperial Russian Army. He worked as an associate professor of mathematics and as an engineer who helped design the Odessa-Kiev-Kursk railway.

He remained sympathetic with the plight of the Poles and so he resigned from the Imperial Russian Army in 1863 to serve as minister of war for the January Uprising, a Polish insurrection. He determined never to sentence anyone to death nor to execute any prisoner. Raphael was soon taken prisoner and joined the forced march to slave labour in Siberia. He was released ten years later.

In 1864, Russian authorities arrested Raphael and condemned him to death by firing squad. His family intervened, and the Russians, fearing that their Polish subjects would revere him as a political martyr, commuted the sentence to 10 years in a Siberian labour camp, and forced him to trek overland to the salt mines of Siberia, a journey that took nine months.

He was released from Siberia in 1873 and exiled from Lithuania; he then moved to Paris, before returning to Warsaw where he became a tutor to the 16-year-old Prince. Kalinowski was a major influence on the young prince, who later became a priest. Later Kalinowski travelled to Brest where he began a Sunday school. Kalinowski was ordained as priest and he became prior of the monastery at Czerna. He founded multiple Catholic organizations around Poland and Ukraine.

Kalinowski died in Wadowice of tuberculosis in 1907. Fourteen years later, Karol Wojtyła, later known as Pope John Paul II, was born in the same town.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

18th November - St Mawes

Mawes, born in Wales sometime in the 6th century, was a hermit in an area of Cornwall now known as St Mawes. He emigrated to Brittany where he founded a monastery on the island of Maudez; he had to drive out the snakes and vermin in order to build there. he worked with St Budoc and St Tudwal to found the monastery. There are more than 60 churches in the region dedicated to him.

He is patron against snake bites and headaches and is often represented as a bishop or as a schoolmaster. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

17th November - Gregory Thaumaturgus

Gregory, 213 - 270, also known as Gregory the Wonder Worker

Gregory was born to a wealthy family and trained in law and rhetoric in his youth. He and his brother each gave up the idea of law school, became students of Origen, and converted to Christianity; Theodore changed his name to Gregory. He studied philosophy and theology for seven years under Origen. He became Bishop of Caesarea, a diocese with only 17 Christians when he arrived. Gregory converted most of his bishopric; tradition says there were only 17 pagans left at the time of his death. Instituted the celebration of martyrs, teachings about the saints, and celebration of saint feast days as a way to interest pagans in the Church. 

During the Decian persecutions he and his flock fled into the desert. He worked among the sick when the plague struck soon after, and with refugees during the invasion by the Goths. He used his legal training to help his parishioners and settle disputes between them without taking their problems to the civil courts. He oversaw the council that chose St Alexander the Charcoal Burner as the first bishop of Comana. Macrina the Elder heard Gregory preach many times in her youth and passed his wisdom onto her grandsons St Basil the Great and St Gregory of Nyssa. Noted theological writer.

As you might expect from some one surnamed the Wonder Worker, there were many miraculous events in Gregory's life.

Gregory was patron against earthquakes and against floods and patron for desperate causes, forgotten causes, impossible causes and lost causes.

Monday, 16 November 2015

16th November - Margaret

Granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England and great-niece of St Stephen of Hungary. Margaret was born in Hungary, her family was in exile due to King Canute and the Danish invasion of England. She spent much of her youth in the British Isles. While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family's ship foundered on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret later married. They had eight children including St Maud, wife of Henry I, and St David of Scotland. Margaret founded abbeys and used her position to work for justice and improved conditions for the poor.

Queen Margaret was renowned for her good influence on her husband and also for her devout piety and religious observance. She was a prime mover in the reform of the Church in Scotland. Under Queen Margaret's leadership and, much to joy of the working-class, abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels and established the Royal Mausoleum at Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

15th November - Albert the Great

“It is by the path of love that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where love is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess love, we possess God, for ‘God is love.’”
“What worth is a hidden treasure?”

Albert, (1206 – 1280), a Dominican and Priest who taught theology at Cologne and Paris. He was also a teacher of St Thomas Aquinas. He is most known for his interest in the natural sciences. He wrote and illustrated guides and was considered an authority on these things. He was a theological writer and a Doctor of the Church and described as “a teacher of all that there is to know”.

Patron of medical technicians, natural sciences, philosophers, schoolchildren, scientists & theology students

Saturday, 14 November 2015

14th November - St Lawrence O’Toole

Lawrence O'Toole 1128 - 1180
Son of the chief of Hy Murray, he was taken as a hostage when he was ten years old, released at age twelve to the Bishop of Glendalough where he was educated at the monastic school. He became a Monk and then Abbot. He became the first native-born Irishman to become the Archbishop of Dublin. He was noted for his personal austerity, he wore a hair shirt under his ecclesiastical robes, made an annual 40 day retreat in St Kevin’s cave, he never ate meat, he fasted every Friday, and he never drank wine. Apparently, he would colour his water to make it look like wine and not bring attention to himself at table.

In 1171 he travelled to Canterbury on diocesan business. While preparing for Mass there he was attacked by a lunatic who wanted to make Lawrence another St Thomas Beckett. Everyone in the church thought Lawrence had been killed by the severe blow to the head. Instead he asked for water, blessed it, and washed the wound; the bleeding stopped.

He died while travelling with King Henry II, travelling as a peacemaker. It resulted in his imprisonment and ill-treatment by the king who decided he had had his fill of meddling priests.

Friday, 13 November 2015

13th November - Charles Simeon

Charles Simeon is thought of as an ancestor of the evangelical movement in the Church of England. He was born in Reading in 1759, the youngest son of Richard and Elizabeth Simeon, His eldest brother died early, his second brother became an MP, the third was a director of the Bank of England.

Simeon was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge and became a priest. He was so unpopular that services were frequently interrupted and he was often insulted in the streets. However, he subsequently gained a remarkable and lasting influence among the undergraduates of the university. He became a leader among evangelical churchmen and was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society. He published hundreds of sermons and outlines of sermons.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

12th November - Livinus

Livinus, 580-657
Son of a Scottish nobleman and an Irish princess, he was raised in Ireland, and studied there and in England. Ordained by Saint Augustine of Canterbury and became a highly successful missionary to Flanders. He eventually was appointed Bishop of Ghent. However, he was tortured by those who opposed him, his tongue was torn out to stop his preaching and he was beheaded.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

11th November - Martin of Tours

Born to a Roman military officer, Martin of Tours, also known as Martin the Merciful, became a catechumen in his early teens. He joined the Roman army aged 15, serving as the emperor’s bodyguard. While on horseback in Amiens, he came across a beggar. Having nothing to give but the clothes on his back, Martin cut his officer‘s cloak in half and gave it to the beggar. Just before a battle, Martin announced that his faith prohibited him from fighting. He was charged with cowardice, was jailed, and his superiors planned to put him in the front of the battle. However, the invaders made peace and Martin was released from military service.

Martin became a hermit for ten years and earned the reputation for living a holy life. By his own request he was buried in the Cemetery of the Poor on 11 November 397.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

10th November - Leo the Great

Leo, the first pope to have been called "the Great", best known for having met Attila the Hun and persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy. He is also a Doctor of the Church and taught the orthodox definition of Christ's being of two natures, divine and human, united in one person ".

Monday, 9 November 2015

9th November - Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe (c1373–c1440) was a Christian mystic, sometimes thought of as an “oddity or madwoman”, and known for dictating The Book of Margery Kempe, a work thought to be the first autobiography in the English language.

Margery was unable to read and learned by heart the Lord’s Prayer, Ave Maria, the Ten Commandments, and other “virtues, vices, and articles of faith”. She believed that she was summoned to a “greater intimacy with Christ” and wrote extensively of her experiences. On visiting Julian of Norwich she was advised to "measure these experiences according to the worship they accrue to God and the profit to her fellow Christians”

Sunday, 8 November 2015

8th November - The Saints & Martyrs of England

Martyrs of Douai
The date when Christianity first came to England is not known. Some think Roman slaves or traders brought their faith to England in the second century, maybe even earlier. We do know there were British bishops at the Council of Arles in the year 314, indicating there was a Church with order and worship at that time. Since those days, Christians from England have shared the message of the good news at home and around the world. And some have given their lives for the sake of Christ.

Today’s collect
God, whom the glorious company of the redeemed adore,
assembled from all times and places of your dominion:
we praise you for the saints of our own land
and for the many lamps their holiness has lit;
and we pray that we also may be numbered at last
with those who have done your will
   and declared your righteousness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

7th November - Willibrord

Willibrord, 658-739

Willibrord, Apostle of Frisia and a missionary archbishop. He was born in Northumbria, studied at Ripon monastery under St Wilfrid and spent twelve years studying in Ireland at the abbey of Rathmelsigi, the centre of European learning in the 7th century. After receiving ordination and extensive training in missions, he set out with a dozen companions for Frisia, or Friesland. He faced dangers from outraged pagans and came close to being murdered.

Willibrord died on 7 November aged of 81. Willibrord wells, which skirted his missionary routes, were visited by the people, for the healing of various nervous diseases, especially of children.

The moving of his relics was celebrated: "the five bishops in full pontificals assisted; engaged in the dance were 2 Swiss guards, 16 standard-bearers, 3045 singers, 136 priests, 426 musicians, 15,085 dancers, and 2032 players". That's some funeral! A Dancing Procession is held in Echternach every year on Whit Tuesday, and attracts thousands of participants.

Friday, 6 November 2015

6th November – William Temple

"The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members"

"The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child's home"

William Temple was born in 1881 in Devon. He was the second son of Frederick Temple, also Archbishop of Canterbury. He was ordained priest in 1909, served as Headmaster of Repton School, was appointed Bishop of Manchester, then Archbishop of York, and in 1942, he became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Temple defended the working-class movement and supported economic and social reforms and he was influential in bringing together the various churches of the country to support the Education Act of 1944. His influence led to the formation of the British Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

5th November – Elizabeth

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and the wife of Zechariah. She is descended from Aaron and is described as ““righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.”

Patron of expectant mothers.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

4th November – Charles Borromeo

"He possessed in an eminent degree the spirit of prayer, and employed several hours of the day and of the night in contemplation"

Borromea (1538-1584) was born to a wealthy, noble family. He was a lawyer, cleric, abbot, prior and cardinal and was known as the apostle to the Council of Trent.

Due to his enforcement of strict ecclesiastical discipline, some disgruntled monks in the Order of the Humiliati hired a lay brother to murder him on the evening of 26 October 1569; he was shot at, but was not hit. He worked with the sick and helped bury the dead during the plague outbreak in Milan in 1576.

Borromeo spent his life, and his fortune, in the service of the people of his diocese. He directed and enforced the decrees of the Council of Trent, fought tirelessly for peace in the wake of the storm caused by Martin Luther, founded schools for the poor, seminaries for clerics, hospitals for the sick, conducted synods, instituted children‘s Sunday school and worked among the sick and dying.

He is patron against abdominal pain, against stomach diseases, against ulcers and patron for apple orchards, bishops, catechists, catechumens, spiritual directors & starch makers.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

3rd November – Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker, (1554-1600) was the theologian who created a distinctive Anglican theology and was a master of prose and philosophy. In his masterpiece, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, Hooker defended the Church of England against both Roman Catholicism and Puritanism and affirmed the Anglican tradition as that of a “threefold cord not quickly broken”, the Bible, the church, and reason.