Saturday, 28 June 2008

Irenaeus & Cyril of Alexander

Best Seller in the Making

Cyril of Alexander and Irenaeus of Lyons.

It just so happens that these two major early Fathers of the Church

are celebrated on the consecutive dates June 27th and 28th.
What makes it interesting is that they will both be part of the ‘best seller in the making’ of Benedict XVI.

From the year 2006, the Holy Father has been using his weekly Wednesday Audiences to give a substantial sketch of the Apostles, fathers and Doctors of the Church.
Cases in point are the feasts of Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria, the one a voice of gentle clarity in the Gnostic polemics, the other a fiery controversialist with the Nestorians.

Ironically Irenaeus, the friend of Pope and of dissidents, living up to his name of PEACE and reconciliation, in a later century, 1562, having his shrine in Lyons destroyed by Calvinists.
Cyril, much later, and noted for his more robust or aggressive attitudes receives the most scathing comment on his achievements, that IF he had been more patient and diplomatic Nestorianism might not have arisen or continued so long.

Their lives make an interesting contrast and Pope Benedict XVI personal insight into Church of the Fathers will make it all the more enthralling and instructive.

In his Audiences the Pope is explaining to the faithful not so much the “what” of the Church, but the “who,” beginning with those who guided it during the first centuries, building up the great Tradition from which the Church of today draws. He highlights each time not only the originality but also the perennial relevance of the work of each Father of the Church.

Here is what the Pope has systematically presented to date:
In the manner of prolegomena
Christ and the Church
The Apostles, Witnesses of Christ’
The Gift of "Communion"
Safeguarding the Gift of Communion
Communion in Time: Tradition
The Apostolic Tradition of the Church
The Apostolic Succession
The Apostles
The Sub-Apostolic continuation
Fathers of the Church

Papal Audiences, Wednesday 2006-2008
See Vatican Website
3 May 2006, The Apostolic Tradition of the Church

17 May 2006, Peter, the fisherman

24 May 2006, Peter, the Apostle

7 June 2006, Peter, the rock

14 June 2006, Andrew, the "Protoclete"

21 June 2006, James, the Greater

28 June 2006, James, the Lesser

5 July 2006, John, son of Zebedee

9 August 2006, John, the theologian

23 August 2006, John, "the Seer of Patmos"

30 August 2006, Matthew, the tax collector

6 September 2006, Philip, the Apostle

27 September 2006, Thomas, "the twin"

4 October 2006, Bartholomew

11 October 2006, Simon and Jude

18 October 2006, Judas and Matthias

25 October 2006, Paul the Apostle

8 November 2006, St Paul's new outlook

15 November 2006, St Paul and the Spirit

22 November 2006, St Paul and the Church

13 December 2006, Timothy and Titus


10 January 2007, Stephen, the Protomartyr

31 January 2007, Barnabas, Silas (also called Silvanus), and Apollos

7 February 2007, Priscilla and Aquila

14 February 2007, Women at the service of the Gospel

7 March 2007, Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome

14 March 2007, Saint Ignatius of Antioch

21 March 2007, Saint Justin, Philosopher and Martyr

28 March 2007, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

18 April 2007, Clement of Alexandria

25 April 2007, Origen of Alexandria (1)

2 May 2007, Origen of Alexandria (2)

30 May 2007, Tertullian

6 June 2007, Saint Cyprian

13 June 2007, Eusebius of Caesarea

20 June 2007, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria

27 June 2007, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

4 July 2007, Saint Basil (1)

1st August 2007, Saint Basil (2)

8 August 2007, Saint Gregory Nazianzus (1)

22 August 2007, Saint Gregory Nazianzus (2)

29 August 2007, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (1)

5 September 2007, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (2)

19 September 2007, Saint John Chrysostom (1)

26 September 2007, Saint John Chrysostom (2)

3 October 2007, Saint Cyril of Alexandria

10 October 2007, Saint Hilary of Poitiers

17 October 2007, Saint Eusebius of Vercelli

24 October 2007, Saint Ambrose of Milan

31 October 2007, Saint Maximus of Turin

7 November 2007, Saint Jerome (1)

14 November 2007, Saint Jerome (2)

21 November 2007, Aphraates, "the Sage"

28 November 2007, Saint Ephrem

5 December 2007, Saint Chromatius of Aquileia

12 December 2007, Saint Paulinus, Bishop of Nola


9 January 2008, Saint Augustine of Hippo (1)

16 January 2008, Saint Augustine of Hippo (2)

30 January 2008, Saint Augustine of Hippo (3)

20 February 2008, Saint Augustine of Hippo (4)

27 February 2008, Saint Augustine of Hippo (5)

5 March 2008, Saint Leo the Great

12 March 2008, Boethius and Cassiodorus

26 March 2008, Octave of Easter

9 April 2008, Saint Benedict

14 May 2008, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

21 May 2008, Saint Romanus the Melodist

28 May 2008, Saint Gregory the Great (1)

4 June 2008, Saint Gregory the Great (2)

11 June 2008, Saint Columban

18 June 2008, Saint Isidore of Seville

25 June 2008, Saint Maximus the Confessor

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Man Fully Alive is the Glory of God
St. Irenaeus

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

The Word became the steward of the Father’s grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.

following quote is from the New Catholic Encyclopedia and it expresses Cyril's theme.
"Only if it is the one and the same Christ who is consubstantial with the Father and with men can He save us for the meeting ground between God and man is the flesh of Christ. Only if this is God's own flesh can man come into contact with Christ's divinity through his humanity. Because of our kinship with the Word made flesh we are sons of God. The Eucharist consummates our kinship with the word, our communion with the Father, our sharing in the divine nature-there is very real contact between our body and that of the Word."

More than himself, God could not give. Less than himself, he would not give. We can state that God could not give any less. God gives each person the necessary time to find the Deity and that can be for some a lifetime while for others it is everyday. Merely to receive the Eucharist, but once, is an invaluable and precious gift, but God calls some to a greater good daily. But, to whom much is given, much shall be required.

Above, Pope Benedict XVI’s view of Cyril of Alexandria is that of the very clear cut DOCTOR of the Church. The sculpture of Cyril in the Basilica of Prague portrays, in violent contrast, a very different aspect. A description from ‘’ does not mince words on the redoubtable over forceful ecclesiastic. The description expresses it rather humorously. See opposite

One of four Roccoco statues c. 1760 by Frantisek Ingac Platzer of the eastern Church Fathers that stand in front of the four supporting pillars of the dome .

This sculpture is St. Cyril of Alexandria engaged in some rather unsaintly gloating while he pokes Nestorius of Constantinople with a big stick. Personally I think St. Cyril is rather a disagreeable saint; as patriarch of Alexandria he drove the Jews from the city and attacked various groups that disagreed with him. He disagreed with Nestorius over the status of Mary as the Mother of God and managed to persuade the pope to condemn Nestorius allowing Cyril to depose him.

He is considered to be a top drawer theologian, writing many highly regarded treatises. Quite a number of these were clarifications on the doctrine of the trinity ensuring that Nestorianism would never gain credence in Christian tradition. Cyril and Nestorius really didn't get on.

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

By their fruits you will know them.

What kind of a day was it?

The Gospel Reading was Saint Matthew 7,15-20.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.

The very familiar words made me think that any commentaries must sound very thin and worn out in any reflection. An experiment taught me a different lesson. I did a quick Google search on the simple words “by their fruits you will know them”. The Result displayed 133,000,000 hits.

The first three Random Results on this cue fastened on some searing issues.

1. President Bush, relegated lamentably on the fruits of his performance, according to one view.

2. President Mugabe pilloried for the criminal fruits of injustice towards the people of Zimbabwe.

3. Fr. Thomas Reese S.J., in a feature in the New York Times, takes up the opening, “Beware of false prophets”, and applies them to the fruits of popular visionaries and pilgrimages. He is a bit too cavalier in his dismissive-ness, but his orthodoxy is bracing for its sound theology of true Revelation.

Fr. Reese's premise is a clear statement.
By Their Fruits You Will Know Them
The Catholic Church approaches visionaries with a great deal of skepticism. Belief in visions or any post-apostolic revelations is not required of churchgoers. In most cases, the church actively discourages the faithful from getting involved in them.
He takes for example, the “revelations” of Anne Catherine Emmerich, used by Mel Gibson in “The Passion of the Christ,” were found to be “devout fiction or, to put it more harshly, as well-intentioned frauds” created by Clemens Brentano, a German Romantic poet. The revelations were not used by the church in judging her sanctity.
And for the summer time Pilgrimage jet-setters he has this good advice.
My response to Catholics who are caught up in private revelations and apparitions is to ask them a series of questions.

• “Do you believe the Bible is God’s revelation?” They of course have to say yes. Then I ask, “Have you read it?” Sadly, the answer is usually no. “Why are you chasing after questionable revelations when you have God’s Word sitting at home?”

• “Do you believe that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament?” Again, they have to say yes if they are Catholic. “Have you visited him recently?” Sadly again the answer is often no. “Why are you running around the country when you can visit Jesus in any Catholic church?”

Sometimes it is the simplest words of Jesus that forever serve as some kind of depth charge in the sea. The explosion throws up all sorts of flotsam and jetsam to the surface of our lives. The fruits that Jesus refers to can be those of the Holy Spirit but in fact he is reminding us to beware of the possibility of the dead fish, the rotten fruit under the surface. 'Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit'.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Immediately after the Mass for the Residents at the Guesthouse the phone began to ring from the Media. The Edinburgh Evening News, following up on stories of fraud and scams perpetrated against older people took up the story of my own experience of cyber criminals on the Internet. The story has taken wings again, possibly because of the summer gap in News stories.

Local Radio was next on-line, and was happy to have a sound bite for their chat ‘Talk Talk 107’.

This was followed by a Journalist and his photographer for further coverage.

The Edinburgh Evening News article can be found on its Website.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Pilgrimage to 'inner space'

I am inserting some pictures of the good people of the Parish of St. Aloysius, Springburn, Glasgow. It was the feast of Aloysius the patron Saint of the Parish – and also my own second patron. The parish priest, Fr. John McGrath, added an appropriate festive touch to the refreshments at the Guesthouse at Nunraw.

Part of the days Pilgrimage was the processional making of the Way of the Cross marked by the Crosses on the drive between the Guesthouse and the Abbey. The very elderly people were undaunted by the challenge on this uphill trek. It took them longer than expected but they attained the goal of getting to the Abbey for the Mass.

Applying the experience of coming apart in this monastic setting, Fr. John McGrath used the example of Henri Neuwen who suffered from the consequences of overwork, burnout, and needed to find his “inner space”. He went to a monastery and describes his experience of his stay at the Abbey of the Genesee, in “The Genesee Diary”.

Fr. John drew the parallel of the search for that “inner space” which we have to find in our own Pilgrimage in Life. His thoughts are well illustrated in the following entries from Fr. Neuwen’s Diary.

September Monday, 23

Often I have said to people, "I will pray for you" but how often did I really enter into the full reality of what that means? I now see how indeed I can enter deeply into the other and pray to God from his centre. When I really bring my friends and the many I pray for into my innermost being and feel their pains, their struggles, their cries in my own soul, then I leave myself, so to speak, and become them, then I have compassion. Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine but God's gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me. When God became as we are, that is, when God allowed all of us to enter into his intimate life, it became possible for us to share in his infinite compassion.
In praying for others, I lose myself and become the other, only to be found by the divine love which holds the whole of humanity in a compassionate embrace.

Wednesday, 25

Today I imagined my inner self as a place crowded with pins and needles. How could I receive anyone in my prayer when there is no real place for them to be free and relaxed? When I am still so full of preoccupations, jealousies, angry feelings, anyone who enters will get hurt. I had a very vivid realization that I must create some free space in my innermost self so that I may indeed invite others to enter and be healed. To pray for others means to offer others a hospitable place where I can really listen to their needs and pains. Compassion, therefore, calls for a self-scrutiny that can lead to inner gentleness.

If I could have a gentle "interiority" -a heart of flesh and not of stone, a room with some spots on which one might walk barefooted-then God and my fellow humans could meet each other there. Then the centre of my heart can become the place where God can hear the prayer for my neighbours and embrace them with his love.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Joseph Cassant

A Cistercian Menology

Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant 1878-1903

As a child, he was deeply impressed by the ceremonies of the liturgy and greatly desired to become a priest. As he had no aptitude for studies, he, upon the advice of his pastor, entered the monastery of Our Lady of the Desert. Physically weak and lacking the ability for work, he was prone to temptations to sadness and discouragement; but with the support of prayer and obedience, he overcame them and was never wanting in courage, always with a smile on his face. He rejoiced in the accomplishment of Jesus' will alone; he wished to have Jesus ever present to him and living within him. He died at the age of twenty-five after much suffering. His cause for beatification has been introduced at Rome.

DONE: The beatification was celebrated on October 3, 2004, Saint Peter's Square, Rome.

At the Nigh Office for Bl. Joseph Cassant we listened to the one of the documents on the Web-sight. It was the Letter of Blessed Joseph-Marie Cassant to his parents. 23 December 1902 / 24 May 1903). “Everything for the Heart of Jesus!”

In that short personal letter he refers to the Heart of Jesus seven times, to priest/priesthood three times, and to Mass/Sacrifice of the Mass twice.

In his last letter to his family, he wrote, “For such a long time we hoped against hope to be able to have the whole family together after my ordination so as to share the joy of being present and receiving Communion together at my first Mass. The good Lord heard our deepest wishes. It now remains to us to thank him and to enter more and more deeply into the greatness of the priesthood. Let us never dare to equate the Sacrifice of the Mass with earthly things.”

The same thoughts in his own personal act of consecration give indicate the clear focus of his understanding and dedication.

As a member of the Association of Victim Souls, Father Marie–Joseph prayed, and signed, an Act of Oblation that the rest of his life was to illustrate and consummate.

Ecce venio! Behold, I come, O good and gentlest Jesus, Divine Lamb perpetually immolated upon our altars for the salvation of the world. I want to unite myself to Thee, suffer with Thee, and immolate myself like Thee, in union with the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus. To this end I offer Thee the sorrows, humiliations, bitternesses, and crosses that Thy Providence hath sown beneath my feet. I offer them to Thee for the intentions for which Thy most sweet Heart offereth and immolateth Itself. May my feeble sacrifice return in a shower of blessings upon the Church, the Priesthood, my homeland, and poor sinners, my brethren! Deign Thou accept it by the hands of Mary Mediatrix and in union with the immolations of her Immaculate Heart. Amen.

A fresh look at Blessed Joseph Cassant OCSO.
A recent account of Joseph Cassant is to be found in the Vultus Christi Blogspot /2007/06/blessed_mariejoseph_cassant.html

Here Fr. Mark has done his homework. He succeeds in capturing the spirit of the period and spirituality and fervour of the Catholic Church in an ever more hostile political secular society.

The letter of Joseph Cassant to his parents, and the text of his act of consecration to the Sacred Heart, reveal the distinctive character of the faith and dedication he shared with, e.g., Saint Therese of Liseaux and so many others.

Two Quotes from Fr. Mark’s Vultus Christi Post of June 16, 2007

Quote: An Intercessor

Since 1903 more than 2200 persons from thirty different countries have attested to favours received through the intercession of Father Marie-Joseph. The catalogue of graces attributed to the young monk is impressive: conversions, reconciliations, cures, and comfort in uncertainties and doubts. My friend Father Jacob and I went in pilgrimage to his tomb in 1982 and prayed that both of us might become priests. I was ordained four years later.

Quote: A Victim–Priest

It is significant that Father Marie–Joseph belonged to the “Association of Victim Souls,” a movement of identification with the oblation of the Heart of Jesus, Priest and Victim. Saint Pius X (1835–1914), Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916), Blessed Columba Marmion (1858–1923), Blessed Jacob Kern (1897–1924), and Blessed Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster (1880–1954), were all members of the same Association. It was established by the Filles du Coeur de Jésus (Daughters of the Heart of Jesus) following the wishes of their foundress, Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil–Martiny, after her death. As a member of the Association of Victim Souls, Father Marie–Joseph prayed, and signed, an Act of Oblation that the rest of his life was to illustrate and consummate.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Day Out Barrhead Neilston

Sancta Maria, Nunraw Sat 7 June 2008.
A DAY OUT (three coaches) from St.John’s, Barrhead, and St. Thomas’, Neilston, Paisley

Note to Fr. Stephen,

It was a lovely celebration of the lovely people from Barrhead-Neilson.

I thought a wee descriptive Note would be appropriate but this collection of pictures of the sunny Nunraw scene tells the story better.

The day was an event saved for brilliant sunshine.

From the south face of Nunraw Guesthouse the lawn fills the space over to the ancient Lebanon Cedar tree. And that is where the outdoor Mass was celebrated.

Fr. Stephen Baillie choose this natural ‘sanctuary’ in the grounds rather than go inside the Church at the Abbey. He celebrated a very moving Mass. The young people did the sun bathed gathering proud with the Readings and Offering Procession.

It could be called a day of Retreat and it certainly was a time to celebrate community building.. The older members could relax beside the trees. The activities the younger ones relieved them of their surplus energy. And, keeping the show running smoothly, the helpers were not quite unnoticed in the background, making sure that chairs or tables were moved and in the end that the lawn was left immaculately tidied .

As on previous years we thank God for a day of sunshine and the joy of the Nunraw Day’s Sojourn.

Fr. Donald (Guestmaster) says, “Haste ye back!”

Pictures will be found in the Nunraw Blogspot,

St. John Climacus (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 27: On Prayer;
Paulist Press pg. 281):

"You cannot learn to see just because someone tells you to do so. For that, you require your own natural power of sight. In the same way, you
cannot discover from the teaching of others the beauty of prayer.
Prayer has its own special teacher in God, who 'teaches man knowledge' (Ps. 93:10). He grants the prayer of him who prays. And He blesses the years of the just."

Thursday, 12 June 2008


This morning, when I came to the Gospel, Matt. 5:20-26, saying it was displeasing to God when we are angry and call someone ‘You idiot!’ or ‘You stupid fool!’ or worse, I have to confess that I often use the words. But it is usually to myself I say, ‘You idiot!’ because I have done something foolish. Jesus is very severe on such language regarding others.

The thought comes to me to stop it. If is not for us to rob others of their dignity or to question their intelligence, then equally it is not for me to insult God who has endowed me with the wonder of my being. There is no place for letting one’s own frustration or anger cloud the goodness of God.

St. John Climacus, in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, speaks of
Holy Spirit Abiding in Peace Not Anger

“If the Holy Spirit is peace of soul, as He is said to be and as He is in reality, and if anger is disturbance of heart, as it actually is and as it is said to be, then nothing so prevents His presence in us as anger. (Quotes from the Church Father)

Step 8: On Freedom From Anger and On Meekness

-- The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated; the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul; and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds. (Full text -

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Knights Templar

Just a word on the celebration of the Knights Templar,

District Grand Priory of the South of Scotland

at Nunraw Abbey

for their Annual Divine Service,

31 May 2008.

The Knights mustered on the lawns and formed a procession through the front archway and up to the Chapel.

The historic painted ceiling (1606) provided a telling background for the Celebration and featured the Heraldic Shields of the Holy Roman Empire.

Heraldry was also to the fore in the Banners displayed later in front of the Vision of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the Patron Saint of the Templars. In the centre of banners is the Black and White Cistercian Banner. The Service Booklet was decorated with the medallion of the Agnus Dei carrying the Cistercian Emblem.

I have inserted captions in the pictures to save a long story.

The encounter with these representatives of the long history of the Knights Templar is like opening the first page of a vast history, for and aft, of the pre-suppression and the ever growing traditions of the Knights.

An enthralling story that continues to unfold.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Catholic by the Mass

The Catholic Herald serves up a mixed dish at times,
On this occasion it came up with a brilliant spotlight on one man's discovery of Faith through the Eucharist.

Becoming a Catholic without illusions

The historian Christopher Lee is familiar with Catholicism's patchy historical record. So why was he received into the Church earlier this month?

The Catholic Herald 10 June 2008

I find the words of Christopher Lee have a ringing authenticity in their unencumbered focus on the Mass, a simple faith in the Mystery of the Eucharist.
He writes:

Do I need to be a Roman Catholic? . . .
So what does bring me to Rome? First, I feel at home in its structure, its ritual, its devotion to Our Lady and the Sacrament of Confession.

But above all, I am brought to Rome by one simple celebration of Faith: the Mass.

I am welcomed by the unswerving devotion in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is a devout and profoundly personal moment when that wafer is indeed the Body.

It is a moment that has no need for the debate between a philosophical and anthropological approach to the Eucharist.

The Dominican Edward Schillebeeckx wrote that "the basis of the entire Eucharist event is Christ's personal gift of himself to his fellow-men and, within this, to the Father".

For me, it is a moment of almost mediaeval simplicity transcending a Tridentine and post-Tridentine perception of faith. It is a personal experience that is both frightening and a blessed excitement.

Did I not find it elsewhere? No, no I did not.

Yet, I have no evangelic message, certainly no sense of ecumenism. To my mind, one is one and the other is the other. There is no reason for wishy-washy diplomatic compromise and certainly not reconciliation.

Moreover, the Church of Rome is not a refuge of downtrodden worshippers. It is the true home of the expression of the Trinity and the Liturgy of the Mass. That is an awesome responsibility and one that it must with much louder voice more publicly celebrate.

On May 11 the Church of Rome welcomed me home - mucky taps and all. Thanks be to the Trinity.

Matthew in Art

Following previous Post, 'St. Matthew', 8 June 08,
illustrations of Matthew and the Angel appear to be very popular.
Guido RENI's painting appears on the front cover of Eamon Duffy, "The Creed in the Catechism". (It explores the first and longest section of the Catechism of the Catholic. Duffy's Introduction makes clear his essential cue from Paul VI, "Pope Paul VI describes the documents if Vatican II as 'the great Catechism of our age', and they of course remain normative for all interpretations of the Catechism). A very helpful Catechism of a Catechism of a Catechism of a . . .

A second reproduction of Guido Reni's painting is being used by the Canadian Bible Society, - 300,000 copies of the Gospel of Matthew will be given to young Catholics attending World Youth Day. Front cover of the Gospel depicts a painting by Guido Reni, St. Matthew and The Angel, oil on canvas.
It is interesting to read some comments on the work of art.

. . . it's often wise to completely ignore anything art historians have to say that isn't factual. "Art history" is a story. Sure, some characters and forces should loom large in any version, but you could tell the story in any number of ways. Frequently, the only story told in college classrooms is the "progressive" one, i.e. the liberation of art from the clutches of the repressive Church. . .

... it's amazing! Matthew's gnarled hands, tired posture, and intent expression are a great contrast to the angel's childish, heavenly air. There are so many things to evaluate in this painting ...

Sunday, 8 June 2008

St. Matthew

twixt Youth & Age
The Guesthouse Chapel was overflowing with families for the Sunday Mass. It was the 10th Sunday of Year A. I asked the young ones if any were called Matthew. One or two nodded and we were off with, “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow Me’. And he got up and followed him”. Here we discover Matthew turning to autobiography. He was writing about his own experience and the life shaking it was when Jesus encountered him. To unfold the story takes a good painting whic can tell more than a thousand words.

There are two famous paintings of St. Matthew,

1. The call of Matthew

2. St. Mathew and the Angel.

With more accuracy than the pious commentator was capable of, Caravaggio’s ‘Call of Matthew’ shows surprise and disbelief on Matthew's face when he realised that it was indeed him that Jesus was calling.

St. Matthew and the Angel’ is a painting by Rembrant. It shows the evangelist sitting at his desk with his pen poised above the manuscript of the Gospel which he is in the process of writing. He is gazing ahead, waiting for guidance, but behind him at his shoulder there is an angel whispering into his ear and giving him the inspired words.

This is an imaginative way of illustrating St. Paul’s teaching that, “All Scripture is inspired by God”, (“Tim 3:16).

We can think of the Two Matthews.: The young Matthew of Caravaggio, telling the the story of the meeting with Christ that changed his life. The older Matthew inspired the writing of the Good News.
His words, like all the inspired Scriptures, are as the imaginative beam of light on our own life story.
Matthew’s story begins with his call and attains to his great contribution to the Church. Taking an affectionate look at the course of his life we might ponder all that happened between the beginning an the end. And then ask how the template of out own life follows a like path.

Every life is the story of what happens in between, the time betwixt and between. We need to go to the point of the Holy Spirit – the place where “the Go Between God” guides us. As the Spirit goes between the Father and the Son, he guides us in the in-between of life. We might think we know the will of God. We can only be sure when we pray in silence. Like the Angel whispering in Matthew’s ear, we need to listen to the whisper of the Go-Between-God.

One of the listeners found that thought quite moving, the thought of the “GLOW” of the Holy Spirit. That is word she heard from the words of the preacher, although the preacher had not used the word. But how very apt of the Holy Spirit to whisper that word of inspiration.

During this Liturgical Year we will be guided by the Gospel of Matthew. Thank you, Matthew also called Levi. How much poorer our knowledge of Christ would be without you!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Robert of Newminster + 1159

South of Nunraw Abbey, our nearest Cistercian neighbour in Northumberland is the ancient monastic site of Newminster.

In 2002 George Thornton wrote the story of “The Abbey of Newsminster and the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Robert of Newminster”. Following this interest, George is on the point of publishing a book on the Northern Saints, i.e. the Saints linked with Lindisfarne, Holy Island.

For JUNE 7 The Cistercian Menology has this note:

St Robert of Newminster + 1159

Born in Yorkshire. After studying in Paris, he returned to England, became a parish priest and then a Benedictine at the abbey of Whitby. In 1132 he joined the monks of St Mary's, York, and participated with them in the founding of Fountains. Seven years later he founded New Minster near Morpeth, Northumberland and became its first abbot. Under his administration, the house prospered so much that it was able to establish three daughterhouses: Pipewell, Roche and Sawley. Robert wrote a commentary on the Psalms and a book of meditations no longer extant. He "was strict with himself, kind and merciful to others, learned and yet simple."

St. Robert of Newminster June 7th. Night Office Reading
Robert was a contemporary of St Bernard and was born near Skipton in the diocese of York. He went to school with the Benedictines, and after ordination as a diocesan priest completed his studies in Paris. Soon after his return to England he became rector of his native village of Gargrave, and sometime afterwards joined the Cluniac community at Whitby.

In the winter of 1132 the monastery of Fountains was founded by monks from the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary in York, and Robert was allowed by his Abbot to join them. When the winter was over, the Community decided to send messengers to Clairvaux asking to be received into the Cistercian Order. St Bernard welcomed them with great kindness and sympathy, and sent them a monk to teach them tile Cistercian way of life.

Their poverty was extreme, and as there was also a famine in the country they were reduced to eating wild roots and the leaves of trees mixed with a little meal. Nevertheless, the monks of Fountains were always known for their generosity to the poor.

Conditions gradually improved, and after a year buildings were erected and they were asked to make a foundation at Morpeth in Northumberland. Five years after the foundation of Fountains, 12 brethren with Robert as their leader settled at Newminster. It was a beautiful spot, well provided with water and sheltered by woods. There they built their first monastery only to have it destroyed by the King of Scotland a year after its completion.

Robert ; at this time was strong and active, a man of great simplicity, possessing the gifts of wisdom and discernment. The fact that he was chosen from among so many capable men to make the first foundation is a sign of his character and of the esteem in which he was held. The chronicler notes in particular his spirit of compunction, his austerity, his humility, and his care and concern for the welfare of his monks. During the next 10 years Robert founded Pipewell, Sawley and Roche Abbeys.

About 1142 Robert was the object of malicious accusations, but when the complaints came to the ears of St Bernard he gave Robert his full support. On his return from Clairvaux, Robert had no words of reproof for his detractors. He died in 1159. and along with his countrymen Stephen Harding, Aelred and William of Rievaux, is venerated as a saint.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER (c.1100-59), Cistercian abbot. He was born at Gargrave (North Yorkshire), studied at Paris (where he wrote a lost treat­ise on the Psalms), was ordained priest, and became the rector in his home town. He then joined the Benedictines at Whitby, but became one of the founders of Fountains Abbey in 1132. In 1138 Robert was chosen as abbot of Newminster (Northumberland), a new foundation on land given by Ralph of Merly, Lord of Morpeth. Newminster grew rapidly and founded dependencies at Pipewell (Northants.) in 1143, Roche (S. Yorkshire) in 1147, and Sawley (N. Yorkshire) in 1148.

Little is known of Robert: his biographer praised his singleness of purpose and his zeal for poverty and prayer; his collection of prayers and meditations survived him in the monastic library. Visions and diabolical encounters were also related of him. In 1147 some of his monks accused him of excessive familiarity with a pious woman; he cleared himself of the charge at Citeaux and Bernard, in token of his recognition of Robert's innocence, gave him a girdle, which was kept at Newminster for healing the sick. Robert also met Pope Eugenius Ill, who asked the bishop of Durham to give Newminster some land at Wolsingham. Robert was also a friend of Godric of Finchale, who saw a vision of Robert's soul going up to heaven like a sphere of fire.

This was on the day of Robert's death, 7 June. He was buried in the chapter-house at Newminster, but was later translated to the church. Miracles reported at his tomb included one of a monk who fell to the ground from a ladder unharmed, while whitewashing the dormitory. The cult was Cistercian and local. Feast: 7 June.

AA.SS. lun. II (1698), 47-9: P. Grosjean, 'Vita S. Roberti No vi Monasteri abbatis', Anal. Boll., Ivi (1936), 334-60; Reginald of Durham, Vita S.Godrici (ed. J. Stevenson, S.S. 1845); W. Williams, 'St. Robert of Newminster', Downside Review, Ivii (1939), 137-49·

Oxford Dict. of Saints, D.V. Farmer, 1988

Resurrected cloister a rcades at Newminster

There are several examples of Newminster seals in the Treasury at Durham.
No. 2 is of a later period and shows much more detail. The Virgin is holding an apple to the Divine Infant, perhaps a reference to the Fall. Ave Maria appears above the head of the adoring abbot. Fleurs-de~lys,
crescents and stars refer to the Virgin Mary.

The details illustrate well the affection which Cistercians had for the Virgin Mary, to whom all their houses were dedicated.