Cry out with joy to God, all the earth: serve the Lord with gladness.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: Green.
St Laurence of Brindisi (1559 - 1619)
He was born in Brindisi, joined the Capuchin Friars, and studied at the University of Padua, where he learned a number of languages (including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, French, and German) and acquired a deep knowledge of the Bible.
His principal vocation was preaching. He preached all over Europe, not just to Catholics but to Protestants (because of his knowledge of Scripture) and to Jews (because of his knowledge of Hebrew). He wrote many sermons, commentaries, and works of controversy in support of this vocation.
His administrative talents meant that he also held a number of high administrative offices in the Capuchin order. He was also entrusted with many important diplomatic missions. On one of these, he not only persuaded the German princes to help defend Hungary from the invading Turks, but also led their troops into battle, armed only with a crucifix. He was engaged in another delicate mission, to plead the cause of the oppressed people of Naples to King Philip III of Spain, when he died in Lisbon.
For Laurence of Brindisi, preaching was the most important task of his life; but he took care to ensure that his preaching was backed by sound learning, so that he could preach to and not at his audiences. Let us take care that our own apostolate is similarly well founded.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Thomas à Kempis (1379 - 1471)
The first thing to know about The Imitation of Christ is that it was published anonymously and that its attribution to Thomas à Kempis is not uncontested. Other possible authors have included (as his translator Betty I. Knott points out) thirty-five different people, including Gerhard Groote; Walter Hilton, the English mystic; St Bernard; St Bonaventure; Pope Innocent III; and John Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris. But on the whole Thomas à Kempis himself is still in the lead. (In any case, “Do not ask who said this,” says Book I chapter 5, “but listen to what is said”).
The late 14th and early 15th centuries saw a miraculous outpouring of mysticism and spirituality all over western Europe, encompassing The Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, and even the maddening Margery Kempe. Much of it was lay, and even Thomas à Kempis, who became a priest, belongs not to any of the great monastic or preaching orders but to the Brethren of the Common Life, a movement which started in the Netherlands and Rhineland in the late fourteenth century. The birth of the movement was the teaching of Gerhard Groote, who preached and taught a simple prayerful way of life which people could follow in their own homes. Groote shared most of his own large house in Deventer, in the Netherlands, with a group of devout women who lived together as a community (without taking formal vows), and Florentius Radwijns, one of the cathedral clergy and a follower of Groote’s, then hosted a similar community of men. The Brethren of the Common Life aimed to live a communal life in imitation of the simplicity and poverty of the earliest Christians, devoting themselves both to contemplation and to active works. In the time of relative ecclesial peace which preceded the Reformation the Brethren were allowed to grow and develop largely without too much interference. In due course a progression was also established whereby those Brethren who desired a more formal commitment founded, or joined, houses of regular Augustinian canons or canonesses.
Thomas à Kempis himself was born in Kempen, a small town not far from Cologne. He went to a school founded by Gerhard Groote, and in 1399 became a member of the recently founded Augustinian house of which John, his elder brother, was the first prior. He remained a member of this community for the rest of his life.
It was a custom of the Brethren to make collections of sayings on spiritual topics, and Thomas followed this practice from his schooldays onwards. Thus some of the Second Readings from the Imitation that we use in the liturgy read almost like a sequence of “bullet points”. In a sense this is the best use of the Imitation – as a bedside book to be read one chapter out of each night, as Monsignor Ronald Knox did in his later years. Thomas à Kempis manages, in each short chapter, to propound a theme or even sketch a situation, and to bring out of it a moral or a conclusion, food for the spirit. Knox tells us that in the days when English Protestants treated The Pilgrim’s Progress as a sort of extra book of the New Testament, The Imitation of Christ was practically the Catholic equivalent. But that does not make it a warm bath to sink oneself into. As Knox puts it:
“The whole work… is a sustained irritant which preserves us… from sinking back into relaxation: from self-conceit, self-pity, self-love. It offers consolation here and there, but always at the price of fresh exertion… Heaven help us if we find easy reading in The Imitation of Christ.”
Liturgical colour: green
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the orderly sequence of weeks through the year, a season in which we are being neither single-mindedly penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 10:24,31 ©|
Nobody should be looking for his own advantage, but everybody for the other man’s. Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Colossians 3:17 ©|
Never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Colossians 3:23-24 ©|
Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving.