A mighty God is the Lord: come, let us adore him.
Year: A(II). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: Green.
St Etheldreda (- 679)
She was born in Suffolk in the first quarter of the 7th century. She was married twice but remained a virgin, and in 672 left her second husband, the King of Northumbria, to become a nun. The following year she founded a monastery of men and women, which she ruled as abbess, on the site of what is now Ely cathedral. She died there in 679. She was the most venerated of the women saints of Anglo-Saxon England, renowned for her dedication to a life of chastity and for the austerity of the regime she imposed on herself in her later years.
Other saints: St Thomas Garnet (1575-1607)
Arundel & Brighton
Thomas Garnet, who was born in 1575 or 1576, came of a staunch Catholic family. His father had been a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, but had been expelled for his Catholicism before Thomas was born. His uncle was the Jesuit superior in England, Father Henry Garnet. Thomas spent part of his boyhood in Horsham, where he attended the Grammar School (now Collyer’s School), and it appears that when he was about thirteen the whole family found themselves for a time in Horsham gaol. The year was 1588, a year when the threat of the Spanish Armada brought suspicion on any known Catholics. At some time, also, he was a page in the household of one of St Philip Howard’s half-brothers, probably Lord William Howard.
At the age of eighteen Thomas had made up his mind that he would offer himself for the English mission as a secular priest. He went first to the newly-opened English school at St Omer in Flanders, and in 1596 began his theological studies at the English College at Valladolid in Spain. He was ordained in 1599, and very soon returned to England.
He spent the next six years ministering to the Catholics in this country. Little is known about his movements – naturally enough, since he was defying the law of Elizabeth I which made his presence in England as a priest a capital offence. His superior was the Archpriest Blackwell, of whom we shall hear more.
In the year 1605 he approached his uncle, Henry Garnet, asking to be admitted into the Society of Jesus. He was accepted, but before he could go abroad for his novitiate both he and his uncle were arrested. Henry was charged with complicity in the Gunpowder Plot and executed. Thomas was imprisoned, in the Gatehouse and then in the Tower, and subjected to constant interrogation, in an attempt to find something to incriminate himself or his uncle. After eight months even Cecil, the head of the Commission, accepted that he had nothing to do with the Plot, and after he was released into banishment. Those eight months, spent in the cold and damp of the Tower, brought on rheumatism or sciatica, from which he suffered for the rest of his life. Even after his release, he was presented with a letter purporting to be written by his uncle, admitting some of the charges against him. A word from Thomas would have validated the letter, but he scornfully rejected it as the forgery it was.
Back on the Continent, Thomas eventually (1607) arrived at the newly-opened Jesuit Novitiate House in Louvain. He was professed after five months, his period of imprisonment being accepted as part of his novitiate.
And so Thomas returned to England, a Jesuit priest. But this time he was not as fortunate as he had been before. Instead of six years, he had barely six weeks before he was betrayed by an apostate priest and was once again lodged in the Gatehouse prison. There he was interrogated by a Commission headed by the Bishop of London. Ordered to take the Oath of Supremacy, he refused. This was a new oath, requiring the person to “abhor, detest and abjure as impious and heretical the damnable doctrine and position that the King of England, if excommunicated” (as Elizabeth had been) “may be deposed or murdered by his subjects.” The Bishop of London put it to Thomas that the Archpriest Blackwell had taken the oath (which was true). Thomas hesitated, but after consideration refused “because he thinketh that it were a violation of the Catholic faith to abjure anything as heretical which the Church hath not defined as heretical, or is not manifest by the word of God to be heretical.” These interrogations went on for eight months, to June 1608. Finally the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir William Wade, was added to the commission, and soon got Thomas transferred to Newgate – the prison for those whose destiny was death at Tyburn.
From Newgate he was brought to trial at the Old Bailey on four charges. First, that he was a priest and had come into England against the statute of Elizabeth. The prosecution pointed to the words “Thomas Garnet, priest” scratched on the wall of the cell in the Tower where he had been imprisoned two years before. But no proof could be adduced that he was the writer. Second, that he was a proscribed Jesuit; since Thomas would admit nothing, this was also unproved. The third charge was that he had seduced the King’s subjects from their duty and allegiance. This Thomas hotly denied, and produced a form of the Oath which he was ready to take. This paper was torn from his hand and destroyed. The final charge was that he refused to take the Oath of Allegiance; this he admitted, and on that ground he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor.
June 23rd dawned, the day appointed for his execution. Eyewitnesses were all struck by Thomas’s resolute and positively cheerful demeanour. On the scaffold he said, “I am a priest out of the blessed Society of Jesus, though I am most unworthy and one of the worst of them all.” And he added: “I am the happiest man this day alive. This is the happiest day that ever I did see.” He forgave and prayed for those who had betrayed and condemned him. As he sang the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus, the cart was driven away. Well-wishers weighed down the hanging body, to ensure his immediate death, before the barbaric disembowelling could commence. A friend, posing as a madman, made off with his clothes and other relics.
Thomas Garnet, first martyr from the School of St Omer’s, first novice of the English Jesuits’ house at Louvain, was canonised as one of the forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Gregory of Nyssa (335 - 395)
Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of St Basil of Caesarea (“St Basil the Great”). He, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, “Gregory of Nazianzus”, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. They were active after the Council of Nicaea, working to formulate Trinitarian doctrine precisely and, in particular, to pin down the meaning and role of the least humanly comprehensible member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Basil was the leader and organizer; Gregory of Nazianzus was the thinker, the orator, the poet, pushed into administrative and episcopal roles by circumstances and by Basil; and Gregory of Nyssa, although not a great stylist, was the most gifted of the three as a philosopher and theologian. Together, the Cappadocian Fathers hammered out the doctrine of the Trinity like blacksmiths forging a piece of metal by hammer-blows into its perfect, destined shape. They were champions – and successful champions – of orthodoxy against Arianism, a battle that had to be conducted as much on the worldly and political plane as on the philosophical and theological one.
The works of Gregory of Nyssa whose extracts appear as Second Readings are not as rhetorically beautiful as those of Gregory of Nazianzus, who was an acclaimed orator; but they are helpful and clear. Most of them are commentaries on Scripture passages. They involve the mind and deepen the understanding.
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 season in which we are being neither especially penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 John 3:17-18 ©|
If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him? My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Deuteronomy 30:11,14 ©|
This Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Isaiah 55:10-11 ©|
|The word that goes out from my mouth does not return to me empty|
Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’