How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
St Milburga, virgin and elder sister of St Mildred, founded the nunnery of Wenlock in Shropshire (now known as Much Wenlock), assisted by endowments from her uncle, Wulfhere, the King of Mercia, and by her father, Merewald.
Installed as abbess by St Theodore, the saint’s monastery is said to have flourished like a paradise under her rule, partly because of the virtues she cultivated and the spiritual gifts with which she was blessed. The saint, who was educated in France, was noted for her humility, and was endowed with the gift of healing and restored sight to the blind, according to popular stories. Through the strength of her exhortations she was also reputed to bring sinners to repentance. She organised the evangelisation and pastoral care of south Shropshire.
Fantastic stories surround the saint. One tells of how she overslept and woke to find the sun shining on her. Her veil slipped but instead of falling to the ground was suspended on a sunbeam until she collected it. Another story relates how she was surrounded by “fire from heaven” as she knelt in prayer beside the body of a dead child and when the flames abated she returned the child back alive to its mother.
St Milburga was credited with having power over birds and after her death was invoked for the protection of crops against their ravages.
In her final years, St Milburga was afflicted by a painful and lingering disease which she bore with serenity. Her last words were: “Blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers.”
Her tomb was long venerated until her abbey was destroyed by invading Danes. After the Norman conquest Cluniac monks built a monastery on the site – the ruins at Much Wenlock are those of the later house – and during the excavations St Milburga’s bones were discovered.
Butler’s Lives of the Saints notes that “while many native saints of more historical importance are little noticed in our English calendars, Milburga’s name appears in quite a number of them, beginning with the Bosworth Psalter”, written in about 950. Her extensive cult owed much to the testimony of St Boniface and of a Medieval papal legate who witnessed miraculous cures at her tomb.
St Milburga was a grand-daughter of the pagan King Penda of Mercia, who slew St Oswald at Oswestry, Shropshire. A third sister of the family was also recognised as a saint but all that is known of St Mildgytha was that she was a nun and that “miraculous powers were often exhibited” at her tomb in Northumbria.
|Other saints: St Ivo or Yves (1253 - 1303)|
Ivo was born at the manor of Kermartin in the parish of Minihy-Tréguier in Brittany, to a noble family. In 1267 he was sent to the University of Paris, where he studied civil law. His contemporaries at the university included the scholars St John Duns Scotus and Roger Bacon. In 1277 he moved to Orléans to study canon law, and having completed his studies he returned to Brittany and he was appointed an “official” (an ecclesiastical judge) of the archdeanery of Rennes. He protected orphans and widows, defended the poor, and rendered fair and impartial verdicts. Although it was common at the time to give judges “gifts,” Ivo refused such bribes. He often helped disputing parties settle out of court so they could save money He also represented the helpless in other courts, paid their expenses, and visited them in prison.
Meanwhile Ivo contiued his religious studies and in 1284 he was ordained to the priesthood. Ivo was soon invited by the Bishop of Tréguier to become his official, and accepted the offer in 1284. He displayed great zeal and rectitude in the discharge of his duty and did not hesitate to resist taxation by the king, which he considered an encroachment on the rights of the Church. In addition to this post he was appointed parish priest of Tredrez in Brittany in 1285 and of Louannec eight years later. He died in Louannec of natural causes after a life of hard work and repeated fasting.
On the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the birth of St Ivo, Pope John Paul II said, “The values proposed by St Ivo retain an astonishing timeliness. His concern to promote impartial justice and to defend the rights of the poorest persons invites the builders of Europe today to make every effort to ensure that the rights of all, especially the weakest, are recognized and defended.”
Saint Ivo is the patron of lawyers.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Gregory of Agrigentum (late 6th century)|
Gregory was born near Agrigentum (Girgenti) in Sicily. He was ordained deacon while on a pilgrimage to Palestine, by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and was ordained Bishop of Agrigentum while on a visit to Rome. Pope St Gregory the Great addressed several letters to him.
There is a long biography of him, written some years after his death, but it is short on the kind of dry biographical detail that is valued in the modern West and long on the stories of personalities, feuds, injustice, divine assistance and eventual vindication which may well be true (there is no reason for them not to be) but which do not accord well with our current ideas of what history ought to be. Even the date of Gregory’s death is uncertain. By 594 he was no longer Bishop, but whether this was due to death, dismissal or retirement, nobody knows.
On the other hand, the “Gregory of Agrigentum” who wrote the exposition on Ecclesiastes which appears among the Second Readings may be another Gregory of Agrigentum from the late seventh, and not the late sixth, century. Or he may even be someone else altogether, from later still.
Faced with such rich material for controversy among scholars, this is one of those cases when it is better not to worry too much about the exact authorship, instead absorbing and deriving spiritual benefit from the rich line of interpretation which this work provides. It is the quality of the Exposition on Ecclesiastes, not the identity of its author, which has secured it its place in the Liturgy of the Hours.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Romans 5:10-11 ©|
When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ©|
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ.
|Afternoon reading (None)||2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ©|
The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead. The reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.