Christ is the chief shepherd, the leader of his flock: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: White.
|St Peter of Alcantara (-1562)|
St Peter of Alcantara was a 16th century Spanish Franciscan of the Stricter Observance and a confessor and spiritual director of St Teresa of Avila. He was chosen as patron of Shrewsbury Cathedral by Bertram, the 17th Earl of Shrewsbury, who paid for the building of the cathedral but died aged 23 two months before it was opened in 1856. A Catholic, the Earl had a great devotion to the saint.
Peter Garavita was born at Alcantara, a small town in the province of Estremadura in 1499 and decided to join the Franciscans at the age of 16 shortly after he was sent to university in Salamanca by his stepfather.
He was a man of remarkable austerity and poverty who travelled throughout Spain preaching the Gospel to the poor. He wrote a Treatise on Prayer and Meditation which was considered a masterpiece by St Teresa, St Francis de Sales and Louis of Granada.
St Peter was ordained to the priesthood in 1524 and in 1538 was made minister provincial of the Franciscan province of St Gabriel of Estremadura but resigned when his plans to enforce severe rules among the friars were opposed.
He then left for Portugal where he built his first hermitage on Arabida, a barren mountain on the mouth of the River Tagus opposite Lisbon, where he attracted followers – the Alcantarines – who were distinguished by their ascetic practices, never wearing shoes, eating meat or drinking wine. In 1554 St Peter returned to Spain to establish a friary at Pedrosa using a stricter form of the Franciscan Rule, insisting, for instance, that every cell should be no more than 7ft long.
Two years before his death he arrived in Avila on a visitation where he was introduced to St Teresa. He supported her case that her visions and prayer were from God and that she was not afflicted by delusions caused by an evil spirit.
It is from St Teresa’s autobiography that the life of St Peter and his spiritual gifts are more thoroughly understood. The saint said she saw for herself his great raptures and transports of divine love when he was in prayer. She also marvelled at his austerity, telling of how he would deliberately leave the window and door of his cell open during snaps of cold weather and how he would deny himself sleep as a form of bodily mortification and penance, a practice which has led him to become regarded as the patron saint of night watchmen.
St Peter was credited as doing more than anyone else in helping St Teresa in her historical reforms of the Carmelite order. Seized by a mortal illness, he died in 1562 while kneeling in prayer in the convent of Arenas.
|In other years: Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and Companions|
Between 1642 and 1649 these eight members of the Society of Jesus, who had travelled to North America to preach the true faith, were killed by the native Huron and Iroquois tribes after horrible tortures. Isaac Jogues died on 18 October 1647, and John de Brébeuf on 16 March 1648.
|In other years: St Paul of the Cross (1694 - 1775)|
He was born at Ovada in Liguria. As a young man he helped his father, who was a merchant. He aspired to a perfect life, abandoned all his possessions and started to live in the service of the poor and sick. He gathered companions to help him in the task.
He became a priest and worked more and more for the salvation of souls. He founded the Passionist Order, set up houses for his congregation and devoted himself to apostolic labours. He inflicted harsh penances on himself. He died at Rome on 18 October 1775.
|Other saints: St Philip Howard (1557-1595)|
Arundel & Brighton
Philip Howard was born at Arundel House, London, 18 June 1557, and died in the Tower of London on 19 October 1595. He was educated partly under John Foxe, the Church of England martyrologist and partly at Cambridge. He married Anne, Countess of Arundel and Surrey. In 1580 he succeeded to the Earldom of Arundel. He frequented the Court, and knew and entertained the queen. Towards the close of the year he was present at the disputations of Edmund Campion in the Tower and this proved the first step in his conversion, though his life was then the reverse of virtuous, and for a time he deserted his wife. As the Catholic revival gained strength, the earl found himself suspected and out of favour, and his difficulties were increased by his wife’s conversion. He was now wholly reconciled to her, and in September 1584, was received into the Catholic Church, and became a fervent Catholic. The change of life was soon noticed at Court, on which Philip resolved to leave the country, which he did (1585), after writing a detailed letter of explanation to Elizabeth. But he was captured at sea and confined in the Tower of London. He was at first sentenced to a very substantial fine, and imprisonment at the queen’s pleasure. Then in the aftermath of the Armada, he was tried for having favoured the excommunication of the queen, and for having prayed for the invaders. He was condemned and left to die in prison. Shortly before he died he wrote a long and moving letter to his wife asking forgiveness for the way he had treated her in the past. On another occasion he wrote: “The Catholic and Roman faith which I hold is the only cause (as far as I can in any way imagine) why either I have been thus long imprisoned or why I am now ready to be executed.” His last prayer to see his wife and only son, who had been born after his imprisonment, was refused except on condition of his coming to the Church of England church, on which terms he might also go free. He was buried in the Tower Church. In 1624 his remains were moved to Arundel where they still rest.
|Other saints: Saint Philip Howard (1557 - 1595)|
Arundel & Brighton
Philip Howard, son and heir of Thomas, fourth Duke of Norfolk, was born in the last year of the short reign of Mary Tudor, 1557. A glittering future could be predicted for him; but it was also an uncertain, troubled time. His mother died soon after he was born, and his father married again twice, his third wife being Elizabeth Dacre. a widow with four children. The Duke, to strengthen his family position, arranged the marriage of Philip and his stepdaughter Anne Dacre when they were still children, and they were married when Philip was fourteen. After her mother’s death Anne was strongly influenced by her Catholic grandmother, Lady Mounteagle. Philip was brought up as a Protestant, although for a time he was tutored by the Catholic Gregory Martin, the future translator of the Douai Bible.
In 1571 Duke Thomas’s ambition involved him in the Rising in the North; he was found guilty of high treason and executed in the following year. Lord Burghley now became Philip’s guardian; he dismissed Gregory Martin and sent his ward to Cambridge. There, at the age of nineteen, he graduated in Arts. He took the Oath of Supremacy and was introduced to Court. Before his death Philip’s father had warned him not to get too involved in the Court, and urged him to cherish his wife; but Philip ignored both these pieces of good advice. He became one of the circle of young courtiers vieing for the favour of the Queen, he spent money extravagantly, and neglected Anne – indeed, it seems that he was unfaithful to her. Eventually Anne, after making strenuous efforts to get him back, went to live with Philip’s grandfather, the Earl of Arundel. But before long the old man died, and in 1581 Philip succeeded him in that title, as the premier Earl of England. (He could not succeed to the Dukedom of Norfolk because of his father’s attainder.) He now began to attend the House of Lords, and to take an interest in public affairs, which meant that he spent less time at Court. Since Anne had lost her refuge at the death of the old Earl, she came back to Philip, and gradually won him over by her gentleness and patience.
Anne had outwardly conformed as a Protestant, but now (1583) her conscience led her back to the Catholic Church. It was a difficult decision to make, for she feared that to tell her husband would ruin the new relationship which was building up between them. But unknown to her, Philip himself had for some time been convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church. Two years before, he had attended the debate between Edmund Campion, a prisoner in the Tower, and some Protestant divines, and had been profoundly impressed by Campion’s arguments. But he had not yet come to the point of decision, with all the implications it would have for his future.
The Queen became aware of the change in Philip, particularly noting his reconciliation with Anne, so when Anne was reported to her as a recusant she seized the opportunity and had her arrested. Their first child, a daughter, was born while she was in the custody of Sir Thomas Shirley at Wiston in Sussex. Philip had her baptised in the Protestant church. But nevertheless he was very near to his great decision, which eventually he came to at Arundel Castle in 1584. He was reconciled to the Church by the Jesuit Father William Weston.
This was no token conversion. It meant a complete change of life for Philip. He had a priest in his Charterhouse home in London, so that he could have daily Mass. Prayer became a regular part of his life. He continued to attend the Lords and the Court, but avoided attending Church services on various pretexts. The great question now in his mind was; how could he best serve the Catholic cause? He wrote to Cardinal Allen at Douai asking his advice. The letter was intercepted, and the Queen’s Council, using a priest in their pay, sent a bogus reply recommending him to leave England. Although Father Weston and all his friends had been against it, Philip accepted what he thought was Allen’s advice, and secretly took ship for the Continent. But of course his movements were known to the Council, and off the coast he was boarded by a warship and brought back under arrest. After a night spent at Guildford he was taken to the Tower. The Council now had evidence against him, and he was brought before the Star Chamber, charged with being reconciled to the Catholic Church, attempting to leave the country without the Queen’s permission, and having correspondence with Cardinal Allen. He was fined £10,000 and imprisoned at the Queen’s pleasure. The year was 1585. Philip was twenty eight; he was to be a prisoner for the rest of his life.
He spent the first two years of his imprisonment in solitary confinement in the Beauchamp Tower. The Queen refused permission for his wife and children (he had never seen his infant son) to visit him. If she thought this would weaken his resolve she misjudged him. His determination was aided by prayer, and by letters smuggled in to him from Father Southwell, the Jesuit, who was living secretly in Arundel House as Anne’s chaplain.
Now for a time his conditions were eased; in the Lanthorn Tower he and other prisoners could even have Mass, one of the prisoners being a priest, William Bennett. But then in 1588 came the threat of a Spanish invasion, and it was rumoured that if the Armada were to land, there would be an immediate massacre of Catholics. Philip and the others held an all-night vigil to pray for the safety of Catholics. This was reported to the authorities. It was the excuse they were looking for to bring him to trial for treason.
Philip was tried by his peers in Westminster Hall. The witnesses against him were Sir Thomas Gerard and the priest William Bennett, both of whom had been with him in the Tower. The accusation was that he had prayed for the success of the Spanish Armada. But could prayers be a matter of treason? The foreman of the jury, Lord Burghley – the same who had been Philip’s guardian – declared that all the Queen sought was sentencing, not execution, and the waverers came round to the majority view. Philip was condemned unanimously and was returned to the Tower. He was never to know whether the sentence would be carried out. He intensified his hours of prayer and fasting, and occupied himself in writing and translating books of piety. For a time he was supported as before by Father Southwell’s letters, until he too was apprehended and sent to the Tower. The two never met, although Philip’s dog did find his way to Southwell’s cell.
By the time Robert Southwell was executed at Tyburn, Philip was dying by degrees, from the privations of his imprisonment. He appealed again to the Queen to allow him to see his wife and son. The Queen replied: “if Philip would go but once to their church, not only would she grant his request, but he would be restored to his estates and honours with as much favour as she could show.” Philip once more sadly declined the offer. Nothing could show more clearly that, as Robert Southwell had written, “your cause, by whatever name it may be disfigured, by whatever colour deformed in the eyes of men, is religion.”
The last night of his life was spent mainly in prayer; he died on Sunday 19th October 1595 at noon. He was thirty eight. The immediate cause of death was most probably dysentery, though rumours of poison were current at the time. They buried him in his father’s grave in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. It was nearly thirty years before his widow could get his body removed to her home at West Horsley, and then to Arundel, to be laid in the family vault, the Fitzalan Chapel.
Philip Howard was beatified in 1929 and canonised in 1970, in company with Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and the others of the Forty Martyrs. The following year his body was brought to a new shrine in Arundel Cathedral, and in 1973, with the changing of the dedication of the Cathedral to “Our Lady Immaculate and St Philip Howard”, he became the co-principal patron of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton. As he himself had inscribed on the wall of his cell: “Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro.”
|Other saints: Saint Frideswide (-735)|
Saint Frideswide was a member of the royal family of Wessex who founded a minster at Oxford; the date of her death is traditionally given as 19 October 735. The site of her monastery is probably the present-day Christ Church College where the medieval Church of St Frideswide (now the Cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Oxford) contained her shrine until the Reformation. She was adopted in the Middle Ages as the Patron of both the City and University of Oxford.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)|
Augustine was born in Thagaste in Africa of a Berber family. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church early and spent a great deal of time seriously seeking the truth, first in the Manichaean heresy, which he abandoned on seeing how nonsensical it was, and then in Neoplatonism, until at length, through the prayers of his mother and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he was converted back to Christianity and baptized in 387, shortly before his mother’s death.
Augustine had a brilliant legal and academic career, but after his conversion he returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. He wrote an enormous amount and left a permanent mark on both philosophy and theology. His Confessions, as dazzling in style as they are deep in content, are a landmark of world literature. The Second Readings in the Office of Readings contain extracts from many of his sermons and commentaries and also from the Confessions.
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 12:17,19-20,21 ©|
Never repay evil with evil. As scripture says: Vengeance is mine – I will pay them back, says the Lord. But there is more: If your enemy is hungry, you should give him food, and if he is thirsty, let him drink. Resist evil and conquer it with good.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 John 3:16 ©|
This has taught us love – that he gave up his life for us; and we, too, ought to give up our lives for our brothers.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 John 4:9-11 ©|
God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away. My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another.