How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: A(II). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: White.
Martha was the sister of Mary of Bethany and Lazarus. In the West, her feast day comes a week after that of St Mary Magdalene because of the old and probably erroneous tradition that Mary Magdalene was the same person as Martha’s sister.
But at least Martha and Mary both get celebrated somehow. What about poor Lazarus? As Monsignor Ronald Knox pointed out, Lazarus deserves our sympathy for being brought back to life by Jesus so as, later, to have to die all over again. What he thought of being brought back to Earth is not recorded. The presence of the incarnate Lord must have made up for the postponement of Heaven, but – where less dramatic circumstances are concerned – perhaps we should think of Lazarus when we prepare to make spectacular acts of charity on behalf of people who may not necessarily appreciate our interventions.
Other saints: St Victor (d. 198)
Victor, an African by birth, was elected pope in 189. During his pontificate, which lasted until 198, he settled the controversy over the date of Easter. The trouble was that while the Western Church used to celebrate Easter on Sunday, the Eastern Church would celebrate it on 14 Nisan, whatever the day of the week. After much consultation and discussion, the decision was taken to celebrate it on Sunday throughout the Church. He was the first pope from Africa.
Other saints: St Sampson (-564)
St Sampson (or Samson) was born in Wales about the year 496, to parents of noble birth. He was placed in the care of St Illtyd at the abbey of Llantwit Major, and subsequently became Abbot of Caldey. He travelled widely to Ireland, Cornwall, the Scilly Isles, Guernsey and Brittany, where he finally settled, founding the monastery of Dol, where he is buried along with his cousin St Magloire. He was ordained a bishop in 521, and died in 564 or 565.
Other saints: St Alphonsa Muttathupadathu (1910 - 1946)
Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception was born in Kudamalur, the Arpookara region, in the diocese of Changanacherry, India, on the 19th of August 1910. She was baptized according to the Syro-Malabar rite and received the name Annakutty, a diminutive of ‘Anne’. She was the last of five children, and her mother died three months later.
Annakutty passed her early infancy in the home of her grandparents in Elumparambil. There she lived a particularly happy time because of her human and Christian formation, during which the first seeds of a vocation flowered. Her grandmother, a pious and charitable woman, communicated the joy of the faith, love for prayer and a surge of charity towards the poor to her. At five years of age the child already knew how to lead, with a totally childish enthusiasm, the evening prayer of the family gathered, in accordance with the Syro-Malabar custom, in the “prayer room”.
When the first school cycle ended in 1920, the time had come to transfer to Muttuchira, to the house of her aunt Anna Murickal. Her aunt was a severe and demanding woman, requiring absolute obedience from her niece. She was assiduous in the practice of the faith but did not share Annakutty’s friendship with the local Carmelites nor her long periods of prayer at the foot of the altar. She was determined to procure an advantageous marriage for Annakutty, obstructing the clear signs of her religious vocation.
Annakutty accepted this severe and rigid education as a path of humility and patience for the love of Christ, and tenaciously resisted the reiterated attempts at engagement to which the aunt tried to oblige her. Finally, to get out from under a commitment to marriage, she burned herself seriously by putting her foot into a heap of burning embers. “My marriage was arranged when I was thirteen years old. What had I to do to avoid it? I prayed all that night... then an idea came tome. If my body were a little disfigured no one would want me! ... O, how I suffered! I offered all for my great intention”.
Father James Muricken, her confessor, directed her towards Franciscan spirituality and put her in contact with the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists. Annakutty entered their college in Bharananganam in the diocese of Palai, on the 24th of May 1927. The following year, she began her postulancy, taking the name of Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honour of St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast it was that day.
The canonical novitiate was introduced into the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists in 1934. Though wishing to enter immediately, Annakutta was only admitted in 1935 – and then, only because she seemed to be in danger of death. But during a novena to The Servant of God Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara – a Carmelite who has now also been canonized – she was miraculously and instantaneously cured.
Having re-started her novitiate, she wrote the following proposals in her spiritual diary: “I do not wish to act or speak according to my inclinations. Every time I fail, I will do penance... I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. I want to control my eyes with rigour. I will ask pardon of the Lord for every little failure and I will atone for it through penance. No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain and if I have to undergo any humiliation, I will seek refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.
She made her perpetual profession on 12 August 1936, the feast of St. Clare. She had realised her desire, guarded for a long time in her heart and confided to her sister Elizabeth when she was only 12 years old: “Jesus is my only Spouse, and none other”. Jesus, however, wished to lead His spouse to perfection through a life of suffering. “From that time, it seems, I was entrusted with a part of the cross of Christ. There are abundant occasions of suffering... I have a great desire to suffer with joy. It seems that my Spouse wishes to fulfil this desire”. Painful illnesses followed each other: typhoid fever, double pneumonia, and, the most serious of all, a dramatic nervous shock, the result of a fright on seeing a thief during the night of the 18th of October 1940. Her state of psychic incapacity lasted for about a year, during which she was unable to read or write.
In 1945 she had a violent outbreak of illness: the cancer which was to kill her. But she said: “I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering... I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me”.
With this attitude of a victim for the love of the Lord, happy until the final moment and with a smile of innocence always on her lips, Sister Alphonsa quietly and joyfully brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists at Bharananganam at 12.30 on the 28th July 1946, leaving behind the memory of a Sister full of love and a saint.
Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception Muttathupadathu was proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II in Kottayam, India, on 8 February 1986 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on 28 July 2008.
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.
Liturgical colour: white
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)||Jeremiah 17:7-8 ©|
A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Proverbs 3:13-15 ©|
Happy the man who discovers wisdom, the man who gains discernment: gaining her is more rewarding than silver, more profitable than gold. She is beyond the price of pearls, nothing you could covet is her equal.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Job 5:17-18 ©|
Happy indeed the man whom God corrects! So do not refuse this lesson from the Omnipotent: for he who wounds is he who soothes the sore, and the hand that hurts is the hand that heals.