Christ is the spouse of the Church: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
Dedication of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist
The celebration of the Dedication of the Cathedral has taken place in July and October at different times in the history of the diocese. In order not to conflict with other celebrations, it is now celebrated on 19 May, the anniversary of the founding of the Diocese in 1882. The actual anniversary day of the dedication of the Cathedral is 1 July.
Other saints: Saint Milburga (-c.715)
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.
Other saints: Blessed Raphael Louis Rafiringa (1856 - 1919)
Firinga was born in Antananativo, Madagascar, on 1 May 1856. His father Rainiantoandro was a member of the noble tribe of Hova and an important functionary at the court of Queen Ranavalona I of Imerina (now called Madagascar). He was in charge of the royal slaves. Firinga received his early education from the Queen’s sorcerers. In 1866, he met some missionaries from the Christian Brothers and saw that they were greater than his teachers. He chose baptism at the age of 14, in 1869. He took the baptismal name Raphael and added the prefix “Ra” to his name (meaning “Mr” or “Sir”), becoming Rafiringa.
He taught at the de la Salle Brotherhood’s school from the age of 17, and later joined the order, becoming the first native of Madagascar to do so.
The Christian missionaries were expelled from Madagascar in 1883, and Brother Raphael was put in charge of the nascent Christian community on the island, a responsibility he shared with Victoria Rasoamanarivo, the daughter of the prime minister and a convert to Christianity against her family’s wishes.
A treaty between Madagascar and France allowed the missionaries to return in 1886, and thanks to the labours of Raphael and Victoria they found a strong and numerous Christian community.
Raphael took his final vows in November 1889 and devoted himself to intense literary work, defending the rights of the Catholic Church in his country. He also wrote general textbooks for the schools and various religious works. He was named a member of the Madagascar Academy and received the Medal of Civil Merit for his role in facilitating peace between Madagascar and France.
In late 1915 he was arrested on suspicion of belonging to a secret nationalist sect. At his trial in February 1916 he was acquitted, but his time spent in prison damaged his health to the point that his superiors sent him to their house at Fianarantsoa to recover, and he died there on 19 May 1919.
Raphael Rafaringa was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on 7 June 2009.
Other saints: St. Francis Coll Guitart OP (1812 - 1875)
19 May (where celebrated)
Dominican Friar and Priest.
Saint Francis Coll was born at Gombreny in the Catalan Pyrenees in 1812 and, after studying at the diocesan seminary at Vich, entered the Dominican Order at the priory of Gerona in 1830. In 1835 the anticlerical government closed the house of studies at Gerona and dispersed the Dominican students. From that day until his death he maintained a heroic fidelity to his Dominican vocation without the support offered by Dominican community life. Eventually he was ordained at the diocesan seminary at Vich in 1836. After several years of parish ministry he pursued itinerant preaching along with his friend Saint Anthony Claret. He founded the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation to teach the children of the poor in the villages where he preached. In December, 1869, Blessed Francis suffered a stroke which left him completely blind. He died at Vich on April 2, 1875.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Origen (184 - 254)
Origen is a giant among early Christian thinkers. He was knowledgeable in all the arguments of the Greek philosophical schools but believed firmly in the Bible as the only source of true inspiration. He is thus a representative of that curious hybrid called “Christianity”, which on the one hand maintains (like the Jews) an ongoing direct relationship with the living God, who is the principle and source of being itself, but on the other hand maintains (like the Greeks) that everything makes sense rationally and it is our duty to make sense of it. As the Gospels say (but the Pentateuch does not), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind”.
A first stage in this, when it comes (for example) to disputations with the Jews over their view of Christianity as a recently-founded syncretizing heresy of Judaism, is to decide what Scripture is and what it says. If I argue from my books and you argue from yours, we will never meet; but if we share an agreed foundation, there is some chance. Accordingly Origen compiled a vast synopsis of the different versions of the Old Testament, called the Hexapla. Not all Origen’s specific judgements on soundness were generally accepted, even at the time, but the principle remains a necessary one, indispensable for any constructive meeting of minds.
Origen’s principle of interpretation of Scripture is that as well as having a literal meaning, its laws, stories and narratives point us to eternal and spiritual truths. The prime purpose of Scripture is to convey spiritual truth, and the narrative of historical events is secondary to this. While we still accept that “Scripture provides us with the truths necessary for salvation”, this view does leave room for over-interpretation by the unscrupulous, and in the controversies of succeeding centuries people would either claim Origen as an authority for their own interpretations or accuse their opponents of Origenizing away the plain truths of Scripture. Even today, the literalist view taken by some heretics of narratives in Genesis which most of us accept as allegorical shows that this controversy will never die.
As part of his programme of founding everything on Scripture, Origen produced voluminous commentaries – too many of them for the copyists to keep up, so that today some of them have perished. But what remains has definite value, and extracts from his commentaries and also his sermons are used as some of our Second Readings in the Office of Readings.
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)||1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ©|
Do you not realise that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God is living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.
|Noon reading (Sext)||2 Corinthians 6:16 ©|
The temple of God has no common ground with idols, and that is what we are – the temple of the living God. We have God’s word for it: I will make my home among them and live with them; I will be their God and they shall be my people.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Jeremiah 7:2,4-5,7 ©|
Listen to the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who come in by these gates to worship the Lord. Put no trust in delusive words like these: ‘This is the sanctuary of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Lord!’ Since if you amend your behaviour and your actions, I will permit you to remain in this place and live in it.