Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Blessed Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord

The unimaginable generosity of God shown in the Annunciation and Incarnation required one thing: Mary’s assent. Reflecting on this mystery, St. Bernard of Clairvaux imagined the tension that creation felt in waiting for Mary’s response to the plan that the angel Gabriel announced:

“If you consent, we shall immediately be set free. We all have been made in the eternal Word of God, and look, we are dying. In your brief reply we shall be restored and so brought back to life… My lady, say this word which earth and hell and heaven itself are waiting for. The very King and Lord of all, he who has so desired your beauty, is waiting anxiously for your answer and assent, by which he proposes to save the world. Him whom you pleased by your silence, you will please now even more by your word. If you let him hear your voice, then, he will let you see our salvation.”

Let’s remember that St Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the great founding saints of the Cistercian Order.  Our own St Robert was a Cistercian saint and Newminster Abbey was affiliated to Clairvaux (in France) and founded from there via Fountains Abbey. St Robert met St Bernard on a number of occasions and shared his spirituality. Let’s not forget that Newminster Abbey like all Cistercian abbey was dedicated to Our Blessed Lady.

Let’s thank Mary for saying “Yes”. Let us ask her to pray for us, that we too may say a wholehearted and unconditional “Yes” to God for whatever he wants to do in our lives.

Here is the “Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis” (Holy Mary, Pray for us) from Fr Claudio Monteverdi’s  Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Sister Cristina Scuccia is a 25-year-old member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family who has appeared on The Voice of Italy on March 19 with both her talent and her habit.

The judges on the show begin with their backs turned to the performer, and turn around only if they like what they hear.

As the judges turned to face Sister Cristina, their astonishment was visible at seeing a young nun singing Alicia Keys’ “No One.”

A native of Sicily, Sister Cristina arrived at the show accompanied by four sisters from her community, as well as her parents.

The four judges of the popular TV program are the Italian singers Raffaella Carra, J-Ax, Noemi, and Piero Pelu.

After her performance, Carra asked Sister Cristina if she is really a nun, and why she chose to compete on the show.

“Yes, I am truly, truly a sister,” she replied.

“I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I am here to evangelize.”   According to the show’s format, when a participant receives the approval of the judges, they then choose which judge’s team to join. Sister Cristina chose J-Ax “because I told myself that if they turned around, I would choose the first one.”

J-Ax, who was visibly moved when he saw Sister Cristina, said he was thrilled to have been chosen by the most popular participant on the show.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture at the Vatican commended her for sharing her talent with the Italian people: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10)”.

A Blessed St Cuthbert’s Day

St Cuthbert_2St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne,  is the patron saint of the North of England and in particular, the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle who are the true inheritors of his patrimony.

St Cuthbert died on this day in 687AD. Let us remember his last words as reported by St Bede:

‘Have no communion with those who err from the unity of the Catholic faith .. and know and remember, that, if of two evils you are compelled to choose one, I would rather that you should take up my bones, and leave these places, to reside wherever God may send you, than consent in any way to the wickedness of schismatics, and so place a yoke upon your necks. Study diligently, and carefully observe the Catholic rules of the Fathers, and practise with zeal those institutes of the monastic life which it has pleased God to deliver to you through my ministry. For I know, that, although during my life some have despised me, yet after my death you will see what sort of man I was, and that my doctrine was by no means worthy of contempt. ‘

Let us acknowledge also the reverence and esteem shown to St Cuthbert by our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion especially the Bishop of Durham and the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral, the magnificent shrine built to house his remains. 

If you wish to honour St Cuthbert in a fitting manner you should go to Durham Cathedral today at 5.15 pm for Festive Evensong and Procession to the (alleged) tomb of St Cuthbert.

St Cuthbert, was born not far from Melrose in about 635AD, Cuthbert’s early years were filled with events pointing to his future as the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon saints. After seeing a vision of the soul of Saint Aidan being escorted to heaven by angels, Cuthbert decided to become a monk and entered Melrose Abbey. Sometime later, he went to Ripon and became guest-master there, with the special duty of welcoming and tending to strangers and other visitors. When Saint Wilfrid was made abbot of Ripon, Cuthbert returned to Melrose and, surviving an outbreak of plague, became Prior. After several years, Cuthbert was appointed as Prior of Lindisfarne, a much larger community.

As Prior, Cuthbert governed gently and faithfully but yearned to be alone with God and so was given permission to go to the Inner Farne, a few miles off-shore from Lindisfarne, to devote himself to prayer and contemplation. However, his holiness continued to be spoken of throughout the country and, following a meeting of bishops, King Ecgfrith persuaded a reluctant Cuthbert to leave his island retreat and to become Bishop of Lindisfarne. He fulfilled his ministry with great tenderness and energy, but the Farnes called to him again.

After two years as Bishop, Cuthbert resigned and retired into solitude, devoting himself to prayer and preparing himself for his own death. When death came, on 20th March 687AD, he was buried in the monastery at Lindisfarne, where he remained for nearly 200 years before the monks fled from the invading Vikings, taking Cuthbert’s body with them on their journey. After spending over 100 years at Chester-le-Street, the monks eventually brought the body of Cuthbert to Durham, where it remains to this day.

The Deeds of Cuthbert:

“Cuthbert was so skilful a speaker, and had such a light in his angelic face, and such a love for proclaiming his message, that none presumed to hide his inmost secrets, but all openly confessed their wrong-doing…..He used mainly to visit and preach in the villages that lay far distant among high and inaccessible mountains, which others feared to visit and whose barbarity and squalor daunted other teachers” (Bede’s Ecclesiastical History)

 The Words of Cuthbert:

Speaking to his companions just before his death: “Live in mutual harmony with all other servants of Christ. Do not despise those faithful who come to you seeking hospitality. Receive them, put them up, and set them on their way with kindness, treating them as one of yourselves. Do not ever think yourselves better than your companions who share the same faith and follow the monastic life.” (St Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert)

A Blessed St Joseph’s Day.

“I am astonished at the great favours which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succours us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth.”

“I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his feast and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good.”

St Theresa of Avila

Joseph’s Song:

Viva il Papa – Long live the Pope.

“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18)

On this first anniversary of his election as the successor of St Peter, let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis :

May the Lord preserve him, give him long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and not hand him over to the power of his enemies.

Our Father….. Hail Mary…. Glory be…..

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