Thursday, September 30, 2010

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

The relics of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face in York Minster last year

Last year over one quarter of a million people in England and Wales venerated at various sites the relics of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. This was despite widespead consternation, mockery and criticism.

Her relics were on view on her feast day last year in the Anglican Minster of York. It was a great mark of respect and hospitality as well as reverence. It was a great sign of how much relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church in England and Wales has progressed.

In his Apostolic Letter proclaiming Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church (Divini Amoris Scientia), Pope John Paul II said:

"9. The primary source of her spiritual experience and her teaching is the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. She herself admits it, particularly stressing her passionate love for the Gospel (cf. Ms A, 83v). Her writings contain over 1,000 biblical quotations: more than 400 from the Old Testament and over 600 from the New.

Despite her inadequate training and lack of resources for studying and interpreting the sacred books, Thérèse immersed herself in meditation on the Word of God with exceptional faith and spontaneity.

Under the influence of the Holy Spirit she attained a profound knowledge of Revelation for herself and for others.

By her loving concentration on Scripture - she even wanted to learn Hebrew and Greek to understand better the spirit and letter of the sacred books - she showed the importance of the biblical sources in the spiritual life, she emphasized the originality and freshness of the Gospel, she cultivated with moderation the spiritual exegesis of the Word of God in both the Old and New Testaments.

Thus she discovered hidden treasures, appropriating words and episodes, sometimes with supernatural boldness, as when, in reading the texts of St Paul (cf. 1 Cor 12-13), she realized her vocation to love (cf. Ms B, 3r-3v). Enlightened by the revealed Word, Thérèse wrote brilliant pages on the unity between love of God and love of neighbour (cf. Ms C, 11v-19r); and she identified with Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper as the expression of her intercession for the salvation of all (cf. Ms C, 34r-35r)."

This aspect of Saint Thérèse`s life and work reminds us of the other great Doctor of the Church whose memorial has just been celebrated: Saint Jerome. Indeed "The Little Flower" died on 30th September 1897, the Feast day of St Jerome.

It was the Study of Scripture which Pope Benedict emphasised in his General Audience on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 when he discussed the Life of St Jerome

He said:

"What can we learn from St Jerome?

It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ".

It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture.

This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one.

We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God.

Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church.

The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ's Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us.

We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life."

Jean Fouquet (1420 - 1477/1481)
St John on the Island of Patmos
From Le Livre d'Heures d'Etienne Chevalier
Ms71-folio 1 recto
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God`s Nightingale

The Holy Father continued today his catechesis on medieval saintly women in German monasticism at the General Audience.

His talk is reported in Zenit

The subject of his talk was Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn (1240/1241 – 19 November 1298)

She was formed in an intensely spiritual and intellectual atmosphere founded upon Sacred Scripture, the liturgy, and the patristic tradition.

Her mystical contemplation, enabled her to compose numerous prayers and be of counsel and consolation to many

She became the spiritual guide of Saint Gertrude the Great, another important figure of Germanic monasticism.

Her life of prayer led her to an intimate union with Christ, expressed in her devotion to his Sacred Heart

Here is the Holy Father`s talk:

"Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak to you about St. Matilda of Hackeborn, one of the great figures of the monastery of Helfta, who lived in the 13th century.

Her religious sister, St. Gertrude the Great, in Book VI of the work "Liber specialis gratiae" (Book of Special Grace), in which are narrated the special graces that God granted St. Matilda, says thus:

"What we have written is very little compared with what we have omitted. Only for the glory of God and usefulness of our neighbor do we publish these things, because it would seem unjust to us to maintain silence about the many graces that Matilda received from God not so much for herself, it seems to us, but for us and for those who will come after us" (Matilda von Hackeborn, Liber specialis gratiae, VI, 1).

This work was written by St. Gertrude and by another sister of Helfta and it has a singular history. At the age of 50, Matilda was going through a grave spiritual crisis, together with physical sufferings. In these conditions she confided to two sister-friends the singular graces with which God had guided her since her childhood, but she did not know that they were writing it all down.

When she found this out, she felt profoundly anguished and troubled. But the Lord consoled her, making her understand that what had been written was for the glory of God and the good of her neighbor (cf. Ibid., II,25; V,20). Therefore, this work is the main source from which to obtain information on the life and spirituality of our saint.

With her we introduce ourselves to the family of the Baron of Hackeborn, one of the most noble, rich and powerful families of Thuringia, related to emperor Frederick II, and we enter the monastery of Helfta in the most glorious period of its history.

The baron had already given one daughter to the monastery, Gertrude of Hackeborn (1231/1232 - 1291/1292), gifted with an outstanding personality. [She was] abbess for 40 years, able to give a peculiar stamp to the monastery's spirituality, leading it to an extraordinary flowering as center of mysticism and culture, and a school of scientific and theological formation.

Gertrude offered the nuns high intellectual instruction, which enabled them to cultivate a spirituality founded on sacred Scripture, on the liturgy, on the patristic tradition, on the Cistercian Rule and spirituality, with particular predilection for St. Bernard of Clairvaux and William of St. Thierry.

She was a true teacher, exemplary in everything, in evangelical radicalism and apostolic zeal. Matilda, from her youth, received and enjoyed the spiritual and cultural climate created by her sister, adding later her personal stamp.

Matilda was born in 1241 or 1242 in the castle of Helfta; she was the baron's third daughter. When she was seven years old, she and her mother visited her sister Gertrude in the monastery of Rodersdorf. She was so fascinated by the environment that she ardently desired to be a part of it. She entered as a pupil and in 1258 she became a nun of the convent, which in the meantime had been moved to Helfta, on the property of the Hackeborn.

She was outstanding for her humility, fervor, kindness, purity and innocence of life, the familiarity and intensity with which she lived her relationship with God, the Virgin and the saints. She was gifted with lofty natural and spiritual qualities, such as "science, intelligence, knowledge of human letters, a wonderfully soft voice: Everything made her adequate to be a real treasure for the monastery in all aspects" (Ibid., Proemio).

Thus, "God's nightingale" -- as she was called -- though very young, became the director of the monastery's school, director of the choir, and mistress of novices, services which she carried out with talent and tireless zeal, not only for the benefit of the nuns, but for all those who wished to appeal to her wisdom and goodness.

Enlightened by the divine gift of mystical contemplation, Matilda composed numerous prayers. She was a faithful teacher of doctrine and had great humility; she was a counselor, consoler, a guide in discernment:

"She, one reads, "distributed doctrine with so much abundance as had ever been seen in the monastery and oh! we fear greatly that something similar will never be seen again. The nuns met with her to listen to the word of God, as they would a preacher. She was the refuge and consoler of all and she had, as a singular gift of God, the grace of revealing freely the secrets of each one's heart. Many people, not only in the monastery, but also strangers, religious and laymen, arriving from afar, attested that this holy virgin had freed them from their sorrows and that they had never experienced so much consolation as they did by her side. She also composed and taught so many prayers that if they were all collected they would surpass the volume of a psalter" (Ibid., VI, 1).

In 1261 a five-year-old girl named Gertrude arrived at the convent: She was entrusted to the care of Matilda, who was only 20, who educated and guided her in the spiritual life until she made of her not only her excellent disciple, but her confidant. In 1271 or 1272 Matilda of Magdeburg also entered the monastery. Hence the place received four great women -- two Gertrudes and two Matildas -- a glory of German monasticism.

In her long life spent in the monastery, Matilda endured constant and intense sufferings, to which she added the very harsh penances chosen for the conversion of sinners. In this way she took part in the Lord's passion until the end of her life (cf. Ibid., VI, 2).

Prayer and contemplation were the vital soil of her existence: the revelations, her teachings, her service to her neighbour, her journey in faith and in love have their root and context here.

In the first book of the work "Liber specialis gratiae," the writers gather Matilda's confidences indicated on the feasts of the Lord, of the saints and, especially, of the Blessed Virgin. Impressive is this saint's capacity to live the liturgy in its various components, including the simplest, bringing it into daily monastic life.

Some images, expressions and applications perhaps are distant from our sensibility but, if one considers monastic life and her task of teacher and choir director, one notes her singular capacity as educator and formator, who helped the sisters to live intensely, from the liturgy, each moment of monastic life.

In liturgical prayer Matilda highlighted particularly the canonical hours, the celebration of holy Mass, above all holy Communion. At that moment she was often raised in ecstasy in profound intimacy with the Lord in his most ardent and gentle heart, in a stupendous dialogue, in which she prayed for interior illumination, while she interceded in a special way for her community and her sisters.

At the center were the mysteries of Christ to which the Virgin Mary referred constantly in order to walk on the path of sanctity:

"If you desire true sanctity, stay close to my Son; he is sanctity itself who sanctifies everything" (Ibid., I, 40).

In her intimacy with God the whole world was present, the Church, benefactors, sinners. For her, heaven and earth were united.

Her visions, her teachings, the circumstances of her existence are described with expressions that evoke liturgical and biblical language. Hence one understands her profound knowledge of sacred Scripture, her daily bread. She takes recourse to it constantly, either savoring the biblical texts proclaimed in the liturgy, or using symbols, terms, landscapes, images and personages.

Her predilection was for the Gospel:

"The words of the Gospel were for her a wonderful nourishment and aroused in her heart feelings of such sweetness that often because of her enthusiasm she could not finish the reading. ... The way in which she read those words was so fervent that it aroused devotion in everyone. Likewise, when she sang in the choir, she was completely absorbed in God, transported by such ardor that at times she manifested her feelings with gestures. ... At others, raised in ecstasy, she did not hear those who called her or moved her and it was hard for her to recover the sense of exterior things" (Ibid., VI, 1).

In one of her visions, Jesus himself recommended the Gospel; opening to her the wound of his most gentle heart, he said to her:

"Consider how great is my love: If you want to know it well, you will not find it expressed more clearly anywhere than in the Gospel. No one has ever expressed stronger or more tender feelings than these: As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you (John 15:9)" (Ibid., I, 22).

Dear friends, personal and liturgical prayer, especially the liturgy of the hours and holy Mass, are the root of the spiritual experience of St. Mechthild of Hackeborn. Allowing herself to be guided by sacred Scripture and to be nourished by the Eucharistic Bread, she followed a path of intimate union with the Lord, always in full fidelity to the Church.

This is for us also a strong invitation to intensify our friendship with the Lord, above all through daily prayer and attentive, faithful and active participation in the holy Mass. The liturgy is a great school of spirituality.

Her disciple Gertrude describes with intense expressions the last moments of the life of St. Matilda of Hackeborn, very harsh, but illumined by the presence of the most Blessed Trinity, of the Lord, of the Virgin, of all the saints, and also of her blood sister Gertrude. When the hour arrived in which the Lord wanted to take her with him, she asked him to be able to live a bit longer in suffering for the salvation of souls, and Jesus was pleased with this further sign of love.

Matilda was 58 years old. She lived the last stretch of her journey characterized by eight years of grave illnesses. Her work and her reputation for holiness spread widely.

When her hour arrived, "the God of Majesty ... only sweetness of the soul that loves him ... sang to her: 'Venite vos, benedicti Patris mei' ... Come you blessed of my Father, come to receive the kingdom ... and he associated her to his glory" (Ibid., VI, 8).

St. Matilda of Hackeborn entrusts us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Virgin Mary. She invites us to praise the Son with the heart of the Mother and to praise Mary with the heart of the Son.

"I greet you, O most venerated Virgin, in that most gentle dew, which from the heart of the Most Blessed Trinity was diffused in you; I greet you in the glory and the joy with which you now rejoice eternally, you who, preferred to all the creatures of earth and heaven, were chosen even before the creation of the world! Amen" (Ibid., I, 45)


The Memorial Tablet at Helfta commemorating the Saints of Helfta

For more about St Mechtilde of Hackeborn see:

Mechtilde, who possessed a beautiful voice, was for many years chantress and chant-mistress at Helfta. For a video of the present Helfta Monastery convent and sisters see:

For print resources see:

Primary Sources

Revelationes Gertrudianae et Mechtildianae, 2 vols, ed. Benedictines of Solesmes (Poitier and Paris, 1875-77.

The Book of Gostlye Grace of Mechtild of Hackeborn, ed Theresa A Halligan. Toronto, Pontifical Institute, 1979.

Secondary Sources

#Bynum, Caroline Walker. «Women Mystics in the Thirteenth Century: The Case of the Nuns of Helfta» in Jesus As Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley, 1982) 170-262.

#Caron, Ann Marie RSM. "Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord: Mechtild of Hackborn," HS 509-524.

#Caron, Ann Marie. «Invitations of the divine Heart: The Mystical Writings of Mechtild of Hackeborn,» ABR 45:3 (1994) 321-338.

#Dieker, Alberta OSB. «Mechtild of Hackeborn: Song of Love» in Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom’s Wellsprings, ed M Schmitt & L Kulzer (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1996), 231-242.

**Hubrath, Margarethe. Schreiben und Erinnern. Zur memoria im Liber
Specialis Gratiae mechtilds von Hakeborn. Paderborn/München/Wien, Zürich, Schöningh, 1996. Doctoral dissertation, U of Bonn. Rvw COCR 61.1 (1999) [407]. Clarifies a lot about the nuns of Helfta.

#Finnegan, Jeremy. "Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn: Nemo Communior," Peace Weavers, ed. L.T.Shank & J.A.Nichols. (CS-72,) 213-221.

#Schmidt, Margot. “Mechtilde de Hackeborn,” DS-10, 873-877.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Letter of St Jerome to Nepotian

It will soon be the Memorial for one of the original Four Doctors of the Church: St Jerome. Here are four works by Guercino of the great Saint.

All are different and all separately illustrate different aspects of the saint and his life.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri ("Il Guercino")
1591 - 1666
St Jerome 1650
Oil on canvas
70 x 65 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri ("Il Guercino")
1591 - 1666
The Vision of St Jerome 1641
Oil on canvas
345 x 199. cm
Museo della Città, Rimini (on loan from the Confraternita di San Girolamo)

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri ("Il Guercino")
1591 - 1666
St Jerome in the Wilderness
Oil on canvas
Schloss Weißenstein, Pommersfelden

Nepotian was a soldier who retired from the military and became a cleric. His uncle, Heliodorus, was a bishop at Altinum. Nepotian was a presbyter there.

Here is part of a letter about the clerical life which St Jerome wrote to him in AD 394. The whole letter is worth reading in its entirety. Jerome in his vivid style reveals so much of his character and beliefs. Across the centuries he speaks to Nepotian and to us across the centuries.

The lengthy letter ranges widely: in the number of topics covered, works referred to, tone, styles.

Here is one of the more serious parts of the letter

"13. Do not angle for compliments, lest, while you win the popular applause, you do despite to God.

"If I yet pleased men," says the apostle, "I should not be the servant of Christ."

He ceased to please men when he became Christ's servant Christ's soldier marches on through good report and evil report, the one on the right hand and the other on the left. No praise elates him, no reproaches crush him. He is not puffed up by riches, nor does he shrink into himself because of poverty.

Joy and sorrow he alike despises. The sun does not burn him by day nor the moon by night.

Do not pray at the corners of the streets, lest the applause of men interrupt the straight course of your prayers. Do not broaden your fringes and for show wear phylacteries, or, despite of conscience, wrap yourself in the self-seeking of the Pharisee. Would you know what mode of apparel the Lord requires?

Have prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude.

Let these be the four quarters of your horizon, let them be a four-horse team to bear you, Christ's charioteer, at full speed to your goal.

No necklace can be more precious than these; no gems can form a brighter galaxy. By them you are decorated, you are girt about, you are protected on every side. They are your defence as well as your glory; for every gem is turned into a shield.

14. Beware also of a blabbing tongue and of itching ears. Neither detract from others nor listen to detractors.

"Thou sittest," says the psalmist, "and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done and I kept silence; thou thoughtest wickedly that I was such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes."

Keep your tongue from cavilling and watch over your words. Know that in judging others you are passing sentence on yourself and that you are yourself guilty of the faults which you blame in them.

It is no excuse to say: "if others tell me things I cannot be rude to them."

No one cares to speak to an unwilling listener. An arrow never lodges in a stone: often it recoils upon the shooter of it. Let the detractor learn from your unwillingness to listen not to be so ready to detract.

Solomon says:--"meddle not with them that are given to detraction: for their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the destruction of them both?"--of the detractor, that is, and of the person who lends an ear to his detraction."

(St Jerome. Letter 52. To Nepotian: Ep. 52, Ad Nepotianum de vita clericorum et monachorum)

In the letter he also shows his satirical and humorous side. Here he is warning Nepotian about the dangers of drink and over-indulgence:

"Let your breath never smell of wine lest the philosopher's words be said to you: "instead of offering me a kiss you are giving me a taste of wine." Priests given to wine are both condemned by the apostle and forbidden by the old Law. Those who serve the altar, we are told, must drink neither wine nor shechar. Now every intoxicating drink is in Hebrew called shechar whether it is made of corn or of the juice of apples, whether you distil from the honeycomb a rude kind of mead or make a liquor by squeezing dates or strain a thick syrup from a decoction of corn.

Whatever intoxicates and disturbs the balance of the mind avoid as you would wine. I do not say that we are to condemn what is a creature of God. The Lord Himself was called a "wine-bibber" and wine in moderation was allowed to Timothy because of his weak stomach. I only require that drinkers should observe that limit which their age, their health, or their constitution requires. But if without drinking wine at all I am aglow with youth and am inflamed by the heat of my blood and am of a strong and lusty habit of body, I will readily forego the cup in which I cannot but suspect poison.

The Greeks have an excellent saying which will perhaps bear translation, Fat paunches have no refined sentiments "

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Papal Stole

Franz Seraph von Lenbach 1836 - 1904
Portrait of Pope Leo XIII (1885)
Oil on canvas
German Embassy to the Holy See, Rome

There has been some comment about the papal stole worn by Pope Benedict XVI at the Ecumenical Service in Westminster Abbey.

See Father Ray`s post entitled Pope of Sign and Symbol  for an overview.

One is apt to think that the Ecumenical Movement in the Catholic Church began with Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council

In 2008, the then President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper offered some reflections on the History of the Ecumenical Movement

The reflections entitled Charting the road of the ecumenical movement are on the Vatican website.

Interestingly he discussed the initiatives by the Roman Catholic Church regarding ecumenism prior to the Second Vatican Council`s Decree Unitatis Redintegratio

He said:

"In the 19th-century, when Catholic movements of spiritual renewal existed in many places, we already find groups praying for the Church's unity. Saints such as Vincent Pallotti (1795-1850) and Fr Luigi Orione (1872-1940), both important for pastoral renewal in Rome, as well as Adolf Kolping (1813-65) and the famous Bishop Ketteler of Mainz (1811-77), well known for their social involvement, supported and promoted prayer for Christian unity.

In his 1895 Brief Providae Matris, Pope Leo XIII recommended a Week of Prayer for the week preceding Pentecost. He wrote:

"It is a matter of praying for a work comparable to the renewal of the First Pentecost when all the faithful were gathered round the Mother of Jesus in the Upper Room, of one mind and unanimous in prayer".

Two years later, in his Encyclical Divinum Illud Munus, the Pope spoke of the prayer in which it was asked that the good of Christian unity be promoted.

When the entire Society of the Atonement joined the Catholic Church, Pope Pius X, in 1909, gave his official Blessing to the Week of Prayer in January. Benedict XV supported it and introduced it definitively into the Catholic Church. Pius XI also encouraged it, and in his 1943 Encyclical Mystici Corporis, Pius XII said that he would pray for the Church's unity after Christ's example."

As well as being the Pope who made Cardinal Newman a Cardinal, Pope Leo XIII was the first modern Pope to advocate Church unity and how it should be achieved.

See also:

Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, Brief History — Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Study St Jerome ?

Pier Francesco Sacchi (called Il Pavese) (1485-1528)
St Jerome
Detail from The Four Doctors of the Church with the symbols of the Four Evangelists 1516
Oil on wood
1.96 x 1.67 m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

How do we venerate a great Saint and Doctor of the Church, like Saint Jerome (c. 347 – 30 September 420) ? He lived so long ago. How can we know or relate to him ?

Blessed John Henry Newman considered that we could: through his writings.

Indeed Newman thought that was the only way that we could know a Saint and his or her true character. Often the biography of a Saint is merely a portrait of an empty shell, a collection of incidents.

The writings of the Saint are the true fingerprints which we should examine: the man or woman is in the language.

"A Saint's writings are to me his real "Life;" and what is called his "Life" is not the outline of an individual, but either of the auto-saint or of a myth.

Perhaps I shall be asked what I mean by "Life." I mean a narrative which impresses the reader with the idea of moral unity, identity, growth, continuity, personality.

When a Saint converses with me, I am conscious of the presence of one active principle of thought, one individual character, flowing on and into the various matters which he discusses, and the different transactions in which he mixes. It is what no memorials can reach, however skilfully elaborated, however free from effort or study, however conscientiously faithful, however guaranteed by the veracity of the writers.

Why cannot art rival the lily or the rose? Because the colours of the flower are developed and blended by the force of an inward life; while on the other hand, the lights and shades of the painter are diligently laid on from without. A magnifying glass will show the difference. Nor will it improve matters, though not one only, but a dozen good artists successively take part in the picture; even if the outline is unbroken, the colouring is muddy.

Commonly, what is called "the Life," is little more than a collection of anecdotes brought together from a number of independent quarters; anecdotes striking, indeed, and edifying, but valuable in themselves rather than valuable as parts of a biography; valuable whoever was the subject of them, not valuable as illustrating a particular Saint.

It would be difficult to mistake for each other a paragraph of St. Ambrose, or of St. Jerome, or of St. Augustine; it would be very easy to mistake a chapter in the life of one holy missionary or nun for a chapter in the life of another"

(From Blessed John Henry Newman, St Chrysostom in The Rambler May 1859)

"And so of those intellectual and moral objects which are brought home to us through our senses;—that they exist, we know by instinct; that they are such and such, we apprehend from the impressions which they leave upon our minds. Thus the life and writings of Cicero or Dr. Johnson, of St. Jerome or St. Chrysostom, leave upon us certain impressions of the intellectual and moral character of each of them, sui generis, and unmistakable. We take up a passage of Chrysostom or a passage of Jerome; there is no possibility of confusing the one with the other; in each case we see the man in his language. And so of any great man whom we may have known: that he is not a mere impression on our senses, but a real being, we know by instinct; that he is such and such, we know by the matter or quality of that impression."

(From Blessed John Henry Newman, An Essay in aid of a Grammar of Assent Chapter 5 § 1.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Gallery of the Candelabra: a Re-discovery of Pope Leo XIII

The Gallery of the Candelabra, Vatican Museums, Vatican City

Tourists being herded through the Vatican Museums will probably go through the long and narrow Gallery of the Candelabra, (262 ft. long) named after the eight magnificent candelabra of white marble within. The Gallery was commissioned and opened by Pope Pius VI in 1761

At present it contains many fine works of Roman antique sculpture.

Therefore the artwork on the walls and ceilings tend to go unnoticed. They blur into the myriad of ther beautiful and fascinating objects in view and as one`s concentration is disturbed by the jostling and movement of the crowd about.

The Gallery was restored by Pope Leo XIII in 1883-7

Pope Leo XIII commissioned the artist Ludwig Seitz (1844-1908) (Inspector of the Pontifical Galleries of Painting) and Domenico Torti for the frecoes on the ceiling (1883-87) and also on the walls (although various artists are responsible for the walls)

Torti is responsible for The Triumph of Truth over Falsehood. Inspired by Truth, History dictates to Re-nown the remarkable events of Time.

But it was Seitz, a German artist born in Rome and the Inspector of the Galleries of Paintings who is responsible for the longest and most important series on the ceiling.

They are all derived from the ideas of Pope Leo XIII and his desire that St Thomas Aquinas and his philosophy should have primacy in Catholic theology

In the middle of the ceiling, St Thomas is shown kneeling and offering his works to the Roman Catholic Church. Aristotle (representing Human Reason) is shown strengthened by the works of Aquinas.

Ludwig Seitz (1844–1908),
St Thomas  Aquinas kneeling and offering his works to the Roman Catholic Church (1883-87)
Galleria dei Candelabri, Vatican

Another painting shows the Defeat of the Errors of the pseudo-philosophers. The hiersarchs are driven into the Dark Abyss at seeing the works of St Thomas shown to them by Angels in the same way as Dagon, the idol of the Philistines was detroyed by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.

One of the beautiful allegories depicted is the Harmony between Faith and Science.

Ludwig Seitz (1844–1908),
Faith and Reason united, with St Thomas Aquinas teaching in the background and the inscription:
"divinarum veritatum splendor, animo exceptus, ipsam juvat intelligentiam", from Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris
Galleria dei Candelabri, Vatican

Another shows Divine Grace and Human Works exemplified by an Angel showing the Sun to an old Labouring man. Without the Sun, the labourer`s works are useless. Just as the Sun brings about the material works of man, Grace vivifies and sanctifies the works of the Spirit

Another the Union between Pagan and Christian Art.

The fourth depicts Victory giving to Man or Natural Means (a warrior kneeling and presenting his weapons to Victory) a Rosary to fight with gallantry against the enemies of Faith

More beautiful images of the Gallery can be found in Tealster`s photostream at flickr (including BTW the Coat of Arms of Pope Leo XIII - a most beautiful picture on the photostream)

Shortly before his trip to the United Kingdom on 5th September 2010, the Pope visited Carpineto Romano, the birthplace of Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, who became Pope Leo XIII.

He celebrated Mass in Monti Lepini Square and delivered a lengthy sermon on the life and works of the Leo XIII

Leo XIII was the oldest ever Pope and is perhaps best known for writing the Church's first great social encyclical, "Rerum Novarum." He also tried to reach out to the scientific world, founded centres of theological and Scriptural study, and opened the Vatican Archives to Catholic and non-Catholic researchers.

He was also the first Pontiff to promote ecumenical dialogue.

In the homily (which L`Osservatore Romano in a leading article by the Director described as important and as a "re-interpretation" of the works of Pope Leo XIII) the Pope said that Christians, acting within the reality of history,

“constitute a beneficial and peaceful force for profound change, favouring the development of the inner potential of reality itself. This is the type of presence and action in the world that is proposed by the social doctrine of the Church, which has always aimed at developing the conscience as a condition for valid and lasting transformations,”

He went on to say that because of this

“Leo XIII at a time of harsh anticlericalism and rabid demonstrations against the Pope was able to lead and support Catholics on a path of constructive participation, rich in content, firm on principles and capable of openness.”

However, proposing the social doctrine, stressed the current Pope, has as its foundation the fact that Leo XIII

“was a man of great faith and profound devotion. This always remains the basis of everything, for every Christian, even the Pope.”

Most importantly of all he said:

"Without prayer, that is, without inner union with God, we can do nothing, as Jesus clearly tells his disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 15: 5)."

The present Pope also went on to discuss the duties of a Pope, priests, bishops and Pastors:

"Every Pastor is called to pass on to the People of God "wisdom" not abstract truths; in other words a message that combines faith and life, truth and practical reality. Pope Leo XIII, with the help of the Holy Spirit was able to do this in one of the most difficult periods of history for the Church by, staying faithful to tradition and, at the same time, measuring up to the great open questions. And he succeeded precisely on the basis of "Christian wisdom", founded on the Sacred Scriptures, on the immense theological and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church and also on the sound and crystal clear philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, whom he esteemed highly and promoted throughout the Church."

He referred to three of the many Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII. He of course referred to Rerum Novarum.

But he also referred to two others which are probably not so well known. Many who cite and praise Rerum Novarum to the heights might be rather surprised.

The first is Sapientiae Christianae (January 10, 1890) ("On Christians as Citizens")

It is a large work covering a wide range of topics on the subject of Church and State.

But perhaps two passages from it were in the Pope`s mind before his visit to Britain

"Nature did not form society in order that man should seek in it his last end, but in order that in it and through it he should find suitable aids whereby to attain to his own perfection.

If, then, a political government strives after external advantages only, and the achievement of a cultured and prosperous life; if, in administering public affairs, it is wont to put God aside, and show no solicitude for the upholding of moral law, it deflects woefully from its right course and from the injunctions of nature; nor should it be accounted as a society or a community of men, but only as the deceitful imitation or appearance of a society."

Later on in the Encyclical Leo XIII wrote:

"[T]he supernatural love for the Church and the natural love of our own country proceed from the same eternal principle, since God Himself is their Author and originating Cause. Consequently, it follows that between the duties they respectively enjoin, neither can come into collision with the other.

We can, certainly, and should love ourselves, bear ourselves kindly toward our fellow men, nourish affection for the State and the governing powers; but at the same time we can and must cherish toward the Church a feeling of filial piety, and love God with the deepest love of which we are capable. The order of precedence of these duties is, however, at times, either under stress of public calamities, or through the perverse will of men, inverted.

For, instances occur where the State seems to require from men as subjects one thing, and religion, from men as Christians, quite another; and this in reality without any other ground, than that the rulers of the State either hold the sacred power of the Church of no account, or endeavor to subject it to their own will.

Hence arises a conflict, and an occasion, through such conflict, of virtue being put to the proof. The two powers are confronted and urge their behests in a contrary sense; to obey both is wholly impossible. No man can serve two masters for to please the one amounts to contemning the other."

It also has rather stern words addressed to Bishops, priests and Catholic politicians.

Is Pope Benedict XVI trying to tell us something ?

The other encyclical of Pope Leo XIII which Pope Benedict referred to was Catholicae Ecclesiae, (November 20, 1890) (On Slavery)

Of this encyclical Benedict said:

"During a period in prison the Apostle [Paul] transmitted the faith to Onesimus, a slave originally from Colossae, after he had escaped from his master Philemon, a rich inhabitant of that city, and had become Christian together with his relatives, thanks to Paul's preaching. The Apostle now writes to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. The new Christian brotherhood overcame the separation between slaves and free men, and grafted on to history a principle of the promotion of the individual that was to lead to the abolition of slavery and also to surmounting other barriers that still exist today."

The Brotherhood of Christians is of course not a new theme in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope`s Sermon at Carpineto Romano is an interesting example of his Hermeneutic of Continuity. It is an invitation to look at perhaps for the first time the theology of before Vatican II and by looking at past situations similar to the present, perhaps to discover ways forward from present difficulties.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Anglican View on The Papal Visit

The Dean of Westminster shows Pope Benedict the statues of ten 20th-century martyrs on the west front of the Abbey (which include statues of Archbishop Romero and St Maximilian Kolbe)

The Church Times is the Osservatore Romano of the Anglican Church

In this week`s edition (follow the link above), The Church Times has delivered a generous and positive response to the recent Papal visit to the United Kingdom.

In a lead article, it stated:

"POPE BENEDICT XVI’s state visit to Britain was an overwhelming success and a positive contribution to his Church’s relations with the Church of England, several senior Anglican clerics said this week. ...

The Pope joined Dr Williams and other Christian leaders for even­ing prayer in Westminster Abbey. This, too, was receiving a pope for the first time; and he prayed at the grave of the Unknown Warrior and the shrine of St Edward the Confessor.

The Dean, the Very Revd Dr John Hall, spoke afterwards of an “im­mensely moving” service, and a “genuine respect and extraordinary chemistry” between Pope Bene­dict and Dr Williams. “What came across was the Pope’s personality: he was very friendly, and showed a very profound respect towards our tradi­tions in the service here.

“He obviously appreciated the music, he was delighted to hear that the tune to the first hymn, ‘Christ is made the sure foundation’, had been written by a former organist Henry Purcell, whom he had heard of.

There was an intense prayer in the shrine, and, after that, before he gave the bless­ing with the Archbishop of Can­terbury, he bent over and kissed the altar, and this spontaneous gesture was a potent symbol.

“I believe the whole trip surpassed expectations, and its significance was highlighted by the large numbers of people who turned out to see the Pope.”

The Dean believed that the visit would strengthen relations between the RC Church and the C of E ...

The President of the Methodist Con­ference, the Revd Alison Tomlin, was among the women ministers who also met the Pope at the Abbey. This was not a token gesture, she said, but highlighted the “breadth of the Chris­tian Church in this country”. She be­lieved that the visit would help ecumenical conversations.

Speaking on Vatican Radio, Dr Williams said that the day had been “enormously happy”, and that the Pope’s reception had been “hugely positive”.

Evening prayer had been “in­tensely moving for everyone who was there”. He dismissed as “prepos­terous” talk of conflict between the two Communions over Anglicanorum Coetibus ...

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, who was present in Lambeth, Westminster, and Birmingham, said that the visit had gone “extremely well”. There was, he said, “substantial mutual respect and appreciation” between the Pope and Dr Williams. Both leaders had said significant things, particularly about Christian participation in public life.

“Both leaders noted there are, as we know, differences between the two Churches, but it seems to me we saw the outstanding progress that has been made in the last 40 or 50 years. Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops inter­mingled on the Friday, and this was not just in a formal way, but because we value each other as colleagues in the mission of this country.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr John Hind, who had been at Lambeth Palace and Westminster, said that the crowds would not “easily forget the warmth of his [the Pope’s] human­ity”. “Pope Benedict seems to have left the UK with a very positive view of our country and its people — even of our weather, although it was touch and go for a while on Sunday morn­ing. Those who have followed the visit will have formed a no-less-positive view of Pope Benedict.” "

More importantly in its editorial, The Church Times while acknowledging that there was no immediate substantial advance, the Pope`s visit and words were an immediate and helpful contribution to the religious debate in the United Kingdom"

It went on:

"SECULARISTS 1: POPE 20. If the papal visit were a football match, this would be the final scoreline. Although there was a re­spect­able turn-out of protesters in central London on Saturday, they were vastly outnumbered by the faithful who attended the three outdoor events in Glasgow, London, and Birmingham, together with those who lined the streets to wave their Vatican flags at the Popemobile. With a few exceptions, most notably the anti-Iraq war rally in February 2003, large gatherings can sway opinion and turn arguments.

It was certainly the Vatican’s hope that Pope Benedict and his batallions might help counter the recent pandering to the small anti-religious lobby in the UK.

Of course, in football, it is not the number of fans that decides the result of the game, and the same goes for theology. Much rested on Pope Benedict’s utterances, and, as the extracts on the following pages show, these were remarkably consistent in tone. ...

On the whole, though, the Pope and his advisers chose to present a tolerant, open-spirited, collaborative Ca­tholicism. ... The address to members of other faiths talked of theological exchange and “sharing our spiritual riches”; the Westminster Abbey homily before ecumenical representatives spoke of “our common journey”; and the time with the Angli­cans was spent accentuating the positive, in particular “the remarkable progress” made in dialogue in the past 40 years."

Canon James Morrow Pro-life campaigner

One of the most dedicated priests against abortion has died in Scotland.

The Glasgow Herald  has reported the recent death of Canon James Morrow.

In 1984 he established Humanae Vitae House in Braemar as the centre for his pro-life work. This was well before the 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. In fact his pro-life activities started even before the passing of the Abortion Act in 1967.

He was a prophetic witness

In 1990, Fr Morrow was released from ordinary parochial duties to become a full-time pro-life campaigner. From Braemar, he developed a vigorous publishing and campaigning organisation attacking abortion.

He was arrested several times in Britain after forcibly entering abortion clinics, he was convicted several times for breaches of the peace. He even spent time in Craiginches Prison, Aberdeen, after refusing to pay court fines.

Core to his activities was the belief that "Thou Shalt Not Kill", that no civil power could make divine law illegal and so the Abortion Act was invalid.

He campaigned across the UK and abroad, staging demonstrations at abortion clinics and once threatening to mount a private prosecution for murder against the parents of Hillsborough coma victim Tony Bland, his doctors and an NHS Trust for allowing him to die.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said:

"Father James Morrow was a dedicated priest and a heroic pro-life campaigner. A dedicated, intelligent, articulate good man and priest, Father Morrow always showed an innocence that was shocked by the actions of people.

In the pro-life cause there have been few fighters as doughty, and few publicists who have reached a wider audience. Many sympathisers have admired his courage while questioning the disconcerting directness of his methods, and perhaps making that questioning an excuse for keeping their distance. May he now rest in peace."

In 2008 his home diocese of Paisley appointed him an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Chapter in recognition of his ministry in the defence of human life.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Simple ABC of Newman

William Thomas Roden, (1817-1892)
Portrait of His Eminence Cardinal Newman (1879)

The Pectoral Cross of Cardinal Newman

The Mitre of Cardinal Newman

The crozier of Cardinal Newman

From the exhibition on the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from September 10 until January 6 2011.

Father Ian Ker is the most authoritative expert on the life and works of Blessed John Henry Newman. His magisterial biography of the blessed was reissued in July 2009: John Henry Newman: A Biography

It is 788 pages in length.

Well worth it, of course.

If however you are looking for a quick overview of Newman, there is of course the article on the Life of Newman by Father Ker in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

Ian Ker, ‘Newman, John Henry (1801–1890)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2007 : See, accessed 23 Sept 2010 and

The summary is excellent as an overview and hopefully will inspire a closer examination of Blessed John Henry Newman and his works.

Many people are surprised to learn that Newman had a French Huguenot background, that he strenuously opposed the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829, and that his conversion to Catholicism was one of a series of conversions which Newman experienced.

At Oxford the great intellect secured a fourth class honours. Despite this the Oxford authorities knew his worth and engaged him as a tutor and its imprimatur on his intellectual ability. Truly he was made in Oxford.

He did not like Rome even after his conversion, Unlike Manning who adored Italy, Newman could not take to it or its people.

Ker provides a thumbnail sketch of Newman`s religious development as well as his main literary works and thought.

The career of Newman in the Anglican Church is skilfully summarised and does convey some of the sectionalism in the Anglican Church at that time.

Ker does not hesitate to describe the various difficulties which Newman found after his conversion to the Catholic Church. His Conversion to Catholicism at one time did not look as if it would have a "happy ever after" ending. The offer of a red hat was unexpected.

His relationship with Mannning and the Ultramontanes was not particularly cordial - on both sides. He was not exactly popular with Pope Pius IX and the power=brokers at the Vatican. It did seem that there was concerted action to cut him down within the Church. Pope Leo XIII`s conferral of the red hat was providential.

He had a very sensitive nature. The set backs which he suffered at the hands of the Church must have deeply wounded him and been a real trial of faith.

Father Ker does not hide the "warts" in Newman`s portrait. It may come as a surprise to some that Saints are not perfect and not the easiest people to live with in daily life.

He did not have a good relationship with his brother. His brother attempted to blacken his name after he died.

Newman did not die a poor man. His estate for probate purposes was £4206 10s. 11d.: a very large sum in 1891. In today`s money you would multiply that figure by at least 100 to get an idea of its equivalent in today`s inflated currency.

The article ends with a very helpful and lengthy list of sources for further consultation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Pope in Westminster Abbey

After his visit to Lambeth Palace and having given his address in Westminster Hall, the Pope was conveyed amidst cheering crowds to Westminster Abbey.

For many it was the highlight of the day.

The Pope was welcomed by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster.

The Pope may have been surprised (or maybe not) to have seen amongst the ten gothic niches above the Great west doorway the statues. of two prominent Roman Catholics:

Statue of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, Martyr (1995-8)
Designed by Tim Crawley
Sculpted by John Roberts
French Richemont limestone
Westminster Abbey, London

and Saint Maximilian Kolbe (8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941)

Statue of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr (1995-8)
Designed by Tim Crawley
Sculpted by Andrew Tanser.
French Richemont limestone
Westminster Abbey, London

On Sunday 12 September 2010, the Dean of Westminster preached on the meaning of the papal visit. The sermon is on the Abbey website.

In his sermon, he explained the importance of the visit to the Abbey of the Pope with the Archbishop of Canterbury:

"[T]he visit of the Pope with the Archbishop of Canterbury to Westminster Abbey, here at the heart of the Establishment, will be a remarkable and truly historic event.

It will be a sign of the end of old enmities, that in truth have been dying over the past fifty years.

It will also point afresh to collaboration between the Churches in God’s mission to the people of this country.

The presence itself of the Pope and Archbishop side by side, two pastors together, in the company of many other Christian leaders in the Abbey, will silently proclaim their willingness to go in search of the sheep that are lost, of the sheep that are not of this fold.

They will have in their minds the high priestly prayer of Jesus, as recorded in St John’s Gospel the night before he was crucified, ‘I ask not only on behalf of [my disciples], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ [John 17: 20f.]

The survival of the Church and of Christian faith in our country has not been the result over the years of careful human planning, of slick management, of subtle positioning to allow the message to be most easily received. Nor has it been the result of a softening of the sometimes difficult and unpalatable message of Jesus, that the way to life is through death, a way of self-sacrificial love, that those who wish to follow Christ must first deny themselves, and then take up their cross and follow him.

Rather the Christian message of life has been passed on by people like us, weak, wilful, fallible human beings, often disagreeing, sometimes warring between themselves. It is only by the power of the message itself, by its truth and by the real freedom it brings that the Church has survived this long and will survive long into an unseeable future, in the grace of God and by the power of his Holy Spirit."

In his moving address the Dean was refreshingly frank and honest but optimistic:

"[T]he new atheists have been vigorous in exploiting the apparent weakness of religion. On the other hand, religion is undeniably persistent. The atheists of the 19th and 20th centuries who predicted the death of religion and the ultimate triumph of atheist rationalism and secularism would perhaps be surprised to discover that religion is not going away.

Religious communities are a considerable power for good in this world and in this country, where Christianity and the Church are deeply and ineradicably embedded within our national culture and self-consciousness and remain influential.

In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks of the one sheep that is lost. The good shepherd leaves the ninety nine sheep safe in the sheepfold and goes over the hills and dales to seek and find the one that is lost. The clergy are to imitate Jesus, the good shepherd, seeking and saving that which is lost. Bishops and archbishops have often been called pastors.

One of the titles favoured by the Pope’s short-lived predecessor in 1978, Pope for thirty three days, John Paul I was Supreme Pastor. Pastoring the flock of Christ is demanding, wearing and often disappointing.

We must and do pray for church leaders with their heavy burdens. But it would always be wrong to suppose that the Church is at risk of terminal decline or of fatal division."

The Abbey website also carries the following:

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Evening Prayer Service at Westminster Abbey

The Address of His Grace The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Address of the Pope

Videos of the visit are below:

One has to be filled with gratitude to the Anglican Church for its fulsome and gracious welcome and hospitality to the Pope on his visit.

Some from a Catholic perspective have attempted to undermine the importance of the Papal visit to the Abbey. However that would be gravely mistaken.

The Anglicans were not looking for anything in return, some concession from the Pope. The Anglican Establishment is too grown up and mature in its faith for that.

It was a moment of reconciliation to put the old enmities aside and to establish a new relationship of "collaboration" building on the past fifty years of the beginning of the thaw which started when Archbishop Fisher of Canterbury paid a private visit to Pope John XXIII in the Vatican.

No one misunderstands that there are differences (or underestimates them) between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.

But the differences do not preclude a close and cordial relationship where both parties behave with proper respect and civility towards each other and assist each other in common objectives in an increasingly hostile environment. Not least in the glorification of God.

The Pope obviously found it a joyful occasion. And we should not try to detract from the joyfulness of such an event by carping comments. We should be grateful at the hand of friendship being offered and respond in kind. As His Holiness did.

In his address he said:

"Our commitment to Christian unity is born of nothing less than our faith in Christ, in this Christ, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

It is the reality of Christ's person, his saving work and above all the historical fact of his resurrection, which is the content of the apostolic kerygma and those credal formulas which, beginning in the New Testament itself, have guaranteed the integrity of its transmission.

The Church's unity, in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism.

It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity, the model of the Church's koinonia here below.

Dear friends, we are all aware of the challenges, the blessings, the disappointments and the signs of hope which have marked our ecumenical journey.

Tonight we entrust all of these to the Lord, confident in his providence and the power of his grace.

We know that the friendships we have forged, the dialogue which we have begun and the hope which guides us will provide strength and direction as we persevere on our common journey.

At the same time, with evangelical realism, we must also recognise the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day.

Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord's will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age.

This is the word of encouragement which I wish to leave with you this evening, and I do so in fidelity to my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ's flock."

Westminster Abbey’s recorded history can be traced back well over a thousand years.

Dunstan, Bishop of London, brought a community of Benedictine monks to the site around 960 AD and a century later King Edward established his palace nearby and extended his patronage to the neighbouring monastery. He built for it a great stone church in the Romanesque style which was consecrated on 28 December 1065.

The Abbey has been the coronation church for Kings and Queens of England since Christmas Day 1066

By a royal grant of Queen Elizabeth I in May 1560 the Abbey became ‘The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster’ and since then it has been a "Royal Peculiar": exempt from episcopal authority as before and answerable direct to the Sovereign as Visitor.

Therefore the Papal Visit required Royal permission and the permission of HM the Queen was therefore granted to the Papal Visit and ceremony at the Abbey. A very gracious act and one which will be recognised as such by British Catholics.

Three particular events in the Cathedral amongst others were highlights of a very important visit: the attendance at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior; the veneration of the St Augustine Gospels; and the joint prayers of the Pope and the Archbishop at the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor

The visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior had added poignancy because here we had a German Pope who had been conscripted at the end of the Second World War to fight in the German Army, All of this happening happening at the anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Another page of the nation`s history has perhaps been turned .

The St Augustine Gospels (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Lib. MS. 286) is an illuminated Gospel Book which dates from the 6th century. It was taken to Britain shortly after it was made and has been here ever since. It is the oldest surviving Latin (i.e. not Greek or Syriac) illustrated Gospel book.

It is traditionally considered to be either a volume brought by St Augustine to England with the Gregorian mission in AD 597, or one of a number of books recorded as being sent to him in 601 by Pope Gregory the Great.

Portrait of St Luke
Folio 129v of the St. Augustine Gospels MS 286 (early 6th century)
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
The pediment has an inscription with a hexameter from the Carmen Paschale by the fifth century Christian poet Coelius Sedulius (Book 1, line 357):"Iura sacerdotii Lucas tenet ore iuvenci" - "Luke holds the laws of priesthood in the mouth of the bull".

Scenes from the Passion
Folio 125r of the St. Augustine Gospels MS 286 (early 6th century)
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

St Edward the Confessor was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and he died on 5 January 1066. He was canonised in 1161 by Pope Alexander III, and is commemorated on 13 October by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England and other Anglican Churches. He is the patron saint of the British Royal family.

In 1163, his remains were enshrined in Westminster Abbey with solemnities presided over by Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

His tomb is surrounded by the tombs of English kings and queens: Henry III, Edward I, Eleanor of Castile, Edward III, Philippa of Hainault, and Richard II with his queen Anne of Bohemia. For centuries English monarchs were crowned in this chapel.

The tomb and shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor, Westminster Abbey, London

King Edward the Confessor
by Manwine, from a die attributed to Theodoric (active 1065-1071).
silver penny, 1065
The National Portrait Gallery, London

King Edward the Confessor
by Iocetel, from a die attributed to Theodoric (active 1065-1071).
silver penny, 1065
3/4 in. (19 mm) diameter
The National Portrait Gallery, London

The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury at prayer together at the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor