Saturday, 14 June 2014

St. Basil the Great

St. Basil was born in Asia Minor. Two of his brothers became bishops, and, together with his mother and sister, are honoured as saints.

He studied with great success at Athens, where he formed with St. Gregory Nazianzen the most tender friendship. He then taught oratory; but dreading the honours of the world, he gave up all, and became the father of the monastic life in the East.

The Arian heretics, supported by the court, were then persecuting the Church; and Basil was summoned from his retirement by his bishop to give aid against them. His energy and zeal soon mitigated the disorders of the Church, and his solid and eloquent words silenced the heretics.

On the death of Eusebius, he was chosen Bishop of Caesarea. His commanding character, his firmness and energy, his learning and eloquence, and not less his humility and the exceeding austerity of his life, made him a model for bishops.

When St. Basil was required to admit the Arians to Communion, the prefect, finding that soft words had no effect, said to him, "Are you mad, that you resist the will before which the whole world bows? Do you not dread the wrath of the emperor, nor exile, nor death"? "No," said Basil calmly; "he who has nothing to lose need not dread loss of goods; you cannot exile me, for the whole Earth is my home; as for death, it would be the greatest kindness you could bestow upon me, torments cannot harm me; one blow would end my frail life and my sufferings together". "Never," said the prefect, "has anyone dared to address me thus". "Perhaps," suggested Basil, "you never measured your strength with a Christian bishop". The emperor desisted from his commands.

St. Basil's whole life was one of suffering. He lived amongst great jealousies and misunderstandings and seeming disappointments. But he sowed the seed which bore goodly fruit in the next generation, and was God's instrument in beating back the Arian and other heretics in the East, and restoring the spirit of discipline and fervour in the Church.

He died in 379, and is venerated as a Doctor of the Church.

Friday, 13 June 2014

St. Antony of Padua

In 1221 St. Francis held a General Chapter at Assisi; when the others dispersed, there lingered behind, unknown and neglected, a poor Portuguese friar, resolved to ask for and to refuse nothing.

Nine months later, Fra Antonio rose under obedience to preach to the religious assembled at Forli, when, as the discourse proceeded, "the Hammer of Heretics," "the ark of the Testament," "the Eldest Son of St. Francis." stood revealed in all his sanctity, learning and eloquence before his rapt and astonished brethren.

Devoted from earliest youth to prayer and study amongst the Canons Regular, Ferdinand de Bulloens, as his name was in the world, had been stirred, by the spirit and example of the first five Franciscan martyrs, to put on their habit and preach the Faith to the Moors in Africa.

Denied a martyr's palm, and enfeebled by sickness, at the age of twenty-seven he was taking silent but merciless revenge upon himself in the humblest offices of his community. From this obscurity he was now called forth, and for nine years France, Italy, and Sicily heard his voice, saw his miracles, and men's hearts turned to God.

One night, when Antony was staying with a friend in the city of Padua, his host saw brilliant rays streaming under the door of the saint's room, and on looking through the keyhole he beheld a little Child of marvellous beauty standing upon a book which lay open upon the table, and clinging with both arms round Antony's neck. With an ineffable sweetness he watched the tender caresses of the saint and his wondrous Visitor. At last the Child vanished, and Fra Antonio, opening the door, charged his friend, by the love of Him Whom he had seen, to "tell the vision to no man" as long as he was alive.

Suddenly, in 1231, our saint's brief apostolate was closed, and the voices of children were heard crying along the streets of Padua, "Our father, Antony, is dead".

The following year; the church bells of Lisbon rang without ringers, whilst at Rome one of its sons was inscribed amongst the Saints of God.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A Simple Prayer Book - Back In Stock

The traditional version of A Simple Prayer Book is back in stock at last! 

This really useful little pocket-sized booklet has been an important part of Catholic life for over a hundred years and in its lifetime has sold copies beyond count.

It is cheap, but extremely valuable!

Cheap in price - it retails at just £2.50 and is ideal to give to potential converts, as well as being something that can easily be carried around for personal use by the practicing Catholic. 

Rosary beads in one pocket - A Simple Prayer Book in another!

Valuable because of its precious and timeless content that has helped to form countless souls for Heaven.

Its 80 pages contain the most basic prayers, including the full text of the traditional Mass (excluding the variables), Benediction, Summary of Christian Doctrine, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and much more.

This is a reprint of the 1957 edition that carries an imprimatur from 1951, before the prayerbook was mauled in the 1960's.


* Usual Prayers 
* Morning Prayers
* Night Prayers
* Additional Prayers
* Holy Mass
* Prayers After Low Mass
* Prayers For the Sovereign
* Prayers for Confession
* Prayers for Holy Communion
* Prayer Before a Crucifix
* Benediction
* Litany of the Blessed Virgin
* Prayer for England
* The Divine Praises
* The Way of the Cross
* The Holy Rosary
* A Quarter of an Hour Before the Blessed Sacrament
* Summary of Christian Doctrine
* The Church's Law Concerning Marriage

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret's name signifies 'pearl', "a fitting name" says Theodoric, her confessor and her first biographer, "for one such as she".

Her soul was like a precious pearl. A life spent amidst the luxury of a royal court never dimmed its lustre, or stole it away from Him Who had bought it with His blood.

She was the grand-daughter of an English king; [and sister of the uncrowned heir to the throne, Edgar Ætheling] and in 1070 she became the bride of Malcom, and reigned Queen of Scotland till her death in 1093.

How did she become a saint in a position where sanctity is so difficult?

First, she burned with zeal for the house of God. She built churches and monasteries; she busied herself in making vestments; she could not rest till she saw the laws of God and His Church observed throughout her realm.

Next, amidst a thousand cares, she found time to converse with God - ordering her piety with such sweetness and discretion that she won her husband to sanctity like her own. He used to rise with her at night for prayer; he loved to kiss the holy books she used, and sometimes he would steal them away, and bring them back to his wife covered in jewels.

Lastly, with virtues so great, she wept constantly over her sins, and begged her confessor to correct her faults.

St. Margaret did not neglect her duties in the world because she was not of it. Never was there a better mother. She spared no pains in the education of her eight children, and their sanctity was the fruit of her prudence and her zeal.

Never was there a better queen. She was the most trusted counsellor of her husband, and she laboured for the material improvement of the country.

But, in the midst of the world's pleasures, she sighed for the better country, and accepted death as a release.

On her deathbed she received the news that her husband and her eldest son were slain in battle. She thanked God, Who had sent this last affliction as a penance for her sins. After receiving Holy Viaticum, she was repeating the prayer from the Missal, "O Lord Jesus Christ, Who by Thy death didst giveth life to the world, deliver me". At the words "deliver me," says her biographer, she took her departure to Christ, the Author of true liberty.

Monday, 9 June 2014

St. Columcille: Apostle of the Picts

St. Columcille [known as Columba in the English], the apostle of the Picts, was born of a noble family at Gartan, in Tyrconnel [now the area of Co. Donegal] in 521.

From early childhood he gave himself to God. In all his labours - and they were many - his chief thought was Heaven and how he should secure the way thither. The result was that he lay on the bare floor, with a stone for his pillow, and fasted all the year round; yet the sweetness of his countenance told of the holy soul's interior serenity. Though austere, he was not morose; and, often as he longed to die, he was untiring in good works throughout his life.

After he had been made abbot, his zeal offended King Dermot; and in 565 the saint departed for the Kingdom of Dalriada [in what is now the west of Scotland and Antrim in Ireland], where he founded a hundred religious houses and converted the Picts, who in gratitude gave him the island of Iona. There, Columcille founded his celebrated monastery, the school of apostolic missionaries and martyrs, and for centuries the last resting-place of saints and kings.

Four years before his death, our saint had a vision of angels, who told him that the day of his death had been deferred four years, in answer to the prayers of his children; whereat the saint wept bitterly, and cried out, "Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged!" for he desired above all things to reach his true home.

How different is the conduct of most men, who dread death above everything, instead of wishing "to be dissolved, and to be with Christ"!

On the day of his peaceful death, in the seventy-seventh year of his age, surrounded in choir by his spiritual children, the 9th of June, 597, he said to his disciple, Diermit, "This day is called the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, and such will it truly be to me; for it will put an end to my labours". Then, kneeling before the altar, he received the Viaticum, and sweetly slept in the Lord.

His relics were carried to Down, and laid in the same shrine with the bodies of St. Pádraig [Patrick] and St. Bride [Brigit].

Saturday, 7 June 2014

St. Robert of Newminster

In 1132 Robert was a monk at Whitby, when news arrived that thirteen religious had been violently expelled from the Abbey of St. Mary, in York, for having proposed to restore the strict Benedictine rule. He at once set out to join them, and found them on the banks of the Skeld, near Ripon, living in the midst of winter in a hut made of hurdles and roofed with turf.

In the spring they affiliated themselves to St. Bernard's reform at Clairvaux, and for two years struggled on in extreme poverty.

At length the fame of their sanctity brought another novice, Hugh, Dean of York, who endowed the community with all his wealth, and thus laid the foundation of Fountains Abbey.

In 1137, Raynulph, Baron of Morpeth, was so edified by the example of the monks at Fountains that he built them a monastery in Northumberland, called Newminster, of which St. Robert became abbot.

The holiness of his life, even more than his words, guided his brethren to perfection, and within the next ten years three new communities went forth from this one house to become centres of holiness in other parts.

The abstinence of St. Robert in refectory alone sufficed to maintain the mortified spirit of the community. One Easter Day, his stomach, weakened by the Fast of Lent, could take no food, and he at last consented to try to eat some bread sweetened with honey. Before it was brought, he felt this relaxation would be a dangerous example for his subjects, and sent the food untouched to the poor at the gate. The plate was received by a young man of shining countenance, who straightaway disappeared. At the next meal the plate descended empty, and by itself, to the abbot's place in the refectory, proving that what the saint sacrificed for his brethren had been accepted by Christ.

At the moment of Robert's death, in 1159, St. Godric, the hermit of Finchale, saw his soul, like a globe of fire, borne up by the angels in a pathway of light; and as the gates of Heaven opened before them, a voice repeated twice, "Enter now, my friends".

Friday, 6 June 2014

St. Boniface

5th June - St. Boniface was born at Crediton in Devonshire, in the year 680. Some missionaries staying at his father's house spoke to him of heavenly things, and inspired him with a wish to devote himself, as they did, to God.

He entered the monastery of Exminster, and was there trained for his apostolic work.

His first attempt to convert the pagans in Holland having failed, he went to Rome to obtain the pope's blessing on his mission, and returned with authority to preach to the Germanic tribes. It was a slow and dangerous task; his own life was in constant peril, whilst his flock was often reduced to abject poverty by the wandering robber bands. Yet his courage never flagged.

He began with Bavaria and Thuringia, next visited Friesland, then passed on to Hesse and Saxony, everywhere destroying the idol temples and raising churches on their site. He endeavoured, as far as possible, to make every object of idolatry contribute in some way to the glory of God; on one occasion, having cut down an immense oak which was consecrated to Jupiter, he used the tree in building a church, which he dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles.

He was now recalled to Rome, consecrated bishop by the pope, and returned to extend and organise the rising German Church. With diligent care he reformed abuses amongst the existing clergy, and established religious houses throughout the land. At length, feeling his infirmities increase, and fearful of losing his martyr's crown, Boniface appointed a successor to his monastery and set out to convert a fresh pagan tribe.

Whilst St. Boniface was waiting to administer Confirmation to some newly-baptised Christians, a troop of pagans arrived, armed with swords and spears. His attendants would have opposed them, but the saint said to his followers: "My children, cease your resistance; the long-expected day is come at last. Let us put our hope in God: He will save our souls".

Scarcely had he ceased speaking, when the barbarians fell upon him and slew him with all his attendants, to the number of fifty-two.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

St. Clotilda

Clotilda was daughter of Chilperie, younger brother to Gondebald, the tyrannical King of Burgundy, who put him and his wife, and his other brothers, except one, to death, in order to usurp their dominions.

Clotilda was brought up in her uncle's court, and, by a singular providence, was instructed in the Catholic religion, though she was educated in the midst of Arians.

Her wit, beauty, meekness, modesty, and piety made her the adoration of all the neighbouring kingdoms, and Clovis I, surnamed the Great, the victorious King of the Franks, demanded and obtained her in marriage.

She honoured her royal husband, studied to sweeten his warlike temper by Christian meekness, conformed herself to his humour in things that were indifferent, and, the better to gain his affections, made those things the subject of her discourse and praises in which she knew him to take the greatest delight. When she saw herself mistress of his heart she did not defer the great work of endeavouring to win him to God, but the fear of giving offense to his people made him delay his conversion.

His miraculous victory over the Alemanni, and his entire conversion in 496, were at length the fruit of our saint's prayers.

Clotilda, having gained to God this great monarch, never ceased to excite him to glorious actions for the divine honour; amongst other religious foundations, he built, in Paris, at her request, about the year 511, the great Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, now called St. Genevieve's.

This great prince died on 27th November, in the year 511, at the age of forty-five, having reigned thirty years.

His eldest son, Theodoric, reigned at Rheims over the eastern parts of France, Clodomir reigned at Orleans, Childebert at Paris, and Clotaire I at Soissons. This division produced wars and mutual jealousies, till in 560 the whole monarchy was reunited under Clotaire, the youngest of these brothers.

The dissension in her family contributed more perfectly to wean Clotilda's heart from the world. She spent the remaining part of her life in exercise of prayer, almsdeeds, watching, fasting, and penance, seeming totally to forget that she had been queen or that her sons sat on the throne.

Eternity filled her heart and employed all her thoughts. She foretold her death thirty days before it happened. On the thirtieth day of her illness, she received the Sacraments, made a public confession of her faith, and departed to the Lord on the 3rd of June, in 545.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Martyrs of Lyons

After the miraculous victory obtained by the prayers of the Christians under Marcus Aurelius, in 174, the Church enjoyed a kind of peace, though was often disturbed in particular places by popular commotions, or by the superstitious fury of certain governors.

This appears from the violent persecution which was raised three years after the aforesaid victory, at Vienne and Lyons, in 177, whilst St. Pothinus was Bishop of Lyons, and St. Irenaeus, who had been sent thither by St. Polycarp out of Asia, was a priest of that city. Many of the principal Christians were brought before the Roman governor.

Amongst them was a slave, Blandina, and her mistress, also a Christian, feared that Blandina lacked strength to brave the torture. She was tormented a whole day through, but she bore it all with joy till the executioners gave up, confessing themselves outdone.

Red-hot plates were held to the sides of Sanctus, a deacon of Vienne, till his body became one great sore, and he looked no longer like a man; but in the midst of his tortures he was "bedewed and strengthened by the stream of heavenly water which flows from the side of Christ".

Meantime, many confessors were kept in prison and with them were some who had been terrified into apostasy. Even the heathens marked the joy of martyrdom in the Christians who were decked for their eternal espousals, and the misery of the apostates.

But the faithful confessors brought back those who had fallen, and the Church, "that Virgin Mother," rejoiced when she saw her children live again in Christ.

Some died in prison, the rest were martyred one by one, St. Blandina last of all, after seeing her younger brother put to a cruel death, and encouraging him to victory.