Angelo Roncalli was a 36 year old priest when in 1925 he was unexpectedly consecrated bishop and despatched as Pope Pius XI’s representative in Bulgaria, a largely Orthodox country, when Orthodox and Catholics had yet to learn to trust each other. Bulgaria was already feeling the influence of Soviet Russia. He wrote to priest friends during his pre-consecration retreat:
My mind is calm and my heart at peace … Yes, Obedientia et Pax, that is my episcopal motto. May it always remain so.
But you, my dear colleagues, have the duty to help me at this time by your prayers, especially on the Feast of Saint Joseph. [19 March, when his episcopal ordination was to take place.] Joseph, by the way, is my second name; I am happy to take it, but I would be happier still to take the virtues of that saint, for they form the fundamental qualities of a good representative of the Holy See.
From John XXIII by Leone Algisi, Catholic Book Club 1966, p58.
A reminder of one of our English Saints, one who should not be forgotten, a model bishop.
To Chichester belongs a Sussex saint, Saint Richard, Bishop of Chichester in the thirteenth century, and a great man.
In 1245 he found the Sussex see an Augæan stable; but he was equal to the labour of cleansing it. He deprived the corrupt clergy of their benefices with an unhesitating hand, and upon their successors and those that remained he imposed laws of comeliness and simplicity. His reforms were many and various: he restored hospitality to its high place among the duties of rectors; he punished absentees; he excommunicated usurers; while (a revolutionist indeed!) priests who spoke indistinctly or at too great a pace were suspended. Also, I doubt not, he was hostile to locked churches. Furthermore, he advocated the Crusades like another Peter the Hermit.
Richard’s own life was exquisitely thoughtful and simple. An anecdote of his brother, who assisted him in the practical administration of the diocese, helps us to this side of his character. “You give away more than your income,” remarked this almoner-brother one day. “Then sell my silver,” said Richard, “it will never do for me to drink out of silver cups while our Lord is suffering in His poor. Our father drank heartily out of common crockery, and so can I. Sell the plate.”
Richard penetrated on foot to the uttermost corners of his diocese to see that all was well. He took no holiday, but would often stay for a while at Tarring, near Worthing, with Simon, the parish priest and his great friend. Tradition would have Richard the planter of the first of the Tarring figs, and indeed, to my mind, he is more welcome to that honour than Saint Thomas à Becket, who competes for the credit—being more a Sussex man. In his will Richard left to Sir Simon de Terring his best riding horse and a commentary on the Psalms.
The Bishop died in 1253 and he was at once canonised. To visit his grave in the nave of Chichester Cathedral (it is now in the south transept) was a sure means to recovery from illness, and it quickly became a place of pilgrimage. Very pleasant must have been the observance of Richard’s day in the Chichester streets. In 1297 we find Edward I. giving Lovel the harper 6s. 6d. for singing the Saint’s praises; but Henry VIII. was to change all this. On December 14th, 1538, it being, I imagine, a fine day, the Defender of the Faith signed a paper ordering Sir William Goring and William Ernely, his Commissioners, to repair to Chichester Cathedral and remove “the bones, shrine, &c., of a certain Bishop —— which they call S. Richard,” to the Tower of London. That the Commissioners did their work we know from their account for the same, which came to £40.
from Highways and Byways in Sussex by E. V. Lucas, 2nd edition 1921.
Peter (Piotr) Wygnański grew up in Cambridge and was an altar server for 11 years in the parish of St Laurence. He was ordained priest on 25 July 2019 in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Norwich, by Bishop Alan Hopes.
Part of the ordination rite has the deacon lying flat on the floor while prayers are said or sung.
In his homily, Bishop Alan said: “Jesus tells us we must be prepared to share in his suffering and death…and at the heart of our ministry must be humility”. Priesthood, he added, “Is nothing to do with status”.
The Bishop told Peter: “Your prostration before God…is an abandonment of yourself to His love and will” and he encouraged him to “model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross”.
I’m not sure that these two friends from L’Arche Ipswich were thinking of any of that as they got down close to the tulips, but the flowers are given to us by God’s love and will, and by abandoning their upright dignity to wake up and smell the flowers they got closer to His loving gift of tulips, their colour, shape, texture and scent.
If you wait till July you can look up humbly at 3 metres high sunflowers instead!
Peter Wygnański’s story shared from the East Anglia diocese website; see link above.
A letter from the Bishop of Rupert’s Land, based in Winnipeg, Canada, to the faithful people of his diocese, thanking them for all their efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Diocese of Rupert’s Land
The Right Reverend Geoffrey Woodcroft
Bishop of Rupert’s Land
We acknowledge that we meet and work in Treaty 1, 2 and 3 Land, the traditional land of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dakota, Sioux and Oji-Cree people and the homeland of the Metis Nation. We are grateful for their stewardship of this land and their hospitality which allows us to live, work and service God the Creator here.
March 19, 2021
A message for the Diocese of Rupert’s Land
I write today to express genuine and profound thanks to you. As Christ’s disciples we have learned to answer new calls to serve and be the Body. You and I have endeavored to reduce the risk spreading COVID 19, not just for self, but for the wider communities in which we serve.
For some of us, the lessons we gleaned way back in Sunday School prepared us well for our part in ministering through this pandemic. For those who have come to the Church not as children, your worship, study and fellowship has prepared you to serve compassionately in the world. In so many ways our Church has been preparing us all our lives for the extraordinary times we now navigate.
I am grateful for the parishes and missions who have slowly, carefully and safely begun to return to in-person worship and gatherings. I am grateful for your adherence to safety protocols, healthy education and communication strategies for members, and your zeal for excellence.
I am filled with gratitude for parishes and missions who have continue in dialogue in their communities, weighing risks and information maintaining the suspension of in-person worship. Your careful deliberation and care a fine example of our rich tradition.
I remain indebted to the many members across this diocese and our staff who have offered their expertise, advice/wisdom, their labour, and their love in Christ to me. We are many members, and we are One Body, it takes all of us to be the Church.
Finally, fatigue, grief and feeling like one is constantly on the edge is common amongst us all. Clergy and lay leaders have had steep learning curves in new technology, innovative ways of connecting, and being Church in the wilderness. We grieve the loss of life, relationships, hugs and kisses, we lament that routines have been upended, plans cancelled, and time forgotten, and every day we are hoping for clarity and definition. May we know forgiveness and kindness, and be made to feel less afraid, and raised to that place where we might carefully impart the very same to all who Creator God gives us upon our journey.
We start with a prayer to Saint David, asking him to pray for the people of Wales. Unlike the other nations of Britain, Wales has a native born saint as its patron, born at the edge of the little city that bears his name.
Blessed David, you are an apostle and patron for the people of Wales. Grant, I implore, that through your prayers, your people will be enlightened by the truth which you taught, and they will obtain everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
David was a true apostle, fondly remembered after 1500 years. he travelled the country, preaching and celebrating the Sacraments. His famous last advice to his followers was to ‘be faithful in the little things’; advice we could all usefully take to heart.
He was a vegetarian if not a vegan, so today we can enjoy a Leek and Potato gratin in his honour, though he would not have known potatoes, and would have eaten cheese only out of politeness. He did not condemn others who ate meat and dairy, but abstained from them as an act of penance; Lent all the year round. But today is a Feast Day, a day to celebrate in his honour.
This is the ancient baptistry of Milan Cathedral; here it was that Saint Ambrose baptised Augustine, back in the fourth century. This area, adjacent to today’s Cathedral, was rediscovered when the Metro was being excavated after World War II. Ambrose was a good pastoral bishop, working to reconcile different bodies of Christians and to present the faith as a reasonable life choice in an age of scepticism. We just skipped his feast to accommodate Sister Johanna’s One Good Deed posts, which tied in nicely with Mary’s feast yesterday. Ambrose was great, but not that great!
Ambrose was also a poet, who wrote this evening hymn, still very much used today; this is J.M. Neale’s translation.
Before the ending of the day, Creator the world, we pray, that with thy wonted favour thou wouldst be our guard and keeper now.
From all ill dreams defend our eyes, from nightly fears and fantasies; tread under foot our ghostly foe, that no pollution we may know.
O Father, that we ask be done, through Jesus Christ thine only Son, who, with the Holy Ghost and thee, doth live and reign eternally. Amen.
We found this plaque on the wall of our holiday house, so the Christian roots sink deeper there than at Minster Abbey in Kent, two modern or five ancient realms apart. Ty Gwyn – the White House – is walking distance from Saint David’s Cathedral; a short walk further is his birthplace. We were on holiday rather than pilgrimage, but that was part of the holiday too, even if we took plenty for the journey including changes of clothes, and a meal for the first evening. We did use the local shops after that.
Sister Johanna of Minster Abbey wrote this reflection for us, about the preaching pilgrimage Jesus set up for his disciples. This was David’s way of life as a missionary bishop. As well as preaching, he was known as a healer.
He called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic…. . So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere. Luke 9: 1-4,6.
I’m ashamed to admit that I usually go blank when I read this passage from the Gospel of Luke. But, today I lingered over the words, repeating them over and over gently in my mind, in order to give the Holy Spirit all the time necessary to help me find my way through this text. And before long, things began to happen.
I first noticed the words, ‘He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.’ To proclaim and to heal. Jesus is not a man of words only, but of words and deeds: and here, the deeds are deeds of healing. Deeds of life, therefore. Jesus wanted his disciples not merely to tell, but show that he, Jesus, was a man who could bring about change – change of the most important kind. This, for ordinary people, is vital. And ordinary people, hard workers, carrying a burden of responsibility and of sorrow – these are the ones Jesus was trying to reach.
The Twelve were also given ‘power and authority over all devils’ – well and good, surely. Good for the Twelve. Jesus was commissioning them here, and he knew that Satan would try to undermine their efforts, their confidence, everything. But Jesus doesn’t suggest to the Twelve that they walk up to the ordinary man on the street and announce, ‘I have been given power and authority over all devils’. Imagine it. I rather think that then, as now, the reaction of the man on the street to such an approach would have been one of hasty withdrawal from that apostle, a withdrawal of eye contact, a striding in the opposite direction, and throwing only the quickest of backward glances to make sure that apostle wasn’t following. But the authority to cure diseases was something else. This was something the Twelve could use, and ordinary people would respond to. The Twelve were the primary ones who needed to know that Jesus’ power was greater than Satan’s – but the ordinary people were the ones who needed to see real results. And Jesus is happy to respond to this need.
Jesus isn’t finished with the Twelve yet. He has more instructions – and they are strange ones. First, ‘Take nothing with you for the journey.’ Imagine what it would have been like for the Twelve to hear that. It was probably not possible for them to exchange puzzled glances with each other right then, but they must have wondered incredulously, “Whoever heard of someone being so crazy as to set out on an important journey without packing?” But the subtext here is in words Jesus uses elsewhere, ‘Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Rely on him. You are going out to do his work. He will provide. The labourer deserves his wages. Jesus, anticipating their questions, perhaps, goes on to make the nature of God’s providence perfectly clear by detailing the things they were not supposed to take:
‘No staff’ to lean on as you walk. Lean on me, he suggests.
‘No haversack.’ Right. He already said ‘take nothing with you.’ No, not even an empty bag to put things in once the gifts start coming. You are not to stockpile.
‘No bread.’ I am the bread of life. You will have food of a different sort to sustain you. Your fathers had manna in the wilderness. You will be fed.
‘No money.’ Why? Because I am your wealth. People long for me more than for money. Offer me to them free of charge. They – or enough, anyway – will fall all over themselves to help you whenever you have a need.
‘No spare tunic.’ No, not even a change of clothes. Some people will welcome you so fully into their lives that they will seem to adopt you. You will be like their son. You will want for nothing.
And now, I place myself for a moment in the sandals of one of the Twelve, imagining myself going on this missionary journey. With nothing. I feel exposed, vulnerable. Very. But only for a moment. Then I remember that this is always a very good thing in the spiritual life. Self-assurance is worth very little in my relationship with Jesus. I think of how it’s been when I have gone off on my own to pursue projects that did not originate in Jesus. Self-assurance, therefore, is not what Jesus wants to inculcate in the Twelve on this, their first missionary endeavour – or in me, ever. He wants us to rely on him utterly – and on ourselves, never.
And off they go. The program was successful beyond their wildest dreams. ‘They went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.’ Everywhere.
I went to the Bishop’s office because she needed to change an appointment: an unexpected engagement out of town that she was very much expected to attend. Her secretary apologised: ‘when we make an appointment, we keep it, no matter what comes up. As well I had set aside the day before yours, in case it was needed, so let’s fill it in.’
I could not help seeing the blocks of colour on the computer screen, showing engagement after engagement. Clearly the bishop does not work only on Sundays, as the unfair jibe would have it. ‘And it’s like that every week’, said the secretary, scrolling through screen after screen. ‘Being with people is her strength.’ As Pope Francis would say, she will smell of her sheep.
Augustine of Hippo seems to have been as busy; he was pastor and writer, producing far more than Will Turnstone ever will, and more cogently argued and more poetically expressed. So on his feast, let’s pray for all bishops, that they may be given the wisdom to do their work, capable, caring secretaries to make sure their lives are ordered without strain and stress, and friends who will make sure they know when to stop!
Of course, that meeting took place before the corona virus put a stop to any idea of pilgrimage in May, and Bishop Rose found herself in a new job where she had to put out into deep water. Hanging about the shoreline leads to rocks through the hull. But that’s a tale for another day.
The basilica of St Augustine, Annabar, Algeria: today is his feast day.
The saint rose to go on his way but those slugs would not leave him and began to follow the holy man wherever he went. On that same day, Saint Francis had been invited to dine at the house of the bishop. When he arrived there, a large number of slugs followed him into the house. The bishop, that holy pastor, was greatly astonished at this new wonder of nature and looked all about him for a shovel …until the saint asked: “My lord bishop, have you met my sisters?”
After they had been following him for two days, Saint Francis dismissed the slugs with a blessing, saying:
“Go now in peace, my sister slugs. Although you are lowly and despised among creatures, unwelcome in human society, there will always be a place for you in the Lord’s creation.”
At these words, the creatures turned and went on their way.
Not long after this, several slugs became renowned for their holiness. People came to consider the signs of their presence as a blessing and began to tread more carefully upon the earth.