Thursday, 13 December 2012

St Lucy (Lucia)


Saint Lucy's (Lucia) name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognised her courage in defence of the faith.

Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.

Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the same light and he betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain. Finally she was killed. As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Lucy may not have been burned or had a sword thrust through her throat but many Christians did and we can be sure her faith withstood tests we can barely imagine.

Lucy's name is probably also connected to statues of Lucy holding a dish with two eyes on it. This refers to another legend in which Lucy's eyes were put out by Diocletian as part of his torture. The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes.

Lucy's name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble.

Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.


Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation every corner of our day. Amen

Her name meaning light is a factor in the particular devotion to Saint Lucy receives in Scandinavian countries, where young girls dress as the saint in honour of the feast.


Monday, 15 October 2012

St Teresa of Avila


Born to the Spanish nobility, the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Doña Beatriz, Teresa grew up reading the lives of the saints, and playing at “hermit” in the garden. Crippled by disease in her youth, which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to St Joseph. Her mother died when Teresa was 12, and she prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry to religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions, and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including Saint Francis Borgia, who pronounced the visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of Saint John of Avila. Teresa founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. Mystical writer. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 27 September 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

There are more than one type of stigmata. Some affected people display no outward signs of the stigmata at all. These are referred to as the invisible stigmata. Other stigmatics' wounds refuse to clot or heal. They remain fresh and uninfected.

In very rare cases the blood is said to have a perfumed odour, known as the Odour of Sanctity. The Odour of Sanctity can also be present separate from stigmata. Saint Teresa of Avila was reported to have emitted heavenly scents after she died.

Those who have shown the wounds of Christ are often ecstatics. Upon receiving the stigmata they receive a mystical vision of Christ. While the have been extremely rare cases on non-Catholic stigmatics most are devout Catholics.

The first mentioned stigmatic is St Francis of Assisi in whom the stigmata were of a character never seen subsequently. Since that time over five hundered stigmatics have been accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. The first record of a female stigmatic is the Blessed Christina von Stommeln circa 1310.

St Teresa of Avila’s scent emanated throughout the whole monastery the moment she died. Saint Thérèse de Lisieux (known as “the Little Flower”) was said to have produced a strong scent of roses at her death, which was detectable for days afterward. Likewise, Padre Pio’s stigmata is said to have emanated the smell of roses.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

St Francis of Assisi


It was on the feast of St Francis of Assisi twenty-one years ago that I was elevated to the episcopate. I wrote of a mystical experience I had during the consecration itself in The Grail Church, page 101:

"The tranquil features of the emdieval saint appeared mementarily, like a pale image against the rich vestments of the consecrating prelate, but as the vision intensified it transformed from a representation of Cimabue's famous painting of the friar to that of Our Lord. ... St Francis, more than anyone, interprets Christ's challenge to all aspiring disciples with a freshness and a vitality. Christ, the only way to God, is our Master and gentle Francis is a fellow-disciple guiding us along the often difficult path all Christians must follow. The little saint suffered silently and painfully for the Church of the Middle Ages with its abuses, thinking he could change the proud prelates with their clerical pomp not by criticism but by holy humility and reverence. Undoubtedly some were transformed by his Christ-like example, but Franciscans have nevertheless been persecuted on occasions ..."

Founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria in 1181 or 1182 — the exact year is uncertain — St Francis died there on 3 October 1226. His feast is held on October 4th. Many of the stories that surround his life deal with his love for animals. One day, while Francis was travelling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds." The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away.

St Francis preached the teaching of the Catholic Church, that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the primordial sin of man. He preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God, and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves.

Saint Francis' Canticle of All Creatures

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,

All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong,

and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,

especially Sir Brother Sun,

Who is the day through whom You give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,

Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,

In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,

And fair and stormy, all weather's moods,

by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,

So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,

through whom You light the night

and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,

Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,

producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon

for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace,

By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,

from whom no-one living can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin!

Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,

And serve Him with great humility.

Friday, 6 January 2012



O God

Who by a star

guided the wise men to the worship of your Son

we pray you to lead to yourself

the wise and great of every land

that unto you every knee may bow,

and every thought be brought into captivity

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year


Felix Sit Annus Novus! 
Pax et benedictio, 
+Seán Manchester