Saturday, 28 August 2010

Prayer of Saint Augustine to the Blessed Virgin

This Saturday is the feast day of St Augustine of Hippo, Confessor, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church (354-430). This prayer of his, to our blessed lady, is therefore approximately sixteen centuries old. As we pray it, we unite with all the saints and the faithful, of all the Christian centuries, to give honour and praise to blessed Mary, Mother of God.

O blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay thee thy just dues of praise and thanksgiving, thou who by the wondrous assent of thy will didst rescue a fallen world? What songs of praise can our weak human nature recite in thy honor, since it is by thy intervention alone that it has found the way to restoration. Accept, then, such poor thanks as we have here to offer, though they be unequal to thy merits; and receiving our vows, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offenses. Carry thou our prayers within the sanctuary of the heavenly audience, and bring forth from it the antidote of our reconciliation. May the sins we bring before Almighty God through thee, become pardonable through thee; may what we ask for with sure confidence, through thee be granted. Take our offering, grant us our requests, obtain pardon for what we fear, for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for the remission of our sins, and in thee, O blessed Lady, is our hope of reward. Holy Mary, succour the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for thy people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who keep thy holy commemoration feel now thy help and protection. Be thou ever ready to assist us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it thy continual care to pray for the people of God, thou who, blessed by God, didst merit to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Devotions for the Assumption of Our Lady

To celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, here are four antiphons from the Divine Office for the day:

Assumpta est Maria in coelum: gaudent Angeli, laudantes benedicunt Dominum.
Mary has been assumed into heaven: the Angels rejoice, and with praises they bless the Lord.

Maria Virgo assumpta est ad aethereum thalamum, in quo Rex regum stellato sedet solio.
The Virgin Mary has been assumed unto the heavenly chamber, where the King of kings sits on His starry throne.

Virgo prudentissima, quo progrederis, quasi aurora valde rutilans? Filia Sion, tota formosa et suavis es: pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol.
Virgin most prudent, where do you go, like the rosy dawn? Daughter of Sion, you are all beautiful and sweet: fair as the moon, chosen as the sun.

Hodie Maria Virgo coelos ascendit: gaudete, quia cum Christo regnat in aeternum.
This day the Virgin Mary ascended into heaven: rejoice, for she reigns for ever with Christ.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Pope Benedict XVI on St Tarcisius

In a General Audience in St Peter's Square, on 4th August this year, Pope Benedict XVI referred to St Tarcisius. A large group of mainly German altar servers presented the Pope with a statue of St Tarcisius. The Pope refers to the life of our saint as an inspiration to altar servers today, and calls us to greater fidelity to the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament:
"Martyrdom will probably not be required of us, but Jesus asks of us fidelity in small things, inner recollection, inner participation, our faith and our efforts to keep this treasure present in every day life. He asks of us fidelity in daily tasks, a witness to his love, going to church through inner conviction and for the joy of his presence."
The copy of the full address below is taken from: and is copyright of Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to express my joy at being here with you today in this Square, where you have gathered festively for this General Audience, attended by such large numbers of the great European pilgrimage for altar servers! Dear boys and girls and young people, welcome to Rome! Since the vast majority of the altar servers present in the Square are German-speaking, I shall speak to them first of all in my mother tongue.
Dear altar servers, dear friends, dear German-speaking pilgrims, welcome to Rome! I greet cordially all of you and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State. He is called "Tarcisio" like your Patron Saint. You have had the courtesy to invite him and he, who is called Tarcisius after the Saint, is happy to be able to be here among the world's altar servers and the German altar servers. I greet my dear Brothers in the episcopate and in the Priesthood, and the Deacons who have wished to take part in this Audience. I warmly thank Bishop Martin Gächter, Auxiliary of Basel, President of "Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium", for his greeting to me, for the important gift of the statue of St Tarcisius and for the scarf he has given me. It all reminds me of the time when I too was an altar boy. I also thank Bishop Gächter on your behalf for the great work he carries out among you. I likewise thank your co-workers and all who got together to make this joyful meeting possible. My gratitude also goes to the Swiss sponsors and to all who have worked in their various capacities to make the large statue of St Tarcisius a reality.
How many of you there are! While flying over St Peter's Square in the helicopter I saw all the colours and the joy filling this Square! Thus not only do you create a festive atmosphere in the Square but you also fill my heart with joy! Thank you! The statue of St Tarcisius has come to us after a long pilgrimage. In September 2008 it was unveiled in Switzerland in the presence of 8.000 altar servers; some of you were certainly present. From Switzerland it travelled through Luxembourg on the way to Hungary. Let us greet it festively today, glad at being able to become better acquainted with this figure of the early Church. Later, as Bishop Gächter told us, the statue will be taken to the Catacombs of St Calixtus, where St Tarcius was buried. The hope that I express to all is that this place, namely the Catacombs of St Calixtus, and this statue, may become a reference point for altar servers, boys and girls, and for all who wish to follow Jesus more closely through the priestly, religious or missionary life. May they all be able to look at this strong and courageous boy and renew their commitment to friendship with the Lord, to learn to live with him always, following the path he points out to us with his word and the witness of so many Saints and Martyrs whose brothers and sisters we have become through Baptism.
Who was St Tarcisius? We do not have much information about him. We are dealing with the early centuries of the Church's history or, to be more precise, with the third century. It is said that he was a boy who came regularly to the Catacombs of St Calixtus here in Rome and took his special Christian duties very seriously. He had great love for the Eucharist and various hints lead us to conclude that he was presumably an acolyte, that is, an altar server. Those were years in which the Emperor Valerian was harshly persecuting Christians who were forced to meet secretly in private houses or, at times, also in the Catacombs, to hear the word of God, to pray and to celebrate Holy Mass. Even the custom of taking the Eucharist to prisoners and the sick became increasingly dangerous. One day, when, as was his habit, the priest asked who was prepared to take the Eucharist to the other brothers and sisters who were waiting for it, young Tarcisius stood up and said: "send me!". This boy seemed too young for such a demanding service! "My youth", Tarcisius said, "will be the best shield for the Eucharist". Convinced, the priest entrusted to him the precious Bread, saying: "Tarcisius, remember that a heavenly treasure has been entrusted to your weak hands. Avoid crowded streets and do not forget that holy things must never be thrown to dogs nor pearls to pigs. Will you guard the Sacred Mysteries faithfully and safely?". "I would die", Tarcisio answered with determination, "rather than let go of them". As he went on his way he met some friends who approached him and asked him to join them. As pagans they became suspicious and insistent at his refusal and realized he was clasping something to his breast that he appeared to be protecting. They tried to prize it away from him, but in vain; the struggle became ever fiercer, especially when they realized that Tarcisius was a Christian; They kicked him, they threw stones at him, but he did not surrender. While Tarcisius was dying a Pretoria guard called Quadratus, who had also, secretly, become a Christian, carried him to the priest. Tarcisius was already dead when they arrived but was still clutching to his breast a small linen bag containing the Eucharist. He was buried straight away in the Catacombs of St Calixtus. Pope Damasus had an inscription carved on St Tarcisius' grave; it says that the boy died in 257. The Roman Martyrology fixed the date as 15 August and in the same Martyrology a beautiful oral tradition is also recorded. It claims that the Most Blessed Sacrament was not found on St Tarcisius' body, either in his hands or his clothing. It explains that the consecrated Host which the little Martyr had defended with his life, had become flesh of his flesh thereby forming, together with his body, a single immaculate Host offered to God.
Dear altar servers, St Tarcisius' testimony and this beautiful tradition teach us the deep love and great veneration that we must have for the Eucharist: it is a precious good, a treasure of incomparable value; it is the Bread of life, it is Jesus himself who becomes our nourishment, support and strength on our daily journey and on the open road that leads to eternal life; the Eucharist is the greatest gift that Jesus bequeathed to us.
I am addressing those of you who are present here and, through you, all the altar servers of the world! Serve Jesus present in the Eucharist generously. It is an important task that enables you to be particularly close to the Lord and to grow in true and profound friendship with him. Guard this friendship in your hearts jealously, like St Tarcisius, ready to commit yourselves, to fight and to give your lives so that Jesus may reach all peoples. May you too communicate to your peers the gift of this friendship with joy, with enthusiasm, without fear, so that they may feel that you know this Mystery, that is true and that you love it! Every time that you approach the altar, you have the good fortune to assist in God's great loving gesture as he continues to want to give himself to each one of us, to be close to us, to help us, to give us strength to live in the right way. With consecration, as you know, that little piece of bread becomes Christ's Body, that wine becomes Christ's Blood. You are lucky to be able to live this indescribable Mystery from close at hand! Do your task as altar servers with love, devotion and faithfulness; do not enter a church for the celebration with superficiality but rather, prepare yourselves inwardly for Holy Mass! Assisting your priests in service at the altar helps to make Jesus closer, so that people can understand, can realize better: he is here. You collaborate to make him more present in the world, in every day life, in the Church and everywhere. Dear friends! You lend Jesus your hands, your thoughts, your time. He will not fail to reward you, giving you true joy and enabling you to feel where the fullest happiness is. St Tarcisius has shown us that love can even bring us to give our life for an authentic good, for the true good, for the Lord.
Martyrdom will probably not be required of us, but Jesus asks of us fidelity in small things, inner recollection, inner participation, our faith and our efforts to keep this treasure present in every day life. He asks of us fidelity in daily tasks, a witness to his love, going to church through inner conviction and for the joy of his presence. Thus we can also make known to our friends that Jesus is alive. May St John Mary Vianney's intercession help us in this commitment. Today is the liturgical Memorial of this humble French Parish Priest who changed a small community and thus gave the world a new light. May the example of St Tarcisius and St John Mary Vianney impel us every day to love Jesus and to do his will, as did the Virgin Mary, faithful to her Son to the end. Thank you all once again! May God bless you in these days and I wish you a good journey home!

Epigram by Pope Damasus

To celebrate the feast day of our Patron, St Tarcisius, here is the Epigram composed in his honour by Pope Damasus.

Par meritum, quicumque legis, cognosce duorum,
quis Damasus rector titulos post praemia reddit.
Judaicus populus Stephanum meliora monentem
perculerat saxis, tulerat qui ex hoste tropaeum,
martyrium primus rapuit levita fidelis.
Tarsicium sanctum Christi sacramenta gerentem
cum male sana manus premeret vulgare profanis,
ipse animam potius voluit dimittere caesus
prodere quam canibus rabidis caelestia membra.
(Damasi Epigrammata, Maximilian Ihm, 1895, n. 14)

At some point soon, I will attempt a translation, though I can't promise any great poetic merit.

Friday, 13 August 2010

St Catherine's Trust Summer School

At the annual St Catherine's Trust summer school, which was held at Ardingly College in Sussex last week, a number of members were formally enrolled into the Sodality by our spiritual Director, Fr Andrew Southwell.

The summer school includes a session each afternoon in serving at the Traditional mass, with groups both for absolute beginners and for the more experienced. On the Friday, boys who qualified for full membership - i.e. who are able to serve Low Mass fluently and correctly - and who were willing to take on the commitments of membership were enrolled.

The ceremony of enrolment includes a promise by the candidates: "I offer myself to God almighty, to Blessed Mary ever virgin, and to our Holy Patron St. Tarcisius, and I promise to do my best to serve reverently, intelligently and accurately, having the glory of God and my own eternal salvation as my object."

Medals were blessed and distributed to full members, as can be seen in the picture above. The medal is currently a Sacred Heart medal on a royal blue ribbon. The royal blue ribbon symbolizes the Queenship of Mary, which is particularly appropriate since the feast of St Tarcisius is on 15th August, the Assumption of Our Lady. All members of the Sodality are encouraged to have a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is hoped in time that a specific medal for the Sodality will be produced, which as well as the Sacred Heart will include an image of St Tarcisius, and the motto "fidelis usque ad mortem." Until then, a generic medal of the Sacred Heart is being used.

All the newly enrolled members said together the Sodality prayer, and then Fr Andrew read the following collect (in Latin), before giving the final blessing:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst come not to be served unto but to served, and who didst give to Blessed Tarcisius the grace of perseverance even unto death: grant to Thy servants, we beseech Thee, that while faithfully serving thy holy altars, they may, with faith like to his, worship Thee hidden in Thine adorable sacrament; and in their hearts and minds, O Lord, enkindle the love of Thy grace. Who livest and reignest, etc."

It should be noted that, given that our members are dispersed far and wide, all that is necessary for enrolment as a full member is application to the Secretary, with evidence of entitlement, and privately praying the prayers of commitment to the Sodality. Members may then wear the Sacred Heart medal, on the royal blue ribbon, to indicate membership.

However, where it is possible to be formally enrolled using the ceremony, this is encouraged, even where one is already a full member. The ceremony for full enrolment will be made available to MCs and priests who wish to use it, on application to the Secretary.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

O Jesus living in Mary

O Jesus living in Mary:
Come and live in Thy servants,
In the spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy power,
In the perfection of Thy ways,
In the truth of Thy virtues,
In the fellowship of Thy mysteries,
Rule Thou over every adverse power,
In Thy Spirit, for the glory of the Father.

O Jesu vivens in Maria
Veni et vive in famulis tuis,
In spiritu sanctitatis tuae,
In plenitudine virtutis tuae,
In perfectione viarum tuarum,
In veritate virtutum tuarum,
In communione mysteriorum tuorum;
Dominare omni adversae potestati,
In Spiritu tuo ad gloriam Patris.
This prayer, which was written by Fr Jean Jacques Olier, S.S. (1608-1657), was described by St Louis de Montfort as "a synthesis of the spiritual life and a summary of our Compendium". It contains the spirit of perfect consecration to Jesus through Mary which was advocated by St Louis, and which has been a most powerful means of sanctification for many souls. It is worth using often.