Whoever wishes to be made God’s dwelling-place, should strive to make himself humble and peaceable, that he may be known to be God’s servant, not by his greed for talk and pliability of mien, but by the reality of his lowliness; for goodness of heart requires no false unction of talk. Idle then is a religion decorated with prostrations of the body, equally idle is the mere mortification of the flesh, and the hollow devotion of the outward man, unless it be accompanied by a fruitful moderation of the mind. What use is it for the passions to be assailed by a servant, when they are found to be in league with the master? Then, lest perhaps we should labour without fruit, let us take pains to be freed from our vices by God’s help, that thereafter we can be adorned with virtues. Thus let us cleanse ourselves as far as we are able from every taint of vices, from pride first, from ill-will, from anger, from blasphemy, from injustice, from spite, from melancholy, from vain glory, from covetousness, from malice, from all bitterness; that we may be possessed by lowliness, gentleness, kindness, courtesy, sobriety, mercy, justice, joy, and love.”
From a sermon on Humility.
Saint Columbanus (543 - 615)
St. Columbanus, born in Leinster, was an important figure in the celtic evangelisation of Europe having established several monasteries on the continent, particularly in the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms. Columbanus taught a Celtic monastic rule and Celtic penitential practices for those repenting of sins, which emphasised private confession to a priest, followed by penances levied by the priest in reparation for the sins.
What we know of him was written by Jonas, an Italian monk of Bobbio Abbey in Lombardy. His feast day is 23 November. He is, apparently, the patron saint of motorcyclists.
“He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.”
Blessed Titus Brandsma (1881 - 1942)
Brandsma was a Dutch Carmelite friar, Catholic priest and professor of philosophy. Vehemently opposed to Nazi ideology, he spoke out against it many times before the Second World War. Brandsma was arrested in January 1942 and moved to the infamous Dachau concentration camp five months later. He died the following month from a lethal injection as part of the German SS program of medical experimentation on the prisioners. He was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1985 as a martyr of the faith.
“Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across truth. Most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business as if nothing had happened.”
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)
Most of us know who Winston Churchill was.
"For a time He seems not to hear: but persevere; be earnest, be patient; lay aside all encumbrances, press on towards Him in spite of all difficulties; be not hindered by false shame, nor by the fear of what people will say, but come to Church, come to Holy Communion, and pray there in your heart for your friends, and see if He pour you not out a great blessing. There is but one thing that can hinder it: unworthiness either in yourselves or in those for whom you pray. You fear this, and well you may: but let it not slacken you in your prayers for them; only take care to pray in earnest for yourself too, and watch your own behaviour in every part of it, and try to make it agree with your prayers.”
The Revd John Keble (1792 - 1866)
about direction in prayer
"There are two things you need for a jolly good hymn. The first is a set of words that expresses the mood or sentiment of the worshipper. The second - and perhaps even more important - is a good tune. And by a good tune I don't mean some frightfully highbrow composition that only an operatic tenor could sing comfortably but a simple, popular melody. And goodness knows why, because if something is popular, the experts have to assume that it is also bad.
When a football crowd wants to find a tune for its unmentionable slogans, as often as not they choose a hymn-tune. And there can't be many people who don't know at least one irreverent parody of something from our heritage of hymnody, even if it's only those shepherds washing their socks by night or something mildly scandalous about Good King Wenceslas."
Sir John Betjeman (1906 - 1984)
Speaking on Hymns : from a BBC Radio 4 Recording - transmitted on Sunday, 2 August 1978
1. "Development is not always identical with progress. It may be movement in the wrong direction."
2. "In the evening went to ... a beautiful little country church and made more beautiful by masses of flowers. It was the Patronal Festival, and the Anglo-Catholic vicar had numerous Roman hymns, Stella Maris, etc.: this mild Mariolatry would have angered me at one time, but now I am older I feel that our Lord would not mind additional honours paid to His Mother, and the doctrine in these hymns flows over these sturdy Yorkshire folk like water on a duck's back. There was a real atmosphere of devotion in the little church."
The Most Revd Cyril Garbett (1875 - 1955) - Archbishop of York 1942 - 1955
“This is the mission of Advent: being witness of the light, and we can do this only if we carry the light within us. … In the Church, in the Word of God, in the celebration of the Sacraments, in the Sacrament of Confession and the forgiveness we receive, in the Eucharist where the Lord gives Himself into our hands and hearts, in of all this we touch the light and receive our mission: the mission of bearing witness to the fact that the light exists, of bringing that light into our world.”
Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus (born 1927)
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger: Pope Benedict XVI from 19 April 2005 until 28 February 2013.
“Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven."
John Wesley (1703 - 1791)
From his 'Rules for Singing' (1761)
“Mystic" and "Mysticism" are words which meet us constantly in all books that deal with religious experience; and indeed in many books which do not treat of religion at all. They are generally so vaguely and loosely used that they convey no precise meaning to our minds, and have now come to be perhaps the most ambiguous terms in the whole vocabulary of religion. Any vague sense of spiritual things, any sort of symbolism, any hazily allegorical painting, any poetry which deals with the soul - worse than that, all sorts of superstitions and magical practices - may be, and often are, described as "mystical." A word so generalized seems almost to have lost its meaning; and indeed, not one of these uses of "Mysticism" is correct, though the persons to whom they are applied may, in some instances, be mystics."
Evelyn Underhill (1875 - 1941)
From the introduction to "Mystics of the Church" (1925). Underhill was a writer, novelist, teacher and mystic.
putting her foot down over definitions of mysticism
“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offence cannot reach it."
Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650)
French philosopher, mathematician and scientist.
on being offended
“Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power."
on being human
“I believe in God as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)
British writer, scholar, poet, Christian apologist and broadcaster.
on seeing and believing
“Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself, but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God."
St Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
on the consequences of withdrawing
“The historian's task is to explore that other country, the past, and to bring back news of how its people differed from, as well as resembled, ourselves ."
Eamon Duffy (born 1947)
Irish historian and academic. Professor of the History of Christianity (Cambridge University). Honorary Canon of Ely Cathedral
on what historians should be doing
“We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavouring to know God; for beholding His greatness, we realise our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness - and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble."
Saint Teresa of Avila (1515 - 1582)
Carmelite nun and Spanish mystic. Born Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada. Canonised 12 March 1622
on knowing ourselves
“In accordance with your humility will be given to you endurance in your distress; and in accordance with your endurance weight will be lifted from your soul which will be consoled in its troubles; and in accordance with the consolation of your soul, your love in God will increase; and in accordance with your love, spiritual joy will increase. When our compassionate Father is of the will to relieve those who are shown to be true sons in their temptations, He does not take away temptation, but He imparts to them endurance under these temptations, and all that for the good which they receive through it, to the perfection of their souls. May Christ in His grace make us worthy of bearing evils for the sake of His love, with thanksgiving of heart. Amen”
Saint Isaac of Nineveh (died c. 700)
also known as St Isaac the Syrian. A 7th-century Syriac Christian bishop and theologian remembered chiefly for his written works on asceticism.
just three quotes
“A handful of sand, thrown into the sea, is what sinning is, when compared to God’s Providence and mercy. Just like an abundant source of water is not impeded by a handful of dust, so is the Creator’s mercy not defeated by the sins of His creations."
“Do not demand love from your neighbour, because you will suffer if you don’t receive it; but better still, you indicate your love toward your neighbour and you will settle down. In this way, you will lead your neighbor toward love."
Another weapon of the Devil, he said, is money. "He comes through the wallet and he destroys with the tongue, with gossip that divides" and hurts the universal Church.
The Pope also urged the bishops to be close to their priests and guide their constant formation: "When a bishop gets a telephone call from a priest or he receives a letter, answer right away, the same day if possible."
Pope Francis (born 1936)
Jorge Mario Bergoglio (born in Buenos Aires, Argentina) was ordained priest in 1969 and consecrated bishop in 1992. Papacy began on 13 March 2013. First non-European pope since Gregory III (who died 1,275 years ago).
advice to new 'missionary' bishops
“The weapon the Devil has most at the ready for destroying the Church from within is division." Advising them to be careful to ensure that everything meant for promoting pastoral activities and evengelisation: "does not get damaged or undermined by divisions that are already present or may be created. Please, fight against divisions."
P.S. My apologies, he actually said: "Le véritable voyage de découverte ne consiste pas à chercher de nouveaux paysages mais à avoir de nouveaux yeux."
Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922)
Valentin Louis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust, French novelist, critic and essayist.
on seeing things differently
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Sigrid Undset (1882 - 1949)
Sigrid Undset, the Norwegian novelist, was born in the small town of Kalundborg in Denmark, her family moved to Norway in 1884. In 1924, she converted to Catholicism and became a lay Dominican. In 1940 she fled Norway because of her opposition to the Nazi German occupation, but returned in 1945 after the end of World War II. Undset received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. She wrote several novels set in the medieval period: her trilogy about Kristin Lavransdatter has been translated into more than 80 languages.
on the gifts from God
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans - and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused - and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”
Malcolm Guite (born 1957)
concerning Ash Wednesday
“Receive this cross of ash upon your brow
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday's cross;
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands,
The very stones themselves would shout and sing,
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognize in Christ their lord and king.
He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.”
From: The Word in the Wilderness
(Ayodeji) Malcolm Guite: a poet, Anglican priest, writer, academic and singer-songwriter was born in Nigeria to British expatriate parents.
He is the author of five books of poetry and of several works on the Christian faith and theology. His declared aim, in both his poetry and songs, is to be "profound without ceasing to be beautiful."
Guite has acknowledged the influence of poets T. S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney and especially the Welsh-born George Herbert.
Guite was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1990 and his ministry has been based in the diocese of Ely. Since 2003 he has been Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge.