In Commemoratione S. Pauli Apostoli

Statue of the Saint before the façade of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy.
Statue of the Saint before the façade of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy.

Deus, qui multitudinem Gentium beati Pauli Apostoli praedicatione docuisti: da nobis, quaesumus; ut cuius natalitia colimus, eius apud te patrocinia sentiamus. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spíritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

Mercy Shall Encompass Him

Multa flagélla peccatóris, sperántem autem in Dómino misericórdia circúmdabit. Psalmus xxxi. 13.

Oranges and Lemons

A View of London, Westminster and Southwark, as they appeared A.D. 1543; 19th century engraving by Nathaniel Whittock from a drawing by Antony van den Wyngaerde (ca 1543-50).
A View of London, Westminster and Southwark, as they appeared A.D. 1543; 19th century engraving by Nathaniel Whittock from a drawing by Antony van den Wyngaerde (c. 1543-50).

Two Sticks and Apple,
Ring ye Bells at Whitechapple,
Old Father Bald Pate,
Ring ye Bells Aldgate,
Maids in White Aprons,
Ring ye Bells at St. Catherines,
Oranges and Lemons,
Ring ye bells at St. Clements,
When will you pay me,
Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey,
When I am Rich,
Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch,
When will that be,
Ring ye Bells at Stepney,
When I am Old,
Ring ye Bells at Pauls. Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (c. 1744).

When Their Time Comes

I often think about the still-Anglican members of that Working Party, and my other friends in the priesthood and episcopate of the provinces of Canterbury and York, with great affection, mingled with sadness at the thought of how much fun, how much sense of real purpose, they are missing out on; how much real talent is being wasted on a dead end; how very much some of them could offer to the great project outlined by Aidan Nichols, of repatriating to Catholic Unity all that was good in Anglicanism. So far, we haven’t attended to much more than the liturgical side of things; I claim that I am doing my humblest best but there’s work here for dozens (especially, but by no means only, those with academic skills). And there are others … Fr Brooke Lunn; Fr David Holding; many more … who have spent decades talking about Unity with the See of Peter … what is one to say …

I ought to make it clear that I am not ‘proselytising’. I do not have in mind younger clergy who have, with a good conscience, discerned a particular ministry to be completed within the Church of England. I am not thinking of those who are not and never have been ‘papalists’; those for whom going to Rome is as problematic (or even more so) than staying. I have in mind solely those who, when we were together, by their words and body-language, made clear that Rome, ‘the rock from which we were hewn’ as one of them repeatedly put it, was the answer to our pressing need; those who cheerfully said to a PEV ‘Give us the lead, Bishop, and we’ll follow’; those who told us that they would just put in the few more years necessary to secure their pensions and then join us; and, inexplicably, have been nowhere to be seen since the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus.

Of one thing I am sure. When their time comes, it must be made easy for them (and indeed also for those ex-diocesan bishops, if only they can be man enough and humble enough). There must be no unpleasant nonsense about how they missed the opportunity when the ‘terms’ were easy. Men who have spent 50 years in the Sacred Priesthood, who are priests to their fingertips, must not be told that they are “too old” for the presbyterate of the Ordinariate; that never again can they expect to stand at an altar holding in their hands the Adorable Sacrifice, that vocation which in the Mind of the Eternal was theirs before the ages began. There must be no subtle (or unsubtle!) systems of discouragement. The spirit of Benedict’s gracious intentions must be honoured to the full. The doors must be widely and generously and permanently open. These are good and able men, fine priests, who are called by God to give service in His Vineyard. To treat them in any way otherwise would be very wicked. Fr. John Hunwicke.

Thou Findest Him Not

Detail of folio 23 verso of the Codex Boernerianus.
Detail of folio 23 verso of the Codex Boernerianus.

Téicht doróim
mór saido · becc · torbai ·
INrí chondaigi† hifoss ·
manimbera latt nífogbái ·

Mór báis mor baile
mór coll ceille mor mire
olais airchenn teicht dó ecaib ·
beith fo étoil · maíc · maire ·

† From a facsimile given by Matthaei in his XIII epistolarum Pauli Codex (1791), folio 23. In the third line the facsimile has INrí chondaigi n hifoss, a dot over n (not reproduced here) being the punctum delens.

— Old Irish poem, a gloss on folio 23 verso of the Codex Boernerianus, a ninth century New Testament codex likely written by an Irish monk at the monastery of St. Gall, Switzerland.

To go to Rome is much of trouble, little of profit. The King whom seekest here, unless thou bring him with thee thou findest not.

Great folly, great madness,  great loss of sense, great folly since thou proposed (?) to go to death, to be under the unwill of Mary’s Son.

— English translation given in Whitley Stokes’ Goidelica, Old and Early-Middle-Irish Glosses, Prose and Verse (London, 1872).

To go to Rome, much labour, little profit: the King whom thou seekest here, unless thou bring him with thee, thou findest him not.

Much folly, much frenzy, much loss of sense, much madness (is it), since going to death is certain, to be under the displeasure of Mary’s Son.

— English translation given in Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus: a Collection of Old-Irish Glosses, Scholia, Prose, and Verse (Cambridge, 1901), edited by Whitley Stokes and John Strachan.

* * *

Folio 23 verso of the Codex Boernerianus contains the text of I Corinthians 2:9-3:3:

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

Donnchadh Bàn nan Òrain

Monument to Duncan Bàn MacIntyre, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh.
Monument to Duncan Bàn MacIntyre, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh.

Your kindly slope, with bilberries and blaeberries, studded with cloudberries that are round-headed and red; wild-garlic clusters in the corners of the rock terraces, and abounding tufted crags; the dandelion and pennyroyal, and the soft white bog-cotton and sweet-grass there on every part of it, from the lowest level to where the peaks are at the topmost edge. Fine is the clothing of Craig Mhór — there is no coarse grass for you there, but moss saxifrage of the juiciest covering it on this side and on that; the level hollows at the foot of the jutting rocks, where primroses and delicate daisies grow, are leafy, grassy, sweet and hairy, bristly, shaggy — every kind of growth there is. There is a shady fringe of green water-cresses around every spring that is in its lands, a sorrel thicket at the base of the rough rocks, and sandy gravel crushed small and white; gurgling and plunging, coldly boiling, in swirls of water from the foot of the smooth falls, the splendid streams with their blue-braided tresses come dashing and spirting in a swerving gush…

— Scots-Gaelic; Duncan Bàn MacIntyre (Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir); 1724-1812;
A. Macleod, The  Songs of Duncan Ban Macintyre (Edinburgh, 1952), pp. 166-8.

Columcille’s Nettle Broth

Common -- or stinging-- nettle (Urtica dioica).
Common — or stinging — nettle (Urtica dioica).

Once when he was going round the graveyard in Iona, he saw an old woman cutting nettles for broth for herself. ‘What is the cause of this, poor woman?’ said Colum Cille. ‘Dear Father,’ said she, ‘I have one cow, and it has not yet borne a calf; I am waiting for it, and this is what has served me for a long time.’ Colum Cille made up his mind then that nettle broth should be what should serve him mostly from then on for ever; saying, ‘Since they suffer this great hunger in expectation of the one uncertain cow, it would be right for us that the hunger which we suffer should be great, waiting for God; because what we are expecting, the everlasting Kingdom, is better, and is certain.’ And he said to his servant ‘Give me nettle broth every night,’ said he, ‘without butter or milk with it.’ ‘It shall be done,’ said the cook. He hollowed the stick for stirring the broth and made it into a tube, so that he used to pour the milk into that tube and stir it into the broth. Then the people of the church noticed that the priest looked well, and talked of it among themselves. This was told to Colum Cille, and then he said, ‘May your successors grumble for ever! Now,’ said he to the servant, ‘what do you give me in the broth every day?’ ‘You yourself are witness,’ said the menial, ‘unless it comes out of the stick with which the broth is mixed, I know of nothing in it except broth alone.’ Then, the explanation was revealed to the priest, and he said, ‘Prosperity and good deeds to your successor for ever!’ And this has come true.

— Irish; author unknown; 11th century;
Whitley Stokes, On the Calendar of Oengus (Dublin, 1880), pp. c-ci.

And Thou Childe

Detail of St. John the Baptist from the Isenheim Altarpiece, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, Alsace, France.
Detail of St. John the Baptist from the Isenheim Altarpiece, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, Alsace, France.

And after the seconde lesson, throughout the whole yere, shalbe used Benedictus dominus deus Israel, etc. in Englishe as followeth:

BLESSED be the lorde God of Israel : for he hath visited and redemed his people.
And hath lyfted up an horne of salvacyon to us : in the house of his servaunt David.
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophetes : which hath bene syns the world began.
That we shoulde be saved from our enemies : and from the handes of all that hate us.
To perfourme the mercy promised to our fathers : and to remember his holy covenaunt.
To perfourme the othe whiche he sware to our father Abraham : that he would geve us.
That we being delivered out of the handes of our enemies might serve him without feare,
In holynesse and ryghteousnes before him all the dayes of our lyfe.
And thou childe, shalte bee called the prophete of the highest: for thou shalte goe hefore the face of the Lord, to prepare his wayes.
To geve knowledge of salvacion unto his people : for the remission of their sinnes.
Through the tender mercie of our god : whereby the dayespryng from an hygh hath visited us;
To geve lighte to them that sitte in darkenes, and in the shadowe of death : and to guide our fete into the way of peace.

Glory be to the father, &c.
As it was in the beginnyng, &c.

— The Song of Zachary; Benedictus: and Thanksgiving for the performance of God’s promises. Order of Mattins from the Book of Common Prayer (1549).

His Name is John

Birth of John the Baptist, Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence; Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485-1490.
Birth of the Baptist, Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence; Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1485-1490.

Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.

And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.

And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.

And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.

And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.

And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

— St. Luke i. 57-66.

Nec Putet in Tumulo Virginis Alma Caro

St Etheldreda's Church, Ely, in which is a shrine containing relics of the saint.
St Etheldreda’s Church, Ely, in which is a shrine containing relics of the saint.

UIDETUR oportunum huic historiae etiam hymnum uirginitatis inserere, quem ante annos plurimos in laudem ac praeconium eiusdem reginae ac sponsae Christi, et ideo ueraciter reginae, quia sponsae Christi, elegiaco metro conposuimus; et imitari morem sacrae scripturae, cuius historiae carmina plurima indita, et haec metro ac uersibus constat esse conposita.

Alma Deus Trinitas, quae saecula cuncta gubernas,
Adnue iam coeptis, alma Deus Trinitas.
Bella Maro resonet, nos pacis dona canamus;
Munera nos Christi, bella Maro resonet.
Carmina casta mihi, fedae non raptus Helenae;
Luxus erit lubricis, carmina casta mihi.
Dona superna loquar, miserae non proelia Troiae;
Terra quibus gaudet, dona superna loquar.
En Deus altus adit uenerandae uirginis aluum,
Liberet ut homines, en Deus altus adit.
Femina uirgo parit mundi deuota parentem,
Porta Maria Dei, femina uirgo parit.
Gaudet amica cohors de uirgine matre tonantis;
Uirginitate micans gaudet amica cohors.
Huius honor genuit casto de germine plures,
Uirgineos flores huius honor genuit.
Ignibus usta feris, uirgo non cessit Agathe,
Eulalia et perfert, ignibus usta feris.
Kasta feras superat mentis pro culmine Tecla,
Eufemia sacras kasta feras superat. 
Laeta ridet gladios ferro robustior Agnes,
Caecilia infestos laeta ridet gladios.
Multus in orbe uiget per sobria corda triumphus,
Sobrietatis amor multus in orbe uiget.
Nostra quoque egregia iam tempora uirgo beauit;
Aedilthryda nitet nostra quoque egregia.
Orta patre eximio, regali et stemmate clara,
Nobilior Domino est, orta patre eximio.
Percipit inde decus reginae, et sceptra sub astris,
Plus super astra manens, percipit inde decus.
Quid petis, alma, uirum, sponso iam dedita summo?
Sponsus adest Christus; quid petis, alma, uirum?
Regis ut aetherei matrem iam credo sequaris,
Tu quoque sis mater regis ut aetherei.
Sponsa dicata Deo bis sex regnauerat annis,
Inque monasterio est sponsa dicata Deo.
Tota sacrata polo celsis ubi floruit actis,
Reddidit atque animam tota sacrata polo.
Uirginis alma caro est tumulata bis octo Nouembres,
Nec putet in tumulo uirginis alma caro.
Xriste, tui est operis, quia uestis et ipsa sepulchro
Inuiolata nitet: Xriste, tui est operis.
Ydros et ater abit sacrae pro uestis honore,
Morbi diffugiunt, ydros et ater abit.
Zelus in hoste furit, quondam qui uicerat Euam;
Uirgo triumphat ouans, zelus in hoste furit.
Aspice, nupta Deo, quae sit tibi gloria terris;
Quae maneat caelis, aspice, nupta Deo.
Munera laeta capis, festiuis fulgida taedis,
Ecce uenit sponsus, munera laeta capis.
Et noua dulcisono modularis carmina plectro,
Sponsa hymno exultas et noua dulcisono.
Nullus ab altithroni comitatu segregat agni,
Quam affectu tulerat nullus ab altithroni.

— Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book IV, Chapter XX, Venerable Bede.

Continue reading “Nec Putet in Tumulo Virginis Alma Caro”


Painted panels depicting four scenes from the life of St. Etheldreda; 15th century; Society of Antiquaries, London.
Painted panels depicting four scenes from the life of St. Etheldreda; 15th century; Society of Antiquaries, London.

CHAP. XIX. How Queen Ethelthryth [Etheldreda] always preserved her virginity, and her body suffered no corruption in the grave. [A.D. 660]

KING EGFRID took to wife Ethelthryth, the daughter of Anna, king of the East Angles, of whom mention has been often made; a man of true religion, and altogether noble in mind and deed. She had before been given in marriage to another, to wit, Tondbert, ealdorman of the Southern Gyrwas; but he died soon after he had married her, and she was given to the aforesaid king. Though she lived with him twelve years, yet she preserved the glory of perfect virginity, as I was informed by Bishop Wilfrid, of blessed memory, of whom I inquired, because some questioned the truth thereof; and he told me that he was an undoubted witness to her virginity, forasmuch as Egfrid promised to give him many lands and much money if he could persuade the queen to consent to fulfil her marriage duty, for he knew the queen loved no man more than himself. And it is not to be doubted that this might take place in our age, which true histories tell us happened sometimes in former ages, by the help of the same Lord who promises to abide with us always, even unto the end of the world. For the divine miracle whereby her flesh, being buried, could not suffer corruption, is a token that she had not been defiled by man.

She had long asked of the king that he would permit her to lay aside worldly cares, and to serve only Christ, the true King, in a monastery; and having at length with difficulty prevailed, she entered the monastery of the Abbess Aebba, who was aunt to King Egfrid, at the place called the city of Coludi, having received the veil of the religious habit from the hands of the aforesaid Bishop Wilfrid; but a year after she was herself made abbess in the district called Elge, (Ely) where, having built a monastery, she began, by the example of a heavenly life and by her teaching, to be the virgin mother of many virgins dedicated to God. It is told of her that from the time of her entering the monastery, she would never wear any linen but only woollen garments, and would seldom wash in a hot bath, unless just before the greater festivals, as Easter, Whitsuntide, and the Epiphany, and then she did it last of all, when the other handmaids of Christ who were there had been washed, served by her and her attendants. She seldom ate more than once a day, excepting on the greater festivals, or some urgent occasion. Always, except when grievous sickness prevented her, from the time of matins till day-break, she continued in the church at prayer. Some also say, that by the spirit of prophecy she not only foretold the pestilence of which she was to die, but also, in the presence of all, revealed the number of those that should be then snatched away from this world out of her monastery. She was taken to the Lord, in the midst of her flock, seven years after she had been made abbess; and, as she had ordered, was buried among them in a wooden coffin in her turn, according to the order in which she had passed away.

She was succeeded in the office of abbess by her sister Sexburg, who had been wife to Earconbert, king of Kent. This abbess, when her sister had been buried sixteen years, thought fit to take up her bones, and, putting them into a new coffin, to translate them into the church. Accordingly she ordered some of the brothers to find a stone whereof to make a coffin for this purpose. They went on board ship, for the district of Ely is on every side encompassed with water and marshes, and has no large stones, and came to a small deserted city, not far from thence, which, in the language of the English, is called Grantacaestir, (Grantchester, near Cambridge) and presently, near the city walls, they found a white marble coffin, most beautifully wrought, and fitly covered with a lid of the same sort of stone. Perceiving, therefore, that the Lord had prospered their journey, they returned thanks to Him and carried it to the monastery.

When the grave was opened and the body of the holy virgin and bride of Christ was brought into the light of day, it was found as free from corruption as if she had died and been buried on that very day; as the aforesaid Bishop Wilfrid, and many others that know it, testify. But the physician, Cynifrid, who was present at her death, and when she was taken up out of the grave, had more certain knowledge. He was wont to relate that in her sickness she had a very great tumour under her jaw. “And I was ordered,” said he, “to lay open that tumour to let out the noxious matter in it, which I did, and she seemed to be somewhat more easy for two days, so that many thought she might recover from her infirmity; but on the third day she was attacked by the former pains, and being soon snatched out of the world, she exchanged all pain and death for everlasting life and health. And when, so many years after, her bones were to be taken out of the grave, a pavilion being spread over it, and all the congregation, the brothers on the one side, and the sisters on the other, standing about it singing, while the abbess, with a few others, had gone within to take up and wash the bones, on a sudden we heard the abbess within cry out with a loud voice, ‘Glory be to the name of the Lord.’ Not long after they called me in, opening the door of the pavilion, and I found the body of the holy virgin taken out of the grave and laid on a bed, like one asleep; then taking off the veil from the face, they also showed me that the incision which I had made was healed up; so that, in marvellous wise, instead of the open gaping wound with which she had been buried, there then appeared only the slightest trace of a scar. Besides, all the linen clothes in which the body had been wrapped, appeared entire and as fresh as if they had been that very day put about her chaste limbs.”

It is said that when she was sore troubled with the aforesaid tumour and pain in her jaw and neck, she took great pleasure in that sort of sickness, and was wont to say, “I know of a surety that I deservedly bear the weight of my trouble on my neck, for I remember that, when I was a young maiden, I bore on it the needless weight of necklaces; and therefore I believe the Divine goodness would have me endure the pain in my neck, that so I may be absolved from the guilt of my needless levity, having now, instead of gold and pearls, the fiery heat of a tumour rising on my neck.” It happened also that by the touch of those same linen clothes devils were expelled from bodies possessed, and other diseases were at divers times healed; and the coffin wherein she was first buried is said to have cured some of infirmities of the eyes, who, praying with their heads resting upon that coffin, were presently relieved of the pain or dimness in their eyes. So they washed the virgin’s body, and having clothed it in new garments, brought it into the church, and laid it in the sarcophagus that had been brought, where it is held in great veneration to this day. The sarcophagus was found in a wonderful manner to fit the virgin’s body as if it had been made purposely for her, and the place for the head, which was fashioned separately, appeared exactly shaped to the measurement of her head.

Elge is in the province of the East Angles, a district of about six hundred families, of the nature of an island, encompassed, as has been said, with marshes or waters, and therefore it has its name from the great plenty of eels taken in those marshes; there the aforesaid handmaid of Christ desired to have a monastery, because, as we have before mentioned, she came, according to the flesh, of that same province of the East Angles.

Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book IV, Venerable Bede.

If Honour Me You Will

The Prophet Haggai's vision of the ruins of the Temple; Prophet Quatrefoils, West Façade, Amiens Cathedral.
The Prophet Haggai’s vision of the ruins of the Temple; Prophet Quatrefoils, West Façade, Amiens Cathedral.

It was in the second year of Darius’ reign, on the first day of the sixth month of it, that a message came from the Lord through the prophet Aggaeus; came to Zorobabel, son of Salathiel, that was governor of Juda, and to the high priest, Josue son of Josedec. And thus it ran: Word from the Lord of hosts to his people, that will not restore his temple, but cry, Too early yet! Listen, the Lord said to them through the prophet Aggaeus, is it not too early yet for you to have roofs over your heads, and my temple in ruins? Think well on it, says the Lord of hosts; here is much sown, and little reaped, nor eating brings you a full belly, nor wine a merry heart; such clothes you wear as leave you shivering, such wages win as leak out at purse’s bottom! Think well on it, says the Lord of hosts; up to the hill-side with you, fetch timber and restore my temple, if content me you will, the Lord says, if honour me you will! So much attempted, so little attained; store you brought into your houses withered at my breath; would you know the reason for it? says the Lord of hosts. Because to your own houses you run helter-skelter, and my temple in ruins! That is why the skies are forbidden to rain on you, earth to afford its bounty; ban of barrenness lies on plain and hill, wheat and wine and oil and all the earth yields, man and beast and all they toil to win.

The Lord shows Haggai his vision of the ruined Temple; Prophet Quatrefoils, West Façade, Amiens Cathedral.
The Lord shows Haggai his vision of the ruined Temple; Prophet Quatrefoils, West Façade, Amiens Cathedral.

What made they of it, Salathiel’s son Zorobabel, and the high priest, Josue son of Josedec, and all the people with them? That voice they could not choose but heed, that message from the Lord their God sent to them by the prophet Aggaeus, and they were sore adread of the divine warning. Yet here was divine encouragement; Aggaeus, the Lord’s own messenger, gave them the Lord’s own assurance he was at their side. So the Lord put heart into them, governor and priest and people alike; and they set to work building up the temple of the Lord God of hosts.

This was on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius.

— Haggai i.