Crosfigell

St. Columba on the Hill of Angels, from a drawing by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
St. Columba on the Hill of Angels, from a drawing by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.

quia vobis donatum est pro Christo, non solum ut in eum credatis, sed ut etiam pro illo patiamini

Phil. i. xxix.

Another time that Columcille was in Iona, he gathered the monks to him in the place where he was, and he spake to them and said:

“Today I am going,” saith he, “to the western part of this island on a certain errand, and let no man at all follow me.”

And the monks consented. And he went forth then to the place whither he had declared he would go. Howbeit there followed him, without his knowing, a certain monk that would fain learn the reason of his going into that solitary place. And he concealed himself in a hillock overlooking the place where Columcille was. And from thence he had sight of him. And thus it was he beheld him, in cross vigil, and his face turned upward toward Heaven, and praying God fervently, and legions of angels round about him on every side. For it was a custom of the angels to come to bring solace to Columcille when he was worn out with pious exercise in places chill and comfortless, or with standing in water to his chin, saying very long prayers in wintry weather or snowy, or from passing strong constraint that he put upon his body for lack of food and drink.

And this is the cause why God gave the monk the sight of the angels: to magnify the name of Columcille. And Columcille would not magnify it himself by letting men wit the visions that were given him. For in fear of feeling empty vanity he never made them known save he understood that to others beside himself there was need of disclosing them — as to pray for the soul of one that had died, or for those that were in peril on sea or land, or when to reveal them would increase the name or honor of some other holy man.

And when Columcille had finished his prayers, the angels left him; and he returned again to the monastery. And he gathered the brethren to him, and asked them which of them had followed him against the command he had laid upon them. And the monks that were innocent said that they knew naught thereof. When the monk that had followed him heard this, he fell on his knees before Columcille, and said that he had done a great sin, and begged forgiveness of Columcille therefor. And Columcille forgave him this when he saw his humility and contrition. And after this Columcille took that monk with him to a place apart, and required him so long as he should live not to relate to any one the angelic vision he had seen. And when Columcille died, the monk disclosed to the brethren the vision he had seen, so that the names of God and Columcille were magnified thereby. And in proof thereof, the Hillock of the Angels is to this day the name of the hillock where the monk saw the angels around Columcille.

— Betha Colaim Chille, 229.

I Will Make A Great People of Thee

The Bosom of Abraham from Hortus deliciarum, Herrad of Landsberg, Abbess of Hohenburg, ca. 1180.
The Bosom of Abraham from Hortus deliciarum, Herrad of Landsberg, Abbess of Hohenburg, ca. 1180.

Benedicam benedicentibus tibi, et maledicam maledicentibus tibi, atque in te benedicentur universæ cognationes terræ.

Gen. xii. 3.

Mulier Amicta Sole

Fresco depicting the Apocalypse, the Dragon threatening the Woman, on the porch ceiling of the Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, Poitou, France.
Fresco depicting the Apocalypse, the Dragon threatening the Woman, on the porch ceiling of the Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, Poitou, France.

Et signum magnum apparuit in caelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim: et in utero habens, clamabat parturiens, et cruciabatur ut pariat. Et visum est aliud signum in caelo: et ecce draco magnus rufus habens capita septem, et cornua decem: et in capitibus ejus diademata septem, et cauda ejus trahebat tertiam partem stellarum caeli, et misit eas in terram: et draco stetit ante mulierem, quae erat paritura, ut cum peperisset, filium ejus devoraret. Et peperit filium masculum, qui recturus erat omnes gentes in virga ferrea: et raptus est filius ejus ad Deum, et ad thronum ejus, et mulier fugit in solitudinem ubi habebat locum paratum a Deo, ut ibi pascant eam diebus mille ducentis sexaginta. Et factum est praelium magnum in caelo: Michael et angeli ejus praeliabantur cum dracone, et draco pugnabat, et angeli ejus: et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in caelo. Et projectus est draco ille magnus, serpens antiquus, qui vocatur diabolus, et Satanas, qui seducit universum orbem: et projectus est in terram, et angeli ejus cum illo missi sunt.

Apoc. xii. 1-9.

Seductio Cordis Sui

Pope Paul VI presiding over the the Second Vatican Council, flanked by Camerlengo Benedetto Aloisi Masella and two Papal gentlemen.
Pope Paul VI presiding over the the Second Vatican Council, flanked by Camerlengo Benedetto Aloisi Masella and two Papal gentlemen.

Et dicit Dominus ad me: Falso prophetæ vaticinantur in nomine meo: non misi eos, et non præcepi eis, neque locutus sum ad eos. Visionem mendacem, et divinationem, et fraudulentiam, et seductionem cordis sui, prophetant vobis.

These are but false promises, the Lord said, that they utter in my name; warrant they never had from me, nor errand, nor message; of false visions they tell you, and soothsayings, and trickery, and their own hearts’ inventions.

Jeremias xiv. 14.

A Sovereign Way of Escape

Saint Lawrence Distributing Alms (detail) by Fra Angelico (1447); Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican City.
Saint Lawrence Distributing Alms (detail) by Fra Angelico (1447); Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican City.

Ex substantia tua fac eleemosynam, et noli avertere faciem tuam ab ullo paupere: ita enim fiet ut nec a te avertatur facies Domini. Quomodo potueris, ita esto misericors. Si multum tibi fuerit, abundanter tribue: si exiguum tibi fuerit, etiam exiguum libenter impertiri stude. Præmium enim bonum tibi thesaurizas in die necessitatis: quoniam eleemosyna ab omni peccato et a morte liberat, et non patietur animam ire in tenebras. Fiducia magna erit coram summo Deo, eleemosyna omnibus facientibus eam.

Use thy wealth in giving of alms; never turn thy back on any man who is in need, and the Lord, in thy own need, will have eyes for thee. Shew to others what kindness thy means allow, giving much, if much is thine, if thou hast little, cheerfully sharing that little. To do this is but to lay up a store against the day of distress; alms-deeds were ever a sovereign way of escape from guilt and death, a bar against the soul’s passage into darkness; none has less to fear when he stands before the most high God than he who does them.

Tobias iv. 7-12.

A Gateway to Thy Mercy

Hoc autem pro certo habet omnis qui te colit: quod vita ejus, si in probatione fuerit, coronabitur; si autem in tribulatione fuerit, liberabitur; et si in correptione fuerit, ad misericordiam tuam venire licebit.

But this at least all thy true worshippers know; never was a life of trials but had its crown; never distress from which thou couldst not save; never punishment but left a gateway to thy mercy.

Tobias iii. 21.

Mercy Shall Encompass Him

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

Vigilate

Second Coming of Christ, tympanum of the south-west portico of Moissac Abbey, France, ca. 1115-1135.
Second Coming of Christ, tympanum of the south-west portico of Moissac Abbey, France, ca. 1115-1135.

Quod autem vobis dico, omnibus dico: Vigilate.

And what I say to you, I say to all, Watch.

— St. Mark xiii. 37.

In Me Gratia Omnis

Mother of Divine Grace.
Mother of Divine Grace.

Ego mater pulchræ dilectionis, et timoris, et agnitionis, et sanctæ spei. In me gratia omnis viæ et veritatis: in me omnis spes vitæ et virtutis. Transite ad me, omnes qui concupiscitis me, et a generationibus meis implemini: spiritus enim meus super mel dulcis, et hæreditas mea super mel et favum. Memoria mea in generatione sæculorum. Qui edunt me, adhuc esurient, et qui bibunt me, adhuc sitient. Qui audit me non confundetur, et qui operantur in me non peccabunt: qui elucidant me, vitam æternam habebunt.

It is I that give birth to all noble loving, all reverence, all true knowledge, and the holy gift of hope. From me comes every grace of faithful observance, from me all promise of life and vigour. Hither turn your steps, all you that have learned to long for me; take your fill of the increase I yield. Never was honey so sweet as the influence I inspire, never honey-comb as the gift I bring; mine is a renown that endures, age after age. Eat of this fruit, and you will yet hunger for more; drink of this wine, and your thirst for it is still unquenched. He who listens to me will never be disappointed; he who lives by me will do no wrong; he who reads my lesson aright will find in it life eternal.

— Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 24-31.

Habitabit Lupus cum Agno

"Wolf shall live at peace with lamb..." -- Isaiah xi. 6.
“Wolf shall live at peace with lamb…” — Isaiah xi. 6.

To Whom Should We Go?

Statue of the saint in St. Peter's Square.
Statue of the saint in St. Peter’s Square.

With demoralising “off-the-cuff” interviews emanating from Rome now seemingly every other week, it is good to be reminded… portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam (St. Matt. xvi. 18.).

After this, many of his disciples went back to their old ways, and walked no more in his company. Whereupon Jesus said to the twelve, Would you, too, go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom should we go? Thy words are the words of eternal life; we have learned to believe, and are assured that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.

St. John vi. 67-70.

Nobody Reads the Bible

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox.

Nobody reads the Bible; popes and bishops are always telling us to read the Bible, and when you produce a translation of the Bible, the only thing people complain about is your rendering of the diminutive snippets that are read out in church on Sundays. ‘Of course,’ they add, ‘the book is alright for private reading‘ — in a tone which implies that such a practice is both rare and unimportant.

Ronald Knox, On Englishing the Bible, Baronius Press (2012), p. 59.