Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve 2008/9: At the Gate of the Year

I want to share something very precious with all my dear friends.

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown'. And he replied: 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'"

From 'The Desert' M. Louise Haskins (1875-1957) Quoted by King George VI in his Christmas Day broadcast, 1939

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning: 'Love and Joy.....'

Dear Pro Papa League captains and readers:

"Love and joy come to you!
And to you your wassail too.
May God bless you
And send you a Happy New Year."

(refrain of an old English Wassailing carol)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve: Norway Spruce Pt. II

"Towards Meditation

'Rouse yourself, rouse yourself, stand up O Jerusalem. Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together in singing, you waste places of Jerusalem' (Is. 51:17; 52:8-9a).

"Today is especially the day for answering Isaiah's call, both spiritually and practically. However few the guests at tomorrow's feast, and however well I have prepared, there are always those culinary tasks that family tradition dictates must be left for today...............An early start is essential and time must be allowed at least for the Office Readings. Here I find St. Augustine, in his Sermon 185 'Truth sprang from the earth', also telling me to wake up. It was, he says, for all of us that God was made man. We are to awake from sleep and Christ will give us light. We could not have come to life again, had he not come to die our death. Peace on earth can spring only from Truth coming out of the earth and being born of flesh. Christ, the Word, born of a virgin, is that Truth and the Light. Thus fortified I go about my work.

"Wherever I am, the turning on of the tree lights is for me the moment when Advent ends. It is the moment when I offer a prayer for absent loved ones, alive and dead, and when I give thanks for the Christmases they made for me, or that I shared with them. When did I first appreciate the symbolism of the lighted tree and the bright star? 'Christmas is for children: so runs the cliche. But 'unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven'. And if we take heed of Our Lord's warning, we must surely realise that it is for us all, particularly for those who are blind to its light.

"There was a Christmas Eve (during parental opposition to my Catholic conversion) almost half a century ago, when I had insisted on watching a televised Mass by the light of the tree alone. My father exercised his considerable wit at the expense of the vestments, incense, and church Latin. A fierce argument broke out, during which we did not notice the end of the Mass, or the beginning of the Nativity play that followed it. Suddenly, the voice of a male child cut across our discord with the simple imperative, 'Look at that bright light.' His tone conveyed an awestruck, almost peremptory urgency, toatally devoid of artifice or sentimentality. It won our silence, and we turned to the screen. There stood the boy shepherd, gazing up at the distant star. And there stood we, our anger, fear and recrimination all vanquished in the utter purity and honesty of the moment. Our views on religion would always differ, but we were never again acrimonious about denomination. Every Christmas Eve when the tree lights are turned on, I hear that boy's voice. And at every Midnight Mass I feel to my depths the truth of Isaiah's words, 'the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined' (Is:9:2) And as Zechariah predicted, the 'dawn from on high' has broken upon us. Jesus Emmanuel - God is with us."

extracts from 'Gardening with God' copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

December 24th: Norway Spruce (Picea abies) Pt. I

Today's entry in 'Gardening with God' has a particularly German flavour and so is especially dedicated to our beloved Pope Benedict.

History and Lore of the Christmas Tree (extract)

"The word spruce comes from German 'sprossen' (young shoots). 'Sprossen bier' came into English as pruce beer, later Prussian beer. The tree is not considered native to Britain, and although it did grow there before the last ice age, it was not reintroduced until about 1500. It is most important in building and carpentry and in the manufacture of packing cases, pit props, telegraph poles, chipboard, and paper pulp. The timber is sometimes known as 'violin wood' because of its use in making soundboards to transmit vibrations from strings to the wood of the sides and back of the instrument.......

"The subject of tree-dresssing takes us into the pagan past. Certainly, there is evidence that the practice of bringing decorated greenery into our dwellings at the winter solstice dates back to the Iron Age. There is however, a biblical precedent for the use of evergreens as decoration, at least in church. 'The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary' (Is. 60:13). This text satisfyingly quells any worries about paganism and supports one of the major premises of these pages: if you bring a branch into your house for the sake of mere superstitious ritual it is worse than useless; if you do it for God it is a form of prayer.

"The prototype of the first Christmas tree in England is supposed to have been an evergreen branch decorated with golden oranges and almonds, for the royal children's party in 1821. Another twenty years were to pass before Prince Albert and Queen Victoria brought his native custom to life in Windsor Castle, when they hung lights and decorations on a tree there. The habit must have been taken up widely and rapidly, for in 1850 we find Dickens referring to the Christmas tree as 'the new German toy'. He had published 'A Christmas Carol' in 1843, and his reaction seems incongruously 'Bah! Humbug!' for a man widely accepted as having created our modern image of Christmas tradition and conviviality. Perhaps he resented Albert's treading on his territory. And he was very wrong about the newness of the Christmas tree. The Prince Consort could have no doubt told him the legend of St. Boniface*, the Devonian monk who left Crediton around 719 to evangelise Germany. The story goes that one day whilst on his travels he came upon an oak tree that had been the scene of pagan human sacrifice. Boniface subsequently cut down the tree, and as it fell, a little fir tree began to grow in its place. The saint subsequently used the miracle as a metaphor in his preaching. Some time later a legend arose, also in Germany, that as the cattle bowed their heads on Christmas Eve, the forest trees put out green shoots at the same time. After that, evergreens, particularly, fir trees, were taken into houses and called Christmas trees, but decoration of them apparently only began to take hold after about 1530............

"When I was a child, a 'pretend' tree was 'not quite the ticket' - an expression I suspect derives from 'not quite etiquette ....and I still feel that there is something pathetically soulless about an artificial tree....Then there were the metal clip-on candle-holders that my father had brought back after the war. (They were German** and had somehow found their way into the wardroom on his minesweeper. They and the candles they held were eventually replaced by electric 'fairy' lights but however pretty these were, they could not recreate the aura of those early Christmases when the tree, its branches warmed by natural flame, whould release into the room the most glorious scent of pine. This is the smell that evokes Christmas for me above all others, even though it does so now only through the power of memory."

copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

*More on St. Boniface and his oak from 'The Crown of the Year' when we come to his feast day next June.

**My first conscious memory of these candle holders would have been Christmas 1946Remembering them again today it moved me to think that on the same Christmas Eve, a 20 year old Joseph Ratzinger and his brother Georg had not long been restored to their parents and sister. And then it gave me a sudden 'turn' to realise that Pope Benedict may have had real candles in similar holders on the family Christmas trees of his childhood and youth. I like to think that he did, and that as he looks at his own Christmas tree in Rome each year, he shares with me the beautiful memory of the scent I descibed above.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 23rd: Our Lady's Bedstraw Pt. II

"And so to the second thread suggested by today's plant, namely the 'True Milk' of the Word: 'Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk' (1 Peter 2:2).
Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah certainly did. Hippolytus (died 235) elaborates upon Peter's text in chapter 9 of his 'Treatise against the Heresy of Noetus'. We must, he says, look at things as God has chosen to reveal them in Scripture. For prior to the beginning of the revelation within it, the Word had only been visible to God. Now, with the Incarnation, the world will see him too and be saved. 'The Word is the mind of God shown forth as his Son.' This is the God of the law and the prophets, who spoke by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed God's purpose and will. In Scripture we find continual and enduring evidence of God's desire that we should believe and that we should glorify his Son, and of his will to bestow the Holy Spirit. Then let us believe in him, let us glorify him, and let us receive him.

'O Emmanuel, O God with us, our King and Law-giver; whom all peoples await and their salvation, come and save us, Lord, our God'."

copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

December 23rd: Our Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum) Pt. I

'Galium' most probably comes from the Greek 'gala' meaning milk. When dried this plant smells pleasantly of new-mown hay, and is said to discourage fleas. No wonder it was once widely used for loose bedding and mattress stuffing. It suggests two threads for meditation. The first concerns Elizabeth's pregnancy.

" 'And Mary stayed with her about three months.' (Lk 1:56)

For any pregnant woman in ordinary circumstances, the physical and emotional support of a beloved female relative can be a tremendous consolation. But these were no ordinary circumstances, and the caring helper was the most extraordinary female in creation. Elizabeth alone among women, has the mother of her Lord as ante-natal nurse. Bedstraw makes me think of the paliasses on which they may have slept. Anyone who has experienced the immobility and discomfort of later pregnancy will easily imagine Elizabeth's gratitude as Mary helped her to lie down at night and get up each morning. But I have absolutely no doubt that to Mary and Elizabeth, and indeed to Zechariah, the spiritual significance of what was happening to them was of paramount importance. All three, because of their background and the fact that Zechariah was a priest, would have been steeped in the law and prophecies of the Old Covenant, and in the genealogy of their families. During the months of Mary's stay, it is hard to believe that thy did not re-read and discuss these things, Zechariah communicating by sign language and writing; impossible to think that they did not pray, privately and together over the texts. If they considered Isaiah 51, they must have known that the prophet speaks of the salvation of Sion by the son Mary will soon bear. And if these God-chosen, God-inspired people saw any political relevance to their own time in the prediction, it would have been of secondary importance.

"But prophecy is a prism. What you see depends on how you turn it to the light. And today, holding this particular jewel of Isaiah's in the palm of my hand, I see Mary, and even Elizabeth: 'He will comfort all her waste places, he will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song' (Is 51:3)"

copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pope Benedict Spiritual Bouquet Alert: Change of plan

I hope none of you will mind, but I have changed both the date and method of sending the next Bouquet. This is for two reasons, first domestic, but secondly and more importantly because two of the recent Bouquets have been returned to me undelivered. The reason given is that the inbox concerned is temporarily disabled, which probably means that it's full to overflowing.

In future I will be sending the Bouquets by snail mail and intend to post Bouquet 5 on January 3rd in time for Epiphany. A composite of all our offerings so far will be included.

Thereafter I suggest that the Bouquets are sent postally every three months or thereabouts, but that I keep a running log in between times which takes into account Liturgical landmarks, saints days, and personal anniversaries and published intentions of the Holy Father. SO PLEASE STILL KEEP YOUR OFFERINGS COMING.

God bless all here.

December 21st: Cyclamen for Saint Elizabeth

In the Victorian 'Language of Flowers', the brave cyclamen represents diffidence. These characteristics remind me of Saint Elizabeth, who is also brave, as well as diffident in the sense of being retiring and modest.......

"Yet again, by not saying much, Luke seems to convey an atmosphere, this time of gravely serene resignation. There is none of Sarah's 'well fancy that' laughter here. Elizabeth knows the heavy responsibility her child will bear, its importance far exceeding that Of Isaac. Apart from one remark, there is silence until Mary's arrival. Then Elizabeth and the baby within her are filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately recognise Mary as carrying the Son of God, the long-promised Holy One of Israel. Then from the hitherto almost taciturn Elizabeth is wrung the 'loud cry' of recognition and welcome. But buried in her remarkable words there is a deep modesty and lack of self-importance: 'And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' How amazing it must have been for such a woman. She knew her Scriptures, and Luke makes it clear that Zechariah, despite his temporary dumbness, has shared with her his knowledge that their own son is to herald the Messiah. And now, here in front of her is that Messiah, hidden in the flesh of her own

"Again I am reminded of two paintings. The first is in the 'Hastings Book of Hours and the second is by the same 19th century artist as mentioned yesterday. The first shows a middle-aged, healthily plump Elizabeth, who seems to have run from her house in order to honour her visitor. A much older Zechariah is hobbling up, some distance behind his wife, and if a man can be painted to look dumb, he looks dumb! The domesticity of the scene lends it truth. The 19th century fresco on the other hand, depicts a much older and frail Elizabeth, at a later moment during the arrival of Mary. No third figure distracts the eye. Both 'Elizabeths' express profound respect for Mary and a most earnest need for confirmation and reaassurance from her. The second 'Elizabeth' is kneeling but is about to be raised by Mary, whose hands rest with gentle firmness on the older woman's arms. One can almost feel, with her, Elizabeth's fragile, thin, and aged bones beneath the poor cloth of her robe. Compassion streams from Our Lady here................I am further reminded that the Visitation is not merely a meeting; it lasts three months. Mary stays with Elizabeth almost until the birth of John..............

"In Book 2 of his 'Commentary on Saint Luke's Gospel', St. Ambrose of Milan draws attention to a (universally) very important aspect of the mystery of the Visitation. Everyone who has believed, he says, both conceives the Word and recognises God's works. And so before going shopping, and of course inspecting my cyclamen, I again conclude with a Hail Mary and the fifth Great Magnificat antiphon, O Oriens: 'O Day-Star, Splendour of everlasting light and Sun of Justice: come to illumine those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.' "

Extract from 'Gardening with God: Light in Darkness' Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Saturday, December 20, 2008

December 20th: 'In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God....' (Luke 1:26)

This post is dedicated to my beloved Philomena and Joan, who although they are separated from me by physical distance, are my constant spiritual companions, walking on the other side of the Lord, as he guides us along our own 'road to Emmaus'.

Today's plant is the Angel-Wing Begonia.

"In the Old Testament angels are often unrecognised by the people they visit; they are only partially understood and sometimes cause fear. (In the New Testament, Zechariah)seems pole-axed, even before Gabriel speaks to him, and his doubting response is punished by dumbness until his son is named. Mary, on the other hand does not seem much frightened.....She is troubled by the terms of Gabriel's greeting, but only because she cannot at first comprehend how they can apply to her. She ponders them rationally in the silence. Gabriel reads her mind and explains. Her response is totally different from Zechariah's. His had the flavour of, 'What you say is not possible.' Mary's conveys, 'How will what you say be made possible?'

"........... and so whilst Gabriel tells Mary of Elizabeth's pregnancy, we and the whole world, as St. Bernard of Clairvaux so effectively puts it, wait for (her) decision in regard to her own...... Given her circumstances, Mary's 'fiat mihi' , despite its familiarity to us now, is eternally stunning. She was no passive instrument but accepted God as Master of the future and made the act of perfect compliance with his will to effect our freedom through the incarnation of his Son. She spoke the word and received the Word.

"But Jesus was Mary's son in the flesh as well. Maisie Ward, in her 'Splendour of the Rosary, mentions the medieval vision of Sister Eulalia, during which the Blessed Virgin, described as 'the Mother of all Nature', tells of the deep thrill of joy she feels when we linger on the words 'the Lord is with thee' in our repetitions of the angelic salutation. Then it seems to her that Jesus is within her even as he was durin his preparation to come into the world to save sinners. She knew unutterable bliss at the time, and remembers it whenever the 'Dominus tecum' is said with proper attention. The historicity of the vision may be doubtful, but it enshrines an insight that has (ever since) profoundly affected my own praying of the Hail Mary.....

"Each 20th December two favourite frescoes of the Annunciation come to mind......the first and the greater, is that of Fra Angelico: the second by an unknown nineteenth-century artist.....The first is more suitable for today, seeming to catch the moment before Mary's 'fiat'...... And so I close with a Hail Mary (in front of a reproduction of it given by my dear Philomena) and offer thanks for Mary's part in enabling us to pray the fourth great Advent Magnificat antiphon, 'O Clavis David':

'O Key of David that opens and no man closes, and shuts and no man opens, come to lead out the captive from the prison, and he who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.' "

copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19th: St. John the Baptist and Samson compared

Today's plant is Holly and the pre-Christian/pagan practice of sprinkling new born infants with holly water led me to reflect:

"I have written elsewhere about Christian transmutation of pagan practice. Sometimes I think this is to look at things through the wrong end of the telescope. (The Holly water ritual for instance) is so reminiscent of Christian Baptism as to suggest humanity groping blindly for the Sacrament which God would reveal in hiw own good time. It is as if by instinct we knew our need for it, and even guessed its form. But we could only continue to sprinkle our infants with holly water until Christ came to give hus the Holy water of Baptism, vivified through his Spirit."

At this point it was natural to think of St. John the Baptist. The Mass readings recounted his birth and that of Samson, and led me to continue as follows:

" In both cases God reverses barrenness in a married woman; an angel announces the births; there is fear on the part of the parents; both boys are to be vowed to God. But there are many important differences in the history and character of the two. These throw into sharp relief John's role as the immediate precursor of the Saviour, whose Incarnation was essential in God's saving plan. Samson's nameless mother has only partial understanding of events, her husband Manoah almost none at all. By the time he utters the 'Benedictus', the initial fear and disbelief of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are completely dispelled in a shared understanding of God's will and meaning.

"Samson's name, derived from the Hebrew for 'sun', is chosen by his mother; God himself chooses John's name, which means 'God's gracious gift'. Samson does not distinguish himself spiritually and is by no means a prophet. Endowed with great physical strength, he is sexually self-indulgent, a fault that leads to his downfall. He is no martyr. John, on the other hand, is not only born of priestly parentage but abandons traditional priesthood to begin the foundation of a new rite and is a prophet from the beginnining. He matches physical hardihood with spiritual strength. Although chaste, he too comes to grief at the hands of an amoral woman. Thus he attains martyrdom. Samson begins to save Israel in his own time; John heralds the One coming to save all people for all time, the One of whom he would testify, 'The one who sent me to baptise with water, said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit." '

" 'O root of Jesse, which stands as an ensign to the peoples, before whom kings are silent, to whom the nations shall entreat, come and deliver us and tarry not.' "

copyright Jane Mosssendew 2002

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 18th: Towards a Meditation on the Constancy of God

Today's plant is the Bluebell. Its constancy made it appropriate for a day* when the Mass readings focus strongly on God's unshakeable constancy of purpose and plan.

" 'I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you' (Jn 14:18)

In the Office of Readings, we find Isaiah strongly hinting at the New (covenant) 'I am God, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, and I will accomplish all my purpose. I have spoken and will bring it to pass.'

"The second Office reading from the 'Epistle to Diognetus' provides (an) extended reflection, speaking of God's plan as having been darkly hinted at by the prophets in figures and types, but kept secret until John the Baptist. God had always been long-suffering as well as loving towards us, but only in his giving of his Son could we possibly be made aware of the full magnitude of his love. We would have had no hope of entering the kingdom without this gift, and through it alone could we begin to realise God's patient constancy, or to grasp the amazing fact that he has not rejected us. Instead, he bears with us through his Son who takes our sins upon himself.

My bluebells will eventually be planted the foot of the statue of Our Lady (The Immaculate Heart of Mary), because God chose to make his loving constancy fully manifest through her. And they are also entirely appropriate because their colour is hers. Nor will I forget the human constancy of Joseph which had its part in the human upbringing of our supremely constant Saviour, to whom highest thanksgiving is due, and who left us this promise: 'Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.' I will remember this as (with the Advent wreath candles alight at Vespers), I pray the second great Advent Maginificat antiphon: 'O Adonai, the leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, and gave him the Law on Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.'

And for music today, Christopher Tye's setting of 'Rorate Coeli' strikes just the right chord of confidence in God."

(*entry written in a year when December 18th was the 4th Sunday of Advent)

copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'O Sapientia': A teacher's reflection on December 17th

Dedicated in prayer to all my former colleagues, retired or still in harness; to those teachers familier to me on the Catholic blogosphere (Mulier Fortis and Bara Brith); and most especially to my dear friend Joan and Patricia in Birmingham and my mother-in-law, Kathleen in Eastbourne.

An extract from my reflections on the way to school, December 17th, 2001:

On the Circle Line, I had been reflecting on poverty. Changing onto the Central Line, I am thinking:
"No power, insufficient numbers, but the responsibility is personal as well as collective. How can I, how do I answer it? Life is a constant battle to pay bils, to make ends meet. I conduct a mental survey of my tutor group at school: one Israeli who knows his Judaism but admits he cannot believe in God, two Baptists, one Roman Cathoilic, one avowed atheist, and the rest floundering agnostics. None however is indifferent to religion. Discussion of it frequently breaks out among them, into which they will drag me if at all possible. They know I will contribute informatively in Christian terms without any attempt to convert them. Increasingly they ask for explanations and solutions. They know all about vested interests; many refuse to buy Nike or Gap products because of the way those companies use sweat labour in South-East Asia; they seem conscious of the spiritual poverty in modern life and express awareness that in spite of technological advances a worse world is being handed on to them than the one inherited by my own generation. But I cannot remain silent in the face of their desire to have my Christian response. They deserve more than.....the failure of Christians to obliterate material and spiritual poverty from the world.

" constant answer is that too few people of all religions have loved enough, too few have prayed enough, too few have lived their calling to the full. As a result an unstoppable monster of greed and selfishness has free rein over the earth. My students have not yet asked whether this neglect and failure is redeemable. In the underground I pray that if they ever do, God will grant me the right words to express the Christian faith that an affirmative answer is possible only in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: 'With you is wisdom, she who knows your works....Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her.....For she knows and understands all things, and she will guide me wisely in my actions and guard me wih her glory. Then my works will be acceptable....' (Wis. 9:9-12)

"Leaving the train, I begin the fifteen-minute walk to school. The poor remain firmly in mind until I come to the chestnut tree* a few yards from the playground gate. This morning I do not walk straight past it but stand for a few moments tracing the bark spirals with my fingers, and remembering that to the Victorians the tree had the meaning, 'Do me justice'. Turning to the tree I silently anticipate the first great Advent Magnificat antiphon, 'O Sapientia': 'O Wisdom, which came from the mouth of the most High, and reaches from one end to another, powerfully and sweetly ordering all things; Come and teach us the way of prudence.' And then as I enter the school gate, the voice of the Spirit speaks to me through the Psalmist, 'I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.' (Ps 33:8)"

*The chestnut was chosen for today because of its being the basis of polenta, 'the food of the poor'.

copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Monday, December 15, 2008

Latin Mass Society problems: Why it has still been a wonderful day.

I read something this morning which has sustained me throughout what would otherwise have been a miserable day. Courtesy of Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke blog, I learned yesterday about the 'civil war' at the Latin Mass Society. There is no need for me to describe today's developments or to comment on the journalistic style of DT. His posts on the subject must be read but the most sane comments are to be found on Valle Adurni, Saint Mary Magdalene (Fr Ray Blake's blog) and of course Fr Z's WDTPRS. All these helped to keep me from being dispirited, but they were not the main reason for my undisturbed joy. What then was it?

It was this:

The postman brought the latest issue of 'Inside the Vatican' which contained an extensive article: 'The Centrality of Truth in the Thought of Joseph Ratzinger' by Fr. Vincent Twomey. This had to be read straight away and turned out to be most justly titled. What a pleasure to see our Holy Father's writings so cogently traced. In the last section of his article Fr. Twomey points out that in the Pope's writings there is another theme inextricably linked with Truth and that is - joy. This last word, Fr Twomey notes, and I am not surprised to learn it, is the most frequently repeated word in all Pope Benedict's writngs and speeches since his election.

But it is the last two paragraphs that reminded me of two things, and which have sustained me today and will do so for whatever time remains to me:

"At the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the nature of any pastor's task: it is 'a service to joy, to God's joy which longs to break into the world.'

"Before his election as Pope, he spoke to his fellow cardinals, explaining what Christ meant when he commanded his apostles to bear fruit that would last, namely 'love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord.' He prayed that the Lord would 'once again give us a Shepherd according to his own heart, a Shepherd who will guide us to knowledge of Christ, to his love and to true joy.'

He did."

Deo gratias. Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice!

In Christo pro Papa

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (1572-1641)

To honour my patron saint, I chose the climbing rose 'Gloire de Dijon' and Mustard (brassica nigra). The rose was introduced into England in 1853. Its fragrant blooms are large and buff-yellow, appearing early in the season and lasting until autumn. For many years it was much sought after for bridal bouquets.

Extracts from her entry in 'Gardening with God':

"St. Francis de Sales described Jane as the perfect woman and St. Vincent de Paul said she was one of the holiest souls he had ever met. She was an exemplary wife and mother for eight years before being widowed and taking a vow of chastity. The bridal association of 'Gloire de Dijon' and the fact that she was born in Dijon make the rose appropriate to her. Mustard is chosen not merely because her birthplace is famous for its production, but because of her single-mindedness and ardency. The prolific growth of mustard mirrors the rapid spread of the Visitation Order, which she co-founded with St. Francis de Sales.

"The first Visitation convent was founded at Annecy, with Jane as superior....
She managed the Order with wisdom and sensitivity, living herself according to St. Francis' maxim that humility is the virtue from which all the others spring. In her later years she made visits to all the Visitation communities (by then numbering over sixty). She died at the age of sixty-nine in Moulins on a return journey from Paris. She was canonised aby Clement XIII in 1767.

"Jane is my patron by accident, since I was named after Jane Austen. But it is a happy accident, and I have appreciated it more and more as life has unfolded. There is so much in her experience from which I can learn, and against which I can measure myself. Her day will be celebrated with an examination of conscience inspired by her life and example, and like the sowing of mustard seed, it will be an annual exercise. Thus I may meditate later today on one or several of the following concepts, experiences and virtues, as they have bearing on my own life: duty, responsibiliteis, spiritual direction, chastity, charity, sensitivity, bereavement, exercise of authority, humility, diligence, 'seedsowing', passion for God, openness to the Holy Spirit, acceptance.

"No matter how inclement the weather, each December 12th, I will pay a loving visit to my 'Gloire de Dijon', and ask her help in keeping both myself and her rose, firm in our soil."

Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gaudete Sunday afternoon:Extract from A Reflection

" the eucalyptus and heather are added to my Advent arrangement, the pink and silvery-white will turn my mind again to the increasing joy and suggestion of light that feature strongly in today's liturgy. Advent gloom is beginning to lift. The whole Mass takes up the theme (of rejoicing). Isaiah prophesies future glory; the responsorial psalm is part of the 'Magnificat'; the second reading exhorts us to be happy at all times, to pray constantly and to respect prophecy; and in the Gospel we are shown John the Baptist as a lamp witnessing to the Light.

"The Divine Office enters into the glory and mystery of Christ's two Advents and includes a reading from St. Augustine of Hippo in which he meditates on the role of John the Baptist, who knows himself as a voice for the time and eventually knows Jesus as the Eternal Word whom he has heralded. John understands himself as the lamp prophesied by Isaiah and does not allow himself to be 'quenched by the wind of pride'. Those around him think he is the Christ, but it is as if he cries out to them and to us, 'My mission is to lead Christ into your hearts, but he will not come unless I prepare the way.' Later today the Office reminds us that from his prison cell John sends two of his followers to Jesus, asking him if he is the One. It is of comfort to know that before his death, John had his mission both confirmed and vindicated by the message Jesus sends back to him.

"Three candles will be lit after it has gone dark, (the violet ones from the two previous Sundays and a pink one for today). They will burn throughout the evening, representative of the Light for whom we wait. 'Gaudete' Sunday will draw towards its close with Vespers, the concluding prayer of which asks for happiness as our Advent preparation nears completion, and true joy in our celebration of Christmas. It always seems to be granted before the candles are blown out after Night Prayer. Whatever concerns may plague me, on this night, I have always felt a deep contentment and faith in God's Word, so soon to quench our thirst, so soon to bring us 'a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning' (Is.61:2)"

From 'Gardening with God: Light in Darkness' Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

The Blessed Virgin and Roses: Two favourite Florentine paintings

"The first (painting) by Filippino Lippi, 'La Madre Pia', depicts a mystical garden fenced by a balustrade, beyond which is a rose hedge in bloom. The Virgin kneels in the middle, adoring the Child, who has His finger to His lips, indicating that He is the Word. A kneeling angel is scattering rose leaves over Him, the child John the Baptist also kneels, and four more angels complete the composition.

In the second painting, 'Madonna of the Rose-Trellice' by Francia, Jesus is lying on flowery grass. Mary is standing, gazing down on Him in tender devotion, her hands crossed over her breast. Jesus is holding up His tiny right hand in a divine 'Ave Maria'. He had sent those words to her by the angel Gabriel. Now His is here, and as their eyes meet He is silently communicating to her in His flesh, taken from her. This time the mystical garden is enclosed by a trellis of roses. Jesus and His mother are alone, to the exclusion of all other earthly relationships. There is no heavenly adoration or protection in the form of angels. This has a deeply poignant effect in that it stresses Jesus' vulnerability. God has put Himself under the protection of His human mother."

Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Tomorrow: Belated memorial of my patron saint - St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The History of the Rose and the Blessed Virgin Mary

"The rose is of great antiquity and the history of civilisation can almost be traced through the history of the plant. The earliest domesticated roses are thought to have been types of deep crimson 'Rosa Gallica', and to have originated in Iran. Carried by merchants, pilgrims, and possibly crusaders, the rose made its way to Greece through the Holy Land and Asia Minor. Drawings of roses from the sixteenth century B.C. have been discovered on the walls of caves in Knossos on Crete. The word 'rose' comes from the Greek 'rhodon', meaning red, and the island of Rhodes was most probably named because the 'quuen of flowers' grew there profusely.

Fourteen of the roses in my selection of fifteen (see Gardening with God blog) were introduced to Britain before the close of the nineteenth century, in the middle of which Pope Pius IX had defined the doctrine (of the Immaculate Conception). 'Rosarie de l'Hay scraped in because many people who heard or read the Pope's Bull would have still been alive when the 'rugosa' arrived here. Further, it stands for all of us who have lived since then to honour the Immaculate Conception of Mary. And how could one leave out a rose with such a name? My list covers all shades of pink, from the palest blush to deepest crimson. All are exquisite; all are fragrant. The rose has symbolised the Blessed Virgin Mary or been associated with her in the literature of Britain and Ireland for at least nine hundred years. There is an eighth-century Irish Litany that refers to her as 'the crimson rose of the land of Jacob', and the beautiful fifteenth century carol praises her thus:

'Ther is no rose of swich vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu:

For in this rose conteined was
Heven and erth in litel space
Res miranda.

By that rose we may wel see
That he is God in persones three,
Pari forma.' "

Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Tomorrrow: Note on the Rose and the Virgin Mary in Art

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Immaculate Conception VI: Queen conceived without original sin; 'I sing of a maiden'

"Mystical Rose, Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.

In your instructions and announcements to Catherine Laboure and Bernadette Soubirous, you confirmed the mystical nature of your identity. Bernadett had called you 'That'. You supplied the missing definition, 'I am that which is the Immaculate Conception.' Our Litany in your honour conveys, through inadequate human image and metaphor, the glimmerings of our understanding of your grace, privilege, and function in God's plan for our salvation. We offer it in love and humility.

'I sing of a maiden that is makeless *
King of all kinges to her son she ches **
He came all so stille ther his mother was
as dew in Aprille that falleth on the grass.
He came all so stille to his mother's bowr,
as dew in Aprille that falleth on the flowr.
He came all so stille ther his mother lay,
as dew in Aprille that falleth on the spray.
Mother and maiden was never none but she;
well may such a lady Godes mother be.
(Anon, c.1450)

*makeless, without a mate
** ches, chose"

Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Tomorrow: History and Lore of the Rose and its connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Immaculate Conception V: The 'Octave' continues

"Mystical Rose, O Mystical Rose, pray for us.

Your Immaculate Conception means that the fullness of grace in you is incomprehensible to our limited minds. The angel Gabriel said in his greeting that you were the highly favoured one, and thus marked your singularity of perfection among human beings. 'The Lord is with you,' he said. How then could you not have been full of grace? The function of the Holy Spirit was to conceive the Word in your flesh, not to make you immaculate. Your were immaculate already, or, like Jesus Himself, the Holy Spirit could not have come to you in such a way. The Saints receive grace in varying measure, but you alone among humans were full of it. Aside from Jesus you are the most powerful mediator between us and the Father, and aside from the Holy Spirit, the most powerful support in our prayers for grace."

Copyright Jane Mossendew 2002

Tomorrow: Queen conceived without original sin; and 'I sing of a maiden'.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Immaculate Conception: Towards Meditation IV

Mystical Rose, Tower of Ivory, pray for us.

By your Immaculate Conception you were able to provide a pure, gleaming bright, and impenetrable fortress for the shelter of Jesus before His birth; you soar above us, but through your intercession we are helped to become fit dwelling places for Him.

Mystical Rose, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

Your Immaculate Conception made it possible for you to be crowned Queen of Heaven because you alone of all creatures had been worthy of this honour in the mind of God from the dawn of time. Therefore you are our Queen too.

Copyright material Jane Mossendew 2002

Tomorrow: Mystical Rose, O Mystical Rose, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Deo Gratias: Fr Mark is safe and unhurt

Please go to Vultus Christi to learn what happened last night, and how Father Mark, survived unscathed, what sounds to have been a potentially fatal car crash.


More good news: Cardinal Canizares appointed Prefect of CDW

See details at NLM.

His Eminence is 63. Ad Multos Annos!

The Immaculate Conception: Towards Meditation III

Mystical Rose, Vessel of Honour, pray for us.

Only your Immaculate Conception made your womb a fit vessel to hold the honour of Christ. No one conceived in original sin could come as close to Him as you did. He could not have taken His flesh from imperfect flesh; you are therefore the most perfect human in His creation. There is no other like you.

Mystical Rose, House of Gold, pray for us.

By your Immaculate Conception you were fitted to shelter the King of kings in your womb, in your arms, and in the earthly home you provided for Him. You were the treasure house of God, and as such, made of the richest material in creation. We must be tested in the refiner's fire and be beaten into gold; you were gold before time began.

Copyright material 2002 Jane Mossendew

Tomorrow: Mystical Rose, Tower of Ivory and Queen of Heaven

Cardinal Archbishop of Paris to celebrate EF Mass Sunday 14th December

According to the 'Paix Liturgique' newsletter received today, Mgr Andre Vingt-Trois, Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, will celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the church of St. Germain d'Auxerrois (1st arrondisement) at 9.45am this coming Sunday December 14.

Deo Gratias for this truly wonderful piece of news. Dare one hope that son ami a l'aurtre cote de la Manche will shortly follow his example?! According to several other items in the rest of the newsletter his Eminence's example is timely because of the various tactics, being used by some other French bishops and clerics to restrict the EF Mass and to make it appear that there is little demand for it from the laity. I trust that PL will follow the precedent set by Una Voce and the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, and send a document with all the evidence to the Ecclesia Dei Commission.

My own contribution to the Holy Father's Christmas spiritual bouquet will refer to the Cardinal's Mass as having been welcomed here with several chantings of the Te Deum, and I hope some of you will join me.

Does anyone know whether Mgr. Vingt-Trois is the first European Cardinal personally to implement the 'Summorum Pontificum'?

Sadly I won't be able to make the journey to Paris this Sunday. However, I intend to convey my thanks to his Eminence by letter. If any of you would like to co-sign the letter, please let me know either here or by email and I will pp for you. I think it would be good if he could see a favourable international reaction in support both of his own action, and of course of the Holy Father's clear wishes. Between us, we represent the USA, South Africa, England, Scotland, Denmark and the English expatriate community here in France. (My letter will also express gratitude for the French Bishops Conference support of KTO TV.)


Monday, December 8, 2008

Pope Benedict: Text of Spiritual Bouquet IV from the Pro Papa League

Text of message sent December 7th, 2008 at 14.31. GMT.

Most Holy Father,

The members of the Internet Pro Papa League greet you in joy on the eve of the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To mark it, we are sending this fourth sprititual bouquet, every flower of which, is offered for your Holiness' intentions, strength and secutiry.

Holy Mass will be offered tomorrow by Fr. Mark Kirby (O.Cist)at the Eucharistic Cenacle of the Holy Face, Tulsa Oklahoma.

Masses (laity) including Communion 5
Spiritual Communions 3
Spiritual Communions in the company of Our Lady 3
Decades of the Most Holy Rosary 365
Decades of the Divine Mercy Chaplet 24
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary 42
Litany of the Holy Spirit 14
Friday Abstinence 6
Friday Fasting and Penance 4
Sub tuum praesidium 14
Veni Creator 14
Morning offering to the Sacred Heart 14
Intensified devotion to Our Lady (St. Alphonsus Liguori) 14
Daily prayer for Your Holiness by name 14
Daily prayer for bishops 14
Prayer with recorded Chant from Solemnes Propers for the Sundays of Advent;
Propers for Feasts of Our Lady
Daily mental prayer 15 minutes x 14
Lectio divina 7 hours
Labore 150 hours
Events led by Your Holiness joine din prayer via kto & CTV
General Audience catechesis 2
First Vespers of Advent 1
Sunday Advent I: Mass S. Lorenzo 1
Angelus 5
Homage to Mary Immaculate 1

Anguish, anxieties and concerns offered up: the death of her mother (Fiona)
impaired hearing (Clare); financial/
employment worries due to recession
(Confiteor, Jane and Clare; Westminster
succession (Jane and Clare);) parish
closures in Pontefract deanery, Leeds/2
priests in spiritual and mental
suffering, in UK and USA (Yorkshire
Rose, Clare, Jane.)

Most Holy Father, we assure you once again of our abiding filial devotion, obedience and loyalty.

Yours sincerely in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

All names, handles given according to your stated wishes."


Next Bouquet to go December 23rd. In spite of domestic demands of the season I know you'll all do your best. After that we have a whole month to build up for Candlemas.
God bless all here.


The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Towards Meditation II

"Mystical Rose, Mirror of Justice, pray for us.

By your being conceived immaculate, we see the distant hope of God's justice. You reflect the justice of Christ's twofold exhortation, 'Love God and your neighbour as yourslef; you are God's example to us of unblemished human obedience to Him, and of serene acceptance of His will. You are the perfect lens He chose through which to shed His light upon us.

Mystical Rose, Gate of Heaven, pray for us.

From your Immaculate Conception came your perfect obedience and faith; you agreed to God's plan to raise fallen humankind and became the means by which He passed through Heaven's gate to earth, and also the instrument through which He would throw open that gate to us. By co-operating in His Incarnation, you heralded a new heaven and a new earth in which this became possible for all generations."

Copyright material Jane Mossendew 2002
Tomorrow: 'Vessel of Honour' and 'House of Gold'

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Immaculate Conception: Towards Meditation I

Originally published by me, Jane Mossendew in 'Gardening with God: Light in Darkness' Continuum/Burns & Oates 2002. Copyright Material.

"Towards Meditation:

'Mystic Rose! that precious name
Mary from the Church doth claim'
(from an old medieval verse)

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin, or of Loreto, was approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587Much of it, however, is older than the foundation of the Sanctuary at Loreto, which dates from 1294. My reflections today are on Mary, the mystical rose, and on the meaning of the Immaculate Conception in relation to several other titles of Mary featured in the Litany. They take the form of a prayer to her. The appellation 'Queen conceived without original sin' seems to me to embody all the others. She could not be any of them unless she had been immaculately conceived, and she could not have been immaculately conceived unless she were all of them. But as well as honouring Mary, we love her. A friend said to me one 8 December after we had listened to Lennox Berkeley's setting of 'I Sing of a Maiden', that it was the most beautiful love song he had ever heard. In Latin, the words 'my rose' were a term of endearment, and so they are used to introduce my prayer:


Mystical Rose, Morning Star, pray for us.
By being conceived immaculate in God's mind before time began, your were heralded as the one without sin, the thornless rose who would crush the head of the serpent and be the new Eve. As a human creature, you were redeemed by Christ outside time at the moment of your conception, before you bore him; we receive the fruits of redemption at our baptism. By your bringing Him into the world, God began to carry out His plan to make our redemption possible.

Mystical Rose, Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.
Because of your Immaculate Conception before time began, the Old Covenant rested in you as the Word, all the way through the wanderings of the Children of Israel; you were the receptacle containing the Old Law, kept in the holiest place in the Tabernacle; you were the temple of the Word, who would bring the new Covenant, and found the body of his Church of which we are members."

The next two parts of my prayer. which address Our blessed Lady as 'Mirror of Justice' and 'Gate of Heaven' will follow tomorrow.


Spiritual Communion in honour of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

O Immaculate Queen of heaven and earth, Mother of God and Mediatrix of every grace: I believe that thy dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love Him above all things and I long to receive Him into my heart. Since I cannot now receive him sacramentally, be so good as to place Him spiritually in my soul.

O my Jesus, I embrace Thee as One who has already come, and I unite myself entirely to Thee. Never permit me to be separated from Thee. Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Spiritual Communion in the Roman Catholic Church

According to my knowledge and experience a spiritual Communion may be made by anyone who believes that Christ is truly present in the tabernacles of the Roman Catholic Church, who earnestly and fervently desires to receive Him sacramentally, but for whatever reason is unable to do so.

But the Cure d'Ars made it clear that these circumstances are not the only ones in which a spiritual Communion is desirable or efficacious, for it "acts on the soul as blowing does on a cinder-covered fire which was about to go out. Whenever you feel your love of God growing cold, quickly make a spiritual communion. When we cannot go to the church, let us turn towards the tabernacle, no wall can shut us out from the good God." One is reminded of St Paul's saying: "Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ" and with the Church's encouragement of spiritual communion where necessary, she makes sure that noone who desires that love, is left outside its compass. By the same token she assures us that Christ, in the absence of the possibility of sacramental Communion with Him, will not refuse the love of one who truly desires to give it to Him, and will come to that person. In other words, one can and should make a spiritual communion, anywhere and at any time, not only when sacramental Communion is impossible. Indeed we are impelled to make one, in those graced moments when we long for His Presence, to see His face and to tell Him how much we love him.

In anticipation of those times, if you do not already do so, why not keep at hand or commit to memory one of the several formulae approved by the Church for making a spiritual communion. That of St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)is probably the most well known:

"My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee."

The beauty of this prayer is that one can spend as much time over it as is vouchsafed. And the more one prays it, the more one yearns for that time to be extended.

Another approved spiritual Communion is made in the company of Our Blessed Mother and this I will quote here on the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception next Monday.


Third Spiritual Bouquet for Pope Benedict: Text

With apologies for delay, here is the text of the Spiritual Bouquet III:

"Most Holy Father,

Since our last letter, the members and readers of the Pro Papa League group of Internet blogs have been gathering this third Spiritual Bouquet, which we now send with great joy to celebrate tomorrow's Solemnity of Christ the King.

The contributions have continued to hold in mind Your Holiness' intentions for November.

Holy Mass (priests):
Father Mark Kirby (O.Cist.) at the Eucharistic Cenacle of the Holy Face, Tulsa, Oklahoma: 1 Mass on November 21st
Our anonymous Chaplain, who is in fact a UK resident, continues to offer Holy Mass regularly for your Holiness' intentions, and for the success of our League.

Masses (laity including Communions) 16

Friday Abstinence 9
Friday Fasting and Penance 6

Decades of the Most Holy Rosary 589
Divine Mercy Chaplets 70
Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary 100
Litanies of the Holy Spirit 18

Morning Offerings 24
Veni Creator 24
Te Deum 3
Prayer with the sacred Chant and Polyphony 1 hour
Daily special prayer for your Holiness mentioned by name 24
Prayer for priests to St. Peter Julian Eymard 12
Spiritual Communions 12
Angelus from Rome (via ktotv) 2
General Audience Catechesis from Rome (via ktotv) 3
Material hardship and difficulties at work offered up by Mark Miles
Clare Anderson offers up her anguish over an abused and murdered baby in London (Baby P) amd her own son's job loss due to the recession

Labore 140 hours

Most Holy Father, the Pro Papa League and its readership join me as always, in sending you our filial devotion, obedience and loyalty. This letter is sent by Jane and Mark who are together in London, especially for the Annual Requiem Mass of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

We hope to send you a further Spiritual Bouquet in honour of Our Lady on the eve of the Immaculate Conception.

Yours sincerely in Christ Our Lord,

Jane Mossendew-Fulthorpe, Mark Miles
(for the Pro Papa League)"



Pope Benedict's book of homilies on the Liturgical year soon to be available in English

Please use sidebar link to In the Sight of Angels for CNA report.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Institute of the Good Shepherd: Translation for Confiteor


Was this a question put to Abbe Laguerie about his attitude to Vatican II? If so I think he was being asked to say what, from his experience of the implementation of Vatican II, did he agree or disagree with.

The rest of the paragraph would seem to be a characteristic answer. (And one with which i agree!)

"Certainly Vatican II asks the Church necessary questions about the modern age: conscience, religious freedom, truth, reason and faith, the natural or supernatural unity of the human race, violence, dialogue with cultures, etc. But the Council goes back to 1965 and is no longer a closed debate. We recognise it for what it is: an ecumenical council related to authentic magisterium but not infallible on all its points, and for that reason some of its novelties expose difficulties of continuity with the Gospel and with Tradition. In the face of a false 'spirit of the Council' which he named and called into question before the Curia on December 22nd 2005, as being a cause of 'rupture' in the Church, Benedict XVI affirmed that he intends to submit Vatican II to a re-reading in order to produce an authentic interpretation as yet to come. From this perspective, we are invited, in a constructive manner and from our humble level, to take on (conduct?/lead?)a serious work. The fundamental debate which has been latent for forty years will make it possible to open the heart of the Church and embark on an unhindered examination of the major points of discontinuity brought about by the council and which trouble the Faith."