- A Reflection on Pedro Arrupe SJ for the restoration of the Jesuits
- Reflection: Teilhard de Chardin SJ
- Reflection: Vicente Canas SJ for the restoration of the Jesuits
- Reflection: Cardinal Augustin Bea SJ for the restoration anniv.
- Living the Magnificat - an introduction
- Reflection: Anthony de Mello SJ for the restoration anniv.
- Reflection: Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ for the restoration
- Introduction to St Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises
- Reflection: Alberto Hurtado SJ for the anniv. of the restoration
- Reflection: Henri de Lubac SJ for the anniv. of the restoration
- Reflection: Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, anniv. of the restoration
- Blessed Rupert Mayer SJ - November's reflection
- St Nicholas Owen SJ - Biography and Last Confession
- Fr John Gerard SJ remembers Bl Francis Page SJ
- An exerpt from the Canonisation of St Andrew Bobola SJ
- The Lowdown on Christian prayer - James Hanvey SJ
This is the fifth reflection commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Cardinal Augustin Bea.
The monks of Pluscarden Abbey sing the Benedictus: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has visited his people and redeemed them. He has raised up for us a mighty saviour in the house of David his servant, as he promised by the lips of holy men, those who were his prophets from of old. A saviour who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us.
So his love for our ancestors is fulfilled and his holy covenant remembered. He swore to Abraham our father to grant us, that free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes, we might serve him in holiness and justice all the days of our life in his presence.”
Augustin Bea was a German Jesuit, born in 1881, who through his in-depth reflection on scripture became a pioneer of the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church and of dialogue with the Jews. He joined the German Jesuit Province in 1902 and became provincial in 1921 after which he was sent to Rome to teach scripture. He assisted Pope Pius XII with drafting his encyclical letters on liturgy (Mediator Dei), and the Bible (Divino Afflante Spiritu). In 1959 Pope John XXIII made Bea a cardinal and appointed him as the first President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. At Vatican II, Bea was central in helping to draft the revolutionary document on the Church's Relation to Non-Christian Religions, (Nostra Aetate), and the Constitution on Scripture (Dei Verbum). After the Council he dedicated the rest of his life to ecumenism and interfaith matters. On his death in 1968, he asked permission for his body to be buried in his small village birthplace in the Black Forest, not in Rome as was the tradition: “There are many Cardinals buried in Rome, but in my village there will be only one and passers-by will notice and pray for my soul.”
The gradual realisation over many thousands of years of God’s plan for the union and salvation of all humankind in Christ is shrouded in mystery. The strange call to one man out of a polytheistic people to worship the one true God and to be led out of his own country and away from his own people towards an uncertain future in an unknown land; the magnificent promise that his children would be as numerous as the stars of heaven, that he would become the head of many nations, all of which would be blessed in him – all this sounds like a beautiful eastern fable devoid of any real meaning.
Yet, as it happens, hundreds of millions of Christians look upon this man as their spiritual ancestor and the father of their faith. And hundreds of millions of Moslems also draw their inspiration for their loyal submission to God from the faith of Abraham.
The truth that the chosen people of the New Testament is spiritually related to Abraham is one of the chief tenets of Christianity. … We find the story told in the book of Genesis. ‘Now the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation”.’
This first calling is repeatedly confirmed in connection with important events in Abraham’s life and is finally ratified in a formal pact. … “I will make a covenant between me and you and I will multiply you exceedingly so that you will be the father of a multitude of nations.”
On the basis of this promise St Paul does not hesitate to say in the Epistle to the Romans that Abraham is ‘the father of many nations’. Evidently we are not dealing here with descent according to the flesh but according to an entirely new principle – faith, like that of Abraham. As St Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians: ‘Those who are people of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith’.
Elsewhere he furnishes a further explanation of the extent of God’s promise. According to the Epistle to the Ephesians, God’s hidden design for humankind is to ‘unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and on things on earth.’ … The secret of this mystery is that ‘the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel’.
As a scholar, Augustin Bea had studied the texts of scripture deeply; he was able to move easily between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and see the great connections between the two. But what made him such a great communicator – with the ability to break down barriers – was, very simply, that he loved the Word of God. God’s call to human beings to listen attentively, to take heart, to be courageous, was the centre of his life. Do you love the Word of God? Are you able to place it at the centre of your life?
At its heart, this text is a reflection on the unity of God’s Word. Bea starts with ‘mystery’ and he ends with ‘mystery’. The link is Abraham, our father in faith. Why was Abraham chosen? There’s no set answer to that, really. Except that he is an example to all – Jews and Christians, and Muslims too - of faith: hearing the promise, trusting the promise, and setting out in confidence to penetrate deeply into the mystery of God. Can you understand Abraham as a good example to follow? Or is his life to distant and abstract? Can you see Abraham as a focus of unity between people?
Think for a moment about Abraham’s first hearing of God’s Word. It’s a dramatic event; get up and go, leave it all behind. When was the point in your life you heard God’s Word for the first time? Maybe not as dramatic. But just a sense that something or someone was pointing you in another direction.
Abraham finds the Word gets clearer. It becomes a Covenant; God binds himself to Abraham. When did that Word – heard at first indistinctly – build a real confidence in you? Can you hear it again now – and follow it?
As you listen again, can you perhaps pick up the idea that faith is something universal, for all people?
As this time of prayer come to an end, ask the Lord to reveal his word to you now. Where is it spoken to you now, at this moment? In family, in friends, in small moments of peace – or even in great moments of crisis? Do you have the faith to listen and accept the promptings of the Word that calls you out of yourself – and into the great mystery of God?
This is the sixth Pray as you go reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Anthony de Mello.
Karen Money sings Sanctuary: ‘Take me to a quiet place, where I can be with you.’
Anthony de Mello was born in 1931 in Bombay, and had a major influence on Christian spirituality across the globe. He developed an engaging story-telling technique called ‘Sadhana’ that has enhanced the use of imagination and contemplation in popular ways of praying. In his writings and conferences he used examples and stories from the major faith traditions, especially drawing on the insights and truths found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. He saw the development of awareness as one of the most important elements of spiritual progress, and renewed the meditation of ‘Application of the Senses’ from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius’ for a whole new generation of religious seekers. Anthony de Mello died in 1987.
The explorer returned to his people, who were anxious to know about the Amazon. But how could he ever put into words the feelings that flooded his heart when he saw exotic flowers and heard the night-sounds of the forests; when he sensed the danger of wild beasts or paddled his canoe over treacherous rapids?
He said, ‘Go and find out for yourselves.’ To guide them he drew a map of the river.
They pounced upon the map. They framed it in their Town Hall. They made copies of it for themselves. And all who had a copy considered themselves experts on the river, for did they not know its every turn and bend, how broad it was, how deep, where the rapids were and where the falls?
Much of Tony de Mello’s writing took the form of stories. He used them, as Jesus used his parables, to prompt people to think for themselves. What’s your own first response to this story?
In your own life, what corresponds to the map the explorer draws? What, on the other hand, corresponds to his experience of the Amazon?
How do you encounter God in your prayer? Do you find God difficult to encounter. Spend a few moments reflecting on this.
As you listen to the reading again, ask yourself how you would respond to those people who wanted to know about the Amazon.
No more words! Take a moment simply to feel the God who is greater even than the mighty Amazon river flood your own heart.
This is the seventh reflection commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The monks of the Abbey of Keur Moussa sing: O all you works of the Lord, O bless the Lord, To him be highest glory and praise for ever. Wherever it is I am right now, what works of the Lord can I see? Perhaps the sky, the clouds? Perhaps hills or fields, or a horse or a dog, or a tree? Perhaps it’s just the inside of a bus that I can see? Perhaps another human being. Can I imagine all these things, the works of the Lord, praising God, their creator, now? And can I do the same myself?
Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in 1844 was an English poet and convert from Anglicanism. He developed a love of the arts as a young boy, and continued to write and paint all of his life. When he chose to become a Catholic and then enter the Jesuits he destroyed most of his early poetic works, and for his early years as a Jesuit he stopped writing. Following encouragement from one of his Superiors, Hopkins began to write once more and he developed a poetic technique which he described as ‘sprung rhythm’ which he used to particularly good effect to describe nature. His use of language was innovative, employing ancient as well as dialect words, and even inventing new words. He ministered quietly in various schools and parishes in Britain before being sent as Professor of Greek and Hebrew at the newly-established Catholic University in Dublin. Few of Hopkins contemporaries appreciated his poetic gifts and it was only after his death in 1889 when his friend, Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, published a volume of Hopkins work that his genius began to be recognised. He has a plaque in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
The poem, ‘God’s Grandeur’ echoes the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, especially the Contemplation for Attaining Love’, an ecstatic celebration of God’s dynamic presence and action in the cosmos. Can you think of a time when you have felt especially close to God in a natural setting?
‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod’. Hopkins’s lines imply a common anxiety among Victorian believers, that the modern age of scientific and industrial progress- ‘our smudge and smell’- has distanced us from a direct communion with nature- ‘nor can foot feel, being shod’- and therefore we are further from God. Does this ring true for you? Are there ways in which your busy life has made you less aware, less sensitive to the ‘dearest freshness’ in things?
The poem presents us with a beautifully maternal image of the Holy Spirit, ‘brooding’ with ‘warm breast and bright wings’. What kind of image does this conjure up for you? Does this feminine image help you to grasp the intimacy of God’s love for you?
Notice the use of the word ‘charged’ in the first line. The first meaning that presents itself is that of energy and dynamism, like a charge of electricity. But charged can also mean ‘entrusted’, ‘given a mission’. The task of the created world, the reason for its existence, is to bear witness to God’s glory and grandeur. Does this idea attract me? What about me, am I too ‘charged’ with the task of giving God glory? As you listen again, think about the word ‘charged’ in the first line: ‘the world is charged with the grander of God’.
Speak to God now, about what arises from your time of reflection and the emotions this poem has evoked in you. It may be that you feel regret for a lack of awareness, that, like many people, you have not ‘recked his rod’, that is, you been slow to acknowledge God’s majesty. Or perhaps you feel a renewed sense of energy and mission, of being ‘charged’ with carrying out a great endeavor. As you express these feelings to God, can you also ask him to deepen your sense of wonder and delight at his presence.
This is the eighth Pray as you go reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of St Alberto Hurtado.
Joanne Boyce sings You are my Hands. As I listen to this music can I put myself entirely at Gods’ mercy?
This month we are reflecting on the life of St Alberto Hurtado. Born in 1901, Alberto was a Chilean priest, lawyer and social worker, who in 1944 became the founder of the ground breaking charitable organization ‘Hogar de Cristo’, which aimed to provide homes and shelter to assist poor and abandoned young people in Chile. He was dedicated to making Catholic Social Teaching more widely known and understood. He published a number of important books and founded the journal ‘Mensaje’ and in 1947 he helped establish the Chilean Trade Union Association. He was much sought-after as an inspirational preacher and retreat director for young people. He died of cancer aged 51 and was widely revered throughout Chile for his saintliness. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
There are many sufferings to heal. Christ stumbles through our streets in the person of so many poor who are hungry, thrown out of their miserable lodgings because of sickness and destitution. Christ has no home! And we who have the good fortune to have one and have food to satisfy our hunger, what are we doing about it?
St Alberto has in mind real faces he has actually seen with his own eyes around the city he lives in, the faces of the poor, the hungry and the destitute. For sure, the faces you know will be different ones. See if you can bring to mind the times and places when you have encountered the homeless where you live. Can you picture their faces?
And now, notice how you reacted to the people you saw. Did you turn away from them or move towards them? Did you feel disgust, or fear, or tenderness, sympathy…? Don’t judge yourself: just take a moment to remember and to deepen your awareness.
How would you like to react the next time? Put aside your hesitations and inhibitions… if St Alberto is right, if people in need are nothing less than Christ in our midst, how do you want to respond to Him, standing in front of you, needing your help?
Finding Christ in the poor is not as easy as it sounds. We need the help of deep prayer and we can count on the support of our friends in the communion of saints. Let’s listen once again to the words of St Alberto Hurtado to see if his vision and his passion are infectious.
Finally, ask the Lord to help you to go deeper. He is always happy to receive the doubts and dreams of his followers. When we talk freely and openly to him about our lives, He offers us His healing, his insight and his power. Take a moment to open your heart to Him now; sharing with Him anything you need to say and asking Him to help you respond lovingly and generously to the needs of the poor.
This is the ninth reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Henri de Lubac.
You are the centre, Lord, of my life. The centre of my life. Amid all my preoccupations, all the worries and hassles and concerns in my mind right now, can I focus for a moment on the centre of my life? Can I open my heart to God, my guide, my healer, my teacher? Can I stop for a moment and listen to God’s voice?
Henri de Lubac was born in 1896 and was arguably one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. Like his friend and fellow-French Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin, it was his study of the past that made him a revolutionary scholar. In de Lubac’s case it was a deep academic rediscovery of the writings of the early Christian church that caused him to call for a more orthodox, redefinition of what were thought by many people to be accepted Church positions concerning such matters as Grace, the Eucharist and the social nature of Salvation. De Lubac enriched the study of God for the entire Christian community. Though his ideas came under suspicion and scrutiny in the early 1950’s, it was gradually recognised that his profound insights and understanding of Church tradition were remarkably prophetic and he became one of the key theological experts of Vatican II, and was a major influence on the final texts of the documents on The Church (Lumen Gentium) and The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). In recognition of his contribution to the modern theology, Pope John Paul II appointed de Lubac a Cardinal in 1983. He died in 1991.
God is not a spectacle. He freely manifests himself by his Word “is never something closed, which could be taken in at a glance like a circumscribed landscape; it is something which is always happening anew, like water from a spring or rays from a light”. Hence it is not enough, as St Augustine said, to have been initiated once unless one is unceasingly inebriated at the fountain of eternal Light. “To anyone who loves, this truth is immediately obvious; the face and the voice of the Beloved are at each instant as new for him as though he had never yet beheld them.” Such a one cannot fear that the day might come when he will have exhausted God; he drinks at the source of a knowledge and of a love which, he understands better and better, will eternally surpass him:
The characteristic of God, who, in revealing himself, shows himself to be incomprehensible, is not conditioned simply by the obscurity of earthly faith. This faith therefore cannot simply disappear in the face-to-face vision; on the contrary, it is then, precisely, that the incomprehensibility of God in every perception of God will reach its maximum. It would be ridiculous and contrary to all experience as well as to all true faith to interpret this face-to-face vision as a definitive grasping, after the fashion of an acquired science or a human philosophy.
Augustine’s axiom, ‘si comprehendis non est Deus’, applies in heaven as well as on earth.
“God”, says Irenaeus, “will always have to teach us, and we shall always have to be instructed about the things of God; the divine riches are ‘never-ending’, just as the kingdom of God is without end.” St John has taught us that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness.” We must be careful not to lose sight of that teaching. But we also know, as the Psalmist says, that “he made the darkness his dwelling place”; in other words, his light is too intense and too profound ever to be penetrated. Whoever makes progress into it as though into a “luminous cloud” understands better and better that his true knowledge and his true vision consist in “not-grasping”. It is thus that he enters and plunges deep “into the joy of the Lord”.
And even the humblest movement of faith secretly introduces us to this end that knows no end.
Henri de Lubac describes an encounter with a person not an idea. Reflect over your own experiences of encountering God.
Is there anything in what De Lubac describes that you recognise? If so, dwell there for a few moments.
Is there anything in what De Lubac describes that you long for? Longing and searching can also be another way of encounter. If so, dwell in your longing and your searching, can you get a sense of it not as an absence but as, in itself, a presence that is holding you and calling you?
De Lubac speaks about a knowing or a knowledge which is not grasping - it is not a mastery of God but rather receptivity. As you listen again, think what that grace of presence might mean for you. What do you need to learn or unlearn in order to accept it?
There is always a joy in seeking God even when things are dry or difficult and a joy in finding God or letting God find us. De Lubac uses a striking image of plunging deep into that joy - plunging deep into God’s self. Take time at the end of this reflection to give thanks, to discover the signs and the intimations of that joy in the day, and ask for the grace of saying ‘I accept for love of You'.
This is the tenth reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Bl Miguel Pro.
The nuns of Mary, Queen of Apostles, sing the hymn Jesu dulcis mermoria. Sweet is the very thought of Jesus; giving true joy to the heart. But sweeter than the sweetest honey, is his very Presence.
Miguel Pro was martyred in 1927 having been arrested and executed for the crime of being a priest at a time which was described by the English author, Graham Greene, as the “fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth”. Born in 1891, he was forced by anti-clerical laws to leave Mexico in 1914, Pro studied for the priesthood in California, Spain, Nicaragua, and Belgium, but in 1925 he returned to Mexico to help establish an ‘underground’ Church. For two years, with great imagination, energy and joyful good humour he moved from house to house, often in disguise, and brought comfort to the beleaguered Catholics by his preaching and the celebrating of mass and the sacraments. Following his arrest in 1927, he was accused of involvement in a bombing, and was convicted without trial. As a public lesson the President of Mexico invited many diplomats and journalists to witness the execution by firing squad, but this move rebounded badly as images of the execution of the priest were published around the world and drew wide-spread condemnation of the regime. Pro’s final words of ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ (Long Live Christ the King!) became a rallying cry for opposition. Miguel Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
In the inadequate light he could just see two men kneeling with their arms stretched out in the shape of a cross – they would keep that position until the consecration was over, one more mortification squeezed out of their harsh and painful lives.
He began the prayer for the living: the long list of the Apostles and Martyrs fell like footsteps – Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni – soon the police would reach the clearing where his mule had sat down under him and he had washed in the pool. The Latin words ran into each other on his hasty tongue: he could feel impatience all around him. He began the Consecration of the Host (he had finished the wafers long ago – this was a piece of bread from Maria’s oven); impatience abruptly died away: everything in time became a routine but this – ‘Who the day before he suffered took Bread into his holy and venerable hands . . .’ Whoever moved outside on the forest path, there was no movement here – ‘Hoc est enim Corpus Meum.’ He could hear the sigh of breaths released: God was here in the body for the first time in six years. When he raised the Host he could imagine the faces lifted like famished dogs. He began the Consecration of the Wine – in a chipped cup. That was one more surrender – for two years he had carried a chalice around with him; once it would have cost him his life, if the police officer who opened his case had not been a Catholic. It may very well have cost the officer his life, if anybody had discovered the evasion – he didn’t know; you went round making God knew what martyrs – in Concepcion or elsewhere – when you yourself were without grace enough to die.
The Consecration was in silence: no bell rang. He knelt by the packing-case exhausted, without a prayer. Somebody opened the door: a voice whispered urgently, ‘They’re here.’ They couldn’t have come on foot then, he thought vaguely. Somewhere in the absolute stillness of the dawn – it couldn’t have been more than a quarter of a mile away – a horse whinnied.
He got up to his feet – Maria stood at his elbow. She said, ‘The cloth, father, give me the cloth.’ He put the Host hurriedly into his mouth and drank the wine: one had to avoid profanation: the cloth was whipped away from the packing-case. She nipped the candles, so that the wuck should not leave a smell . . . The room was already cleared, only the owner hung by the entrance waiting to kiss his hand. Through the door the world was faintly visible, and a cock in the village crowed.
Maria said, ‘Come to the hut quickly.’
‘I’d better go.’ He was without a plan. ‘ Not be found here.’
‘They are all around the village.’
Was this the end at last, he wondered?
The reading describes the final mass of a martyr priest isolated and vulnerable yet acting with courage to serve his people. What did you feel as you listened to it, did any word or phrase particularly strike you, or any image make an impact on you?
The words 'the day before he suffered he took bread into his holy and venerable hands' are at the heart of the reading. Can you think of a time when you faced the uncertainty of suffering, or of isolation or vulnerability. What thoughts or emotions now come to mind about such a time.
At his execution by firing squad Blessed Miguel Pro smiled and held his arms out in the form of a cross. In the reading some at mass make the same gesture. What possible value has such pain and suffering in our lives today?
The extract ends with a cock crowing and the dawn of a new day. What echoes do these images have for you or for your future?
Listen now to the reading again in the light of your reaction to these questions
Speak to the Lord about any feelings or responses you have, and listen quietly to what he might want to say in return.
This is the eleventh reflection commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Blessed Rupert Mayer.
The Community of Taizé sing “The Kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”
Rupert Mayer was born in 1876 and became a Jesuit in 1900. He was known as ‘The Apostle of Munich’. In the First World War, he was an Army Chaplain working courageously in the trenches from where he used to crawl out into no-man’s-land moving among the wounded administering the sacraments; “My life is in God’s hands,” he used to say. He was the first German chaplain ever to be awarded the Iron Cross for bravery. In 1916 a grenade caused the loss of his leg and forced him to leave the front lines. Upon the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, Mayer became a fearless and outspoken critic of the evil of Fascism or National Socialism. He was banned by the Gestapo from public speaking, but he continued to preach in Church against the activities of the Nazi party until he was finally arrested and imprisoned in 1940 – the painting illustrates the profile photos taken of him by the police. He was moved between various prisons and concentration camps for the remainder of the war. He was so famous and well thought of that the Nazis were frightened to kill him and turn him into a martyr. On 1st November 1945, while preaching in Munich he suffered a stroke and died. Facing the congregation his last words were, ‘The Lord, The Lord, The Lord’. Parents of the future Pope Benedict had a great devotion to Fr Mayer; he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
Lord, let happen whatever you will; and as you will, so will I walk; help me only to know your will!
Lord, whenever you will, then is the time; today and always.
Lord, whatever you will, I wish to accept, and whatever you will for me is gain; enough that I belong to you. Lord, because you will it, it is right; and because you will it, I have courage. My heart rests safely in your hands!
The saints are ordinary people who let God do extraordinary things with their lives. We are challenged to be like them by allowing God to work through our ordinariness. In what way would you desire to be like Rupert Mayer?
Who are the ordinary saints in your own life? Maybe they are amidst your friends, or in your family? How do they inspire you – through their words and deeds? Picture them now and give thanks to God for them.
Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. If we are honest it is fear that often stops us from speaking out. Jesus knows our fears…. and as he greets the disciples, so he greets us saying ‘Do Not be Afraid’. What fears would you like to tell Jesus about – what fears can you hand over to Him?
Rupert Mayer was a man of incredible courage. But as he reminds us his courage comes from God’s will. What is God’s will for you – here and now – not in the future, but here and now, what is God’s will for you?
In what areas of your life do you need more courage? Where or how, do you need God’s courage to flow through you? Ask the Lord to be close to you there, that you can know his will and feel your courage grow.
St Nicholas Owen was born in 1562 in Oxford into a devout recusant family, and trained as a carpenter and joiner. As a Jesuit lay brother he became the servant of Henry Garnet SJ, the Superior of the English mission, in 1588 - a time when the penalty for Catholic priests discovered in England was torture and death. His carpentry skills were put to use in building priest holes or hiding places in the houses of Catholics all over the country. Known as “Little Jo hn”, (few of his clients knew his real name) Owen was of very short stature and suffered ill health, including a hernia. Nevertheless he spent eighteen years doing strenuous physical labour in cramped spaces, always alone and at night to avoid discovery. In 1597 he helped to plan the famous escape from the Tower of London of his Jesuit colleague John Gerard SJ. Fr Garnet said of him:
"I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular."
Owen was finally arrested in 1606 in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. The authorities were delighted to have caught him, and hoped to extract valuable information under torture. They were disappointed. Nicholas Owen was arrested and taken away to Marshalsea Prison where he endured a great deal of torture. No exact records of what he endured are in existence, but we do know from Fr John Gerard, of the tortures that he endured:
They took me to a big upright pillar, one of the wooden posts which held the roof of this huge underground chamber. Driven into the top of it were iron staples for supporting heavy weights. Then they put my wrists into iron gauntlets and ordered me to climb two or three wicker steps. My arms were then lifted up and an iron bar passed through the rings of one gauntlet. This done, they fastened the bar with a pin to prevent it slipping, and then, removing the wicker steps one by one from under my feet, they left me hanging by my hands and arms fastened above my head … Hanging like this I began to pray … But I could hardly utter the words, such a gripping pain came over me. It was worst in my chest and belly, my hands and arms. All the blood of my body seemed to rush up into my arms and hands and I thought that blood was oozing out from the ends of my fingers and pores of my skin. But it was only a sensation caused by my flesh swelling above the irons holding them. The pain was so intense that I thought I could not possibly endure it … Sometime after one o’clock, I think, I fell into a faint. How long I was unconscious I don’t know, but I don’t think it was long, for the men held my body up or put the wicker steps under my feet until I came to. Then they heard me pray and immediately let me down again. And they did this every time I fainted – eight or nine times that day – before it struck five … The next morning the gauntlets were placed on the same part of my arms as last time. They would not fit anywhere else, because the flesh on either side had swollen into small mounds, leaving a furrow between; and the gauntlets could only be fastened in the furrow … I stayed like this and began to pray, sometimes aloud, sometimes to myself, and I put myself in the keeping of Our Lord and His blessed Mother. This time it was longer before I fainted, but when I did they found it so difficult to bring me round that they thought that I was dead, or certainly dying and summoned the Lieutenant … I was hung up again. The pain was intense now, but I felt great consolation of soul, which seemed to me to come from a desire of death … For many days after I could not hold a knife in my hands – that day I could not even move my fingers or help myself in the smallest way. The gaoler had to do everything for me.
Nicholas suffered all of this and more, made all the worse by the injuries he had incurred through years of manual labour. Yet he wouldn’t say anything. His two confessions stand from those days.
Examination of Nicholas Owen, taken on the 26th February, 1606.
He confesses that he has been called by the name of Andrews, but doesn’t know whether he has been known by the name Little John or Draper, or any other name other than Owen or Andrews.
That he came to Mr Abington’s house the Saturday before he was taken, but refuses to answer from what place he came to the house from.
He denies that he knows Father Garnett or that he has ever served him, or that Fr Garnett is known by the name Mease, Darcy, Whalley, Philips,, Fermor, or any other name.
He denies that he knows a Jesuit called Oldcorne or Hall, and also denies that he knows that Chambers served Hall the Jesuit.
He confesses that he has known George Chambers for six or seven years, and that he became acquainted with him at an ordinarie in Fleet Street and that at this time he served Mr Henry Drury of Sussex.
The confession of Nicholas Own, taken on the 1st March 1606.
He confesses that he has known and sometimes attended Henry Garnett, the Provincial of the Jesuits for around four years.
He confesses that he was at the house of Thomas Throgmorton called Coughton at the beginning of November last year, when the Lady Digby was there and by the watch that was in town they knew that Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, and the rest of the gun powder plotters were up in arms.
That on All Saints Day last year, Garnett said Mass at Coughton House, and that at that Mass there were around half a dozen people.
That Henry Garnett was at Henlipp, the house of Thomas Abington some six weeks before he was apprehended and Hall the Jesuit was there about three days before the house of Mr Abington was searched.
That while he was staying with Garnett, he made his fire and served him and that both he and Garnett hid in a secret room below the dining room.
There was no new information in these confessions and the authorities lost patience. The tortures became more violent and on the next day, despite a plate they had fitted around Nicholas to prevent the torture further damaging his pre-existing injuries, Nicholas died, quite literally broken apart by the torture.
The authorities were now in an awkward position. Not only had they been torturing illegally an already injured man, but they had murdered him before extracting a confession. A cover up was swiftly arranged with an inquest returning a verdict of suicide.
Many of the martyrs of England died very public deaths on the scaffold of Tyburn, but Nicholas died as he had lived; in secret. We have no memorable saying of his to meditate on – his priest holes, which are his wordless prayers, are all that remain. Nicholas in his agonised, furtive death had finished with all concealment and disguises and was welcomed by Campion and all the martyrs into a fellowship where there is no use for human language.
We aren’t sure when Francis Page was born, but we do know that he was born to a well-to-do English family living in Antwerp. He fell in love with the daughter of a Catholic lawyer for who he served as a clerk and became a Catholic in order to win over the family. He met the Jesuit Fr John Gerard who became an informal spiritual director to him, eventually encouraging Francis to go to the continent for his priestly formation at the English College at Rheims. He was ordained in 1600 and left for London where he narrowly escaped arrest after celebrating Mass at the House of Anne Line.
Fourteen months later Francis wasn’t so fortunate as he was recognised by a woman who made it her business to turn priests over to the authorities so she could keep the reward. He took refuge in an inn, but she made such an outcry that the innkeeper kept him until the authorities arrived. He was arrested, tried, and found guilty of high treason. On his return to London shortly after ordination, he’d applied to join the Jesuits, but it was very difficult for him to return to the continent to enter the novitiate. On the night before his execution he was allowed to join a Jesuit in the adjoining cell; the young priest took vows as a Jesuit, a fact he proudly proclaimed the following day shortly before he was executed.
St Andrew Bobola was born in 1591 in the Palatinate of Sandomir and entered the Society of Jesus in 1611. After his ordination in 1622, he first served at Vilna as a preacher and director of the Sodality. From 1636 he worked as a travelling missionary and, at a time when the Church was subject to fierce persecution, strengthened a great number of Catholics in the faith. In 1657 he fell into the hands of Cossacks and after being subjected to savage torture, he died a martyr’s death in the town of Janow. He was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1938. In the homily the Pope preached at his canonisation, St Andrew was praised for his endurance, and went on to describe his achievements as models for all Christians to follow. Here’s an excerpt from the Canonisation Homily.
Fr James Hanvey SJ, Master of Campion Hall, University of Oxford, gives us a simple reflection on Christian prayer.
He discusses Christ's own prayer and how we can use the prayer of the Church to draw closer to God the Father.
Part of our 'Schools of Prayer' podcast series.