Articles for reading in conjunction with the July 2016 Prayer Diary

St Thomas Patron Saint of Architects. Feast Day is July 3rd July

St. Thomas was called to be one of the twelve Apostles. He was a dedicated but impetuous follower of Christ. When Jesus said He was returning to Judea to visit His sick friend Lazarus, Thomas immediately exhorted the other Apostles to accompany Him on the trip which involved certain danger and possible death because of the mounting hostility of the authorities. John 11:16

At the Last Supper, when Christ told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them to which they also might come because they knew both the place and the way, Thomas pleaded that they did not understand and received the beautiful assurance that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:5

St. Thomas is best known for his role in verifying the Resurrection of his Master. Thomas' unwillingness to believe that the other Apostles had seen their risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday earned him the title of "doubting Thomas."

Eight days later, on Christ's second apparition, Thomas was gently rebuked for his scepticism and furnished with the evidence he had demanded - seeing in Christ's hands the point of the nails. Thomas even put his fingers in the nail holes and his hand into Christ's side. After verifying the wounds were true, St. Thomas became convinced of the reality of the Resurrection and exclaimed, "My Lord and My God," thus making a public Profession of Faith in the Divinity of Jesus. John 20:24-29

St. Thomas is also mentioned as being present at another Resurrection appearance of Jesus - at Lake Tiberius, when a miraculous catch of fish occurred.

This is all that we know about St. Thomas from the New Testament. Tradition says that at the dispersal of the Apostles after Pentecost this saint was sent to evangelize to the Parthians, Medes, and Persians. He ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves "Christians of St. Thomas."

ST BENEDICT SAINTS DAY 11TH JULY

 

St. Benedict is believed to have been born around 480, as the son to a Roman noble of Norcia. However, he gave up his inheritance and went to live in solitude, as a hermit in the mountains of Subiaco, 30 miles east of Rome.

Eventually, after years of prayer and two unsuccessful attempts to set up a monastery he founded the famous monastery of Monte Cassino which became the roots of the Church's monastic system. Benedict was an innovator. Instead of founding small separate communities he gathered his disciples into one whole community. No one had set up communities like his before or directed then with a rule. His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict -- still directing religious life after 15 centuries.

The Rule of St Benedict is today praised for its balanced approach to monastic life. Besides the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, it stressed communal living, physical labour, common meals, and the avoidance of unnecessary conversation.

At the same time, Benedict made allowances for his monks—for differences of age, capabilities, dispositions, needs, and spiritual stature. There is a frank allowance for weaknesses and failure, as well as compassion for the physically weak. "In drawing up these regulations," he said, "we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome."

But he was no libertine: "The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love."

It is this combination of compassion and discipline that made the Rule a model for many later monastic orders besides the Benedictine, and one reason why monasticism became such a viable life for so many over the next centuries, during which the institution literally shaped the future of Europe.

The Rule was read aloud frequently and as were passages from the Bible and for prayer Benedict believed the Psalms should be sung at each Divine Office.

But it wasn't enough to just speak the words. Benedict instructed his followers to practice sacred reading -- the study of the very Scriptures they would be praying in the Work of God. In this lectio divina, he and his monks memorized the Scripture, studied it, and contemplated it until it became part of their being. Four to six hours were set aside each day for this sacred reading. On Benedict's list of "Instruments of Good Works" is "to enjoy holy readings."

Benedict died on 21 March 543. It is said he died with high fever on the very day God told him he would. He is the patron saint of Europe and students.

St. Benedict is often pictured with a bell, a broken tray, a raven, or a crosier. His feast day is celebrated on July 11.

St Swithin 15th July

Saint Swithin or Swithun was a Saxon bishop. He was born in the kingdom of Wessex and educated in its capital, Winchester. He was famous for charitable gifts and building churches. His feast day is 15 July and his emblems are rain drops and apples.

Swithin was chaplain to Egbert, the 802-839 king of Wessex. Egbert's son Ethelwulf, whom Swithin educated, made him bishop of Winchester in 852.

Only one miracle is attributed to Swithin while he was alive. An old lady's eggs had been smashed by workmen building a church. Swithin picked the broken eggs up and, it is said, they miraculously became whole again.

Swithin died on 2 July 862. According to tradition, he had asked to be buried humbly. His grave was just outside the west door of the Old Minster, so that people would walk across it and rain fall on it in accordance with Swithin's wishes.

On 15 July 971 though, Swithin's remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral by Bishop Ethelwold. Miraculous cures were associated with the event, and Swithin's feast day is the date of the removal of his remains, not his death day.

However, the removal was also accompanied by ferocious and violent rain storms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights and are said to indicate the saint's displeasure at being moved. This is probably the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithin's feast day, the rain will continue for 40 more days.

Saint Swithin is still seen as the patron of Winchester Cathedral.

Traditional Rhyme

St Swithin’s day of thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St Swithin’s day if thou be fair

For forty days ’twill rain na mair.

In fact, according to the Met Office this is not at all an accurate prediction of the weather.

 

William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833)

Wilberforce was a deeply religious English member of parliament and social reformer who was very influential in the abolition of the slave trade and eventually slavery itself in the British empire.

William Wilberforce was born on 24 August 1759 in Hull, the son of a wealthy merchant. He studied at Cambridge University where he began a lasting friendship with the future prime minister, William Pitt the Younger. In 1780, Wilberforce became member of parliament for Hull, later representing Yorkshire. His dissolute lifestyle changed completely when he became an evangelical Christian, and in 1790 joined a leading group known as the Clapham Sect. His Christian faith prompted him to become interested in social reform, particularly the improvement of factory conditions in Britain.

The abolitionist Thomas Clarkson had an enormous influence on Wilberforce. He and others were campaigning for an end to the trade in which British ships were carrying black slaves from Africa, in terrible conditions, to the West Indies as goods to be bought and sold. Wilberforce was persuaded to lobby for the abolition of the slave trade and for 18 years he regularly introduced anti-slavery motions in parliament. The campaign was supported by many members of the Clapham Sect and other abolitionists who raised public awareness of their cause with pamphlets, books, rallies and petitions. In 1807, the slave trade was finally abolished, but this did not free those who were already slaves. It was not until 1833 that an act was passed giving freedom to all slaves in the British empire.

Wilberforce's other efforts to 'renew society' included the organisation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1802. He worked with the reformer, Hannah More, in the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday. Its goal was to provide all children with regular education in reading, personal hygiene and religion. He was closely involved with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was also instrumental in encouraging Christian missionaries to go to India.

Wilberforce retired from politics in 1825 and died on 29 July 1833, shortly after the act to free slaves in the British empire passed through the House of Commons. He was buried near his friend Pitt in Westminster Abbey.

His life is remembered on July 30th

St. Ignatius Loyola 1491-1556 Saint’s Day July 31st

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola's devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope.

After being seriously wounded in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he underwent a spiritual conversion while in recovery. De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony purportedly inspired Loyola to abandon his previous military life and devote himself to labour for God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. After experiencing a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat in March 1522, he went to Manresa, where he began praying for seven hours a day, often in a nearby cave, and formulating the fundamentals of the Spiritual Exercises. In September 1523, Loyola reached the Holy Land to settle there, but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans.

Between 1524 and 1537, Ignatius studied theology and Latin in the University of Alcalá and then in Paris. In 1534, he arrived in the latter city during a period of anti-Protestant turmoil which forced John Calvin to flee France. Ignatius and a few followers bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1539, they formed the Society of Jesus, a religious organization of the Catholic Church whose members, known as Jesuits, served the Pope as missionaries, eventually going all over the world.

Ignatius also wrote the Spiritual Exercises. They are a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises and are divided into four thematic "weeks" of variable length, designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days. They were composed with the intention of helping the person doing the retreat to see Jesus in his life, leading him to a personal commitment to follow him. Loyola also composed the Constitutions of the Society. He died in July 1556. Ignatius' feast day is celebrated on July 31. Ignatius is a foremost patron saint of soldiers, the Society of Jesus, the Basque Country.