Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 29 December 2016 - 15:08:54 | by admin

Stained glass image of St. Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral.

I've mentioned before how St. Thomas Becket has been one of my heroes in the Catholic Faith since the days when I used to pray beneath his image, in a disused chapel at Ushaw seminary, in the late 1990's.

Indeed, on this feast-day last year, I posted up a more full treatment of St. Thomas' life story and the development of his cult throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.
The sword-damaged pavement where St. Thomas was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral, on this day in 1170 AD.

I also spoke, on last year's feast, about a pilgrimage that Angie and I had made in 2013 to pray before the actual sword-damaged pavement where St. Thomas was martyred, in Canterbury Cathedral, on this 29th day of December in 1170.

At that hallowed spot, a place which was once a major European pilgrimage centre, we prayed for the reconversion of England, the defence of Holy Matrimony and the building of a Culture of Life in these isles.

As a martyr for the rights of Christ and His Church, St. Thomas remains one of the most important and inspiring saints in the whole history of England, Europe and Western civilization in general.
During the summer of 2013, I fulfilled a long-held ambition to pray in the ancient Trinity Chapel at Canterbury. A lone candle now marks the original site of St. Thomas' medieval shrine; like so many others, it was sadly destroyed during the turbulent reign of King Henry VIII...

The beautiful shrine of St. Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral's Trinity Chapel was once a site of much prayer and countless healings. Throughout the 364 years following after St. Thomas' death, the shrine drew many thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe. This grace-filled period ended abruptly with the depradations launched during the troubled reign of King Henry VIII. The solitary flickering candle pictured above is all that now marks the spot where St. Thomas' jewel-embellished shrine originally stood.

Perhaps St. Thomas' martyrdom offers two models of Catholic heroism: When the knights of King Henry II first attacked him, he initially defended himself, and the episcopal dignity of his office, by physically seizing Richard FitzUrse by his coat of mail and dashing him to the ground. He also announced to his murderers that he was prepared to die to defend the rights of God and His holy Church. St. Thomas was a true man. 

Having made this initial bold defence, St. Thomas next imitated the humility of Christ by going silently before the High-Altar to pray. He there commended his soul to Our Lady, St. Denis and St. Alphege. As the knights repeatedly struck his head with their swords, the dying St. Thomas murmured: ''For the Name of Jesus, and defence of the Church, I embrace death.'' St. Thomas was a true priest.

Hugh Mauclerc, nick-named the ''Evil Clerk'', placed his foot on St. Thomas' neck, inserted his sword into one of St. Thomas' head wounds and scattered his brains onto the pavement with the words, ''Let us go knights, this fellow shall arise no more!''

Mauclerc was wrong, for an apparition of St. Thomas was seen that very night by one of the monks, resplendent in dazzling vestments of red and white to represent both martyrdom and purity, approaching the High-Altar as if to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In 1174, four years after the brutal murder, King Henry II did public penance at St. Thomas' tomb in the cathedral. The four repentant knights received absolution from their excommunication; on condition that they each serve fourteen years in the Holy Land by way of penance.
Our St. Thomas key-fob: A daily reminder of this great saint's heroic life and witness. May he inspire us all in these days of trial for the Church.

Whilst at Canterbury in 2013, we purchased this key-fob for our car-keys. Although it is now looking a little battered, chipped and scratched after more than 3 years of use, this still provides us with a daily reminder of St. Thomas' remarkable life and witness.

I am not sure what St. Thomas would make of the fact that heavily armed police have since been brought in to patrol the cathedral precincts, following the Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe during the summer of 2016. Talk about a cultural indicator...

Let us conclude with a brief story regarding an exchange that took place between St. Thomas and King Henry II during their intense and stormy friendship.

One day, in Northampton, King Henry asked the saint why it was that he would not do the king's bidding in Church-State relations; especially given that the regent had raised the saint from poverty and lowliness to the very summit of rank and honour.

With great courage and simplicity of heart, St. Thomas, the Archbishop of Canterbury, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and king's friend, answered with the words found in Acts 5:29: ''We must obey God rather than men''.

May this be a message that we all take to heart for the times ahead.

St. Thomas of Canterbury - pray for us!

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 28 December 2016 - 14:49:04 | by admin

On this day each year, the Catholic Church commemorates the little children who were massacred by King Herod in his attempt to destroy the promised Messiah and King.

Each of these little ones received wounds that were intended for the Son of Mary: they were martyrs but unknowing. Today's Holy Mass is offered not in red, but in purple to recall the weeping and lamentation of the bereaved mothers.

In latter years, many Catholics also draw from today's feast to highlight the plight of the babies that are sadly massacred by the contemporary scourge of abortion.

This being the case, it seems a good opportunity to highlight two good charities that work tirelessly throughout the year to protect and save the unborn. As these two charities are always in need of extra funds, we encourage readers to send them a Christmas gift wherever possible.

1. Good Counsel Network 
A few days before Christmas, we received the latest newsletter from the excellent Good Counsel Network. This highlighted the latest ''tales from the trenches'' and information about upcoming events. It also included a heartening list of some 69 babies who have been saved from abortion through the Network's apostolate in England this year.

Regular readers will recall that Good Counsel Network were subjected to some inaccurate media attacks during the autumn months. In light of these attacks, and the amazing work that Good Counsel Network accomplishes each year - through orthodoxy, prayer, kindness and sheer hard work - we encourage readers to please pray for the team and send them Christmas season donations to: The Good Counsel Network, P.O. Box 46679, London, NW9 8ZT (Please make cheques payable to The Guild of Our Lady of Good Counsel).

2. Precious Life
We received a beautiful Christmas card again this year, featuring a marvellous depiction of the Nativity scene, from Northern Ireland's splendid Precious Life team. Every year, on this Feast of the Holy Innocents, a good priest in Northern Ireland offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the supporters of Precious Life.

The November newsletter from Precious Life gave news of a number of initiatives the team had been involved in throughout this year. We especially loved the above-pictured image from the latest Personhood Begins at Conception campaign.

This is being run to give an urgent call to the Northern Ireland Assembly that every person must continue to be legally protected from the moment of conception from the threat posed by proposed amendments to Northern Ireland's laws. For example, Amnesty International and Alliance Party Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) David Ford, recently tabled a Private Members Bill to change the law to allow abortion of unborn babies with life-limiting conditions right up to the very moment of birth.

In addition to this important initiative, Precious Life has also been involved with the All Ireland Rally for Life in Belfast, a second annual roadshow with Youth for Life, the Stanton Healthcare Belfast project to provide information, help and advice to pregnant mothers, and a perinatal hospice care conference in Belfast during September.

Just a few weeks ago in November, Precious Life also challenged Amnesty International's claimed 45,000 signature demand for the legalization of abortion in Northern Ireland, by gathering and presenting some 300,000 pro-life petitions to the Stormont Parliamentary Buildings. This gave a powerful reminder that the pro-life majority in Northern Ireland do not want abortion.

Readers can support Precious Life's ongoing work by sending donations to: Precious Life, P.O. Box 425, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT14YF.

Please keep Good Counsel Network and Precious Life in your daily prayers.

Christmas Every Day!

Torch of The Faith News on Tuesday 27 December 2016 - 00:37:49 | by admin

Et verbum caro factum est - And the Word became flesh.

The 70's glam-rock song ''I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day'' is pretty well ubiquitous in England's shopping centres during the lead-up to the Christmas season. Of course, having celebrated ''X-mas'' since mid-November, the secular culture has moved on from Christmas by now, with the ''January'' sales already in full swing.

In the Catholic Church, however, we are still close to the beginning of the grace-filled Christmas season.

Today's feast of St. John the Evangelist can help us to remember that, even beyond the Octave of Christmas and the 12 Days of Christmas, Catholics really do have Christmas every single day of the year.

This is particularly brought home in the Traditional Latin Mass, which always ends with the Last Gospel from the Gospel of St. John. 

Close to the end of that Gospel, the priest proclaims St. John's words: ''ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST'' (AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH).

At the moment those words are pronounced by the priest, he and the entire congregation fall to their knees in reverent awe at this central mystery of our Faith.

In the same way that the very celebration of Christmas - Christ's Mass - originally came through the Catholic Church, so too does the chance to really have Christmas every day of the year.

So there we have it: Become a traditional Catholic and have Christmas every day!

Feast of St. Stephen

Torch of The Faith News on Monday 26 December 2016 - 15:56:15 | by admin

Today's feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, provides a timely reminder that the Nativity Crib of Christmas is not just a cozy scene to make us feel good in winter. As the first of the martyrs, St. Stephen's feast is associated closely with that of the newborn Christ. In St. Stephen we glimpse something of the truth regarding real discipleship of Christ; it is a love which will entail self-sacrifice and death to self. Such is true of all loves worthy of the name. How much more this is the case in response to Jesus, Who has given His very life for us.

St. Stephen's feast reminds us, too, that Our Lord's salvific mission leads from the Manger of Bethlehem on to the Cross of Calvary; and on all the way to the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In the late 5th and early 6th-Centuries, St. Fulgentius was Bishop of Ruspe, in North Africa. He preached a famous sermon about St. Stephen, which follows below. The opening words of this sermon tell us something of the early provenance of this feast. When we celebrate these ancient feasts of the Catholic Church, we draw from, and take forward, the rich depths of treasure in the Sacred Tradition. As you will see, this sermon still has much to teach all of us in these days of intensive trial for the Church.  

The Weapons of Love

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal king; today we celebrate the triumphant death of a soldier.

Yesterday our king put on the robe of flesh, and coming out of the court of the Virgin's womb, deigned to visit the earth. Today a soldier leaves the earthly tabernacle of his body, and goes up in triumph to Heaven.

Our King, though He is most high, came for our sake in great humility, but He could not come empty-handed. He brought with Him, as it were, a great bonus for His soldiers, which not only made them abundantly rich, but also gave them strength to fight and conquer. The gift He brought was love, which brings men into fellowship with the Godhead.

What He brought He gave away freely. But the wonder of it was this: while He made rich the poverty of His faithful followers He did not take away from His own greatness, but remained filled with never-failing treasures.

The love then that brought Christ down from Heaven to earth, lifted Stephen from earth to Heaven. The love that showed itself first in the king, shone forth next in the soldier. And Stephen, so as to deserve to win the crown - which is what his name means - had love as his weapon and by it was everywhere victorious.

Through love of God he did not yield to the raging of the Jews, and through love of his neighbour he prayed for those who were stoning him. Through love he accused those who were in the wrong that they might be corrected. Through love he prayed for those stoning him to save them from punishment.
Trusting in the strength of love he overcame the cruel raging of Saul, and so won for himself a companion in Heaven, the man who had been his persecutor on earth. This holy and untiring love ardently desired to acquire as converts by his prayers those whom he had been unable to convert by argument.

And now Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he enjoys the brightness of Christ; he exults with Stephen, he reigns with Stephen.

What a really true life must there be now, brethren, where Paul is not put to confusion although he killed Stephen, but where, instead, Stephen rejoices in the fellowship of Paul; for in both of them love itself rejoices. In Stephen, love overcame the ferocity of the Jews, in Paul it covered a multitude of sins, and in both of them love deserved to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Love, therefore, is the origin and source of all good things; it is a most excellent defence, the road that leads to Heaven. Whoever walks in love can neither stray nor be afraid. Love guides, love protects, love leads to the end.

Christ our Lord, brethren, set up for us this ladder of love, and by it every Christian can climb to Heaven. You must, therefore, keep a firm hold on love, you must show it to one another, and by progress in it climb up to Heaven.

From a Sermon by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

May the graces of this Christmas season, and the prayers of St. Stephen, help us all to grow in love and holiness.

St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr - Pray for us!

A Blessed and Holy Christmas to You All!

Torch of The Faith News on Sunday 25 December 2016 - 00:36:11 | by admin

We wish all of our readers a blessed and holy Christmas! Thank you for your readership and prayers. Here is a Christmas Day reflection from the great St. Alphonsus de Liguori for your edification on this great feast.

The Birth of Jesus

What rejoicing is there in a country when the first-born son is born to a king! But surely we ought to keep still greater festival when we see the Son of God born and come down from Heaven to visit us, urged to this by the bowels of His mercy: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us (Luke 1:78). We were lost and behold Him who came to save us: He came down from Heaven for our salvation (Credo of Nicaea). Behold the shepherd who came to save His sheep from death by giving His life for their sake: I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth His life for His sheep (John 10:11).

Behold the Lamb of God, who came to sacrifice Himself, to obtain for us the divine favour, and to become our deliverer, our life, our light, and even our food in the most Holy Sacrament!

St. Maximus says that for this reason, amongst others, Christ chose to be laid in the manger where the animals were fed, to make us understand that He has become man also to make Himself our food: ''In the manger, where the food of animals is placed, He allowed His limbs to be laid, thereby showing that His own body would be the eternal food of men.''

Besides this He is born every day in the Sacrament by means of the priests and the words of Consecration; the altar is the crib, and there we go to feed ourselves on His flesh.

Someone might desire to have the Holy Infant in his arms, as the aged Simeon had; but faith teaches us that, when we receive Holy Communion, the same Jesus who was in the manger of Bethlehem is not only in our arms, but in our breasts. He was born for this purpose, to give Himself entirely to us: A child is born to us, a son is given to us (Isaiah 9:6).

As we celebrate Christmas with the Traditional Latin Mass and the great Christmas Dinner, we pray that our readers will receive every grace and blessing in this holy Christmas season! 

Reclaiming Christmas for Christ - Putting Up the Christmas Tree

Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 21 December 2016 - 18:21:44 | by admin

We came across a splendid little prayer on a copy of Fr. Simon Henry's parish newsletter. This can be prayed by families everywhere when putting up the Christmas Tree, as another good way to reclaim Christmas for Christ.

When you put up your Christmas Tree...

Bless, we beseech Thee, O Holy God, Father Almighty, this noble tree which we have adorned in honour of the new birth of Thy only-begotten Son, and do Thou so adorn our souls with the manifold beauties of Thy graces that being internally enlightened by the splendour radiating from this tree, we like the wise-men may come to adore Him Who is eternal Light and Beauty, the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Let's do all we can to keep Jesus as the Reason for the Season! 

Advent Encouragement from St. Padre Pio

Torch of The Faith News on Tuesday 20 December 2016 - 21:11:37 | by admin


The archives of the Letters of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina present a veritable treasure-house of spiritual riches for those who read them. The sentiments expressed in that featured below are ones we heartily desire for you, our dear readers, in these final days of the Advent season.

From the Letters of St. Padre Pio

May the heavenly Child always be at the centre of your heart; may He sustain it, enlighten it, inspire it and transform it to His eternal love!

This is the most ardent prayer I say for you in these days before the stable of Bethlehem. Oh how dearly I hope the divine Infant will grant you this prayer! May Jesus continue to grant His graces to all, especially to you, giving you courage and resignation up to the last day of your pilgrimage.

We pray that these days before Christmas will be a time of graces and blessings for all who read this.

St. Padre Pio - Pray for us!

Gaudete Sunday - 2016

Torch of The Faith News on Sunday 11 December 2016 - 12:19:59 | by admin

The name Gaudete for this third Sunday of Advent is taken from the opening word of the Introit prayer: ''Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say rejoice'' (Phil:4). The Catholic Church thus bids us rejoice today, because the coming of the Lord is nigh. Christian joy does not mean we walk around looking foolishly smug. Neither does it mean that we will not suffer. It means that, even in the midst of the most grave trials for the Church and ourselves, we are invited to trust in the Lord and His ultimate victory over evil. In this way, we will be able to have true and authentic joy in Him.

In the Traditional Liturgy, relics and flowers are placed on the altar, and the organ played today; these things being omitted during the rest of Advent to keep our prayerful gaze on Our Lady and the Coming of Christ in Her Womb. Rose vestments are also worn to denote the special joy of today's celebration.
The Jesuit priest Fr. Joseph Rickaby lived from 1845-1932. He was friendly with the famous Jesuit poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins; indeed they were ordained to the sacred priesthood on the same day. Fr. Rickaby wrote a helpful reflection on authentic Christian joy. As it relates to today's theme, it is reproduced below for the edification of our readers.

The Higher Order of Christian Happiness

Give yourself over to God: ever put Him first in your desires; and then, come what may, ever be cheerful. You will have temptations against cheerfulness, plenty of them, as also against purity. St. John Chrysostom says that you should resist the one temptation as you resist the other.

They then deserve ill of religion, and do the Church great disservice, who bring on over the minds of good people clouds of gloomy and distressing thoughts of God and the ways of God.

The world is full of troubles: Religion is not meant to add to your troubles, but to lighten them. Religion is to give rest to our souls (Matthew xi. 29, 30). Oh, how many more souls we should win to Christ if this doctrine of cheerfulness were more resolutely preached! Those preachers and spiritual writers who set the Gospel in an unamiable light will have much to answer for.

Christ our Saviour's permanent offer to mankind through His Church is an offer, not only of eternal, but of temporal happiness also. It is an offer to the individual and an offer to society...
Of course, there is the doctrine of the Cross, the fundamental doctrine of Christianity. The Cross does not abolish suffering, but transforms it, sanctifies it, makes it fruitful, bearable, even joyful, and finally victorious.

The happiness of the Christian is of a higher order than pleasure and enjoyment and comfort and ease. The cheerfulness of the Christian is the cheerfulness of the soldier in action in a Cause that he is enthusiastic for, and under a Leader in Whom he is fully confident.

Fr. Joseph Rickaby (S.J.) - (1845-1932).

We pray that our readers will receive many graces and blessings towards their eternal salvation on this Gaudete Sunday!

Courage and Determination to Uphold the Truth

Torch of The Faith News on Saturday 10 December 2016 - 15:21:44 | by admin

Dr. Michael Sirilla: Director of Graduate Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Harry S. Truman famously reflected that, ''America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job in hand.''

I've mentioned a couple of times that, during the two years we were over in America at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, I took classes with Professor Michael Sirilla to study the Church's Sacramental Theology in more depth. It was a special time of being immersed into the riches of Sacred Scripture, the Canons of the Council of Trent and St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologia. 

I've also said that Prof. Sirilla always struck me as a family man of integrity, maturity and professionalism. It is clear from his consistent defence of Catholic Truth that Prof. Sirilla has also cultivated the kinds of courage and determination, which were hinted at in the Truman quote above.

More importantly, Prof. Sirilla has applied these in a cause far higher than the noble work of nation building; for he has made consistent, and in the present climate costly, stands for the One True Faith in the midst of the present chaos.

That can't be easy for a man with a wife and kids to provide for.

Indeed, Ed Pentin's latest interview with the excellent Regina magazine suggests just how difficult it is for good people to make a public stand for the Faith in the stiflingly un-Catholic atmosphere which prevails in too many places at this time.

And yet, Prof. Sirilla's stance has remained consistent.

Back in September 2015, during the visit of Cardinal Raymond Burke to Steubenville, Prof. Sirilla delivered the following abstract of an article refuting the sacrilegious Kasper proposal. He explained: ''The Synod Fathers and the Pope must reject Cardinal Kasper's ersatz proposal of mercy as found in the Instrumentum Laboris and instead unequivocally reaffirm Christ's genuine offer of mercy as found in the Church's perennial practice and expressed by Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, a.84.''

In July 2016, Prof. Sirilla courageously signed up as one of the 45 academics/pastors who issued a request for a clarification of Amoris Laetitia, due to the fact that it included, ''a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals.''

This was a particularly courageous act, because, as is now well known, several of the signatories experienced subsequent pressure and persecution. The good Dr. Joseph Shaw even lost his position as director of academic affairs at a Pontifical University.

In September, we noted how encouraging it was to again see Prof. Sirilla's name as one of the 500 orthodox academics who had defended the truth against the dreadful Wijngaards Statement, by signing up to the Affirmation of the Catholic Church's Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality.

Given the pressure that has already been put on some of the 45 signatories to the earlier request, and the spreading culture of fear which is too often undermining orthodox Catholics in the days of Francis, it is encouraging to learn that Prof. Sirilla has now also signed up as one of 23 scholars supporting the Dubia of the 4 cardinals.
In August I suggested that, far from being persecuted, the 45 academics/pastors who had asked for clarifications regarding Amoris Laetitia should each be awarded a cigar. I imagine that Prof. Sirilla must be due a whole box of them by now.

Please say a prayer for Prof. Sirilla and his family; and for all who are standing up to defend the true teachings of our Holy Mother the Church in these evil times.

Our Lady of Fatima - Pray for us!   

Feast of the Immaculate Conception 2016

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 08 December 2016 - 09:44:09 | by admin

In celebration of today's great Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we offer a special reflection by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. After more than a century it still remains fresh; resounding powerfully with its timeless messages about the importance of spreading the Faith and the final victory of Christ over evil.

The Immaculate Conception

Mary is the Virgo Praedicanda, that is, the Virgin who is to be proclaimed, to be heralded, to be preached.

We are accustomed to preach abroard that which is wonderful, strange, rare, novel, important. Thus, when Our Lord was coming, St. John the Baptist preached him; then, the Apostles went into the wide world, and preached Christ.

What is the highest, the rarest, the choicest prerogative of Mary? It is that She was without sin. When a woman in the crowd cried out to Our Lord, ''Blessed is the womb that bore Thee!'' He answered, ''More blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.'' Those words were fulfilled in Mary.

She was filled with grace in order to be the Mother of God. But it was a higher gift than Her maternity to be thus sanctified and thus pure. Our Lord indeed would not have become Her Son unless He had first sanctified Her; but still, the greater blessedness was to have that perfect sanctification.
This then is why She is the Virgo Praedicanda; She is deserving to be preached abroard because She never committed any sin, even the least; because sin had no part in Her; because through the fullness of God's grace, She never thought a thought, or spoke a word, or did an action, which was displeasing, which was not most pleasing, to Almighty God; because in Her was displayed the greatest triumph over the enemy of souls.

Wherefore, when all seemed lost, in order to show what He could do for us all by dying for us; in order to show what human nature, His work, was capable of becoming; to show how utterly He could bring to naught the utmost efforts, the most concentrated malice of the foe, and reverse all the consequences of the Fall, Our Lord began, even before His coming, to do His most wonderful act of redemption, in the person of Her who was to be His Mother.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

We wish a Blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception - complete with many graces and blessings - to all our readers!

O Mary conceived without sin - Pray for us who have recourse to thee! (x3)  

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