Tag Archives: early Christians




Originally from Antioch, St Erasmus (St Elmo) became Bishop of Formia, Campagna, Italy. To lie low during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians (c. 303), he fled to Mount Lebanon, living a life of prayer and penance. Throughout this time he was miraculously fed by a raven.

The Bishop was tracked down and sent to Diocletian, imprisoned, and freed by an angel. After having converted many more souls he was discovered once more and martyred by being disemboweled. Some sources report that this was done by winding his intestines on a windlass.


St Erasmus is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and invoked against gastrointestinal illnesses such as cancer and Crohn’s Disease. His intercession is asked by soldiers and sailors, too; the blue static electrical discharges which would sometimes appear on the masts or riggings of their ships (“St Elmo’s Fire”) was seen as a sign of his protection.


O God, who gladden us each year by the feast of your holy Martyrs, Marcellinus, Peter and Erasmus, graciously grant that, as we rejoice in their merits, we may be inspired by their example. Through our Lord Jesus Christ…


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Callistus, a Roman, ruled the Church when Antoninus Heliogabulus was emperor. He instituted the four periods of the year which are known as Ember Days – days on which, in accordance with the apostolic tradition, fasting was to be observed by all. He built the basilica called St Mary across-the-Tiber and enlarged the ancient cemetery on the Appian Way, in which are buried many holy Priests and martyrs. For this reason, it is called the cemetery of Callistus. He reigned five years, one month and twelve days.


After a long imprisonment, during which he was starved and frequently scourged, he was thrown head-downward into a well. He was crowned with martyrdom under the Emperor Alexander and was buried in the cemetery of Calepodius on the Aurelian Way, at the third mile-stone from the City, on the day before the Ides of October [222]. Afterwards his body was carried to the basilica of St Mary across-the-Tiber, and was placed under the high altar, where it is venerated with the greatest devotion.

From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


God of mercy,

hear the prayers of your people

that we may be helped by Saint Callistus,

whose martyrdom we celebrate with joy.

Through our Lord…



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The word was made flesh and now dwells among us. He dwells in our memory, he dwells in our thoughts. He comes down even to our imagination.

“How?” you ask. By lying in a manner, by nestling at his mother’s breast, preaching on the mountain, praying throughout the night, hanging on the Cross, growing pallid in death, free among the dead, triumphant in hell. He does it by rising on the third day, by showing the Apostles the print of the nails, the marks of his victory, and finally by ascending before their very eyes into the mysterious heights of the heaven. Of which of these can we not think truly, lovingly, piously, holily?

Of whichever one I think, I think of God; and he is my God through them all. I call it wisdom to meditate upon them, I judge it prudent to recall the memory of their sweetness. From such seeds the priestly rod put forth buds; Mary, drawing their nurture from celestial depths, brought forth the flowers. She who received the Word from the heart of the Father himself, was on a supernal plane, higher even than the angels.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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Jerome was born in Strido in Dalmatia. As a youth, he was baptised at Rome and was educated in the liberal arts by Donatus and other very learned men. From a religious motive he travelled through all of Palestine. Then he retired into the vast desert of Syria. There he spent four years reading the divinely inspired books and meditating upon the blessedness of heavenly things.


After being ordained a priest by Paulinus, Bishop of Antioch, he returned to Palestine, to Bethlehem, to be close by the Crib of Christ the Lord. Here he drew up for himself a holy rule and overcame the snares of the devil by pious works and constant reading and writing. From all over the world he was called upon as an inspired authority to settle questions about the interpretation of Sacred Scripture.


Pope Damasus and St Augustine consulted him often about very difficult passages of Scripture because of his singular knowledge and understanding not only of the Latin and Greek languages, but also of Hebrew and Chaldaic. He translated the Old Testament from the Hebrew. At the command of Pope Damasus, he made a faithful translation of the New Testament from the Greek and also wrote commentaries on many parts of Scripture. In his extremely old age, he passed [A. D. 420]. He was buried in Bethlehem, and was later transferred to Rome and entombed in the basilica of St Mary Major.


O God, who graciously gave your Church blessed Jerome, your Confessor and peerless teacher, to explain the Holy Scriptures, grant, we beseech you, that, with the help of his merits and by your assistance, we may be able to put into practice what he has taught us by his life and works. Through our Lord.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964 [bold headings added]


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Sts Cletus and Marcellinus, Popes and Martyrs; [Memorial: April 26]

Cletus, a Roman, governed the Church when Vespian and Titus were emperors. By order of the Prince of the Apostles he ordained twenty-five priests in the City. He was the first who used the salutation in his letters: “Health and Apostolic benediction.” He put the Church in admirable order and, while Domitian was emperor, in the second persecution after that of Nero, he was crowned with martyrdom and was buried in the Vatican, near the body of St Peter.

Marcellinus, a Roman, ruled the Church in the frightful persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. He suffered many hardships from the unjust severity of those who reproached him. This blessed Pope was beheaded for confessing the faith, together with three other Christians, Claudius, Cyrinus and Antonius.


Eternal Shepherd, look with favour upon your flock. Shelter and safeguard it for evermore through blessed Cletus and Marcellinus, Martyrs and Supreme Pontiffs, whom you constituted shepherds of the whole Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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Today, 28th February, the Church remembers the heroic charitable acts of the Martyrs of the Alexandrian Plague.

In the middle of the third century, a plague spread through much of the Roman Empire. The illness was so lethal and so contagious that it was reported that in one day over 5,000 people died in Rome. The plague was similarly catastrophic in Alexandria, Egypt.

Frightened by the plague, many of the pagan residents of Alexandria left the city and abandoned those who were victims of this terrible disease. People were left to die alone and to remain unburied on the streets.

Amidst these horrors a great number of Christians of the city, priests and people, chose to stay behind and voluntarily nurse the dying and bury the dead. This was remarkable for two reasons. Firstly, it would be quite certain that these Christians would catch the plague from the victims they tended and undergo great suffering and death themselves. Secondly, as the Christian community had been heavily persecuted at that time in Alexandria, they were actually tending to the cruel persecutors who had tortured them.

The Bishop of Alexandria, St Dionysius, wrote accounts of the great charity shown by the local Christians. “Most of the brethren were prodigal in their love and brotherly kindness. They supported one another, visited the sick fearlessly, and looked after them without stint, serving them in Christ. They were happy to die with them, bearing their neighbour’s burdens and taking the disease and pain on themselves, even to death which they caught from them. They put reality into what we look on as a courteous formula, accepting death as “humble servants” of one another. Such religious dutifulness and strength of faith seems not to fall short of martyrdom itself.” St Dionysius goes [on to note in] the report that, “the pagans behaved very differently.

The identity of these Alexandrian Christians as martyrs was later promulgated in the Church’s book of recognised saints, the Roman Martyrology.

St Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “Christianity is an imitation of God’s nature.” Those who practise Christianity perfectly will always act differently to “pagans”, as mentioned by St Dionysius, because they imitate Jesus Christ, who showed such great love to those in need beyond the normal calling of women and men.

– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”, 2/2016


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Homily by St Augustine, Bishop

The solemn feast of today was called St Peter’s Chair by our forefathers, because it is said that on this day Peter, first of the Apostles, took possession of his episcopal chair. Rightly, therefore, do the churches honour the feast of that Chair, which the Apostle accepted for the salvation of the churches, as the Lord said: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

Therefore, the Lord named Peter the foundation of the Church; and it is, therefore, right that the Church should honour this foundation, upon which the lofty structure of the ecclesiastical edifice is built. The Psalm which has been read, says very suitably: “Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people, and praise him in the chair of the ancients.” Blessed be God who has commanded the blessed Apostle Peter to be exalted in the Church; for it is just that we should honour in the Church this foundation, by which it rises to heaven.

In keeping today the feast of this Chair, we honour the office and the priesthood. Individual churches pay to one another this tribute of mutual respect, for the more the priestly office is honoured, the more the dignity of the Church is enhanced. Since religious observance has introduced this feast into the life of the Church, I wonder why some infidels of today are sunk so deep in error, that they place food and wine upon the tombs of the dead, as though souls which have departed from the body were in need of bodily refreshment.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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St Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr

Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch, the second successor of Peter in that see. In the time of Trajan, he was accused of being a Christian and condemned to be thrown to the beasts at Rome.

When he was being deported there in chains from Syria, he instructed all the cities of Asia at which he stopped with exhortations from the Gospel, even teaching the remote cities by his epistles.

In one of these cities, Smyrna, while being entertained at the home of St Polycarp, he wrote to the Romans, and among other things said this:

O beasts prepared to bring me salvation! When will they come? When will they be set loose? When will they enjoy my flesh? I hope they are ferocious, so that they have no fear of touching my body, as they sometimes have. Now I begin to be Christ’s disciple. Let fire, the cross, wild beasts, ripping apart of the limbs, pains of the entire body, and every torture of the devil’s refined art fall together upon me, so long as I merit gaining Jesus Christ.

Therefore, when taken to Rome, hearing the roaring lions, he burned with the desire for martyrdom and pronounced these words:

“I am the wheat of Christ: may I be ground by the teeth of beasts that I may become pure bread.” He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan’s reign.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns and Oates, London, 1964


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Our Lady of Consolation

“Our Blessed Mother has been invoked under the beautiful title of Our Lady of Consolation since the fourth century – and probably for even longer than that. History records that St Eusebius of Vercelli, who was a heroic defender of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity in an age when Arianism was gaining influential followers, brought back an icon of Our Lady of Consolation from Egypt in 363 when he was returning from exile.


This icon was presented to the city of Turin. Later St Maximus, Bishop of Turin 380 – 420, established a small Shrine to house the icon in a church dedicated to St Andrew. Here it became a popular centre of Marian devotion in the city. However, the following years brought a cycle of destruction, then restoration, followed by neglect, then revival.

During these troubled times a new shrine was built, only to be destroyed again during an invasion of the Barbarians. In 1104 the icon was found buried unharmed beneath some ruins and once again the faithful of Turin could honour Our Lady of Consolation in her shrine. Many miracles were attributed to her intercession and over the succeeding centuries the church in which the icon now is displayed has been reconstructed, embellished and added to, and has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. The devotion to Our Lady of Consolation became widespread in Europe.

West Grinstead

The English Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, Sussex is officially affiliated to the Turin Shrine. Although the church itself was built comparatively recently, it stands in a rural area which is steeped in Church history.

After the Reformation, the local major landowners, the Caryll family, were secret Catholics and welcomed priests who came disguised, at the risk of their lives, to minister to them and to the faithful throughout England.

The Priest’s House, with hiding places to shelter the priest if any investigating authorities were in the area, was originally a tiny cottage. There was also a hidden chapel intended to provide temporary safety for worshippers.

Eventually the government policy towards Catholics changed and instead of the risk of the death penalty, financial sanctions were imposed. The Caryll family remained faithful to the Church and eventually followed the Stuart Royal family to France, where they had an honoured place at the Court in Exile.

Monsignor Denis

When the Caryll estate in Sussex was sold in 1754, the Priest’s House at West Grinstead was given to the Church to ensure that a Catholic presence would continue there. Strange to say, the historical situation was soon reversed, as French Catholic priests fled to England to escape the French Revolution, and some found refuge at West Grinstead.

It was difficult for French speaking priests to minister to a rural English congregation and sadly local fervour declined. Eventually, however, following the establishment of a Catholic Diocese of Southwark (which included Sussex) a priest from Brittany, Mgr Jean Marie Denis, was appointed to West Grinstead and, encouraged by the Bishop, worked hard to revitalise the parish.

A new place of pilgrimage

It was Mgr Denis’s inspiration to establish the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead in 1876. He chose this title because the Shrine at Turin was an ancient one and was blessed with special privileges and Indulgences. Through affiliation, the Shrine at West Grinstead shares those privileges.

The combination of history enshrined in the Priest’s House and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the ancient title Our Lady of Consolation excited wide interest and pilgrims began to visit and pray there and they continue to do so today.

Developments in Turin

Whilst the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, in England was developing and attracting pilgrims, there had been developments at the Shrine in Turin. In 1880 a young priest, Father Giuseppe Allamano, was appointed Rector of the Shrine at the age of 29. Although his father had died when he was only three years old, his early years had been privileged with the example of at least two future saints: one being his uncle, later to become St John Cafasso, and the other being Don Bosco, later to become St John Bosco. The latter was his teacher and spiritual director.

Father Giuseppe had benefited from these early influences and, by the time he was installed as Rector of Our Lady of Consolation Shrine in Turin, he had a number of years’ experience of directing seminarians and newly ordained priests of the diocese. He was a dynamic Rector of the Shrine and enhanced its reputation and influence, but his achievements were not limited to that holy place.

Consolata Missionaries

Father Giuseppe was led by his intense devotion to Our Lady and his zeal for evangelisation to found the two religious missionary congregations that we know as the Consolata Fathers and Brothers (1901) and the Consolata Sisters (1910). They were soon active in Africa and now are spread across the world. Father Giuseppe, better known to us today as Blessed Joseph Allamano, died in 1926 and was beatified in 1990 by Pope St John Paul II. We may hope that he will soon be a canonised saint. The Consolata Missionaries eagerly await this and have dedicated the year 2014 to their founder. They are praying that the miracles required to support the Cause of his canonisation will soon be identified and they urge us all to ask his intercession.

The Consolata Icon

Blessed Joseph Allamano spent many hours in prayer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Turin. The holy icon was a source of inspiration for him, and his prayer led him beyond the ancient representation, to the reality of Our Lady’s loving concern for the needy, the sick, the forlorn, the lost… a loving concern as alive today as it has been through the ages.

It seems appropriate that the icon at Turin is not replicated at West Grinstead, which has its own distinct painting … Our Lady is not limited in time or space. Her title of ‘Consolata’ reassures us of her motherly love and her attentiveness to us whenever we call on her, wherever we may be.

Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us.

Blessed Joseph Allamano, pray for us. “

– This article was published in the “Little Way Association” magazine (hard copy) Issue no. 94. For subscriptions and donations, please visit the Little Way Association’s website (external link)


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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Devotions


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On “20th July, one of the saints remembered by the Church is St Aurelius. In the late fourth century he was ordained Bishop of Carthage, which today is in Tunisia. At that time there were two heresies which needed to be countered and St Aurelius played a significant part in promulgating what was true Catholic teaching. These heresies, and then Catholic teaching, are summarised below:


The first heresy was Donatism. This heresy had implications both for the sacrament of confession and the other sacraments in general. Donatists believed that the sacrament of confession could not reconcile certain sinners back into full communion with the Church. This was in the context of certain clerics having previously gone against the Church during times of persecution. The Donatists had a rigorist position against them returning to the Church. The other belief of the Donatists which needed to be countered was their insistence that by sinful acts priests made themselves unable to celebrate valid sacraments. St Aurelius proclaimed the truth of the Catholic Faith that the sacrament of confession was precisely for everyone who repented and that there was a way back to full communion with the Church.

Also that the validity of any sacrament depended on the holiness of God, the priest being a mere instrument of God’s work. So any priest, even one in a state of sin, who speaks the formula of the sacrament with valid matter, as laid down by the Church, and with the intent of causing the sacrament to occur, acts validly. For example, a Catholic who receives the Eucharist from the hands of a priest, even if he has sinned, still receives Christ’s Body and Blood, their own sacramental life being undamaged by the priest’s sins.


The other heresy to be countered was that of Pelagianism. This taught that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will was still capable of choosing good or evil without God’s help. Human will alone was sufficient to live a sinless life and that human beings can earn their own salvation by their own efforts.

The Council of Carthage at that time corrected these errors. The statements include the teaching that death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin; newborn babies must be baptised on account of original sin; justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins; without God’s grace it is not merely more difficult, but impossible to perform good works; not out of humility, but in truth we must confess ourselves to be sinners.

St Aurelius became a good friend of St Augustine of Hippo and the two of them, in writing and spoken word, actively confronted the teachings and tactics of these heretics. St Aurelius died in the year 430.”

From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”/2015


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