St. Ulric of Augsburg

St. Ulric was born in 890 at Kyburg, Zurich, Switzerland and died on July 4, 973 at Augsburg of natural causes.  He was buried in the Church of Saint Afra.

St. Ulric was born in 890 at Kyburg, Zurich, Switzerland as the son of Count Hucpald and Thetbirga. He was related to the dukes of Alamannia and the imperial family of the Ottos. He was a sickly child, but as a boy was educated at the monastic school of Saint Gall and proved to be an excellent student. He also served as chamberlain to his uncle, Blessed Adalbero, bishop of Augsburg.

He was ordained as Bishop of Augsburg on December 28, 923. During his tme as bishop, he built churches, visited from parish to parish, worked with the sick in hospitals, set a good example for his priests to follow, and brought relics from Rome. His good works paid off in the form of improved moral and social conditions for both the clergy and laity.

When the Magyars plundered Germany, they besieged Augsburg. Due to Ulric's courage, his leadership, and his ability to organize the resistance, Augsburg held firm until Emperor Otto arrived. On August 10, 955, a battle was fought in Lechfeld, and the invaders were finally defeated. Some legends say that Ulrich actually fought in the battle, but that was impossible.

After 48 years as bishop, an ill and exhausted Ulric resigned his seat, and handed the diocese over to his nephew-a move which had the blessing of the emporer, but which the Synod of Ingelheim ruled uncanonical, and they charged and tried the aging bishop for nepotism. Ulrich apologized, did penance, and was forgiven, the message of which reached him on his death bed.

A letter circulated for a while that indicated Ulric did not support priestly celibacy, seeing it as an unnecessary burden. However, this was later proven a forgery, and Ulric had certainly enforced the discipline upon himself as well as his clergy.

Ulric was the first saint to be canonized by a Pope, which led to the formal process that continues today. Legend has it that pregnant women who drank from his chalice had easy deliveries, and thus developed his patronage of pregnant women and easy births. The touch of his pastoral cross was used to heal people bitten by rabid dogs.

Ulric was canonized on February 3, 993, by Pope John XV.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal
On July 4, the Catholic Church celebrates St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a queen who served the poor and helped her country avoid war during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Elizabeth of Portugal was named for her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who was canonized in 1235. Their lives were similar in some important ways: both of them were married at very young ages, they sought to live the precepts of the Gospel despite their status as royalty, and finished their lives as members of the Third Order of St. Francis.

The younger Elizabeth was born in 1271, the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon and his wife Constantia. Even in her youth, Elizabeth showed a notable devotion to God through fasting, regular prayer, and a sense of life's seriousness. While still very young, she was married to King Diniz of Portugal, a marriage that would put her faith and patience to the test.

King Diniz was faithfully devoted to his country, known as the “Worker King” because of his diligence. Unfortunately, he generally failed to live out the same faithfulness toward his wife, although he is said to have repented of his years of infidelity before his death. Diniz and Elizabeth had two children, but the king fathered an additional seven children with other women.

Many members of the king's court likewise embraced or accepted various forms of immorality, and it would have been easy for the young queen to fall into these vices herself. But Elizabeth remained intent on doing God's will with a humble and charitable attitude. Rather than using her status as queen to pursue her own satisfaction, she sought to advance Christ's reign on earth.

Like her namesake and great-aunt Elizabeth of Hungary, Elizabeth of Portugal was a devoted patroness and personal friend of the poor and sick, and she compelled the women who served her at court to care for them as well. The queen's bishop testified that she had a custom of secretly inviting in lepers, whom she would bathe and clothe, even though the law of the land barred them from approaching the castle.

Elizabeth's commitment to the Gospel also became evident when she intervened to prevent civil war in the kingdom on two occasions. Alfonso, the only son of Diniz and Elizabeth, resented the king's indulgent treatment of one of his illegitimate sons, to the point that the father and son gathered together rival armies that were on the brink of open war in 1323.

On this occasion, St. Elizabeth placed herself between the two opposing armies, insisting that Diniz and Alfonso come to terms and make peace with one another. In 1336, the last year of her life, she intervened in a similar manner to prevent her son from waging war against the King of Castile for his poor treatment of Alfonso's own daughter.

Following King Diniz's death in 1325, Elizabeth had become a Franciscan of the Third Order, and had gone to live in a convent that she had established some years before. The testimony of miracles accomplished through her intercession, after her death in 1336, contributed to her canonization by Pope Urban VIII in 1625.

St. Andrew of Crete
Celebrated by Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine tradition on July 4, Saint Andrew of Crete was a seventh-and eighth-century monk, bishop, and hymn-writer.

Among Eastern Christians he is best known as the author of the “Great Canon,” a lengthy prayer service traditionally offered as a penitential practice during Lent. He is also venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, where he is better known for his writings on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He should not be confused with a different “Saint Andrew of Crete,” celebrated on Oct. 17, who suffered martyrdom while defending the veneration of icons during the eighth century.

The author of the “Great Canon” was born in the Syrian city of Damascus in the mid-seventh century. He is said to have remained mute for the first seven years of his life, gaining the power of speech at age seven after the reception of Holy Communion.

Devoted to God from that time on, Andrew went to Jerusalem and entered the Monastery of Saint Sava when he was 15 years old. He went on to serve as a cleric of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, and was sent as a representative to the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (680-681).

The council took up the monothelite controversy, a disagreement as to whether Christ had both a divine and a human will (as the Church teaches), or only a divine will. Though the question may seem abstract to modern ears, it was an important point, bearing on the reality of Jesus' full humanity.

In 685 Andrew returned to Constantinople, where he did charitable work for orphans and the poor, and served as a deacon in the great Hagia Sophia church. Around the year 700 he became archbishop of the city of Gortyna, on the island of Crete.

In 712, during a resurgence of the monothelite heresy, Andrew was forced to attend an illegitimate gathering in which the Byzantine emperor Philippicus Bardanes tried to reverse the decisions of the Sixth Council. Andrew's coerced attendance was questioned, but forgiven, by the reigning Pope Constantine.

Little is known about the rest of the archbishop's life, which ended peacefully, probably in 740. While his participation in the historic Sixth Council is important, St. Andrew of Crete’s legacy has more to do with his outstanding sermons and liturgical hymns, reflective of a deep interior life of faith.

The Great Canon, his most ambitious known work, takes around three hours to chant. It incorporates more than 200 full-body prostrations along with its many litanies, odes, and refrains. Surveying the Old and New Testaments, it stresses the urgency of repentance and conversion.

The service begins: “Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls.”

“Come, wretched soul, with your flesh, confess to the Creator of all. In future refrain from your former brutishness, and offer to God tears in repentance.”

Interspersed throughout, is the Great Canon’s defining plea: “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”


Amos 9:11-15

11 "In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old;
12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name," says the LORD who does this.
13 "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.
14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them," says the LORD your God.


Matthew 9:14-17

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"
15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
16 And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.
17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved."


Psalms 85:9-14

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 Yea, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.


Lord, help me to have an open heart and mind

Saturday 4th July 2020
13th Week in Ordinary Time

Am 9:11-15 ; Ps 85(84):9, 11-12,13-14;
Mt 9:14-17 (Ps Wk I)

Sometimes we think of the prophets as bearing a negative message — ‘blood and thunder’ — but the fierce words of exhortation and warning are always accompanied by words of hope and encouragement. God does not forget his own, and no negative experience is ever final. Before the dust has even settled from the disasters that life sometimes brings our way, God is already at work planning our new life and future. It is important not to give in to despair or negativity when difficult times come; and self-pity or cynicism are both destructive. Times of struggle should be times of great faith and hope — God never sleeps.

Trying to grasp new ideas with old mindsets is like pouring new wine into old and worn wineskins. They burst — they are not strong enough to contain the wine — and all is lost. When we are presented with new ideas, images, symbols, and ways of understanding our world, we need to create a mind and heart able to contain them. Old ideas and ways of doing things sometimes have to be set aside if we are to grow and move forward. That which does not change and adapt dies or becomes petrified, and that also applies to our spiritual consciousness. As Cardinal Newman said, ‘To live is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often.’ Let us not be rigid and fearful of change or cling to what is familiar or easy.

Lord, help me to have an open heart and mind.