St Edmund of Abingdon
Patron of the Diocese
Feast day - 16 November
"Edmund was born in Abingdon in 1175, in a house that today is known as St Edmund’s Lane. The house no longer exists, nor does the chapel built over it in memory of him – but the lane does. It is an extraordinary thing to be able to walk the streets of Abingdon and look at the sights and some of the buildings with which Edmund would have been familiar.
Edmund was the eldest of a fair sized family. We hear quite a bit about his brother Robert - who accompanied Edmund through all the different stages of his life - and his two sisters Margaret and Alice, who became nuns at Catesby in Northamptonshire."
Legend has it that - as a child - Edmund encountered the Christ child at Milham Ford near Magdalen bridge - and that he also placed a ring on a statue of Our Lady in the church of St Mary the Virgin and a ring on his own finger which he never removed - as a pledge of his commitment to her.
After Paris he returned to Oxford (which in those days numbered about 1500 students) where he became renowned as a teacher or Master of such subjects as grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.
He taught his students – “Study as if you were to live forever, live as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Then he was reputed to have had a vision of his mother urging him to study theology. Edmund did so and was ordained a priest. Now he was chiefly famed for his austerities, his compassion and his preaching.
In Oxford he lived on the site of the present day St Edmund Hall, and indeed is said to have built the Lady Chapel at the church of St. Peter in the East next door.
He wrote his famous book – Speculum Ecclesiae or Mirror of the Church – describing the various levels of contemplation.
From 1222 to 1233 Edmund became a Canon, Prebend and Treasurer at Salisbury, at the time when the new Gothic cathedral was being built. However, he chiefly enjoyed ministering to the needs of the people of Calne in Wiltshire where he lived 9 months of the year.
Then in 1233 he was chosen by the Pope to be the Archbishop of Canterbury on account of the moral inspiration of his lecturing and preaching and for his asceticism. He was genuinely reluctant to accept the post but obeyed, reflecting: “He who knows all things, knows that I would never consent to this election unless I thought that I should sin mortally by refusing it.”
His seven-year tenure of Canterbury came at a difficult and desperate time for the country. England was on the brink of civil war between the King Henry III and the Barons. But Edmund brokered a peace. It was said that people listened to him because of his virtue.
He preached that there are two things which make a man holy – knowledge of the Truth and love of goodness. He used to say, “If you want to be loved, show yourself to be loveable.”
Edmund died on the 16th November 1240 at Soissy in France on his way to see the Pope in Rome. His body was taken to the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, where his shrine above the high altar remains to this today.
On account of his holy life and the miracles that occurred after his death, he was canonized seven years later. On his Feast Day, November 16th, we remember and seek the prayers of St. Edmund, Co-Patron with Our Lady of our Diocese.
Edmund was man of intelligence and deep spirituality, who was respected and loved by all. Unrelenting in defence of liberty and truth, he was unafraid to rebuke kings and stand up to Popes. He was a scholar and renowned preacher.
He was the first Oxford man to become Doctor of Divinity, Archbishop of Canterbury and Saint. He was heroic in self-discipline and compassion. He was a man of faith and deep prayer.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Patron of the Young People of the Diocese of Portsmouth
Feast Day - 4 July
BLESSED PIER GIORGIO, born in Turin, Italy in 1901, was so ordinary he was quite extraordinary. He came from a wealthy family, his mother being an artist and his father, the founder and owner of La Stampa the Italian daily newspaper. Neither of his parents were particularly religious and both were unhappily married. He had a younger sister Luciana with whom he was very close.
Pier Giorgio grew up to be a young man of film-star looks with a lively personality. A daredevil athlete, he loved skiing, swimming, horse-riding and above all, climbing mountains. He pinned to his bedroom door: Mountains, mountains, mountains, I love you! As a university student, he was the life and soul of a group of close friends, an association he founded called the Typi Loschi (the “Shady Ones”). He smoked, enjoyed a drink, played practical jokes, debated politics and fell in love.
But what made him extraordinary was his intense faith. A member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, secretly in the slums, he gave away his wealth and much of his spare time serving the poor: 'I see a special light around the sick, the poor, the less fortunate, a light we do not possess' he said. And early every morning, he went to Mass: 'Jesus comes to me each day in Holy Communion and I return the visit by going to serve the poor'. He often took part in nocturnal Eucharistic Adoration. People saw in his face, his joy, his purity, a radiance. His personal-passionate love for Jesus in the Eucharist was correlative to His intense love for Jesus in the poor.
It was in the slums, or more probably in his hospital work, that he caught polio and died after an agonising illness of just six days. He was 24 years old. To the amazement of his family, who knew little of his inner life, great crowds of the poor turned out for his funeral. John Paul II, who made him a Patron of World Youth Day, called him The Man of the Beatitudes.
Blessed Pier Giorgio was a genuine missionary-disciple of Christ. He was never without his Rosary, which he always carried in his pocket. 'I place all the clergy and people of the Diocese of Portsmouth, especially all our young people and those who educate them in our schools, under his intercession that he might present us all to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the prayers of the Rosary. For if we are safe in Her hands, we know we are intimately united with our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. To Him be glory and praise per omnia saecula saeculorum'.
Our Lady conceived Immaculate
Patron of the Diocese
This is one of the many titles bestowed upon Our Lady, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Our Saviour, the Son of God.
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
By giving Mary this grace from the first moment of her conception, God showed us an image of our own destiny. He shows us that this is possible for humans by his grace.
John Paul II noted:
In contemplating this mystery in a Marian perspective, we can say that "Mary, at the side of her Son, is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libertatis conscientia, 22 March, 1986, n. 97; cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 37).
Let us fix our gaze, then, on Mary, the icon of the pilgrim Church in the wilderness of history but on her way to the glorious destination of the heavenly Jerusalem, where she [the Church] will shine as the Bride of the Lamb, Christ the Lord [General Audience, March 14, 2001].
December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception