Thursday, April 17, 2014


The First Lessons of Matins on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are taken from the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremias. They are among the saddest and most beautiful readings of the Liturgical Year.

Here is Knox's translation of Chapter 1:

When Israel was brought into captivity, and Jerusalem left deserted, the prophet Jeremias sat down and wept, with this mournful lamentation following. And as he spoke, ever he sighed and moaned in the bitterness of his heart.

1. Alone she dwells, the city erewhile so populous; a widow now, once a queen among the nations; tributary now, that once had provinces at her command.
2. Be sure she weeps; there in the darkness her cheeks are wet with tears; of all that courted her, none left to console her, all those lovers grown weary of her, and turned to enemies.
3. Cruel the suffering and the bondage of Juda's exile; that she must needs dwell among the heathen! Nor respite can she find; close at her heels the pursuit, and peril on either hand.
4. Desolate, the streets of Sion; no flocking, now, to the assembly; the gateways lie deserted. Sighs priest, and the maidens go in mourning, so bitter the grief that hangs over all.
5. Exultant, now, her invaders; with her enemies nothing goes amiss. For her many sins, the Lord has brought doom on her, and all her children have gone into exile, driven before the oppressor.
6. Fled is her beauty, the Sion that was once so fair; her chieftains have yielded their ground before the pursuer, strength-less as rams that can find no pasture.
7. Grievous the memories she holds, of the hour when all her ancient glories passed from her, when her people fell defenceless before the invader, unresisting before an enemy that derided them.
8. Heinously Jerusalem sinned; what wonder if she became an outlaw? How they fell to despising her when they saw her shame, that once flattered her! Deeply she sighed, and turned away her head.
9. Ill might skirts of her robe the defilement conceal; alas, so reckless of her doom, alas, fallen so low, with none to comfort her! Mark it well, Lord; see how humbled I, how exultant my adversary!
10. Jealous hands were laid on all she treasured; so it was that she must see Gentiles profane her sanctuary, Gentiles, by thy ordinance from the assembly debarred.
11. Kindred was none but went sighing for lack of bread, offered its precious heirlooms for food to revive men's hearts. Mark it well, Lord, and see my pride abased!
12. Look well, you that pass by, and say if there was ever grief like this grief of mine; never a grape on the vineyard left to glean, when the Lord's threat of vengeance is fulfilled.
13. Must fire from heaven waste my whole being, ere I can learn my lesson? Must he catch me in a net, to drag me back from my course? Desolate he leaves me, to pine away all the day long with grief.
14. No respite it gives me, the yoke of guilt I bear, by his hand fastened down upon my neck; see, I faint under it! The Lord has given me up a prisoner to duress there is no escaping.
15. Of all I had, the Lord has taken away the noblest; lost to me, all the flower of my chivalry, under his strict audit; Sion, poor maid, here was a wine-press well trodden down!
16. Pray you, should I not weep? Fountains these eyes are, that needs must flow; comforter there is none at hand, that should revive my spirits. Lost to me, all those sons of mine, outmatched by their enemy.
17. Quest for consolation is vain, let her plead where she will; neighbors of Jacob, so the Lord decrees, are Jacob's enemies, and all around they shrink from her, as from a thing unclean.
18. Right the Lord has in his quarrel; I have set his commands at defiance. O world, take warning; see what pangs I suffer, all my folk gone into exile, both man and maid.
19. So false the friends that were once my suitors! And now the city lacks priests and elders both, that went begging their bread, to revive the heart in them.
20. Take note, Lord, of my anguish, how my bosom burns, and my heart melts within me, in bitter ruth. And all the while, swords threatens without, and death not less cruel within.
21. Uncomforted my sorrow, but not unheard; my enemies hear it, and rejoice that my miseries are of thy contriving. Ah, but when thy promise comes true, they shall feel my pangs!
22. Vintager who didst leave my boughs so bare, for my much offending, mark well their cruelty, and strip these to in their turn; here be sighs a many, and a sad heart to claim it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


The church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, will be familiar to Knox fans as the West End church in which, for 30 years (1926-1956), he preached on the Feast of Corpus Christi. 26 of the sermons he preached there are available in the collection Pastoral and Occasional Sermons and are counted among his gems.

"How many a priest, reading The Window in the Wall, has been filled with a kind of holy envy at the mastery of his exposition of eucharistic doctrine and at the fertility of mind which, year after year, in the same church and to much the same congregation, could find something not merely new but absolutely penetrating and enriching to say on this subject! Most priests have two or three sermons on the Blessed Sacrament; here we have close on two score of them, redolent of the preacher's own devotion, and challenging us to a fuller realization of the wealth at our disposal." - Thomas Corbishley, S.J., Ronald Knox, the Priest, 1965 Sheed & Ward

The current Pastor, Father Alan Robinson, has undertaken an extensive renovation program and is, of course, in need of funds. If you're looking for a last-minute, Lenten almsgiving opportunity, or if you can help out over the course of time, you can find more information on the parish website. It would be fitting to help this good cause in honor of, and in thanksgiving for, the many benefits we've received from Msgr. Knox.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


A sermon preached by Ronald Knox on Palm Sunday, 1934

Amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. – John  12:24

Today, 1,900 years ago, it looked as if the fortunes of the great Galilean Prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, were at their height. It was the time of the feast; a great multitude of people from Galilee had come up to celebrate it, and these, plainly, were proud of their fellow countryman. At home, where his family was known to many of them, they might criticize him and laugh at his pretensions; but here in Judea it was a different thing; they were not going to have their own Prophet laughed at by the Jews of Judea. That is human nature. And then, just a day or two before Palm Sunday, an extraordinary rumor went round Jerusalem itself. A man of Bethany, a well-known figure there, had died and been buried; and when he had already been four days in the tomb, Jesus of Nazareth had called to him and he had come out alive. Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem; it was as if you heard that somebody had been raised from the dead, say, at Harborne. Naturally,crowds of people came out from Jerusalem to look at the man who had been buried and come to life again; to question his sisters, and have their own assurance about the facts. And these, convinced by what they saw and heard, were hardly less enthusiastic on behalf of the Prophet than the Galileans themselves.

Read the rest in PDF.
From Pastoral and Occasional Sermons available from Ignatius Press

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Hat tip to Rick Wheeler for finding 'The Mass in Slow Motion', by Ronald Knox, in PDF format, thanks to the folks at Corpus Christi Watershed.

Corpus Christi Watershed recently published the beautiful St. Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal and maintain a website and blog about Sacred Music and Liturgy.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

LAETARE SUNDAY with Fr. George Rutler

The Belgian priest and physicist, Monsignor Georges Lemaître died in 1966 after receiving news that his theory of the birth of the universe—what he called the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”—had been confirmed by the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. Albert Einstein was slow in coming around to Lemaître’s hypothesis of an expanding universe, now popularly called the “Big Bang”—a term that was first meant in subtle mockery, but then he commended it to further research. Just weeks ago, scientists published evidence of the almost instantaneous expansion of all matter from an infinitesimal particle. The scale and volume of this stuns the human mind, but at least if the mind cannot grasp this, it can acknowledge it, along with the fact that there was no time or space before that “moment.” It fits well with the record in Genesis of the voice of the eternal and unlimited God uttering light and all consequent creatures into existence.

Here one must be careful in attributing to physical science an explanation of the “why” as well as the “how” of creation, and theology—equally the highest science—must not confuse itself with physics. In the sixteenth century, Cardinal Baronius said, “The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” In a moment of unguarded enthusiasm in 1951, Pope Pius XII said that Lemaître’s theory proved the existence of God. He humbly backed off when Lemaître told him that a physical hypothesis could do no such thing.

No human hypothesis can tell us what God alone can reveal: that he made the world and all that is in it for his delight. When we delight God by doing his will, his delight infuses his sentient creatures with joy. The composer Gustav Holst may have employed some fanciful theology (theosophy) in giving personalities to seven planets in his famous symphony, but the ”jollity” of Jupiter is a compelling metaphor for the joy of the saints.

Laetare Sunday in the middle of Lent is not so much an interruption of the penitential season as it is an encouragement not to lose the focus of Lent and life itself on the joy that God offers us in Heaven, where there is no time or space, as it was before the world began. The Church goes “up” to Jerusalem in an earthly sense as a metaphor for moving toward the Heavenly Jerusalem which “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). This is a wonder more daunting and challenging than the most abstruse hypotheses of the most brilliant physical scientists. It moves beyond the pleasure of speculation into the purest happiness of encounter. “Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and come together all you that love her.”       

by Father George Rutler, Pastor of the Church of St. Michael in New York City

Father Rutler's Sunday sermons can be downloaded in mp3 format on St. Michael's website.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The subject of which I want to treat next is sin, the great evil of our race, and repentance, its only
remedy. And I will take as my starting-point Esau, the grandson of Abraham, the elder son of
Isaac. You will remember that St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, treats Esau and Jacob as
typical, respectively, of nature and grace. Esau is the elder son by birth, but it is his younger
brother, Jacob, who is to be the inheritor of the promises. And St. Paul, anxious to maintain the
principle that God’s election is free, that it is antecedent to all merit or demerit on our part, points
out that in this case Jacob was preferred to Esau in a prophecy made before either of the two
children was born, when they had done neither good nor evil. That is t rue, and a valuable lesson.
But it is no less true that where God rejects, the ground of his rejection is to be sought, not in any
want of love on his part, but in some shortcoming on the part of the soul that is rejected. Let us
try, then, to trace Esau’s character and career – very little is told us about either – and take
warning for our own lives from the hints they give us.

ABRAHAM: A Meditation For Religious

   File:Sacrifice of Isaac-Caravaggio (Uffizi).jpg

Holy obedience is the subject I would treat next, because it so surrounds and conditions the
priestly life that we must needs consider the conduct of our lives and the eternal salvation of our
souls in relation to it and in conformity with it. I might derive a lesson on the subject from almost
any part of the Bible, whether in the Old or in the New Testament. But it seems convenient for
my purpose to keep to the order of historical narration, and discuss the virtue of obedience under
the figure of the patriarch Abraham. From the very moment when he appears on the stage of
history, Abraham meets us as a man with a vocation. Almost as soon as his name has been
mentioned, we read: “Meanwhile, the Lord said to Abraham, Leave thy country behind thee, thy
kinsfolk, and thy father’s home, and come away into a land I will shew thee. Then I will make a
great people of thee.” God has a use for him, and a promise to make to him; but all that is
conditional upon a blind act of obedience; which involves saying goodbye to all the surroundings
and associations which have bounded his life hitherto. And his life henceforward is that of a
wanderer. “And he to whom the name of Abraham was given, shewed faith when he left his
home, obediently, for the country which was to be his inheritance; left it without knowing where
his journey would take him. Faith taught him to live as a stranger in the land he had been
promised for his own, encamping there with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of a common hope.”
Dwelling in tents; here today, he has packed up and gone elsewhere tomorrow; he has no ties to
bind him; he moves, at every turn, in obedience to a command from the divine will.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


"The desert is, paradoxically, the very place where, cut off from all else, we experience the closeness of God. The opening verses of Psalm 90 have, in the translation of Ronald Knox, a note of intimacy that may escape us in more familiar translations:

Content if thou be to live with the Most High for thy defence,
under his Almighty shadow nestling still,
him thy refuge, him thy stronghold thou mayst call,
thy own God, in whom is all thy trust” (Psalm 90:1-2).

CONTINUE READING this meditation on the Vultus Christi blog.

And here is the complete text of Psalm 90, translated by Ronald Knox:

Content if thou be to live with the most High for thy defence, under his Almighty shadow abiding still, him thy refuge, him thy stronghold thou mayst call, thy own God, in whom is all thy trust. He it is will rescue thee from every treacherous lure, every destroying plague. His wings for refuge, nestle thou shalt under his care, his faithfulness thy watch and ward. Nothing shalt thou have to fear from nightly terrors, from the arrow that flies by daylight, from pestilence that walks to and fro in the darkness, from the death that wastes under the noon. Though a thousand fall at thy side, ten thousand at thy right hand, it shall never come next or near thee; rather, thy eyes shall look about thee, and see the reward of sinners.
Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness     He, the Lord, is thy refuge; thou hast found a stronghold in the most High. There is no harm that can befall thee, no plague that shall come near thy dwelling. He has given charge to his angels concerning thee, to watch over thee wheresoever thou goest; they will hold thee up with their hands lest thou should chance to trip on a stone. Thou shalt tread safely on asp and adder, crush lion and serpent under thy feet.
     He trust in me, mine it is to rescue him; he acknowledges my name, from me he shall have protection; when he calls me, I will listen, in affliction I am at his side, to bring him safety and honour. Length of days he shall have to content him, and find in me deliverance.

Friday, March 7, 2014


The Sacrifice of Noah

I hope to continue to post chapters from Ronald Knox's 'A Retreat For Priests' during Lent. The previous post - Creation - was Chapter 1. Here is Chapter 2, The Flood:

I have spoken of man’s creation and his fall; it is natural to pass on from that to an incident
which follows at a very short interval in the sacred writings, the Flood. It has been pointed out
that almost every people retains the memory, or has preserved the legend, of a great deluge at
some remote period, which made a clean sweep of living creation and involved, as it were, a
fresh start. Whatever else the Flood was or did, it seems quite certain that the memory of it is
branded on our race-consciousness; the details of it may be dimly remembered, like a child’s
nightmare, but the tradition is there – that the world God had made needed to be remade, for all
practical purposes, after being buried under a flood.
What is the lesson which this tradition teaches us? Why, first and foremost the lesson of our
conservation. We might have been tempted to suppose, indeed, people often have supposed, that
God simply created the world and then lost interest in it; left it to go its own way, according to
some automatic principle of control which he had devised for it, without interfering in its
destinies further, or busying himself about its welfare. Well, we all know that such a conception
is wholly unsatisfactory as a matter of philosophy; that it is not enough for God to have created
us; he must needs hold us in being by a continuous exercise of his power, lest we should slip
back into the nothingness from which we came.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

CREATION: Remember, man, that thou art dust ...

The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise

[... in this meditation I am using as my starting-point the Creation of Man, and the incident
which follows on it with such pitiable rapidity, the Fall of Man. I would just remind you of the
verse in which Adam’s creation is described: “The Lord God formed man out of the slime of the
earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul”. Let us look,
first of all, at that side of the picture which humiliates us, which puts us in our place. The Lord
God formed man out of the slime of the earth – I don’t think that means we are necessarily
bound to regard the human race, so far as its bodily composition is concerned, as a special
creation; after all, it does not appear to have been a creation ex nihilo. And certainly we are not
meant to draw any conclusions about the exact chemical composition of the flesh we wear. What
this verse does emphasize is the fact that man, on the one side of his nature, is a material being;
is akin, not merely to beasts and birds, but to the lifeless clay under his feet. We are matter, we
are potentiality; we change, as the years go past, every particle of the material tissue in our
bodies; and when we die, we rot in the ground.

So it does not worry us, when angry materialists tell us that we all came from a monkey;
“Monkey?” we say; “why, I was made out of the slime of the earth.” And, for fear we should be
in danger of forgetting our origin, the priest who celebrates the community Mass on Ash
Wednesday is directed to say to us on that occasion, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in 
pulverem reverteris. Pulvis es, we are slime of the earth, clay of God’s fashioning; we did not
make ourselves, he made us; his rights over us are absolute, to make, to break, to remake. Pulvis 
es, we are not like the angels, who, though created beings, are yet creatures of unalloyed and
unconfined spirit; we have gross animal bodies, with gross animal needs. Et in pulverem 
reverteris, the day will come when this body of ours, so delicately fashioned, so exquisitely
proportioned, will decay like dead leaves or fungus, and pass into the general stock-pot of inert matter. Et in pulverem reverteris, the proudest of our civilizations may be buried, years hence,
like Babylon or Carthage, beneath the drifting sand. No echo of vanity in our hearts but may be
silenced by that terrible formula, Pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

from 'A Retreat For Priests', by Ronald Knox

READ the entire chapter in PDF.

Friday, February 28, 2014


The Modern Distaste for Religion

In a too crowded age--I refer, not to the multiplication of mortal lives, but to the multiplicity of human interests--it is an uneasy business to estimate tendencies or to prophesy developments. So many agitators, publicists, and quack physicians, each with his own platform and his own audience, din into our ears the importance of a thousand rival or unconnected movements, so ruled by chance is the sub-editor's preference for this or that head-line, the loyalty of the public towards the catchwords it favoured yesterday, that a wise man might well ask to be excused the task of pronouncing upon the chaos, or of guessing the outcome. Last century, for instance, one thing seemed luminously clear, that Liberalism was advancing, and was bound to advance, in a constant ratio of progress. Does Europe, does England, ratify that opinion now? And if there has been a reaction, is the defeat final or temporary? Which of the modern movements are genuine currents, which the backwash of a flood? Which of our modern evils are symptoms, and which are organic diseases? Which of our modern results are the true offspring of an age, which are sports and freaks of history? Historians of to-morrow, excuse our frantic guess-work in your clearer vision.
Amidst the tangle, one strand seems to define itself-- within the last hundred years, within the last fifty years, within the last twenty-five years, the force of religion, as a factor in English public life, has steadily and visibly declined. I do not mean that a careless and external diagnosis would detect the change. Within the last few years we have seen, perhaps, a greater output of religious discussion in public print than any age since the Reformation. But this itch for religious discussion, which is peculiarly British, is not really an encouraging symptom. Men do not talk about their health when their health is strongest; a nation does not talk about its religion when its religion is flourishing. Statistics, it is true, may be misleading, but they are the thermometer of change. And any statistical comparison I have ever undertaken, or seen undertaken, seems to yield the same result--namely, that the area of lives visibly affected by habits of religion shrinks from decade to decade, and almost from year to year. To take an instance at random--Trollope, in his "Vicar of Bullhampton" ( published in 1870), writes of a London population "not a fourth of whom attend divine service." Is it not the impression most of us would record, after a Sunday morning spent in the metropolis, that to-day we should have to write "a tenth" instead of "a fourth"?


Here are a few more options for Lenten reading:

A Month of Sundays with Monsignor Knox
A Retreat For Lay People
The Gospel in Slow Motion
In Soft Garments
Retreat For Beginners

OR simply go to our website and click on any of the titles or images of the many books available via Amazon, Ignatius Press or others.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

The Holy Bible - Knox Translation - Hardcover (Black Leather)

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to read the Holy Bible, then consider the following:

New Advent has the entire Knox Bible online.

Baronius Press recently published a beautiful edition of the Knox Bible.