31 December 2023

The Poisonous Fruit of Amoris Laetitia

Dr Spinello examines how the infamous Amoris Laetitia laid the groundwork for the undermining of Church teaching on sexuality in general.

From Crisis

By Richard A. Spinello, PhD

Fiducia Supplicans directly flows from principles and premises articulated in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

In his magisterial history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon identified the loss of civic virtue as the “secret poison” that undermined this sprawling global empire and inevitably led to its demise. The Catholic Church is not about to disintegrate in the same fashion as the Roman Empire, but its unity, grounded in the infallible papal magisterium, seems to be unraveling, and its eternal doctrines are no longer safe from radical revision.

We can probably isolate several such poisons in the Church that undermine the deposit of faith, but there is one that is particularly insidious. It involves a departure from what liberal theologians regard as a “sexophobic morality,” and it accounts for profane documents such as Fiducia Supplicans. As everyone knows by now, this declaration from the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith sanctions the blessing of same-sex couples and those in other irregular relationships, so long as those blessings are not liturgical and do not convey the impression of marriage. 

Fiducia Supplicans directly flows from principles and premises articulated in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Following the decadent path of moral theology of the 1970s, Amoris Laetitia misconstrues God’s authoritative commands as “rules” that express “ideals” to which we should all aspire. It ignores the fact that some of these commands, such as the divine prohibition against adultery, allow for no exceptions. On the contrary, these rules are subject to exceptions, excuses, and mitigating circumstances. 

Given our weakness and disposition to noetic and moral frailty, it’s not possible for everyone to follow these rules, especially those that pertain to sexual morality. According to Amoris Laetitia, some Catholics are “not in a position…to fully carry out the objective demands of the law” (295). The pope proceeds to explain that those in irregular situations, such as Catholics divorced and remarried without an annulment, are not necessarily living in a state of mortal sin even if they are not ignorant of the relevant rule. “A subject may know the rule, yet…be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise” (301).

Amoris Laetitia clearly suggests that the Church’s traditional understanding of indissoluble, monogamous marriage, anchored in the words of Jesus Himself, is one of those lofty ideals. It refers to “the ideal of marriage, marked by a commitment to exclusivity and stability” (34). While this “ideal” cannot be negated, more flexibility is necessary in order to achieve psychological balance for those who cannot live up to its demands. The Church must begin to modify and limit its antiquated ideas about sexuality, even if it does so in ways that are essentially contradictory.
Thus, Amoris Laetitia presents the faithful with a revised attitude about sin (and particularly sexual sin) that softens the urgent need for conversion and repentance. Sin is conceived not so much as an offense against God but as a falling short of aspirations. Some Catholics cannot keep God’s commandments and are faced with the prospect of living at a distance from ideals like indissoluble marriage or chastity. It follows from this new theology that same-sex couples merit the Church’s blessing, since their only fault is failing to live up to moral ideals that are often too burdensome.

In answering the dubia of five Cardinals submitted just before the Synod on Synodality, the pope wrote that while the sexual relationship of these same-sex couples may not be morally acceptable from an objective viewpoint, “pastoral charity requires that we do not simply treat as ‘sinners’ other people whose guilt or responsibility may be mitigated by various factors…” (emphasis added).  

Moreover, according to Amoris Laetitia, “a pastor cannot feel that it is enough to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations as if they were stones to throw at people” (305).  Instead of throwing those stones like the Pharisees in John’s Gospel, a blessing is imparted, recognizing the positive elements in the relationship—“all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives” (Fiducia Supplicans, 31). Those positive elements suggest at least an imperfect living out of the ideal, and a blessing expresses the hope that this couple will strive to grow in full fidelity to the Gospel. However, the only way to truly achieve that fidelity is continence or a dissolution of this gravely sinful relationship. The painful reality that these couples are engaged in immoral activity, in sodomy or adultery, is ignored and obscured by a tangled web of euphemisms.

We find this same highly questionable reasoning in answers to the recent dubia submitted by Cardinal Duka concerning reception of Confession and the Eucharist for those divorced Catholics who have entered into a second, civil union. Those dubia sought to clarify the ambiguity of Amoris Laetitia on this issue. This statement claims that after a period of discernment, divorced Catholics can receive sacramental absolution and the Holy Eucharist even if they do not live chastely in the second relationship. 

For Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, these sacraments were only possible for those couples living out a chaste life. But according to the dubia, composed by Cardinal Fernández, “Francis maintains the proposal of full continence for the divorced and remarried in a new union, but admits that there may be difficulties in practicing it and therefore allows in certain cases, after proper discernment, the administration of the sacrament of Reconciliation [and the Holy Eucharist] even when one fails in being faithful to the continence proposed by the Church.” Thus, Catholic couples in a second marriage do not have to cease sexual relations if they conclude that such an action is not possible.

Of course, there are many serious deficiencies in the theological reasoning of Amoris Laetitia. The supposition that keeping God’s commandments is impossible for some is completely incongruous with Scripture and Tradition. Jesus tells us that “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). We can also take comfort in Jesus’ instruction to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

The heterodox doctrine of Amoris Laetitia also contradicts the clear teaching of Trent: “God does not command the impossible; but in commanding he cautions you both to do what you can and to pray for what you cannot, and He helps you so that you can do it.” God’s grace, therefore, allows every Christian to avoid grave sin. Also overlooked in Amoris Laetitia is the Church’s long and unyielding tradition absolutely forbidding sins of the flesh, including adultery, fornication, and homosexual activity, that has been witnessed to by many martyrs from saints like Agatha and Agnes to St. Maria Goretti.  

Pope St. John Paul II was no stranger to the arguments resurrected by Pope Francis and addressed them quite explicitly in Veritatis Splendor:

It would be a very serious error to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man…. But of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us. This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. (103)

Unlike Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II believed, as the Church has always believed, that the redeemed person, despite his weakness, is quite capable of living out the demands of the Gospel and achieving the “entire truth of his being.” That truth means that sexual relations ordered to procreation are the exclusive privilege of a married man and woman who are “no longer two but one” (Matthew 19:5).

The pope’s allies like Archbishop Paglia have referred to Amoris Laetitia as a paradigm shift, and this exuberant claim is not just hyperbole. As such, it not only opens the door for sacrileges like the blessing of same-sex relationships. In the words of Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce, it also ushers in a transition from “ascetic Christianity” to a more “secularized” Christianity. The latter will slowly lead to a complete reversal of Catholic teaching on sexuality that is affirmed so clearly in the Gospel. As Del Noce points out, this new permissive attitude wipes away from the horizon the “passive and mortifying virtues” such as chastity and purity. These private virtues are now considered “repressive” even if Church authorities dare not explicitly admit this.  

Given the impaired theology proposed by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, it is no surprise that he does not meet with groups like Courage, which call active homosexuals to live a life of chastity. He prefers, instead, to support the work of Dignity and New Ways Ministry, which make no such demands on their followers. The pope has also spoken several times about our excessive preoccupation with “sins below the waist.” In an interview with the Portuguese Jesuits during World Youth Day, the pope lamented that the Church still looks at the so-called “sins of the flesh” with a “magnifying glass,” while other evils—such as exploitation of workers, lying, and cheating—are minimized. The implication is that political virtues should take priority over the private ones.

But is the pope right about his apparent rejection of ascetic Christianity and the ostracizing of virtues like chastity and purity? And was the Church’s magisterium so wrong until Pope Francis in preserving and promoting those virtues as integral to the Faith and to our salvation? 

The Family Recipe

Just last night, my wife passed on a cookbook compiled by her grandmother to OUR grandchildren. Grandma may be gone, but her recipes live.

From The European Conservative

By Shawn Phillip Cooper

The family recipe book is a vital part of the conservative cultural enterprise.

In the West, Christmas has long been an occasion for families to gather together for communal meals. Although catered dinners for these festive gatherings are more common now than in the past, most families still prepare the meals themselves using family recipes that have been a staple of seasonal merrymaking for decades, if not generations. These efforts rely, in part, upon a conservative attitude towards cooking itself—an attitude that cuts across political divides in order to elevate and preserve happy memories, along with the culture of states, regions, and individual families. It is right to preserve and celebrate these culinary traditions, which exist at the centre of national, family, and religious practices. They are a memory that can be made real and in which new generations can participate time and again.

This is not to suggest that the cultural cookbooks of families or nations should be preserved in a static, unchanging state. All recipes were once new. Dishes fall out of favour whilst others are elevated to new prominence, and this is generally a good thing. Thankfully, the Victorian toast sandwich and the 1950s prawn aspic have been consigned to the past. But it is right that dishes of national significance should endure, given that they have gained their cultural position largely through their suitability to regional agriculture and their mass appeal: Britain’s fish and chips suit its geographic position as an island, just as the American hamburger is appropriate to its vast grazing area for herds of cattle. Importantly, both are delicious.

Family recipes, too, may be practical in their origins before they become a part of the culture of the family and an object of revered memory. Gatherings with my maternal family invariably featured ‘cheesecake’ made from a family recipe that was quite easy to prepare whilst being notionally (if only notionally) similar to the sort of cheesecake that would be sold in a bakery. In this era of advanced cookware, gadgets of all descriptions, internet how-to videos, and—more significantly—inexpensive cheesecakes of very high quality in the local supermarket, there seems to be little reason for the modest outlay of time involved in making a delicious, albeit ersatz, cheesecake. Nevertheless, it would hardly feel like a real family gathering without it.

Such dishes summon to mind the memories of past gatherings, connecting the present with the past in a real and physical way. To enjoy today’s cheesecake made with yesterday’s recipe is to re-enter the past. My grandmother long ago went to her eternal reward, but when I see and taste our family desserts, it is as if she is still very much present. Something similar happens when we listen to a recording of the great singers or musicians of years gone by—of Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti, and Billie Holiday. But with the family recipe, the connexion is closer and the memories more significant. To preserve such recipes in the face of technological innovations and the rise of Uber Eats (et al.) is a conservative enterprise, one that esteems values far more significant than mere calculations of cost in terms of time and money spent. It might be faster and cheaper to have the desserts catered or bought from the supermarket, but no family memory is preserved in that way.

In my experience, most families have at least one (and often many) recipe for pies. This might seem peculiar because reason suggests that there can be only so many ways to bake an apple pie. The ingredients are, after all, rather limited in scope. But any true pie enthusiast knows that this is not so. I have certainly eaten well over a hundred different kinds of apple pie, all of which have differed significantly, but grandmother’s apple pie was a particular favourite such that, in the heedlessness of youth, I occasionally ate more than my fair share. I have never yet tasted another pie like it. Thus, the family recipe for pie is a way of summoning up not just the memory of apple pie but a very specific memory of a unique dish and of the person who made it.

When my sons began asking about Thanksgiving desserts and I mentioned my grandmother’s baking expertise, I was briefly saddened by the fact that they would never be able to taste one of her memorable apple pies. But then I realised my error, for, of course, they can taste my grandmother’s pies. The family has her recipe, and my mother long ago taught me how to bake them. I have done so on many occasions! But only now that I have children of my own have I really had cause to think about how that baking process is more than a mechanical act. By baking one of my grandmother’s pies, my sons can have the culinary experiences that I had when I was a boy; they, in turn, can learn to bake them as well, passing the recipe on to their own children, along with memories that trace back the chain of family memory.

The philosophical topic of conservatism is often occupied with political considerations—of conserving certain political principles in order to ensure the survival of the culture and civil practices of a nation and its regions. But conservatism must also be a cultural attitude that involves preserving what is best and most meaningful from the past, along with providing the conditions in which the traditional family—the fundamental unit of society—can flourish. Understood thus, the family recipe book is a vital part of the conservative cultural enterprise, being one that is sufficiently abstracted from political principles so that it can be a point of common cause regardless of one’s party affiliation. Perhaps, then, one small step on the road to healing our fractured society is to celebrate the unique expressions of family tradition found in that most unlikely of places: the recipe box.

Consort Profile: Queen Mary of Teck

She lived to see her granddaughter ascend to the throne but not quite long enough to see her crowned, dying just over two months before the Coronation.

From The Mad Monarchist (12 January 2012) 

Princess Mary of Teck was born on May 26, 1867 in London at Kensington Palace to Duke Francis of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. Even though her title derived from a small corner of the German Kingdom of Württemberg, Mary of Teck was British born and raised. She was the oldest of four children and the only girl so she grew up tough, disciplined and used to acting as a peacemaker when her little brothers fought. She also helped her mother with her charitable projects. Soon, she began to catch the attention of Queen Victoria and it was hoped that the attractive, straight-laced princess would make a suitable wife for Prince Eddy, eldest son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line for the throne. The Queen had hoped that marriage would tame her son (a hope that was not entirely fulfilled) and now hoped that Princess Mary of Teck would do the same for Prince Eddy -who had everyone a little worried. His private life was and is the stuff of some pretty outrageous gossip, although when it comes to producing any hard evidence to back up the scandalous rumors things become a bit murky. In any event, whether or not the Princess of Teck would have made a suitable bride for the heir to the heir to the throne did not finally matter as Prince Eddy died of influenza in 1892.

As the Royal Family was in mourning, Princess Mary comforted the survivors and in so doing caught the eye of the new next-in-line Prince George. Queen Victoria, who had a very high opinion of Mary, still thought she would make an excellent consort and approved the match. So, the next year, in 1893 the two were engaged. This time it was not the result of an arrangement but a genuine connection and the two were to have a very successful and lifelong marriage. On July 6, 1893 the two were married at St James’s Palace and Princess Mary became the Duchess of York. Unlike his father (or most of the male members of his family excluding King George III) Prince George was very devoted to his wife, never took a mistress, and after their wedding, in quick order, six children were born to the happy couple. First was Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII) born in 1894, followed by Prince Albert (later King George VI) in 1895, then the Princess Royal Mary in 1897, Prince Henry in 1900, Prince George in 1902 and finally the unfortunate Prince John in 1905. Prince John was afflicted with epilepsy and only lived to the age of 13 but, despite what many today seem to believe, was much loved and closely taken care of by his mother.

It was customary to have nannies to take care of the royal children, but Princess Mary was not a distant mother, spending a great deal of time with her children, teaching them many things herself and when obliged to make overseas trips around the British Empire would break down in tears at having to leave her children. She was a very good mother, assumptions to the contrary probably being a result of her very strict, prim and proper appearance in public. In private, however, she was quite affectionate, caring and even playful. In 1901 Queen Victoria passed away and her son became King Edward VII. So, later that year, George and Mary became the Prince and Princess of Wales. With these new positions came even more demands on the time of the couple and Princess Mary traveled with her husband to Austria, Germany, Egypt, Greece, India, Spain and to Norway for the coronation of King Haakon VII and his wife Queen Maud (Mary’s sister-in-law). In 1910 King Edward VII died and the former Prince and Princess of Wales were crowned King George V and Queen Mary on June 22, 1911. It had always been the intention of King George V to change (and improve) the public reputation of the monarchy which had gone through a rough patch with the escapades of his father and older brother and this he certainly did and Queen Mary was a vital part of that.

King George and Queen Mary were the image of the model family; a happy couple, devoted and faithful to each other with many children who focused on doing good deeds and setting a proper example. They were the first sovereigns to celebrate their accession as Emperor and Empress of India on the subcontinent and when World War I erupted she set a magnificent example at the palace for the Royal Family being in solidarity with the British public. She saw to it that everything was rationed (as it was for the people) and even though it caused her great emotional distress she frequently visited the badly wounded troops of the BEF evacuated from the front in France and Belgium. Just before the war ended Queen Mary was devastated by the death of her ailing son Prince John; few at the time knew just how devastated. Yet, through it all, she was seen as a tower of strength at every public appearance, proper, determined and devoted to duty. She certainly was a great help to King George V who relied on her advice, emotional support and calming influence.

Eventually, the King began to fall victim to respiratory problems (he was a heavy smoker as his father had been and his son would be) and Queen Mary was his constant support. Even the doctors who were brought in credited the King’s survival with Queen Mary’s constant care and attention. At his silver jubilee, King George V lauded Queen Mary in a public speech which he placed at the end of his remarks for fear that he would be overcome by emotion saying, “I cannot trust myself to speak of the Queen when I think of all I owe her”. She was deeply saddened when George V died in 1936 and then had to deal with the potential crisis involving her son, King Edward VIII, and Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Queen Mary, although she appeared aloof and detached in public, cared deeply for her son and tried to support him in the midst of this scandal. However, she never viewed Mrs. Simpson as an acceptable consort for a King-Emperor. The Queen also never recognized the validity of divorce as a dutiful and sincere member of the Church of England. When King Edward decided to abdicate it was something incomprehensible to Queen Mary whose entire life had been defined by her devotion to duty. However, accepting that there was no other alternative she did her best to help her second son, King George VI, in taking leadership of the British monarchy at such a critical time.

During World War II, as she had in the last conflict, Queen Mary visited factories serving the war effort, met with soldiers on British bases and was even known to stop and giving walking soldiers arrive when spotted on the roadside. She also helped in the nation-wide campaign to gather scrap metal and other supplies to support the war effort. Queen Mary also took an active interest in the lives of her granddaughters Elizabeth and Margaret, passing on to them her appreciation for art and culture. She out-lived her son King George VI in 1952 and saw her granddaughter succeed to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. After that moment, for a time, Great Britain had three queens; Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II. She did not live to see the coronation though as she died on March 24, 1953 of lung cancer at the age of 85. She was buried next to her beloved husband, King George V, at Windsor Castle.

Bishop Challoner's Meditations ~ January 1st


Consider first, that on this day we keep the Octave of the birth of Christ, together with the festivity of his circumcision. when being yet but eight days old, he began to shed his sacred blood in obedience to his Father's will; subjecting himself to that most painful and most humbling ceremony, and bearing therein the resemblance of a criminal, as if he, like the rest had stood in need of the circumcising knife for the expiation of sin. Christians, learn here, from your infant Saviour, the lessons he desires to teach you in his circumcision; his unparalleled humility, his perfect obedience and conformity to his Father's will; his patience in suffering, and his ardent love and charity for us. He came to discharge the immense debt we owed by our sins to his Father's justice, by shedding the last drop of his blood in expiation of them; and behold he has here given us an earnest of this payment, by submitting himself this day to the knife of circumcision.

Consider 2ndly, and set before your eyes this divine infant, this innocent lamb of God, this beloved of your souls, beautiful beyond the children of men, all embrued in his own most sacred blood; and suffering in that tender age the cruel smart of a most sensible wound. O how sensible indeed to him! O how sensible to the loving heart of his blessed Virgin Mother! See with what affection she embraces him: se with what anguish of heart she bewails his sufferings: see with what tender compassion she strives to afford him all the comfort she is able. Learn of her the like affections of love and compassion for your suffering Lord.

O my soul, embrace, with her, thy infant Saviour, bleeding for thee. 'A bloody spouse thou are to me,' said Sephora to Moses, Exod. iv. 25: when to deliver him from the hand of the angel that threatened him with death, she touched his feet with the blood of her child whom she had just then circumcised. O how truly is our dear Redeemer a sponsus sanguinum, a bloody spouse to our souls, for whom he gives now this first fruit, and for whom he will one day give all his blood, to rescue us from the hand of the destroying angel! O blessed be his divine charity for ever!

Consider 3rdly, that it is the duty of all Christians to imitate our Lord's circumcision, by a spiritual circumcision of the heart, which God so often calls for in the Scriptures, and always preferred before the carnal circumcision. This spiritual circumcision requires of us a cutting off, or retrenching, all disorderly affections to the world and its pomps; to the mammon of iniquity, and to the flesh, and its lusts; and a serious application of our souls to a daily mortification of our passions and corrupt inclinations. My soul, let us heartily embrace, and daily put in practice, this circumcision of the heart.

Conclude to make a return of thy heart to thy infant Saviour, who began on this day to shed his blood for thee; but see it be a heart purified, by a spiritual circumcision, from all such affections as are disagreeable to him.

1 January, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day


The New Year
1. This is a new gift which God in His infinite goodness gives to us. But every gift of God demands on our part a generous expression of gratitude, which should result in positive acts of virtue. Gratitude is an empty and short-lived sentiment unless it is accompanied by a sincere intention of performing good works.
Time is the price of eternity, because with time we can purchase an eternity of happiness or misery.
Consider this great truth. Every year is like a ladder in our lives. Now, it is necessary that this ladder should lead us, not perilously downwards towards evil, but upwards towards Heaven, even if with faltering footsteps.
The New Year opens today as a blank page in the diary of our lives. What do we intend to write there? The usual inanities and sins, perhaps? Let us reflect before God and in the light of the eternity which awaits us. This is the time for great decisions. It is necessary that we should offer our resolutions to God along with a humble and fervent prayer that He will strengthen us to comply faithfully with His grace.
2. During these days it is customary to exchange, verbally or in writing, good wishes for the New Year. But these poor greetings are often nothing more than conventional phrases. Men lack the power to transmute such good wishes into reality. God alone is the source of every material and spiritual good; therefore He alone can ensure that these benevolent expressions are translated into deeds of Christian renovation. Since today is the beginning of the New Year, it is especially important for us to ask God more fervently and insistently to bless the resolutions which we are making for ourselves and the good wishes which we are showering on our friends.
These wishes have no meaning, and these resolutions have no force, if they are not accompanied by fervent and persevering prayer.
3. It is suggested in “The Imitation of Christ” that if we were to get rid of at least one habit of sin every year, we should soon be holy. If we have not tried to do this in the past, let us propose to do it in the future. This year let us select the principal defect which we possess, the sin into which we are most accustomed to fall. Let us seek to eradicate it with all the strength of our soul, assisted by the grace of God which will certainly not be denied us. Let us request for this purpose the most powerful patronage of Mary Most Holy. Let us pass this day in close union with God and under the maternal mantle of our Heavenly Mother. Finally, let us promise earnestly that all the days of the New Year will follow the same pattern.

Eastern Rite - Feasts of 1 January AM 7532

Today is the Feasts of the Circumcision of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ and of Our Father Among the Saints Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

On the eighth day after His Nativity, our Lord Jesus Christ was circumcised in accordance with the Old Testament Law. All male infants underwent circumcision as a sign of God’s Covenant with the holy Forefather Abraham and his descendants [Genesis 17:10-14, Leviticus 12:3].

After this ritual, the Divine Infant was given the name Jesus, as the Archangel Gabriel declared on the day of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos [Luke 1:31-33, 2:21]. The Fathers of the Church explain that the Lord, the Creator of the Law, underwent circumcision in order to give people an example of how faithfully the divine ordinances ought to be fulfilled. The Lord was circumcised so that later no one would doubt that He had truly assumed human flesh, and that His Incarnation was not merely an illusion, as certain heretics had taught.

In the New Testament, the ritual of circumcision gave way to the Mystery of Baptism, which it prefigured [Colossians 2:11-12]. Accounts of the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord continue in the Eastern Church right up through the fourth century. The Canon of the Feast was written by Saint Stephen of the Saint Savva Monastery.

In addition to circumcision, which the Lord accepted as a sign of God’s Covenant with mankind, He also received the Name Jesus [Savior] on the eighth day after His Nativity as an indication of His service, the work of the salvation of the world [Matthew 1:21; Mark 9:38-39, 16:17; Luke 10:17; Acts 3:6, 16; Philippians 2:9-10]. These two events -- the Lord’s Circumcision and Naming -- remind Christians that they have entered into a New Covenant with God and “are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” [Colossians 2:11]. The very name “Christian” is a sign of mankind’s entrance into a New Covenant with God.

Troparion — Tone 1

Enthroned on high with the Eternal Father and Your divine Spirit, / O Jesus, You willed to be born on earth of the unwedded handmaid, your Mother. / Therefore You were circumcised as an eight-day old Child. / Glory to Your most gracious counsel; / glory to Your dispensation; / glory to Your condescension, O only Lover of mankind.

Kontakion — Tone 3

The Lord of all accepts to be circumcised, / thus, as He is good, excises the sins of mortal men. / Today He grants the world salvation, / while light-bearing Basil, high priest of our Creator, / rejoices in heaven as a divine initiate of Christ.

Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, “belongs not to the Church of Caesarea alone, nor merely to his own time, nor was he of benefit only to his own kinsmen, but rather to all lands and cities worldwide, and to all people he brought and still brings benefit, and for Christians, he always was and will be a most salvific teacher.” Thus spoke Saint Basil’s contemporary, Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium.

Saint Basil was born in the year 330 at Caesarea, the administrative centre of Cappadocia. He was of illustrious lineage, famed for its eminence and wealth, and zealous for the Christian Faith. The saint’s grandfather and grandmother on his father’s side had to hide in the forests of Pontus for seven years during the persecution under Diocletian.

Saint Basil’s mother Saint Emilia was the daughter of a martyr. On the Greek calendar, she is commemorated on May 30. Saint Basil’s father was also named Basil. He was a lawyer and renowned rhetorician and lived in Caesarea.

Ten children were born to the elder Basil and Emilia: five sons and five daughters. Five of them were later numbered among the saints: Basil the Great; Macrina (July 19) was an exemplar of ascetic life, and exerted a strong influence on the life and character of Saint Basil the Great; Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Nyssa (January 10); Peter, Bishop of Sebaste (January 9); and Theosebia, a deaconess (January 10).

Saint Basil spent the first years of his life on an estate belonging to his parents at the River Iris, where he was raised under the supervision of his mother Emilia and grandmother Macrina. They were women of great refinement, who remembered an earlier bishop of Cappadocia, Saint Gregory the Wonderworker (November 17). Basil received his initial education under the supervision of his father, and then he studied under the finest teachers in Caesarea of Cappadocia, and it was here that he made the acquaintance of Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25 and January 30). Later, Basil transferred to a school at Constantinople, where he listened to eminent orators and philosophers. To complete his education Saint Basil went to Athens, the centre of classical enlightenment.

After a four or five year stay in Athens, Basil had mastered all the available disciplines. “He studied everything thoroughly, more than others are wont to study a single subject. He studied each science in its very totality, as though he would study nothing else.” Philosopher, philologist, orator, jurist, naturalist, possessing profound knowledge in astronomy, mathematics and medicine, “he was a ship fully laden with learning, to the extent permitted by human nature.”

At Athens, a close friendship developed between Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus), which continued throughout their life. In fact, they regarded themselves as one soul in two bodies. Later on, in his eulogy for Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks with delight about this period: “Various hopes guided us, and indeed inevitably, in learning... Two paths opened up before us: the one to our sacred temples and the teachers therein; the other towards preceptors of disciplines beyond.”

About the year 357, Saint Basil returned to Caesarea, where for a while he devoted himself to rhetoric. But soon, refusing offers from Caesarea’s citizens who wanted to entrust him with the education of their offspring, Saint Basil entered upon the path of ascetic life.

After the death of her husband, Basil’s mother, her eldest daughter Macrina, and several female servants withdrew to the family estate at Iris and there began to lead an ascetic life. Basil was baptized by Dianios, the Bishop of Caesarea, and was tonsured a Reader (On the Holy Spirit, 29). He first read the Holy Scriptures to the people, then explained them.

Later on, “wishing to acquire a guide to the knowledge of the truth”, the saint undertook a journey into Egypt, Syria and Palestine, to meet the great Christian ascetics dwelling there. On returning to Cappadocia, he decided to do as they did. He distributed his wealth to the needy, then settled on the opposite side of the river not far from his mother Emilia and sister Macrina, gathering around him monks living a cenobitic life.

By his letters, Basil drew his good friend Gregory the Theologian to the monastery. Saints Basil and Gregory laboured in strict abstinence in their dwelling place, which had no roof or fireplace, and the food was very humble. They themselves cleared away the stones, planted and watered the trees, and carried heavy loads. Their hands were constantly calloused from the hard work. For clothing Basil had only a tunic and monastic mantle. He wore a hairshirt, but only at night, so that it would not be obvious.

In their solitude, Saints Basil and Gregory occupied themselves in an intense study of Holy Scripture. They were guided by the writings of the Fathers and commentators of the past, especially the good writings of Origen. From all these works they compiled an anthology called Philokalia. Also at this time, at the request of the monks, Saint Basil wrote down a collection of rules for the virtuous life. By his preaching and by his example Saint Basil assisted in the spiritual perfection of Christians in Cappadocia and Pontus, and many indeed turned to him. Monasteries were organized for men and for women, in which places Basil sought to combine the cenobitic (koine bios, or common) lifestyle with that of the solitary hermit.

During the reign of Constantius (337-361) the heretical teachings of Arius were spreading, and the Church summoned both its saints into service. Saint Basil returned to Caesarea. In the year 362, he was ordained deacon by Bishop Meletius of Antioch. In 364 he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. “But seeing,” as Gregory the Theologian relates, “that everyone exceedingly praised and honoured Basil for his wisdom and reverence, Eusebius, through human weakness, succumbed to jealousy of him, and began to show dislike for him.” The monks rose up in defence of Saint Basil. To avoid causing Church discord, Basil withdrew to his own monastery and concerned himself with the organization of monasteries.

With the coming to power of the emperor Valens (364-378), who was a resolute adherent of Arianism, a time of troubles began for Catholicism, the onset of a great struggle. Saint Basil hastily returned to Caesarea at the request of Bishop Eusebius. In the words of Gregory the Theologian, he was for Bishop Eusebius “a good advisor, a righteous representative, an expounder of the Word of God, a staff for the aged, a faithful support in internal matters, and an activist in external matters.”

From this time church governance passed over to Basil, though he was subordinate to the hierarch. He preached daily, and often twice, in the morning and in the evening. During this time Saint Basil composed his Liturgy. He wrote a work “On the Six Days of Creation” (Hexaemeron) and another on the Prophet Isaiah in sixteen chapters, yet another on the Psalms, and also a second compilation of monastic rules. Saint Basil wrote also three books “Against Eunomius,” an Arian teacher who, with the help of Aristotelian concepts, had presented the Arian dogma in philosophic form, converting Christian teaching into a logical scheme of rational concepts.

Saint Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the activity of Basil the Great during this period, points to “the caring for the destitute and the taking in of strangers, the supervision of virgins, written and unwritten monastic rules for monks, the arrangement of prayers [Liturgy], the felicitous arrangement of altars and other things.” Upon the death of Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil was chosen to succeed him in the year 370. As Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil the Great was the newest of fifty bishops in eleven provinces. Saint Athanasius the Great (May 2), with joy and with thanks to God welcomed the appointment to Cappadocia of such a bishop as Basil, famed for his reverence, deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, great learning, and his efforts for the welfare of Church peace and unity.

Under Valens, the external government belonged to the Arians, who held various opinions regarding the divinity of the Son of God and were divided into several factions. These dogmatic disputes were concerned with questions about the Holy Spirit. In his books Against Eunomios, Saint Basil the Great taught the divinity of the Holy Spirit and His equality with the Father and the Son. Subsequently, in order to provide a full explanation of Catholic teaching on this question, Saint Basil wrote his book On the Holy Spirit at the request of Saint Amphilochius, the Bishop of Iconium.

Saint Basil’s difficulties were made worse by various circumstances: Cappadocia was divided in two under the rearrangement of provincial districts. Then at Antioch, a schism occurred, occasioned by the consecration of a second bishop. There was the negative and haughty attitude of Western bishops to the attempts to draw them into the struggle with the Arians. And there was also the departure of Eustathius of Sebaste over to the Arian side. Basil had been connected to him by ties of close friendship. Amidst the constant perils, Saint Basil gave encouragement to the Catholics, confirmed them in the Faith, summoning them to bravery and endurance. The holy bishop wrote numerous letters to the churches, to bishops, to clergy and to individuals. Overcoming the heretics “by the weapon of his mouth, and by the arrows of his letters,” as an untiring champion of Catholicism, Saint Basil challenged the hostility and intrigues of the Arian heretics all his life. He has been compared to a bee, stinging the Church’s enemies, yet nourishing his flock with the sweet honey of his teaching.

The emperor Valens, mercilessly sending into exile any bishop who displeased him, and having implanted Arianism into other Asia Minor provinces, suddenly appeared in Cappadocia for this same purpose. He sent the Prefect Modestus to Saint Basil. He began to threaten the saint with the confiscation of his property, banishment, beatings, and even death.

Saint Basil said, “If you take away my possessions, you will not enrich yourself, nor will you make me a pauper. You have no need of my old worn-out clothing, nor of my few books, of which the entirety of my wealth is comprised. Exile means nothing to me since I am bound to no particular place. This place in which I now dwell is not mine, and any place you send me shall be mine. Better to say: every place is God’s. Where would I be neither a stranger and sojourner (Ps. 38/39:13)? Who can torture me? I am so weak, that the very first blow would render me insensible. Death would be a kindness to me, for it will bring me all the sooner to God, for Whom I live and labour, and to Whom I hasten.”

The official was stunned by his answer. “No one has ever spoken so audaciously to me,” he said.

“Perhaps,” the saint remarked, “ that is because you’ve never spoken to a bishop before. In all else, we are meek, the most humble of all. But when it concerns God, and people rise up against Him, then we, counting everything else as nought, look to Him alone. Then fire, sword, wild beasts and iron rods that rend the body, serve to fill us with joy, rather than fear.”

Reporting to Valens that Saint Basil was not to be intimidated, Modestus said, “Emperor, we stand defeated by a leader of the Church.” Basil the Great again showed firmness before the emperor and his retinue and made such a strong impression on Valens that the emperor dared not give in to the Arians demanding Basil’s exile. “On the day of Theophany, amidst an innumerable multitude of the people, Valens entered the church and mixed in with the throng, in order to give the appearance of being in unity with the Church. When the singing of Psalms began in the church, it was like thunder to his hearing. The emperor beheld a sea of people, and in the altar and all around was splendour; in front of all was Basil, who acknowledged neither by gesture nor by glance, that anything else was going on in the church.” Everything was focused only on God and the altar-table, and the clergy serving there in awe and reverence.

Saint Basil celebrated the church services almost every day. He was particularly concerned about the strict fulfilling of the Canons of the Church and took care that only worthy individuals should enter into the clergy. He incessantly made the rounds of his own church, lest anywhere there be an infraction of Church discipline, and setting aright any unseemliness. At Caesarea, Saint Basil built two monasteries, a men’s and a women’s, with a church in honour of the Forty Martyrs (March 9) whose relics were buried there. Following the example of monks, the saint’s clergy, even deacons and priests, lived in remarkable poverty, to toil and lead chaste and virtuous lives. For his clergy, Saint Basil obtained an exemption from taxation. He used all his personal wealth and the income from his church for the benefit of the destitute; in every center of his diocese he built a poor-house; and at Caesarea, a home for wanderers and the homeless.

Sickly since youth, the toil of teaching, his life of abstinence, and the concerns and sorrows of pastoral service took their toll on him. Saint Basil died on January 1, 379 at age 49. Shortly before his death, the saint blessed Saint Gregory the Theologian to accept the See of Constantinople.

Upon the repose of Saint Basil, the Church immediately began to celebrate his memory. Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23), in his eulogy to Saint Basil the Great, said: “It is neither without a reason nor by chance that holy Basil has taken leave from the body and had repose from the world unto God on the day of the Circumcision of Jesus, celebrated between the day of the Nativity and the day of the Baptism of Christ. Therefore, this most blessed one, preaching and praising the Nativity and Baptism of Christ, extolling spiritual circumcision, himself forsaking the flesh, now ascends to Christ on the sacred day of remembrance of the Circumcision of Christ. Therefore, let it also be established on this present day annually to honor the memory of Basil the Great festively and with solemnity.”

Saint Basil is also called “the revealer of heavenly mysteries” (Ouranophantor), a “renowned and bright star,” and “the glory and beauty of the Church.” His honourable head is in the Great Lavra on Mount Athos.

In some countries, it is customary to sing special carols today in honour of Saint Basil. He is believed to visit the homes of the faithful, and a place is set for him at the table. People visit the homes of friends and relatives, and the mistress of the house gives a small gift to the children. A special bread (Vasilopita) is blessed and distributed after the Liturgy. A silver coin is baked into the bread, and whoever receives the slice with the coin is said to receive the blessing of Saint Basil for the coming year.

Troparion — Tone 1

Your proclamation has gone out into all the earth / which was divinely taught by hearing your voice / expounding the nature of creatures, / ennobling the manners of men. / O holy father of a royal priesthood, / entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion — Tone 4

You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church, / granting all mankind a lordship which cannot be taken away, / sealing it with your precepts, / O venerable and heavenly Father Basil.


IN LUMINE FIDEI: 1 JANUARY – THE CIRCUMCISION OF OUR LORD: Dom Prosper Guéranger: Our new-born King and Saviour is eight days old today. The star that guides the Magi is advancing towards Be...


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1 January, The Chesterton Calendar

January 1st

Mere light sophistry is the thing that I happen to despise most of all things, and it is perhaps a wholesome fact that this is the thing of which I am generally accused.

New Years Day, The Chesterton Calendar

New Years Day

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

'Daily News.'

1 January, The Holy Rule of St Benedict, Patriarch of Western Monasticism


1 Jan. 2 May. 1 Sept

Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart; willingly receive and faithfully fulfil the admonition of thy loving Father, that thou mayest return by the labour of obedience to Him from Whom thou hadst departed through the sloth of disobedience. To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art that, renouncing thine own will, dost take up the strong and bright weapons of obedience, in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true king. In the first place, whatever good work thou beginnest to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect; that He Who hath now vouchsafed to count us in the number of His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He hath given us, that not only may He never, as an angry father, disinherit his children, but may never, as a dreadful Lord, incensed by our sins, deliver us to everlasting punishment, as most wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

2 January, The Roman Martyrology

Quarto Nonas Ianuárii Luna vicésima prima Anno Dómini 2024

The morrow is the Octave of holy Stephen the Proto-Martyr. At Rome are commemorated upon the same day many holy martyrs who defied the edict of the Emperor Diocletian whereby it was commanded to give up the holy books, they being willing rather to give over their own bodies to the executioners than to give unto dogs that which was holy.
January 2nd 2024, the 21st day of the Moon, were born into the better life:

At Antioch, blessed Isidore, Bishop (in the year 420).
At Tomi, in Pontus, under Emperor Licinius, the three holy brethren, Argeus, Narcissus, and Marcellinus.
Argeus and Narcissus were slain with the sword. Marcellinus was a boy, he was taken among the recruits, and for as much as he would not be a soldier he was grievously flogged, and after suffering long in prison was drowned in the sea (in the year 320.)
At Milan (after the year 431), holy Martinian (17th) bishop of that see.
At Nitria, in Egypt, the blessed confessor Isidore (Bishop of Hermopolis in the fourth century).
Upon the same day the holy Bishop Siridion.
In the Thebaid the holy Abbot Macarius of Alexandria (about the year 395.)
℣. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
℟. Thanks be to God.

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Holy Hour of Thanksgiving

From St Thomas Aquinas Seminary.

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The Holy Rosary

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The Nations of Charlemagne ~ 24: Exporting the French Revolution (Part Three): Grand Strategy of the Napoleonic Empire

Justice, the Common Good, and Friendship

With Fr Gregory Pine, OP,  BA, STL, Assistant Director for Campus Outreach at the Thomistic Institute & Michael Dauphinais, PhD, Father Matthew Lamb Professor of Catholic Theology and Co-Director of the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University in Florida.

The Biggest Stories Of 2023 That Point To Apostasy In 2024

Christmas Concert 2023 ~ St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary is hosting a Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 31st from 14.30-16.00 EST.

Happy Seventh Day of Christmas and Happy Sylvester!

Today is the Seventh Day of Christmas. It is also the Feast of Pope St Sylvester, who reigned from AD 314 to AD 345. 

Since St Sylvester's Day is also New Year's Eve in the Gregorian Calendar, several countries, primarily in Europe, use a variant of Sylvester's name as the preferred name for the holiday; these countries include Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

Some of the customs from various countries of Europe that are observed on this day.

Austria and Germany

In the capital of Austria, Vienna, people walk pigs on leashes for their Saint Sylvester's Day celebration in hope to have good luck for the coming year. Many Christian households in Germany mark the Saint Sylvester's Day by practicing the custom of Bleigiessen using Silvesterblei (Silvester lead), in which Silvesterblei is melted over a flame in an old spoon and dropped into a bowl of cold water; one's fortune for the coming year is determined by the shape of the lead.[7] If the lead forms a ball (der Ball), luck will roll one's way, while the shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need, and a star (der Sterne) signifies happiness.


Christians of Belgium have a tradition that a maiden who does not finish her work by the time of sunset on Saint Sylvester's Day will not get married in year to come.


Along with exploding fireworks, the Saint Sylvester Road Race, Brazil's most oldest and prestigious running event, takes place on Saint Sylvester's Day and is dedicated to Pope Sylvester I.


On Saint Sylvester's Day, "lentils and slices of sausage are eaten because they look like coins and symbolize good fortune and the richness of life for the coming year."


On the morning of Saint Sylvester's Day, the children of a Christian family compete with one another to see who can wake up the earliest; the child who arises the latest is playfully jeered. Men have, for centuries, masqueraded as Silvesterklaus on Saint Sylvester's Day.

Here are the readings from Matins for today, that were used until Venerable Pope Pius XII's reform of the Roman Breviary in 1955, at which time St Sylvester's Day was suppressed because of the Octave of the Nativity.

Sylvester was a Roman by birth, and his father's name was Rufinus. He was brought up from a very early age under a Priest named Cyrinus, of whose teaching and example he was a diligent learner. In his thirtieth year he was ordained Priest of the Holy Roman Church by Pope Marcellinus. In the discharge of his duties he became a model for all the clergy, and, after the death of Melchiades, he succeeded him on the Papal throne, ,during the reign of Constantine, who had already by public decree proclaimed peace to the Church of Christ. Hardly had he undertaken the government of the Church when he betook himself to stir up the Emperor to protect and propagate the religion of Christ. Constantine was fresh from his victory over his enemy Maxentius, on the Eve whereof the sign of the Cross had been revealed to him limned in light upon the sky; and there was an old story in the Church of Rome that it was Sylvester who caused him to recognise the images of the Apostles, administered to him holy Baptism, and cleansed him from the leprosy of misbelief.

The godly Emperor had already granted to Christ's faithful people permission to build public churches, and by the advice of Sylvester he himself set them the example. He built many Basilicas, and magnificently adorned them with holy images, and gifted them with gifts and endowments. Among these there were, besides others, the Church of Christ the Saviour, hard by the Lateran Palace; that of St. Peter, upon the Vatican Mount; that of St. Paul, upon the road to Ostia; that of St. Lawrence, in Verus' field; that of the Holy Cross at the Sessorian hall; that of St. Peter and St. Marcellinus, upon the Lavican Way; and that of St. Agnes, upon the road to Mentana. Under this Pope was held the first Council of Nice, presided over by the Papal Legates, and in the Presence of Constantine, and three hundred and eighteen Bishops, where the holy and Catholic Faith was declared, and Arius and his followers condemned; which Council was finally confirmed by the Pope, at the request of all the assembled Fathers, in a synod held at Rome, where Arius was again condemned. This Pope issued many useful ordinances for the Church of God. He reserved to Bishops the right of consecrating the Holy Chrism; ordered Priests to anoint with Chrism the heads of the newly baptised; settled the officiating dress of Deacons as a dalmatic and a linen maniple; and forbade the consecration of the Sacrament of the Altar on anything but a linen corporal.

This Sylvester is likewise said to have ordained that all persons taking Holy Orders should remain awhile in each grade before being promoted to a higher; that laymen should not go to law against the clergy; and that the clergy themselves were not to plead before civil tribunals. He decreed that the first and seventh days of the week should be called respectively the Lord's Day and the Sabbath, and the others, Second Day, Third Day, and so on. In this he confirmed the use of the word Feria for the weekdays, the which use had already begun in the Church. This word signifieth an holiday, and pointeth to the duty of the clergy ever to lay aside all worldly labour, and leave themselves free to do continually the work of the Lord. The heavenly wisdom with which he ruled the Church of God, was joined in him to a singular holiness of life, and an inexhaustible tenderness towards the poor; in which matter he ordained that the wealthy clergy should each relieve a certain number of needy persons; and he also made arrangements for supplying the consecrated virgins with the necessaries of life. He lived as Pope twenty-one years, ten months and one day, and was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way.. He held seven Advent ordinations, and made forty-two Priests, twenty-five Deacons, and sixty-five Bishops of various sees.

It is traditional to recite the Te Deum laudamus at midnight on St Sylvester's Day.

We praise thee, O God, * we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, * the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud, * the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim * continually do cry.

(bow head) Holy, Holy, Holy * Lord God of Sabaoth;

Heaven and earth are full * of the Majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles * praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets * praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs * praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world * doth acknowledge thee;
The Father, * of an infinite Majesty.
Thine honourable, true, * and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, * the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, * O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting * Son of the Father.

During the following verse all make a profound bow:
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, * thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.

When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, * thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, * in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come * to be our Judge.

Kneel for the following verse
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants, * whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious Blood.

Make them to be numbered with thy Saints, * in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people, * and bless thine heritage.
Govern them, * and lift them up for ever.
Day by day * we magnify thee;

During the following verse, by local custom, all make a profound bow.
And we worship thy Name * ever, world without end.

Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us * this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, * have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, * as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted, * let me never be confounded.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

6 geese a-laying.