The story of St Winifred (or Winefride), the young noblewoman born around the year 600 in Holywell, Wales, emerges from a mixture of historic manuscripts, legend and tradition. But it is above all a story about a pure and gifted soul who was prepared to sacrifice everything, and indeed her very life, so as to live for Divine Love alone.
Already as a fifteen year old, St Winifred embraced a life of devotion and austerity, and would keep many night vigils in church. A charming and intellectually gifted girl, she grew in virtue and knowledge under the guidance of her uncle, St Beuno (priest, missionary and abbot), and with her parents’ consent prepared to consecrate herself to God.
However, the neighbouring Prince Caradoc, who had learned of her beauty and gifts, came to her house to seek her hand in marriage. On arrival he found Winifred alone, her parents having gone early to Mass. Hearing of her resolution to live a consecrated life, the impassioned Prince besieged her with pleas, advances and threats. Terrified and protective of her innocence, the girl ran towards the church where St Beuno was celebrating Mass. The thwarted Caradoc followed her in a rage and, overtaking her on a slope, drew his sword and severed her head from her body. The head rolled down and on the spot where it rested, a spring gushed forth. As soon as this news reached him, St Beuno left the altar and found her head beside the spring. He carried it to the body, covered both with his cloak and returned to complete the Holy Sacrifice. After Mass, kneeling beside the young girl’s body, St Beuno beseeched God in prayer and had the cloak removed. As if waking from a deep sleep, Winifred is said to have arisen with no sign of the decapitation apart from a faint white circle around her neck. Caradoc stood by, insolent and defiant; according to popular belief, when St Beuno invoked heaven’s chastisement upon him, he was struck dead and swallowed up by the ground beneath him.
INTROIT Psalm 118: 95-96
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me; I have understood Thy testimonies, O Lord: I have seen an end of all perfection: Thy commandment is exceedingly broad. (Ps. 118: 1) Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Almighty everlasting God, who didst bestow on blessed Winifred the reward of virginity, at her intercession give us grace, we pray Thee, to scorn the allurements of this world and to obtain with her a throne of everlasting glory. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For the Octave of All Saints
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast granted to honor in one solemn Feast the merits of all Thy Saints: we beseech Thee, that since so many are praying for us, Thou wouldst pour forth upon us the abundance of Thy mercy, for which we long. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Ecclesiasticus 51.1
I will thank thee, O Lord and King, and praise thee, O God my saviour: I do give praise unto thy Name: for thou art my defender and helper, and hast preserved my body from destruction, and from the snare of the slanderous tongue, and from the lips that forge lies, and hast been mine helper against mine adversaries: and hast delivered me according to the multitude of thy mercies and greatness of thy Name, from the teeth of them that were ready to devour me, and out of the hands of such as sought after my life, and from the manifold afflictions which I had; from the choking of fire on every side, and from the midst of the fire which I kindled not; from the depth of the belly of hell, from an unclean tongue, and from lying words. By an accusation to the king from an unrighteous tongue my soul drew near even unto death, my life was near to the hell beneath. They compassed me on every side, and there was no man to help me; I looked for the succour of men, but there was none. Then thought I upon thy mercy, O Lord, and upon thy acts of old, how thou deliverest such as wait for thee, and savest them out of the hands of the enemies, O Lord our God.
Revenge, O Lord, the blood of thy Saints, which hath been shed. V. They have given the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat for the fowls of the air: the flesh of thy saints for the beasts of the earth.
GOSPEL Matthew 13:44-52
The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 44: 3
Grace is poured abroad in thy lips : therefore God hath blessed thee for ever and for ages of ages.
Look favourably, Lord, upon our sacrificial offerings, and at the intercession of Thy blessed virgin-martyr Winifred release us from the bondage of our sins. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For the Octave of All Saints
We offer Thee, O Lord, the gifts of our devotion; that they be made pleasing to Thee for the honor of all the just and, by Thy mercy, be profitable to ourselves. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, and profitable unto salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, through Christ, our Lord. Though whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions adore it, the powers are in awe. Which the heavens and the hosts of heaven together with the blessed seraphim joyfully do magnify. And do thou command that it be permitted to us join with them in confessing thee, while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Psalm 118: 161-162
Vexed by the causeless malice of princes, my heart still dreads thy warning: victors rejoice not more over rich spoils than I in thy promises.
May the tribute of our homage be pleaseing to Thee, merciful God and may the holy sacrament we have taken, at the intercession of Thy blessed virgin-martyr, Winifred win us thy favour and procure us the joy of everlasting happiness. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For the Octave of All Saints
Grant to Thy faithful people, we beseech Thee, O Lord, ever to rejoice in the veneration of all Thy saints and to be defended by their unceasing prayers, Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, For ever and ever. R. Amen.