Carissimi: Today’s Mass; S. Wulfstan of Worcester

St_Wulfstan_from_leafletSt Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester & Confessor; Commemoration of the Martyrs, Marus, Martha, Audifax and Abachum and St Canute King and Martyr: Missa “Sacerdotes tui

Wulfstan was the son of Athelstan and Wulfgeva. Even during his youth his piety had been noted, and he went on to study at the monasteries of Evesham and Peterborough. Once he was an adult his parents joined separate monasteries in Worcester. After his ordination Wulfstan led his flock by good example rather than mere words and sermons.

He became Bishop of Worcester in 1062 only a few years before the the Norman invasion. As Bishop he was known for inspirational preaching, great humility, and asceticism. He was one of the first bishops in England to make pastoral visits to the parishes of his diocese and was influential in ending the sale of Irish prisoners as slaves in England. It was he who put in hand the building of the present Worcester cathedral.

Wulfstan’s story is recorded in The Life of Saint Wulfstan written in Latin between 1124 and 1143 by William of Malmesbury who extended an earlier version by the monk Coleman, Wulfstan’s friend and chaplain. JHF Peile, a former Archdeacon of Worcester translated Malmesbury’s Latin text and published the first English version of the saint’s life, as a book in 1934.

Early Years. Wulfstan was born in the village of Itchington, Warwickshire. He was the son of Aethelstan and Wulfgifu who also entered the religious life in separate Worcester monasteries once Wulfstan reached adulthood. Wulfstan studied first at a monastery in Evesham before going for more advanced training in Peterborough. He was a strong athletic young man and Malmesbury’s account shows clearly that he was very attractive to women, and had to endure several advances and considerable temptation for much of his life.

After much prayer, and an austere life of self-denial, in an attempt to ward off temptation, Wulfstan had a dream in which a bright cloud descended upon him and relieved him of his strong carnal desires. Despite this he still had to fight off further advances in the coming years.

Wulfstan then took a job working for the Bishop of Worcester (Brihtheah) who soon realised his potential and gave him the chance to advance to the priesthood and take charge of a local parish. Wulfstan, however, turned down the offer as he wanted to be a monk, and it was not long before he did indeed enter a monastery in Worcester.

His extent of Wulfstan’s renunciation of worldly values is summed up in a quote in Malmesbury’s account: “Happy is the man who grows sick of the attractions of the world. The pleasure of them passes in a moment of time but the tooth of conscience gnaws as long as a man lives.”

As a monk he was very popular and regarded as exemplary as a man of holiness by his brothers, virtually free of faults and perfect in virtues. His austere life style included minimal sleep, and lying prostrate on a bare floor the foot of the altar.

He went on to be appointed as Prior of the monastery and continued his saintly life demonstrating the virtues of love and kindness particularly to those in need. He kept watch for hours at the door of the Church so that he could baptise the children of the poor and help those who had been assaulted.

His holiness drew attention of the Cardinals when the Bishopric of Worcester became vacant and despite his reluctance Wulfstan accepted the post in 1061. It was not long before he had plans made for the building of a new Cathedral, but work did not actually start on this until 1084. Malmesbury records several miracles attributed to Bishop Wulfstan:

A workman fell 40ft from the roof of the Cathedral but Wulfstan, standing nearby, made a holy gesture as the man was tumbling, and he stood up unhurt, blessing the bishop.

Visiting Evesham, Wulfstan received a plea from a monk named Eigelric who lay dying from a fever and who desired the bishop’s absolution. Wulfstan prayed at the monk’s bedside and gave a blessing – and suddenly “all the pains and weakness of the sufferer fled, and health abounded to drive out the disease”. Eigelric never ceased to bless God and the bishop for his healing.

Among Wulfstan’s many other “miracles” was the laying of healing hands on a woman at Evesham who had become a violent and frenzied idiot, on a leper at Kempsey whose flesh “came again like that of a little child”, and on Gunnilda, daughter of King Harold, whose eyesight had been attacked by a malignant tumour. Wulfstan made the sign of the Cross before her eyes and “straightway she was able to … receive the light of day”.

Eventually, the fame of Wulfstan’s holiness had gone through all the land and even to the ends of the world. The Kings of Ireland paid him many signs of reverence. Malcolm, King of Scotland commended himself to his prayers. The Pope of Rome, the Archbishop of Bari and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in letters, besought his advocacy with God.

Wulfstan died a little after midnight on Saturday the nineteenth day of January in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord, one thousand and ninety-five when he had been Bishop for 34 years. For centuries after his death, St Wulfstan’s tomb in the Cathedral brought pilgrims flocking to Worcester, but sadly, the saint’s shrine was destroyed by order of Henry VIII during the Reformation.

Saints Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacum (died 270) were, according to their largely legendary passio of the 6th century, four saints of the same family who came from Persia to Rome, and were martyred in 270 for sympathizing with and burying the bodies of Christians.

cnut-10442Canute IV, later known as Canute the Holy or Canute the Saint (Danish: Knud IV den Hellige or Sankt Knud), (c. 1042 – 10 July 1086) was King of Denmark from 1080 until 1086. Canute was an ambitious king who sought to strengthen the Danish monarchy, devotedly supported the Catholic Church, and had designs on the English throne. Slain by rebels in 1086, he was the first Dane to be canonized. He was recognized by the Church as patron saint of Denmark in 1101, under the name of San Canuto.

INTROIT Psalm 131: 9-10

Let Thy priests, O Lord, be clothed with justice, and let Thy saints rejoice: for Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the face of Thy anointed. V. O Lord, remember David, and all his meekness. 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.


Pour forth upon us, Lord, the spirit of Thy love, so that with Thy blessed confessor bishop Wulstan pleading for us, we may be found worthy to taste Thy sweetness in the bliss of heaven. 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.

Commemoration of the Martyrs, Marus, Martha, Audifax and Abachum
Lord, hear and heed the petition of Thy people, and of Thy saints who are our advocates. Grant us we beseech Thee, to enjoy peace in this life and to find help towards life everlasting.

Commemoration of St Canute, King and Martyr
O God, who for the glory of Thy Church was pleased to adorn the blessed king Canute with the palm of martyrdom and with shining miracles, graciously grant that as he followed the Lord’s way of suffering, so we, by treading in his footsteps, may be counted worthy to enter into everlasting joys. 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.

EPISTLE Hebrews 7: 23-27

Lesson from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrews: Brethren, there were made many priests, because by reason of death they were not suffered to continue: but Jesus, for that He continueth forever, hath an everlasting priesthood. Whereby He is able also to save forever them that come to God by Him; always living to make intercession for us. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, and undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as the other priests, to offer sacrifice first for His own sins, and then for the people’s; for this Jesus Christ our Lord did once, in offering Himself.

GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 131: 16-17

I will clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall rejoice with exceeding great joy. There will I bring forth a horn to David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. Psalm 109: 4 Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord hath sworn, and He will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. Alleluia.

GOSPEL Matthew 24: 42-47

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Watch, because you know not what hour your Lord will come. But this know ye, that, if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Wherefore be you also ready: because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come. Who, thinkest thou, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family, to give them meat in season? Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come he shall find so doing. Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods.


My truth and My mercy shall be with him: and in My name shall his horn be exalted.


Accept we pray Thee, Lord, the gift offered by Thy suppliant household. Let the intercession of blessed Wulstan gain us that bountiful pardon of Thine for which our guilty consciences dare not hope. 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.

Commemoration of the Martyrs, Marus, Martha, Audifax and Abachum
Look favourably, Lord, upon the prayers and offerings of Thy faithful people. May they please Thee by glorifying the feast of Thy saints, and procure us Thy merciful succour.

Commemoration of St Canute, King and Martyr
Lord, may our sacrifice be acceptable to Thee and bring us healing through the prayers of him in whose honour it is being offered. 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.

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 Matthew 24: 46-47

Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord cometh he shall find watching: Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods.


We who have feasted on Thy sacred eucharist entreat Thy gracious kindness, Lord, that he whom Thou has given us for our protector and guide may not fail us with his prayers. 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.

Commemoration of the Martyrs, Marus, Martha, Audifax and Abachum
Let the intercession of Thy saints move Thy compassion, Lord. Grant, we pray Thee, that the rite we perform in this life may be an earnest of our salvation in the life to come.

Commemoration of St Canute, King and Martyr
Our strength renewed by partaking of Thy sacred gift we pray Thee, Lord our God, that, through the prayer of Thy blessed martyr Canute, we who perform this rite may feel its power. 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.