Pope Benedict XVI received the members of the community of the Venerable English College today, Monday. The meeting was the culmination of a year-long celebration marking the 650th anniversary of the of the founding of an English and Welsh Hospice on the site occupied by the College. Some extracts of the Holy Father's words are here below - with my comments - but you can read or listen to the rest at Vatican Radio.
Through God’s grace, the Catholic community of England and Wales is blessed with a long tradition of zeal for the faith and loyalty to the Apostolic See. [Let's hope it is still a living tradition!] At much the same time as your Saxon forebears were building the Schola Saxonum, establishing a presence in Rome close to the tomb of Peter, Saint Boniface was at work evangelizing the peoples of Germany. So as a former priest and Archbishop of the See of Munich and Freising, which owes its foundation to that great English missionary, I am conscious that my spiritual ancestry is linked with yours. Earlier still, of course, my predecessor Pope Gregory the Great was moved to send Augustine of Canterbury to your shores, to plant the seeds of Christian faith on Anglo-Saxon soil. The fruits of that missionary endeavor are only too evident in the six-hundred-and-fifty-year history of faith and martyrdom that distinguishes the English Hospice of Saint Thomas à Becket and the Venerable English College [More martyrs soon perhaps!] that grew out of it.
Potius hodie quam cras, as Saint Ralph Sherwin said when asked to take the missionary oath, “rather today than tomorrow”. These words aptly convey his burning desire to keep the flame of faith alive in England, [Been guttering a little of late.] at whatever personal cost. Those who have truly encountered Christ are unable to keep silent about him. [Bloggers, take note.] As Saint Peter himself said to the elders and scribes of Jerusalem, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Saint Boniface, Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Francis Xavier, whose feast we keep today, and so many other missionary saints show us how a deep love for the Lord calls forth a deep desire to bring others to know him. [The faith is by necessity prosyletysing.] You too, as you follow in the footsteps of the College Martyrs, are the men God has chosen to spread the message of the Gospel today, in England and Wales, in Canada, in Scandinavia. Your forebears faced a real possibility of martyrdom, and it is right and just that you venerate the glorious memory of those forty-four alumni of your College who shed their blood for Christ. [We don't usually hear too much about them back home, that's for sure.] You are called to imitate their love for the Lord and their zeal to make him known, potius hodie quam cras. The consequences, the fruits, you may confidently entrust into God’s hands.
You have heard much talk about the new evangelisation, the proclamation of Christ in those parts of the world where the Gospel has already been preached, but where to a greater or lesser degree the embers of faith have grown cold [Virtually gone out alltogether?] and now need to be fanned once more into a flame. Your College motto speaks of Christ’s desire to bring fire to the earth, and your mission is to serve as his instruments in the work of rekindling the faith in your respective homelands. Fire in sacred Scripture frequently serves to indicate the divine presence, whether it be the burning bush from which God revealed his name to Moses, the pillar of fire that guided the people of Israel on their journey from slavery to freedom, or the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost, enabling them to go forth in the power of the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Just as a small fire can set a whole forest ablaze (cf. Jas 3:5), so the faithful testimony of a few can release the purifying and transforming power of God’s love so that it spreads like wildfire throughout a community or a nation. Like the martyrs of England and Wales, then, let your hearts burn with love for Christ, for the Church and for the Mass. [Amen to that!]
O BLESSED Prince of Apostles, Vicar of Christ, Shepherd of the whole flock, Rock on whom the Church is built, we thank the Prince of Pastors, who in the ages of Faith, did bind this country so sweetly and strongly to thee and to that holy See of Rome from which her conversion came. We praise and bless our Lord for those steadfast Confessors who laid down their lives for thy honor and prerogative in the hour when schism and heresy broke upon the land. We desire to revive the zeal, the devotion and the love of ancient days. We consecrate our country, as far as in us lies, fervently and lovingly to thee. We offer thee our homage. We renew our loyalty to the Pontiff, thy successor, who now fills the Apostolic See. Do thou confirm and strengthen, by thy powerful intercession, the faith of the Pastors and people who invoke thee, save us from apostasy, from disunion, from religious indifference, and from the losses to which ignorance and temptation expose our little flock. O most sincere and most humble penitent, obtain for us tears of true repentance for our sins, and a strong personal love for our divine Master; O Key bearer of the Heavenly Kingdom, open to us the gate of Heaven, that we may enter into the joy of the King of Glory. Remember this realm of England, which grew in grace and unity under thy blessed apostolic influence for nigh a thousand years. Pray to Jesus that all may see the and be brought back to thy Fold, which is the One Fold of Christ. Amen.
V. Thou art Peter.
R. And upon this rock I will build My Church.
Let us pray.
Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic might of Thy blessed Apostle, Peter; that the weaker we are in ourselves, the more powerful may be the assistance whereby we are strengthened through his intercession; that thus, ever fortified by the protection of Thine Apostle, we may never yield to sin nor be overwhelmed by adversity. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.