Forget not, as the Holy Father this day prepares to offer Mass in honour of St Ninian, that the wider Church celebrates instead SS Cornelius and Cyprian, Martyrs. In the days when I read the Office in English, I could never finish the second reading, taken from the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Cyprian, without tears. I think I'll go look it up now...
Here at least is the Collect of these Martyrs, from the Dominican Breviary:
Infirmitatem nostram, quæsumus, Domine, propitius respice: et mala omnia, quæ juste meremur, sanctorum Martyrum tuorum atque Pontificem Cornelii et Cypriani intercessione averte. Per...
Our infirmity, we beg, Lord, graciously regard: and all evils, which we justly deserve, by the intercession of Thy holy Martyrs and Pontiffs Cornelius and Cyprian, avert. Through...
Indeed we do, we must recognize, not foolishly hugging ourselves, most justly deserve the threatening dangers that overhang us: we, poor sinful men, miserable sinners – all creation is rightly armed against us. This is the unpalatable truth. (It would help more Christians to learn this if they humbly and not arrogantly read the New Testament.) The madness of modern man is that he has no idea of his sins, let alone of how awful sin is, how deserving of all retribution and, yes, reprobation now and forever.
Through Christ, through His bitter sufferings and all-atoning sacrifice on the Cross, God has won for us deliverance from sin, Satan, death and hell – but it is for us to accept this free offer of salvation. The saints have done so, and in them grace has triumphed: hence they sit with the Lamb and the Eternal upon the heavenly throne, suffused with the Holy Ghost Who deifies them as holy. At the intercession of those who followed the Lamb even unto death, and thus most perfectly imitated His life and death and Sacrifice, we cry out to be delivered, always and only in Christ, from what we otherwise deserve. The Universe without God is no friend to man.
God is wholly Other: "My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts, saith the Lord Almighty". We are most foolish and self-centred if we imagine God as a rather nicer version of some human, humane person. We are doubly foolish if we most impertinently presume to sit in judgement of God against His revelation of Himself, and think that so nice a deity could scarcely condemn anyone to Hell. (Has anyone considered the appalling infernal wickedness of Hitler, Stalin, or Mao lately – or recalled that the third-named slew more than the others? How about all the other monstrous Cains down all the ages, who have particularly infested the twentieth century just past? I forbear to even mention other categories of heinous, unrepentant, unbelieving sinners, for whose hopes of salvation I tremble.)
God in Christ came to reconcile the world to Himself – for the world had fallen very far from right relationship with God. Ever since His saving work, Our Lord has been pouring out grace and ever proffering forgiveness and reconciliation; yet, as He told St Margaret Mary centuries ago, the hearts of men have not merely been indifferent, but have grown cold. What terrible truth! No wonder we ought hie ourselves to the fountain of Divine Mercy, springing ever fresh from the Five Wounds of Our Jesus.
The saints did this, and they were saved. Do we wish to be saved?
St Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, pray for us, and for your successor.
St Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us, and for North Africa.