The Christian Heritage Centre

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The Jubilee of Saint Thomas Aquinas

7 March 2024

The Jubilee of Saint Thomas Aquinas

By Joey Belleza

On 7 March 1274, Saint Thomas Aquinas passed from this world to the Father. Only fifty years old, the legacy of his writings and his personal holiness continues to inspire the Church in our time. Today, on the 750th anniversary of his passing, we at the Christian Heritage Centre would like to remind you about the ongoing Jubilee of Thomas Aquinas proclaimed by Pope Francis, during which the faithful may obtain special plenary indulgences.

Although the Feast of Thomas Aquinas was moved to 28 January in the new calendar by Pope Paul VI to ensure acelebration unencumbered by Lenten penance, many Dominican institutions and Thomistic scholars (like the undersigned), continue to observe 7 March as a day of special remembrance. And in this Jubilee of Thomas Aquinas, running from 28 January 2023 to 28 January 2025, today is an especially fitting day to remember the Angelic Doctor and perhaps to visit a Dominican priory, shrine, or other holy place connected with the Dominicans in order to obtain a plenary indulgence, that is, the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, which can be applied for oneself or for the souls in purgatory.

Besides the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence (sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father), the special indulgence for the Aquinas Jubilee requires that one should devoutly take part in the jubilee ceremonies, or at least devote a suitable time to pious recollection, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer, the symbol of faith and invocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Saint Thomas was a man unshakably devoted to the Church. Even though he was in poor health, he died while making an arduous journey from Naples to France, responding to Pope Gregory X’s call for him to attend the Second Council of Lyon. Thomas struck his head on a tree branch near Terracina, not far from Naples, and was eventually sent to convalesce at the Cistercian monastery of Fossanova. When it was clear that he would not recover, he piously received anointing of the sick and the Holy Eucharist from the monks. His last recorded words are a wonderful profession of faith which we might do well to make our own, please God, at the hour of our own death.

I receive Thee, O price of my soul’s redemption.
I receive Thee, O viaticum of my pilgrimage,
for love of whom I have studied, kept watch, and laboured.
Thee have I preached, Thee have I taught.
Nothing against Thee have I said,
but if I have spoken ill, I did so in ignorance.
Neither am I stubborn in my own understanding,
but if I have spoken ill of this Sacrament or the others,
I leave it all to the judgment of the Holy Roman Church,
in whose obedience I now pass from this life.

Sumo te, pretium redemptionis animae meae,
sumo te, viaticum peregrinationis meae,
pro cuius amore studui, vigilavi et laboravi.
Te praedicavi, te docui.
Nihil unquam contra te dixi;
sed si quid male dixi, ignorans dixi.
Nec sum pertinax in sensu meo;
sed si quid male dixi de hoc sacramento et aliis,
totum relinquo correctioni Sancte Romanae Ecclesiae,
in cuius obedientia nunc transeo ex hac vita.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Relief Altarpiece in the Chapel of Thomas's Passing, Fossanova Abbey
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Lent and Laetare Sunday

10 March 2024

Why Pink? The Lenten Liturgy of Laetare Sunday

By Joey Belleza
From Mater Dei Parish, Irving, Texas

Have you ever wondered why pink or rose is used as a liturgical colour for the third Sunday of Advent and fourth Sunday of Lent?

The more popular explanations run something like this: the brightness of rose is meant to “encourage” us to persevere unto the happiness of Christmas and Easter, or simply that pink symbolizes the rejoicing which each Sunday represents, since “gaudete” (3rd Sunday of Advent) and “laetare” (4th Sunday of Lent) both mean “rejoice.”

A closeup of Roman rosacea

While these meanings can certainly be drawn as an interpretation of the colour, the historical origin of these vestments is much more fascinating. But first, what exactly is this colour?

In Latin, this shade is called rosacea, meaning “rose-like,” further indicating its relation to the deeper red colour of roses. In a vestment of true rosacea, the base colour of the fabric is actually that vibrant shade of red, like that of rose petals; however, subtle threads of white, gold, or silver are interwoven into the vestment’s embroidered patterns such that from a distance, the hue of red appears lighter. In Rome itself, the redness of rosacea vestments shines through, such that the colour is more like that of a late sunset than the light pink more familiar to us.

The day takes the name laetare (“rejoice!”) from the Introit chant (or “Entrance Antiphon” in today’s parlance) of the Mass. The text of the introit is taken from Isaiah 66:10 and Psalm 22:1, and runs as follows:

Laetare, Jerusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam; gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis, ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus!

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and assemble, all you that love her; rejoice with joy, you who were in sadness, that you may exult be filled from the breasts of your consolation. I rejoiced when they said unto me: let us go to the house of the Lord!

Like it’s analogous counterpart in Advent, Gaudete Sunday (gaudete is another word for “rejoice”; taken from the Introit “Rejoice in the Lord always…”), the mood of the day is festive, a sharp contrast with the sobriety of penitential seasons. Yet this joyfulness shared by both Sundays is not enough to explain why the Church vests herself in rosacea. To understand, we must examine that venerable Lenten tradition called the Roman Stations and delve deep into the history of Christianity.

The Roman Stations are of ancient usage: each “station” is one of Rome’s oldest churches. When Christianity became legal after three centuries of persecution, the Church went on the offensive to counteract the innumerable pagan feasts, often celebrated with large public processions. Christians in Rome developed rival processions to holy sites across the City while singing litanies, and after arriving at a particular “station”, the Pope or one of his senior Cardinals would celebrate Mass at that church. Eventually, the entire season of Lent became like one penitential procession throughout the City, and each day was assigned a station. If one reads older missals or breviaries, one can find the Italian name of the Roman Station (i.e., Santa Maria in Trastevere, San Lorenzo in Panisperna, San Pietro ad Vincula, etc.) under the heading for each day of Lent. In recent years, this practice of Station Masses has been revived, and one of Rome’s auxiliary bishops will lead the stational procession and liturgy of the day.

The Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome

The Roman Station for Laetare Sunday is Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. This basilica is famous for housing relics of the Passion, including one beam of the Cross (hence the name “Holy Cross”), the spear of Longinus (which pierced the side of Christ), thorns laid on Christ’s head, nails of the crucifixion, and the Title (the inscription “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” placed over Christ’s head). Before being converted into a church, it was a villa (the ancient Sessorian Palace) owned by Saint Helena (Emperor Constantine’s mother), who made a famous voyage to the Holy Land to find the instruments of the Passion. When she learned that a temple to Venus had been erected on Calvary to prevent Christian devotion, she ordered it demolished, and behold, under the rubble was found the holy relics, just as the local Christians had claimed. In addition to these, she brought back to Rome a big heap of soil from Calvary. Helena then transformed the Sessorian Palace into a shrine for the relics, and laid the soil of Jerusalem under the mosaic floor. Hence the appellation in Gerusalemme: one who steps into this basilica literally steps onto the ground of Jerusalem. To this day, one can venerate the relics of the Passion in this church.

Pope Francis grants a Golden Rose to Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil

When the Papacy grew in prestige, it became custom for Popes, at their discretion, to send a Golden Rose (a sculpture of a rose fashioned of real gold) to a royal Catholic personage in recognition of his or her patronage and service to the Church. In recent years, Popes have awarded it to persons as well as to papal basilicas of great importance. Historical recipients include Isabella I of Castille (1493), Catherine de’ Medici (1548), the Cathedral of Siena (1658), the Sanctuary of Our Lady at Fatima (1965), and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC (2008). Often decorated with precious jewels, each Golden Rose is in fact a reliquary containing pieces of the True Cross. The rose was chosen because of its mystical symbolism: Christ is the “flower of the field and the lily of the valleys” (Song of Songs 2:1), while in Isaiah 11:1, the prophecy reads: “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.” The rose itself, though beautiful and fragrant, still has its thorns. In its image is encapsulated the confluence of pain and splendour, of terror and beauty; like little strands of silver and gold woven into a field of blood-red fabric, the rose symbolizes the hidden joy of Christ’s triumph even in the midst of his suffering. Because of this connection to the Passion, the Popes blessed the Golden Rose on Laetare Sunday at the Station of the day: Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

The relics of the Passion at Santa Croce, Rome

Laetare Sunday became so associated with the blessing of the Golden Rose at Rome that the Popes adopted rose-colored vestments as part of the day’s celebration; because this day hosted such a special event, the bright rosacea matched the festive character demanded by the Introit text and the blessing of the Rose. Even the Gospel for the day in the older Roman Rite– the multiplication of loaves and fishes– carries the theme of happy abundance. Laetare Sunday became a brief “break” from Lenten austerity, and in time, Gaudete Sunday in Advent analogously adopted this parallel function until it too received the privilege of rosacea vestments. From Rome, this practice spread to the Western Church at large.

All these seemingly varied facts– the Golden Rose, the Roman Stations, the relics of the Passion, Saint Helena, Laetare Sunday– all these are represented in the use of rosacea vestments. These are the roots which inform the details of a particular liturgical celebration. Our liturgical customs are almost never just random actions adopted spontaneously; they are often responses to the real historical situations in which our forebears in the faith found themselves. May we never lose sight of the profound and beautiful origins of our liturgies– for through these little details, we unite ourselves with the faithful of ages past and pray as they did.

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Lent: Where does it come from? Where does it go?

2nd March 2022

Lent: Where does it come from? Where does it go?

Stefan Kaminski

The most obvious connotation of Lent is that of a period of forty days, during which fasting and penance are to be practiced. The old Latin name for this period – Quadragesima (literally, “fortieth day”) – clearly reflects this, analogously to Pentecost’s reference to the fiftieth day. Instead, the term “Lent” was adopted by the Anglo-Saxons from the Teutonic word for the spring season. Whilst drawing from the season associated with this time, it was also perhaps intended to reflect the spiritual process that should be enabled by the discipline of Lent.

The core notion of Lent – that of a pre-Paschal fast – can be traced to the earliest days of the Church. Such a practice is referred to by important, third-century sources such as Eusebius (the “Father of Church History”) and the Didascalia (a treatise that builds on the Constitutions of the Apostles’ Council of Jerusalem).

Entombment of Christ, by Sisto Badalocchio

However, the Apostolic era through till the fourth century is void of any evidence of a designated period of forty days. One explanation that has been suggested for this is that the early Church intended the commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection rather more clearly as a weekly celebration – that of the Sunday liturgy. Correspondingly, a fast on Friday, practiced since those earliest days, constituted the weekly remembrance of Christ’s Passion and Death. This theory makes sense of the presence of a clear and universal weekly observance of both Friday and Sunday, which co-existed throughout the first two centuries of Christianity alongside a wide variation in the acceptance and timing of the yearly, historical remembrance of Easter.

Nonetheless, in the same manner that the yearly Easter celebration commemorated Christ emerging from the tomb, so too were “the days on which the bridegroom was taken away” observed with fasting. St Irenaeus notes that this immediate, pre-Paschal fast varied from lasting one day (presumably Good Friday) to several, whilst Tertullian compares the shortness of the fast with the longer, two-week fast observed by the Montanist schismatics. Regardless of the length, the annual remembrance of Christ’s Passion and Death was observed with a high degree of severity. Mortifying one’s body through fasting and abstinence was a way of participating – in however small a manner – with the intense physical and spiritual suffering experienced by Christ for the sake of our redemption.

By the early AD 300s, a further period of preparation prior to Holy Week was being widely observed. Whilst traveling to Rome and Europe in 339 AD, St Athanasius reported the practice of a forty-day fast as being established throughout much of the Church, and encouraged his own flock in Alexandria to do likewise.

Monreal Jesus' temptation
Christ tempted in the wilderness, Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily

The addition of this forty-day period appears a logical development when reflecting on the examples of Moses’ forty years and Christ’s forty days in the desert. The spiritual value of fasting and penance were clear to those who practiced them and, and the Church readily appropriated them as more than simply an expression of penitence for sins. Christ’s time and temptations in the desert in preparation for His earthly ministry most immediately provide us with a sense of the relevance of the Lenten observance: a time of renewed preparation for our own mission of Christian witness. In this sense, the “springtime” of Lent takes on a deeper significance by reminding us of the spiritual growth that it should engender.

At a broader level, Moses’ forty years in the desert point us to the “pilgrimage” dimension of our lives: Lent takes on the character of a time of special attention to our journey towards the Promised Land of heaven, and our reliance not on “bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

Both of these layers of symbolism however, only make sense when considered in the light of a third: the forty (give or take) hours that Christ lay in the tomb. The Lenten fast stems from the commemoration of this period precisely because it is the moment in which our salvation is being effected. We are only pilgrims in a foreign land because heaven has been reopened by Christ’s victory over death. We are only called Christians and have a Gospel to preach because Jesus atoned for our sins with His own body.

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Lent: A Time of Preparation

17th February 2021

Lent: A Time of Preparation

Stefan Kaminski
Sandro Botticelli, The Temptations of Christ
When God became man, He humbled Himself by taking on a nature (that of the human being) within which change is necessary. He put aside the glory of His eternal perfection, and entered a state that, whilst natural to us, is not natural to God; a state in which He had to grow, progress in maturity and wisdom, and toil towards the accomplishment of a goal.
Every human being shares the common experience of existing in this mode of continual change and development, with its accompanying toil and strife. Christians though, are united by their striving, their willingness to undergo change, for eternal life. A Christian’s earthly life is one of actively working towards eternal life: the destiny that the Lord desires for every person, whether they realise it or not.
The possibility of our achieving eternal life was bought with Christ’s death. Christ’s very goal in taking on a human nature was the extreme suffering and tortuous death of crucifixion. In this sense, Christ can be said to be the only person who was born in order to die.
Lent, as it leads us towards the celebration of this great Mystery of our Redemption, is therefore especially a time for change. It is a time for proving our desire for Heaven by taking stock of our interior state and our exterior habits, and implementing practices that can help us to effect the changes that are needed.
The Church’s wisdom identifies three essential practices for spiritual growth: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Their principle aims are to increase our awareness of and desire for God, to help us gain greater mastery over ourselves, and to increase our detachment to material things. As such, Lenten practices most importantly are practices whose effects we should feel: practices that make a certain demand on us and so help us to achieve growth.
In the words of Pope St Clement I: “Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognise how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world… let us hasten towards the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.”
Clergy Events

Renewal in Christ [clergy lenten recollection]

Renewal in Christ:
Anointing with the Spirit
[clergy lenten recollection]

18 March, 10am - 4pm

A day's Lenten recollection for clergy with Fr Gabriel Kyte, C.F.R.

The day will invite priests to enter more deeply into the Lenten “desert”, seeking a greater docility of heart to the guidance of the Spirit.

Reflections on Jesus’ Baptism, His anointing with the Spirit and His time in the desert,

The day will include: two talks, a Holy Hour with opportunity for confession, guided meditation and a buffet lunch.

Clergy are welcome to arrive earlier or depart later if they would like to spend more time at Theodore House.

Clergy are welcome to use the Theodore House Oratory to celebrate Mass.

For more information about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Bradford, please click here.

See more about Theodore House here.


Arrivals with coffee and tea from 10:00am.

10:30am – first talk

11:30am – Adoration and Confessions

12:45pm – lunch

1:45pm – second talk

3pm – guided meditation

Departures from 4:00pm.


£17 (includes buffet lunch)

Add B&B for £35 per night.


Please register below:

This event has closed.