Novena to St. Edmund of Canterbury

Feast day: November 16

Composed by the Society of St. Edmund

Prayer of St. Edmund


Lord, into Your hands and into the hands of Your Holy Angels I give and entrust this day my soul, my parents and relatives, my benefactors, my friends, my enemies, and all Christian people. Keep me, Lord, this day through the merits and prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all Your Saints, from vices and wicked desires, from sins and the pains of hell. Enlighten my mind with the Holy Spirit and with your grace. Make me evermore obedient to Your commands, and never permit me to separate myself from You, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.


Litany of St. Edmund


Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.

God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Pray for us.

Holy Mother of God, Pray for us.

St. Edmund, Pray for us.

Model of innocence, Pray for us.

Lover of chastity, Pray for us.

Mirror of mortification, Pray for us.

Devout servant of Mary, Pray for us.

Exemplar of students, Pray for us.

Zealous preacher of the Word of God, Pray for us.

Fearless defender of the faith, Pray for us.

Model of teachers, Pray for us.

Example of bishops, Pray for us.

Resigned in persecution, Pray for us.

Constant in exile, Pray for us.

Lover of solitude, Pray for us.

Physician of bodily ills, Pray for us.

Health of the soul, Pray for us.

Our friend in desolation, Pray for us.

Our intercessor in trials, Pray for us.

That we may have an increase of faith, hope and charity, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may rely more securely on Divine Providence, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may have a sincere sorrow for our sins, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may avoid the occasions of sin, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may practice all Christian virtues, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may have the courage to defend our faith, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may be patient in adversities, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may submit our will to God’s Will, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may be humble in prosperity, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may be firm in our resolutions, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may be zealous for God’s kingdom on earth, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may persevere until the end, Hear us, O Lord.

That we may glorify God for all eternity, Hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, St. Edmund, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


Let us Pray

O God, who in Your exceeding goodness have adorned Your Church with the eminently meritorious life of Blessed Edmund, Your Confessor and Bishop, and have gladdened her by his glorious miracles, mercifully grant that, we Your servants, may by his example be reformed, and by his patronage be protected from all adversities. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and regions forever and ever. Amen.


Day 1

Greatness and Glory of Saint Edmund


St. Edmund is one of the most illustrious men of the 13th century: “He equaled in learning and surpassed in piety the majority of the men of that time,” writes the historian Lingard.


In his biography of St. Edmund, Father Félix Massé, S.S.E., writes: “It is no ordinary honor for one to hold a distinguished rank among the great number of famous men who shone doing that memorable epoch.” Then the author places before our eyes a long list of those celebrated men which is like a luminous trail of learning and holiness.


Among all these men, St. Edmund shines forth with singular luster. “Few of his predecessors surpassed him, none of his successors were equal to him. No one after him will cover the Catholic Church of England with greater glory. for he contributed his helpful share to his times, his country, his church, by his words, his learning, and his works, as well as by his prayers, his sacrifices and his tears. If to him was not given the glorious privilege of triumphing by shedding his blood, as did Thomas à Becket, martyr for the same cause, he enjoyed the happiness of a victory almost as great, by dying in exile; for exile is a kind of martyrdom.”


“After God had glorified the remains of St. Edmund by means of miracles and by the voice of his Church, his tomb was opened after having been closed for six years. on hearing this, crowds hastened there. From the open coffin there arose a celestial odor which perfumed the sacred place and filled the great multitude of people with joy.”


Father Massé then adds: “Let us open this life now almost fallen into oblivion, let us open this sepulcher replete with the virtues of St. Edmund, which has been closed for too long a time. And, out of these memories, laid bare before the eyes of our hearts, there will come forth not only his sweet countenance, but we shall also inhale the aroma of holiness which inebriated his contemporaries and still rejoices their descendants.


Practice

Ask God, through the intercession of St. Edmund, for the grace of serving him, by word and deed, so that everyone, seeing your works, may glorify our Father in Heaven.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany


Day 2

St. Edmund as a Child


Edmund Rich was born in Abingdon, Berkshire County, six miles from Oxford in England, at the end of the 12th century, on the 20th of November, 1170, the feast of St. Edmund, King and Martyr. His father soon entered a monastery. His holy mother deserved that her grave be adorned with the epitaph: “Here lyeth Mabel, the flower of widows.” His brother Robert,who was also his close friend and schoolmate, later was renowned for the splendor of his sanctity and the glory of his miracles. His two sisters lived holy lives in the cloister and wonders were wrought over their tombs.


One can easily conjecture what must have been Edmund’s formation in this atmosphere of lively faith and burning piety. “The childhood of a saint spreads an odor of itself in those places which it adorns, just as a flower lends its perfume to the objects which it touches.” At the University of Oxford, where his mother sent him as soon as he was capable of studying, his piety cast such a brilliant glow, that forty years afterwards, his masters wrote to the Sovereign Pontiff to make known to his Holiness the extraordinary virtues which marked the childhood of the young disciple.


Practice

Pray to St. Edmund to obtainer Christian mothers a deeper sense of their responsibilities; that they may bring up their children in the fear and love of God.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany


Day 3

Saint Edmund as a Student


In order to complete his studies, Edmund was sent to the University of Paris, “that great novitiate of useful, learned and respectable living.” There he came in contact “with the choicest nobility and erudition of Europe.” Henceforth, Edmund will love France and choose her as “his second and happier country.”


“Among the clothing, linen and countless articles of enjoyment or need which her maternal devotion could dispose of, Mabel provided Edmund with a hair shirt and enjoined him to wear it three times a week. Such was the shield with which Christian mothers of those sober and staunch days protected their sons; they knew that fortitude is to be found therein.”


While in Paris, he often visited the church of St. Mary. There, on his knees, on the cold pavement, he recited “with burning soul, the psalms pf the royal prophet, a habit which he had acquired from his mother.


At Oxford, one day while he was walking with some of his schoolmates, he felt strongly inspired to separate himself from their company, lest lest the purity of his soul should receive a stain from their vain words. As a reward for his good deed, the Child Jesus appeared to him with his Holy Name written on his forehead, and he said to him; “Trace carefully on your forehead every night the characters of this Holy Name: by this you shall be able to be fortified against sudden death, and whoever shall impress the same letters on his forehead in like manner also.”


Before an altar of Mary, he made a vow of perpetual chastity, and, as a pledge of his celestial betrothal with the Queen of Heaven, he placed on a finger of the revered statue a ring with the engraving “Ave Maria’” and on his own finger another quite smaller ring which he preserved until death, and which he wore as a bishop.


Practice

Place yourself under the protection of the Mother of God and ask her to guide and guard our young Catholic students, especially all those who frequent godless schools, colleges and universities.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany

Day 4

Saint Edmund as a Teacher


Edmund led a “severe and retired life. This kind of life, far from being detrimental to the study of letters and philosophy, is rather advantageous, for one’s intelligence grows stronger by every act of bodily denial.” Through his zealous application to studies, he, in a short while, obtained the degree of Master of Arts, and in his turn devoted himself to teaching. After having been a model for students, he became an example for professors. Example coming from so learned and holy a professor made a deep impression on the minds of the minds of the youth. He taught with a repute capable of satisfying the most exacting ambitions. Still he aspired to loftier spheres, to knowledge which is in closer relation to God, and thereby more in conformity with his taste.”


While he was lecturing on geometry, his mother, then lately deceased, appeared to him in sleep. “My son,” she said, “upon what are you lecturing? What figures are these which you are studying with such care?” He answered, “I am lecturing to my companions on such and such things,” showing the drawings which are commonly made in that subject. She then took his right hand, and drew on it three circles in which she inscribed in order the three names, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. “My dearest son, study such figures in the future, and no others.”


Practice

Remember in your prayers all those whose arduous task it is to instill knowledge into others. Pray that the Holy Spirit may give them the necessary light and understanding to impart their science properly, and always bear in mind that the knowledge of divine things far surpasses human wisdom.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany


Day 5

Saint Edmund the Theologian


Edmund now undertook the study of theology. It seemed to him that the days were few and short in comparison with the greatness of his love with which he sighed for a clearer knowledge of God and a closer union with him.” His teachers in Paris soon signaled him out in the multitude, for, as they revered in him a perfect model of piety, so also did they admire him as a prodigy of science and talent,” and consequently he was made Doctor of Theology. To him was entrusted the office of expounding Holy Scripture and lecturing in theology. These new functions revealed in him unknown treasures of knowledge. It was soon made manifest that the Catholic Church of Abingdon possessed a Doctor who was second to none of the most illustrious lights which she had ever brought forth. “For there was infused into him a heavenly grace which spread itself from his lips to others, and the flame which burnt in his heart showed to others the road in which to walk,” says his first biographer.


Practice

Recommend to God all aspirants to the priesthood who in our seminaries are preparing their hearts and minds to become worthy ministers of God and of His Church.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany

Day 6

Saint Edmund the Priest


In a dream which the pious Mabel had, she saw on the head of her son a glowing crown of thorns, the brightness of which reached heaven. This, without a doubt, indicated the crown of Edmund’s priesthood, indeed a crown “the most august in the world, but the heaviest, and one which rends the forehead of those found worthy to bear it.” Edmund had to be prevailed upon, his biographers say, in order that he would accept to be raised to the priesthood. France had given him his priestly dignity as well as his learning. Now he brings to his mother-country the “tribute of his knowledge and of his sacred ministry.” Later, he will return bestowing upon his land of adoption the last sparks of his great genius, the last flame of his magnanimous heart and his precious remains.


In England, he exercised the office of preacher and, during five years, from 1219 to 1224, he spread the gospel with wonderful success in the counties of Oxford, Gloucester and Worcester. He possessed a special gift for preaching, and his word, as from a natural source, bespoke divine love. “Though eloquent his voice, his words spoke more eloquently still, for, since he was sharing the priesthood with Jesus Christ, he was willing to become a victim like his Master by immolating unceasingly his body and soul on the altar of sacrifices.”


Honors were offered to him which he scorned. He was nevertheless elected Canon and Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral in his diocese. “It was fitting,” writes his biographer, “that an honor of this kind should rest upon him, for the only treasure, the ‘priceless treasure’, was found on his lips and his heart.” A neighboring parish, Calne, was committed to his caare, and he so conducted himself there that priests in care of parishes may look upon St. Edmund as their model and protector.


In this modest station as parish priest, he exhibited boundless unselfishness, zeal equal to all sacrifices, charity for the poor and unfortunate, kindness towards all, and, along with this, he showed an unwavering firmness in defending the rights of God and of His Church. He divided his time into three parts, namely: prayer, study, and the dispensation of charity towards his neighbor, particularly in the guidance of souls.”


Meanwhile, his good repute had reached Rome. Gregory IX imparted to him, with special privileges, the mission of preaching the crusade against the Saracens. “As an apostolic missionary, untold success accompanied his labors which were unsurpassed among any of the neighboring nations; and this success was due to the irresistible power of his sanctity.” God was pleased to honor him with the aid of miracles.


Practice

Impose upon yourself the obligations of offering up a prayer daily for God’s anointed, especially for your parish priest and the souls committed to his care, in particular for the negligent members of the flock.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany

Day 7

Saint Edmund the Bishop


At this time, the primatial See of Canterbury became vacant. “After the royal throne, this See was the most renowned part of the kingdom.” Who, now, would become the worthy successor of Anselm, of Thomas, and of Langton?…Since three elections to the See of Canterbury had been annulled, and the aforementioned church had been deprived of a pastor for three years, Gregory IX directed the electors to choose Edmund by sending him the pallium. “Both welcome and unwelcome was this news to the chapter of Salisbury: welcome because of the honor done to the church by electing the Archbishop therefrom; unwelcome because of the removal of one who was not so much the treasurer, as the treasure of that Church.


Edmund protested that he was unfit. But, fearing that he might displease God’s holy will, he received episcopal consecration in the Cathedral of Canterbury on April 2nd, 1234. “This date marks the beginning of his glory and of his cross: on receiving the fullness of the priesthood, he also received he fullness of tribulations, the consecration of martyrdom and of persecution.”


At all times, there are sacred rights to uphold, serious reformations to make: hence, the secret of so many troubles and revolts.


Edmund appointed Richard of Wyche as his chancellor. It seems to be a law of an admirable Providence to send saints two by two, in order that they may lend each other mutual help in their earthly career, ordinarily so laborious: “Thus did our Savior send his disciples.” Richard became the Bishop’s very close and faithful friend. When, later, he was elected as bishop of Chichester, he zealously promoted the canonization of his beloved father in Christ. We shall see him in 1247 present at the solemn transition of the relics of St. Edmund.


“The virtues which make holy Pontiffs, Apostles and Martyrs, and which he practiced by his daily efforts, shine on Edmund’s brow and surround him as a halo of glory. Persecution was wanting to complete this aureola; it soon dawned upon him.” He began the old conflict on behalf of the Church, for whose liberties St. Thomas had died. “Supported at first in Rome by the Pope, he met opposition in England on the part of the papal legate, Otho. Finding protection nowhere, persecuted by civil power, molested by the monks of his Chapter, the holy Prelate felt that all hope of stemming the tide was gone. He found solace in patience and prayer. As he could neither exercise his holy ministry with freedom of conscience, nor remain a helpless and despised witness of the evil which afflicted his flock, he wished, as an exile, to raise to heaven the cry of his grief and a loud protest, that he had never tolerated nor would he ever tolerate any sacrilegious violation of his Church.”


Practice

Let us pray for our Bishops to whom has been committed the charge of ruling the Church of God. Above all, let us remember the Sovereign Pontiff, the Spiritual Father of Christendom, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany

Day 8

Saint Edmund the Exile


When St. Thomas à Becket left the peaceful refuge of Pontigny to return to England to his martyrdom, his poverty was such that he was unable to repay in a worthy manner, and according to his desires, the holy monks who had shown him so much deference and charity. But, reading into the future, he promised that one of his successors would come to them for their hospitality. That successor was St. Edmund.


In his anguish, Edmund of Canterbury was mindful of France towards which he felt so much indebted. He remembered Pontigny above all where St. Thomas had found asylum.


Therefore, he set sail for France. In Paris, he visited St. Louis the King who besought him to remain at his Court. But the Archbishop was unwilling to prolong his stay, and he continued his journey to Pontigny where he arrived in the summer of 1240. During his short sojourn there, he composed for the use of the monks his “Mirror of the Church” and he preached the gospel in neighboring parishes. His labors, his austerities and his sufferings had weakened his frail frame. He was taken sick, and the monks, hoping that a change of climate might restore his strength, advised him to retire to the Priory of Soissy, near Provins. “I will return here,” he said to the Cistercians as he was leaving, “nevermore to leave you. I will return on the coming feast of St. Edmund, King and Martyr.” His illness increased and he died on November 16th, 1240, in the same manner as saints are wont to die.


His request had been that the religious of Pontigny would bestow on his lifeless body the same hospitality given to it when alive. His precious remains were accordingly carried for burial in the Church of Our Lady of Pontigny. It was a triumphant journey. With a solemn cortège, his body arrived at the gates of the monastery on the evening of November 20th, the feast of St. Edmund, King and Martyr. So numerous were the miracles performed at his tomb, reads the chronicle of the times, that the days of the Apostles seemed to have returned.


Practice

Do not let a single day pass without performing some good deed of charity towards those who suffer: the sick, the sorrowful, the orphans, the abandoned, and the neglected members of Jesus Christ.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany


Day 9

St. Edmund the Saint


Canonical inquiries were immediately made. His ‘cause,’ it is true, had most strenuous opponents in England. It nevertheless triumphed with remarkable glory. At the Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1246, on the Third Sunday of Advent, on which is sung “Gaudete, rejoice in the Lord,” Innocent IV enrolled Edmund in the catalogue of the saints. In his admirable Bull, the Pope enjoins the Archbishops and bishops “to celebrate and cause to be celebrated the feast of the new saint by the faithful of their towns and diocese on the sixteenth day of November, the day on which his happy soul, delivered of the body, ascending on high, entered into the full possession of heavenly delights.”


The Opening Prayer, the Prayer over the Gifts, and the Prayer after Communion which are read at the Mass of St. Edmund were composed for the occasion by the Pope himself. They are numbered among the most beautiful prayers of holy liturgy.


The solemn translation of the saint’s precious relics was held on June 9th, 1247, in the presence of the Pope’s legate, of St. Richard of Chichester, of a great number of bishops, prelates, abbots and a countless multitude which had come together from England and France. In addition to these, there were also present at the festival the holy King Louis, his venerable mother, Queen Blanche, the king’s three brothers and his sister, the saintly Isabelle.


St. Edmund rests in his glorious shrine in a state of miraculous preservation. The revolution, in its wild fury, has respected the saint whom centuries have held in veneration. The monks who gave him hospitality in life and in death have disappeared from the illustrious abbey. But, out of the ruins which were left after their departure, other flowers have blossomed, a fresh work has sprung over that of the expelled Cistercians, which has continued the hymn of ‘uninterrupted praise.’ Life always springs forth from the tombs of saints.


Practice

At the conclusion of this novena, redouble your fervor towards St. Edmund and ask perseveringly for the favors you had in mind throughout these nine days. Should you only persevere in your devotion to this great saint and endeavor to imitate his virtues and finally reach heaven, your prayers would not have been offered in vain.


Recite Prayer of St. Edmund and Litany

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