March 19, 2010
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. Although the bible does not tell us a great deal about him what we are told reveals a tremendous amount about this wondersful man. The first thing to note is that this was the man who God entrusted to be the foster father of his own son. We see from the stories we have before Jesus was born that Joseph was a ‘just man’ but whose justice was tempered by compassion – he does not wish to expose Mary publicly. He was a also someone who put the needs of others ahead of himself – think of the flight into Egypt. In addition he was also very observant of his religions faith.
St. Joseph has traditionally been seen as a model for Christian fathers, and what a wonderful role model he provides for young men today. We live in a society obsessed with rights and a world that seems to reward the brash, pushy, and selfish. Joseph stands in stark contrast. Here is a real man who shows all the manly virtues of solidity, self sacrifice and courage. May he pray for us all, but especially for Christian fathers entrusted with the vital work of educating the children in the faith.
March 16, 2010
Next Wednesday we keep the feast of St. Patrick. Although we are not sure of the exact place of his birth, though it must have been in a Romano-British settlement, we do know about his capture by Irish pirates and his return to Ireland to preach the gospel. Which if you think about it was quite a courageous thing to do. It would have been easy for Patrick to return to what he knew and put his enforced ‘holiday’ behind him. But he didn’t, he realised that God was calling him back this time voluntarily. The same sort of thing holds for the lovely story ‘Quo Vadis’, which tells of St. Peter turning back to Rome, to his martyrdom because he realised that was what God wanted.
Patrick like all the saints gives us an example of someone following God’s will. The key thing is that he, and they, realised that their lives were not solely their own affair to do with as they liked. God had other things in mind for them. And the same is true of us. We can spend a lot of time and energy, like Jonah, running away from what God wants us to do. If we love him we will eventually come to see that his ways are better than ours and that in following his will we find true and lasting happiness.
St. Patrick is a useful saint to celebrate in Lent. During that season we try to free ourselves from self-will and self-seeking. Patrick will pray for us as we try to find out where God wants us to be and what he wants us to do.
March 5, 2010
Perhaps it comes as something as a shock to realise that north Africa was once a thriving outpost of Christianity. Apart from the Coptic Christians in Egypt little now remains of those communities. But what does remain is vitally important. On Sunday we celebrate once such legacy: the feast day of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Unlike some of the early martyrs we know quite a bit about these two woman and their deaths.
They died in the year 202. The Emperor had just forbidden conversion to the ‘new’ religion of Christianity. Perpertua and Felicity were catechumens when the decree came but still proceeded to baptism. They did nothing to hide their new allegiance and died in the arena at Carthage.
These two martyrs tell us so much about our faith. They remind us of the centrality of Christ and of the absolute demands of his gospel, which are above even those of the state. But they also remind us of the catechumenate which slowly we’re rediscovering: the state of preparing for baptism. Up and down the country we now have catechumens who are preparing for baptism at Easter. Although they will not be called on to die for Christ like Perpetua and Felicity they can revive our belief and love of God by their own manifest enthusiasm and faith.
As we journey to Easter let us these two saints to pray for us and also for those who, like them, long for baptism and eucharist.
March 1, 2010
On Monday we celebrate the feast of St. David, the patron saint of Wales. We know a fair bit about David and the number of churches dotted over Wales and beyond is a vivid testimony to the high regard in which he was and still is held. We know that he was renowned for his hard penitential practices and austere life style, so it’s something of surprise to find that probably his most famous saying is ‘Be joyful, keep the faith’. The first part at least might gives us cause to pause and reflect.
All too often the gospel can be presented as ‘bad’ news. Religious people always run the risk of wanting to censure and condemn others. Having access to the fullness of truth can, if we’re not careful, make us very judgmental. Saint David’s little saying reminds us of the fact the faith and joy go hand in hand. If they don’t then there’s something wrong.
St. David’s day nearly always falls in Lent. And he can therefore be a saint who reminds us of the true meaning of penance. We don’t do penance to punish ourselves but rather to open ourselves up to God’s grace. As we are more filled with that we will find that we are more filled with joy and charity. Those are the things that endeared David to his flock, and those are the things that will attract people to Christ in our own day.