St David – 1st March

February 27, 2012

On Thursday 1st March we celebrate the feast day of St. David, the only saint of the British Isles to have actually be born in the country of which he is patron. David, or Dewi as he would have been known to his fellows, was probably born in Ceredigion in West Wales in the sixth century. He became a monk and rose to be bishop of the area and town that now carries his name. He seems to have been a man of tremendous spiritual influence as there are churches dedicated to him throughout the southern Celtic world – Ireland, Cornwall, and Brittany.

In the twentieth century some writers, for their own ends, tried to suggest that the church here in these islands was somehow independent of Rome and that there was a primitive Celtic Church in these islands that was swallowed up later. That may be the stuff of myths but a look at the life of St David shows that it was historical nonsense. David was renowned for his loyalty to the See of Rome as were his other Celtic bishops. They may have had their own traditions but they were clear that they were part of the One Church.

May St David pray for us so that we too may proclaim the fullness of the gospel that comes to us from the Apostles.

Ash Wednesday

February 20, 2012

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Lent is almost upon us again. Now is the time to take stock and see how we can use this time profitably and successfully, to deepen our love, faith and reverence.

We will hear the real truth about our human condition: ‘Dust you are unto dust you shall return’. There is no escape. No amount of wealth or fame or power will save us from the grave. We shall all die and return to the dust from where we came. This is a message that the world doesn’t want to hear or heed. So the Church has to proclaim it loud and clear.

But the message is proclaimed in hope and almost in joy. It is not a threat but almost a promise. We are dust and we shall return to dust but that is not the end of the story. Our God has joined us in death. Lent takes us on a journey to the cross – and beyond.

All we do this Lent needs to keep that in mind. We fast and pray and give alms, because by so doing we prepare ourselves little by little for the eternal life that we celebrate at Easter.

Our Lady of Lourdes – 11th February

February 13, 2012

One of the greatest sites of Catholic pilgrimage is honoured on 11 February when we keep the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The story of the vision had by the young girl Bernadette is known the world over. As are the healings and miracles that occur there from time to time. And, of course, Our Lady’s self-designation –‘I am the Immaculate Conception’ – confirmed the doctrine of the Church.

What is even more remarkable is that all this should take place against the backdrop of a society, in nineteenth century France, which thought it was too sophisticated for such things. A society that regarded itself as highly rational, scientific and modern. It was against this backdrop that Our Lady appeared to a simple, ordinary young girl who had the one thing that mattered – faith.

We too live in a society that it very proud of its sophistication, that thinks it has the measure of all things, and is dismissive of what it doesn’t understand. It too is a society that needs to hear about the faith, a society that needs to learn to be more humble, and a society that needs to value the sick and the aged.

Who knows how God will shake our society out of its complacency. Who knows what saints will emerge. May the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes make us all think again.

St Blaise – 3rd February

February 3, 2012

The saint we celebrate today, Blaise, was possibly a bishop martyred in one of the earliest persecutions of the Church. He seems to have been martyred in Armenia which later became the first Christian country in the world in the early fourth century. Little else is known for certain about him.

But he is well known, at least by older Catholics, because of the rite that is associated with his feast day and is still common in this country – the blessing of throats. This is done with two crossed candles which are placed against the neck while the priest invokes the protection of Saint Blaise against all ailments of the throat.

It’s an ancient practice and one that we would do well to cherish. Our faith is not just cerebral – it involves our bodies too. This feast reminds us of that, just as yesterday’s feast of Candlemas did. We live in a material world, we are material people, we are body as well as soul. And God uses the material through sacraments and sacramentals – which is what this blessing is – to remind us that we believe in the resurrection of the body.

May St Blaise and all the saints pray for us to rejoice in that fact.