Palm Sunday

March 28, 2012

On Sunday we begin Holy Week with the wonderful celebration of Palm Sunday. The readings and the Liturgy speak of what we are to celebrate in the week ahead. We are not simply remembering events in the past and we are not engaged in some pretence that we are in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago. Rather we are celebrating them in and through the Church’s worship. We are celebrating what they mean and what they achieved. We are celebrating the core of our salvation.
This is the key to Catholic worship. We believe that we are caught up into the action of Christ as he redeems the world. At each Mass we believe that we are caught up into the crucifixion. We believe the Mass to be the sacrifice of Calvary made present on the altar and we accept that we are offered to the Father as well.
The Liturgy of the Triduum at the end of next week gives us ample opportunity to reflect on all these things. The passion, death and resurrection of Christ are recalled and renewed in word and sacramental sign. But we are not onlookers, we share in what we celebrate there. Our life and death, our suffering and pain are taken up into the sacrifice of Christ so that we too can come to share in the resurrection.

St Joseph – 19th March

March 16, 2012

On Monday we celebrate the feast of St Joseph. The scriptures tell us little about the man chosen to be the foster father of Jesus but what they do reveal is of great interest and value. Joseph is a compassionate man. When Mary tells him of her pregnancy he does not denounce her but rather decides to ‘divorce her informally’. Joseph is a man of faith: he believes Mary and the angel who tells him of her child’s real origin. Joseph is man who puts the needs of others before his own. When Herod is out to destroy the child Joseph takes his family into Egypt for safety. Joseph is a wise man. He does not return to his native land until he knows that it will be safe. Joseph is a self-effacing man. He does not claim the limelight but is prepared to accomplish his duty and then let his foster son grow in importance.
All these things are values and virtues that mark out truly great men. We have so many bad examples that Joseph needs to be portrayed as a good example, so many false images of masculinity that Joseph needs to correct, and so many false notions of celebrity that Joseph needs to negate.
May St. Joseph pray for us all but especially for fathers and workers on his feast day.

St John Ogilvie – 10th March

March 12, 2012

On 10th March we celebrate a Scot, St. John Ogilvie. Born in 1597, a time of turbulence in the history of Scotland, John was raised a Protestant. But after studying on the continent in Belgium and Germany he became a convert to Catholicism and entered the Jesuit order. Ordained a priest in 1610, he returned to Scotland and ministered in secret to the persecuted Catholic population. In 1614 he was arrested, tortured and, in 1615, killed in Glasgow for his priesthood and his faith.

During Lent we are called to ‘mortify’ ourselves. This should not be an exercise in self-loathing, but rather the means whereby we endeavour to curb our self-centredness to allow space for Christ to recreate us in his image. The martyr saints are useful for us to contemplate during this season because they loved life but knew the power of its author and redeemer. They were not morbidly in love with suffering and pain but rather knew the way in which their sufferings could be united to the One whose sufferings transforms all death. The martyrs are those who affirm the Lord of life, and show us the paschal mystery that we will celebrate at the end of Lent.

Ss Perpetua and Felicity – 7th March

March 5, 2012

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 Wednesday 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.