July 8, 2012
We are used to the countries of these islands having their patron saints – Andrew, David, George, and Patrick but the entire continent of Europe too has its patron whose feast we celebrate on Wednesday: Benedict. Born in Umbria around 480 Benedict died at the famous and still functioning monastery of Monte Casino in 547.
While still a young man Benedict had decided to flee what he considered the corrupt world in order to spend more time seeking God. His first attempt at setting up a community was not entirely successful because, like many young men, he was too intolerant of human frailty. But Benedict learnt from these mistakes and established a community and an order that flourish to this day.
The Rule of St Benedict is a masterpiece of common sense in which he shows himself a keen student of human psychology. Benedict’s rule is firm but gentle, shrewd but sensitive, and seeks to develop the individual as well as the community.
So great has been Benedict’s influence, especially over education, that he is counted as patron of Europe because he contributed so much of what is good in our common culture on this continent. May his prayers help us as we strive to build afresh a Christian culture that cherishes the individual and seeks their growth in a community of love.
July 2, 2012
It’s quite surprising how some of the names we give to stories and characters in the Bible are so wide of the mark when we read them carefully. For instance, the story of the Prodigal Son would be much better entitled the story of the Prodigal Father. The same is true of the saint we celebrate on Tuesday, Thomas the Twin, one of the Apostles. Thomas has gone down in history as doubting Thomas. He’d be far better and more accurately called faithful Thomas.
Look at the stories that we have about him in the New Testament. Thomas is so convinced of Jesus’ earthly worth and goodness that he out of all the disciples suggests that they should die with Jesus when he talks about his impending death in Jerusalem. All the others think that Jesus is mistaken. Similarly when we read the story of Thomas meeting the risen Lord after the resurrection he is the one who sinks to his knees and proclaims the fullness of faith: ‘My Lord and my God’.
The encounter of Jesus and Thomas in this story is one of the most powerful parts of the whole New Testament. Here we have a man who has seen Jesus die, and may well have seen him dead. He is so rational and so realistic that he won’t be swayed by the words of others. And then he meets the risen Lord for himself and realises the truth – and falls on his knees in acknowledgement.
May Thomas pray for us who have not seen and yet believe that Jesus is Lord and God.