St Vincent de Paul – 27 September

September 26, 2014

Whatever one’s feelings at the outcome of the Scottish referendum one cannot but have been impressed by the way that the process empowered many people who had previously felt ignored and dismissed. There was manifestly a thirst to build a better and more just society, and a deep seated belief that poverty is not inevitable. People may have voted differently in pursuit of addressing those ideals but they were united in demanding change.

Politics is a personal choice, faith is an imperative demanding to be lived out in the public sphere. The saint we celebrate tomorrow was well aware of that. Having himself been, literally, a slave in his young life he knew that such poverty and lack of freedom was completely against the spirit of the gospel. St Vincent de Paul was born in south west France in 1581. He was ordained at the unusually young age of 19 but when he was 24 he was taken prisoner by some pirates and sold into slavery. Eventually he escaped. The experience was life changing. The rest of his ministry was spent serving the poorest of the poor, especially the slaves in the galley ships. He founded a religious order of women to help him in his task, the Daughters of Charity. He died in 1660.

We face different challenges in our own day but the poor and oppressed are still with us. We are called to serve them. May St. Vincent pray for us.

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St Vincent de Paul – 20 September

September 25, 2014

Whatever one’s feelings at the outcome of the Scottish referendum one cannot but have been impressed by the way that the process empowered many people who had previously felt ignored and dismissed. There was manifestly a thirst to build a better and more just society, and a deep seated belief that poverty is not inevitable. People may have voted differently in pursuit of addressing those ideals but they were united in demanding change.

Politics is a personal choice, faith is an imperative demanding to be lived out in the public sphere. The saint we celebrate tomorrow was well aware of that. Having himself been, literally, a slave in his young life he knew that such poverty and lack of freedom was completely against the spirit of the gospel. St Vincent de Paul was born in south west France in 1581. He was ordained at the unusually young age of 19 but when he was 24 he was taken prisoner by some pirates and sold into slavery. Eventually he escaped. The experience was life changing. The rest of his ministry was spent serving the poorest of the poor, especially the slaves in the galley ships. He founded a religious order of women to help him in his task, the Daughters of Charity. He died in 1660.

We face different challenges in our own day but the poor and oppressed are still with us. We are called to serve them. May St. Vincent pray for us.


Saints Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions – 20 September

September 19, 2014

The Pope has recently visited Korea. His visit showed to the world the rich Christian faith of that country. That faith was wonderfully expressed in the lives of the saints we celebrate tomorrow, saints Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions.

Andrew was the first native Korean priest and is patron saint of Korea. When French missionaries arrived in Korea in the early nineteenth century they were surprised to find that the faith has already been planted there by lay people. Andrew’s parents were converts. His father was martyred for the faith. Andrew was baptised when he was 15 and then studied to be a priest in Macao, a Portuguese colony at the time. He was ordained a priest in 1844 and returned to spread the gospel in his native land.

These were difficult years for the church and thousands were killed for their faith. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul. His blood, like the blood of all the martyrs, has proved to be the seed of the Church and today Christians make up about 10% of the population of Korea.

We tend to think of martyrs as being from a far off age. Andrew shows that they are not. Even today in many parts of the world Christians are persecuted and killed for their faith. May Andrew and all the martyrs pray for us that we may be better witnesses to the gospel.


Exhaltation of the Holy Cross – Sunday, 14 September

September 13, 2014

On Sunday we have the rare privilege of celebrating the Feast of the Holy Cross, often known as the Exultation of the Holy Cross. As this feast is ‘fixed’ on 14th September we celebrate only every six or seven years. But what a wonderful feast it it.

On Good Friday we tend to focus on the human suffering of Jesus, meditating and pondering his love for us which endures even the most barbaric death. True the Liturgy of that day insists that we celebrate what that death achieves but it is at best a ‘mournful festival’ and one of the ancient hymns has it.

Sunday’s feast gives us time to celebrate the glory and the triumph and the wonder of the cross. The priest wears red vestments and the readings and preface speak of the power of the cross. It would be useful to find some of the older hymns of the passion, especially those of the sixth century Bishop Venantius Fortunatus such as ‘The royal banners forward go’ and ‘Sing my tongue the glorious battle’. In these hymns he speaks of our God ‘reigning from the tree’ and praises the wood of the cross, as well as using a number of metaphors and images to describe what we celebrate.

As another ancient saying puts it: Ave crux! Spes Unica! – Hail o Cross, Our Only Hope.


Weekly Reflection

September 3, 2014

Over the summer I have visited a number of churches across England and Wales where medieval wall paintings are now visible again after being whitewashed out for centuries. Apart from the bright colours and elaborate dress of those portrayed one other thing stands out: the devotion to the saints of our ancestors in these lands. Many churches show the apostles, but also other local or patron saints.

In some of the best preserved examples the idea of the saints as ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ comes through quite clearly. They are there to help and support us on our pilgrim way. One cannot help but feel that one is part of a great group of friends that is filled with joy and happiness when one stands and gazes at these depictions.

We can often feel on our own. Perhaps we are the only one at work who is a Catholic, or the only one in the family who goes to Mass. That’s why the saints are important because they remind us that we are part of something far more than we can see. We are in fact part of a ‘communion’ that transcends time and space.

If you get time this week try to look (on the internet at least) at some of these old paintings. They will fill you with joy and strengthen your devotion to those who have gone before us and are now praying for us.