October 29, 2014
This weekend we celebrate the wonderful festival of All Saints. Amid the fabricated nonsense of Halloween we are shown what it true about the dead – and about our own deaths too. There is no rubbish about ghosts and witches but rather a confident proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus.
The Liturgy speaks of the life that Christ brings to all who believe in him. We remember those countless men and women of every race, tongue, and country who are now already enjoying the presence of the Most Holy Trinity in heaven. And the fantastic thing is that they are not selfishly enjoying their rest but rather actively engaged in our salvation through their prayers.
When we enter our churches we are always confronted with images and pictures of the saints. Often we have their relics to venerate as well. These are all reminders that it is possible for ordinary people like ourselves to live holy lives. As we familiarise ourselves with the lives of the saints throughout the year what strikes us is how much like us they are.
The feast this weekend confirms that insight. The saints are not superheroes but rather human being who have given their lives over to God completely. May they pray for us so that we can go where they have gone.
October 20, 2014
There are very many hill top towns and villages dotted around the picturesque mountainous region of Italy known as the Abruzzo. Many were, sadly, devastated in the earthquake in 2009. One of them was the little town of Capestrano. The great shrine of the saint we celebrate next Thursday is there.
St John of Capestrano was born there in 1386. As a young man he had a very promising career as a lawyer ahead of him. But it wasn’t sufficient and John eventually became a Franciscan friar. Doubtless using the oratorical skills he had picked up in this training for the law. John became a renowned preacher not just in his native Italy but across much of Europe. He died in1456 worn out by the preaching of the gospel.
Let us thank God for the men and women in every age who cast aside their own careers to put their talents at the service of the gospel and let us pray for lawyers, on this the feast of their patron saint.
October 10, 2014
Relics have always played an important role in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The bodies of the saints have been honoured and preserved since the start of the Church. Not out of any macabre interest but rather as a testimony to the facts that our bodies are, as St. Paul tells us, ‘temples of the holy spirit’, and also as a concrete witness to our belief in the resurrection of the body.
Across Europe there are countless shrines where we can honour the saints and venerate their remains. In the UK however such opportunities are few and far between. The reformers, in their narrow and mistaken understanding of the gospel, destroyed most of the shrines and relics of the saints that once graced this land. In fact only one shrine was spared, that of the saint we celebrate on Monday.
Edward the Confessor was the last Saxon King of England. He was renowned for his holiness, his love of the poor, and the simplicity of his life style. He realised that the essence of kingship lay in service and gave his life to serve the people of his realm. His was quickly acclaimed as a saint and one can still venerate his tomb and body today in the magnificent church of Westminster Abbey.
Let us ask Edward for his prayers that we may imitate him in service to others.
October 6, 2014
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of one of the Church’s best loved saints, Francis of Assisi. Unfortunately he has suffered somewhat from a rather saccharine portrayal over the years as some sort of pantheistic simpleton. The truth is very different.
Francis’ reverence for creation was not the result of any sentimentality or woozy Gaia type confusion of the difference between Creator and created but rather deeply rooted in that very distinction. He loved the created order precisely because it was created, called into being out of the immense love of God. Its dependency was a sign of the importance of the Creator and his free act to choose to create. God was not bound to create, He does need his creation, He was not lonely without us. On the contrary creation is a testament to the boundless and selfless love of God. And that is why it is so marvellous and worthy of respect.
In recent years we have started to recover a more profound meaning of what it is to say that God is our creator. May St. Francis pray for us that we may come to realise that truth more profoundly each day. P.D.