St Ignatius – Saturday 17th October

October 15, 2009

How can we know that what we believe is what Christ actually taught? Some would have us believe that the Church has distorted the simple original teaching of Jesus. That is where saints like the one we celebrate today are very useful guides. Ignatius was the second or third bishop of Antioch. By the time he was martyred in 107AD he was already an old man. He had learnt his faith from the Apostles themselves and like them he was prepared to die for it.

Ignatius wrote a number of letters to other Christian communities which we can still read today. They show us what the Church was like in the opening century of its life. And, we can clearly recognise in these letters what we believe today. For instance, Ignatius was insistent that Christians should meet together to celebrate the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday. They are to do this because Christ commanded it, and also because there they meet Christ in word and sacrament.

The idea of a ‘simple Christianity’ devoid of leaders, sacraments, doctrine is a very late invention. The writings of Ignatius and the other early martyrs show us clearly that we believe the ‘faith that comes to us from the Apostles’.

Saint John Leonardi – Friday 9th October

October 12, 2009

Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint John Leonardi. Some readers may have visited the beautiful little city of Lucca in Tuscany where John was born in 1541. He was ordained a priest in 1572 and was very concerned to teach the children and young people in that place.

John was one of a group of saints who lived out the ideals of the Counter- Reformation and emphasized the importance of the Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady in his sermons and teaching. He founded a religious order to help him in this task. It was characteristic of John that he should die in the service of others nursing those who were victims of the flu epidemic raging in Rome in 1609.

When we read about the saints of this period what is striking is how faith and works went together in their lives. They were not concerned with doctrine alone but how that doctrine was lived out in love. John’s devotion to the Body of Christ was not just to that body sacramentally present in the eucharist but also physically present in those in need – the poor, the sick, the destitute.

Let us pray that through his prayers we may always venerate the present of Christ wherever he is to be found – at the altar but also in the street and in our daily lives.

St Matthew – 21st September

September 18, 2009

On Monday we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, the gospel writer and Apostle. Matthew is very concerned in his writing to proclaim that Jesus is the promised Messiah, again and again he shows how Jesus fulfils the Old Testament prophecies. Matthew’s gospel is steeped in Judaism: he quotes extensively from the Old Testament, he is concerned to show Jesus as the new Moses, and he obviously has first hand experience of the Jewish religion. 

Matthew’s feast day can serve to remind us that to understand the New Testament and the message of Jesus properly we need to know about the Jewish faith and the Old Testament. For most of the year the first reading at Mass is taken from the Old Testament, and the Mass itself cannot be understood unless we see it in the context of the Jewish Passover. We cannot ignore the religion, culture and understanding of Our Lord and Our Lady and most of the Apostles. If we understand it better then we understand them better too. 

Let us pray on the feast of St. Matthew for the Jewish people, and also pledge that we will learn more about Judaism. In doing so we will learn more about Jesus himself.        P.D.