Category: Christianity


My Homily Given Today on the Feast of the Epiphany 

CHRISTMAS_SHOPPERS1_1AMDG  I am going to let you into a secret – one of the things I like about being a priest at Christmas is that I don’t have to buy a lot of presents.  It’s not that I am means spirited – or stingy …….. honestly …….. but I am very happy that being a priest it allows me to concentrate on what is really important at Christmas.  But even I can’t get totally out of it – I went over to see my sister in Nottingham last week and two of my beautiful nieces, Charlotte and Emily.  Now they are only 4 and 6 so I don’t think they would understand if I turned up without presents – so briefly I had to join the crowds in the Arndale Centre – looking for presents – and it was stressful! Too many people – some very rude people pushing you out the way – and all just to get a couple of presents (they both love Barbie and Moshi Monsters) that I know were made in China – and probably will be forgotten about in a few week and thrown out when my sister decides there are too many toys cluttering up their bedroom.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Let’s contrast that experience with the presents given to Jesus by the wise men at the feast of the Epiphany. Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh – Gold – which represents the Kingship of Christ.  Isn’t it interesting that when there is a period of political or financial instability the price of Gold soars.  People buy Gold when they don’t trust their rulers or their economy – just look at what is happening in India now with such a frustration with corruption.  Gold has a value that lasts – its not another throwaway consumerist trinket.  In this baby in Bethlehem we see that if you invest your hopes and your dreams in his kingship it will bear dividends – not of more money but of peace, of joy, of love.   Frankincense – the gift of priesthood – like the incense that we use at mass to consecrate the altar, which I have just you to consecrate this book of the Gospels.  In this child born into poverty we have what Saint Paul was the ultimate high priest – whose sacrifice on our behalf brings us back into the loving orbit of God our creator.  And in Myrhh – we have an analgesic – a pain killer – something that we still use in dentistry and when we gargle mouthwash. This a prophetic gift which indicates the wise man forsee the suffering that this new king-priest will have to endure suffering to fulfill his Messiahship.

downloadGold, Frankincense and Myrrh – three prophetic, wise gifts laid at the feet of Jesus in the dirt, smell, damp and darkness of the stable in Bethlehem.

Lets compare the vision of the three kings to the that of King Herod.  Herod is the consummate political survivor – even being prepared to kill his own children to maintain his own power. He is ruthless and will do anything to consolidate his power.  That is the extent of his vision – raw power – and anyone or anything that gets in his way will be ruthlessly eliminated. If you read the historians of this time he was notorious for executing three of his own sons – Caesar Augustus even commented ‘It is better to be Herod’s dog rather than one of his sons’   What type of man is that?

We think that the magi came from Persia (Iran), India and Arabia and their exotic caravan would certainly have been noticed even in a bustling Jerusalem,  So Herod assembles his own wise man and discovers the prophecy of the messiah.  The Magi were looking for truth – seeking the star – and their gifts show how deeply they understood the prophecy.  The best gifts we receive come from people who understand us.  Herod – in his ego and his paranoia is seeking for threats to his power and as we will see is ruthless in his reaction.

King-Herod-300x300We all know that we can be like Herod in our lives and relationships – bearing grudges, playing games, manipulating people.  Ok we may not resort to murder or even physical violence – but so many of us like another form of assassination – gossiping, undermining someone’s reputation.  We become so obsessed with maintaining our own comfort that we stop seeking the truth. If you are seeking the truth, if you are seeking Christ, than expect opposition from the Herods of this world.  Expect to be scorned, to be laughed at.  But keep seeking – look for the gifts of the spirit – look for the gifts that will never grow stale – or be thrown away.  Truth, Freedom (and real freedom is spiritual – it is detachment), Peace and Joy.  They are gifts that come from kneeling and adoring – they are gifts that come from following those things that produce wonder in your heart.  You won’t find that Peace and Joy in the Arndale Centre – you may find it at the Holy Name.

 

 

Incarnation

AMDG

My homily for midnight mass – inspired by  Rob Marsh on Thinking Faith 

doctor_1416155cWe can probably identify life –changing moments…..  moments that make us think about life in a profoundly different way.  I would like to share with you a life-changing moment, that most of us have shared.  A few years ago, in Manila the capital of the Philippines, I had my first major operation – on my left knee.  I had worn out the cartilage and after the operation – the surgeon told me my football and running days were over.   My first reaction was – can I still go hill walking?    That hospital in Manila –was a turning point because suddenly my body became an obstacle to my dreams.  My left knee was screwed – and it forced me to reluctantly admit – there was no way I was going to ever going to become a midfield general, and score the winning goal in the Champions League Final……..  Ok maybe I knew that already…. It reminded me of when I was a little boy and coming out of the cinema after seeing Superman and being mildly irritated when I couldn’t fly – I even had the cape on….. but now it was definitive, the doctor told me I had worn my left knee out with training and running for marathons. This was a turning point for me and for so many of us because when  we are young it is as though our bodies are filled with unlimited potential. We admire youth because we see they can dream – and now my body had become an obstacle to my dreams……

downloadeThe opposite is at the heart of Christmas  – that God seems to love human bodies and choose them as the way of fulfilling God’s dreams. God the creator of the universal – and remember according to the Hubble Telescope the observable universe is hundreds of billions of Galaxies – and our Galaxy probably has 2 billion stars in it.  This all powerful – creator God – 2014 years ago (give or take a few years) – took on a finite human body – became a human being – a little baby – vunerable – flesh and blood – crying and going to the toilet – the God who created the universe.

Wow……

How does infinity dwindle to infancy?   Why did God choose to do this – in Bethlehem – in a country that was occupied by a ruthless foreign power? How does God fit into a body without making it explode?  This is the mystery of the Incarnation, remember incarnation – carne – flesh, meat – God became our flesh and blood – no other religion claims that – in fact if you were to claim to be God you are silenced…. Killed, incarcerated, and that is exactly what happened to Jesus.  It is such an amazing thing – to be the infinite God – who has become finitely incarnate.

download (1)Since I have been working at university – listening to so many students – sharing their joys, listening to their fears and worries.  I have seen the pressure so many of themselves are put under – academic pressure, financial pressure. But there is another kind of pressure which is deeper – a terrible kind of desolation – and it is all to do with self image, how they see their bodies.  I listen to beautiful young women telling me how they feel ugly, how they feel fat, their hair is the wrong colour , their breasts aren’t big enough.  And this deep unhappiness with their bodies is growing with men too – IT is being fuelled by the false images they are watching – airbrushed models,  unrealistic portrayals of sex, the culture of celebrity.   The financial and academic pressure will pass – but this type of pressure, self inflicted is much deeper and spiritually much more corrosive.

So remember the Incarnation – remember the real heart of Christmas – God, it seems, doesn’t hate bodies. In fact  God uses the human body – with all its limitedness – and all its mortality – to save the world.   How could we have allowed ourselves to be so far from that? There are websites know that encourage people to harm their bodies …… there is so much poison out there about how we think about ourselves… Christmas is the antidote to that poison.

download (2) And remember tonight is the start of Jesus’s human journey – the infinite all powerful God vulnerable in the hands of his mother – who will soon become refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers as they escape King Herod into Egypt.    Remember how the story ends – the Jesus the sun of God is tortured – his body nailed to the cross – and his heart stops beating, water and blood flowing out of his broken body.  This is no myth – this is history.  And when he rises from the dead – his glorious risen body – which is still carrying his wounds – becomes our hope, becomes our destination.

images Every day in this church – that body is made present to us in a unique way during the mystery of the mass – 365 days a year – twice a day when university term is on – three times a day on a Sunday – the incarnation of Christ during mass.  There is that famous saying – a dog is not just for Christmas – so let us remember the incarnation is not just for Christmas.  So all of you here tonight – who are occasional catholics – or visitors – you are very welcome, and it is great to see you.  Come more often next year – it would be wonderful to see you every Sunday  - this great mystery of God’s love – that he chose to take on the form of this life, on this planet, in this Galaxy – it is a mystery that we can never get used to.  But If we contemplate it, if we live it, if we renew it weekly – it is a mystery that brings us joy, a mystery that makes us appreciate life and our bodies, no matter how old they become.  When we forget it – and get caught up in the cares and worries of life – I can assure you one thing – we become miserable.

In a moment we will express our faith – this great story of God becoming Man – and tonight we will kneel after the words – God became man – to contemplate the immensity of the incarnation – to remember the Joy of Christmas.

Joy – (EG 1)

AMDG

Now that academic term has finished – and many students have left Manchester, I have a little bit of space and have decided to slowly read through Evangelii Gaudium  (The Joy of the Gospel) - Pope Francis’s rather lengthy exhortation.  It has been reported as the Pope’s dream for the church – and as you would expect there is some dynamite there.

Evangelii_Gaudium-255x390In the Introduction the Pope reminds us how Joy is at the centre of the Gospel message, giving many examples of this.  I think Joy is a rare experience for many people, but when they meet someone is authentically joyful it makes a powerful impression.   I have always argued that there is a profound difference between joy and happiness – happiness is something that so many strive for, and can achieve when they have a good job, a nice house, financial security and meaning.  So happiness is like a transaction – and it is great when people achieve it.  However Joy is like an unexpected gift – there is nothing that we can do to earn it – only having a heart that is open to God – our creator.     We were created for joy.  Francis reminds us that the sharing of what is really important to us  brings joy.  It also strikes me that when we live joyful lives – people are fascinated, attracted, and – that is when we have to be ready to account for our joy.  This is a different type of evangelisation than bible bashing or door stepping, people coming to us and asking us – why are you so joyful?  I remember a young man from Spain coming last year and asking for the sacrament of confirmation. When I asked him why now? ( he was in his late twenties ) he replied that he had seen some of the students faces who came to mass and the chaplaincy and ‘their eyes were shining’.  (I immediately checked that we had no drug dealers on site…. :)

National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil

National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil

However Francis is also gently chastising a distorted type of religion and religiosity. We are warned about this with the great line   ‘There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent rather than Easter’  (6)   .  Reminding us that the Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane he then investigates what might prevent this joy. Francis’s previous job as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires led to him being a key figure in the last general assembly of the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM). Bergoglio, who was a cardinal at the time was the key figures who helped prepare the final document, the ‘Aparecida’ document.   One of the most interesting quotes is lifted directly from that – :

  “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others”  EG 10 ,  Aparecida 360

So the more security, the more comfort and the more isolated we become the more sterile our faith is.   We become like spiritual ‘gated communities’  (my words not the Pope’s).   There is an ecclesiology here that is challenging for many of us who have a default position of seeing the world as hostile.  To a Jesuit ear however you can hear so much of  the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.  Particularly his meditation on The Two Standards (click here if you would like to find out more).  So the opening theme of his exhortation is Joy – and people are thirsting to encounter authentic joy.  One of the most popular posts in this blogs archives is an article about the joy of the fourth week of the exercises, with currently (Dec 2013) over 7,000 individual hits, called a Joy that Surpasses all Joys.  We all need more joy in our lives!

Person of the Year

AMDG

proxyThe announcement that Pope Francis has been chosen as Time Magazines ‘person of the year’  marks an incredible turnaround in the public perception of Catholicism. Pope John Paul II was also given this title in 1994 – in recognition of his moral leadership and role in the downfall of Communism and after he had been Pope for 16 years (Pope John XIII was also in 1962).  It is quite remarkable that Francis got it before he had even completed a year of his pontificate. Time describes him as a “septuagenarian superstar” who “makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office”.  It is worth noting that his biggest critics seem to be from within the church particularly from the right.  I was told by one of our students that he is not going down very well in Poland where the church is still riddled with clericalism.    Maybe aware of these internal critics – many of them who seem to be digital pharisees – the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lombardi SJ, said that Francis wasn’t looking for Time’s recognition, but if it gave people hope, then the Pontiff was happy.

What is the hope based on? Perhaps it is simply leadership.  It is interesting that the day after the Mandela Memorial – when Barack Obama has sharp words for some of the worlds leaders   “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people…..  There are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard”     It was notable that the assembled crowds booed their own president Jacob Zuma who has been accused of wide-spread  corruption.  The Pope Francis vote seems to be against a background of weak-leadership in the world.  Times managing editor, Nancy Ellis, confirmed this by writing, “At a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge,”

Ad Multos Annos

Speaking Truth to Power

AMDG

This is my homily for tomorrow - the Second Sunday of Advent 

john_baptistSpeaking Truth to Power is a phrase that is often used to describe people who bravely stand up against injustice.  It takes courage, it takes integrity to put your head above the parapet.  It probably explains something behind the overwhelming reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela this week.  Whenever there is a media frenzy there is a lot of nonsense spoken about someone’s life – and this week is no exception to this – however it cannot be denied that Mandela become a powerful symbol for many people.  He spoke truth to power, and they tried to silence him, but in the end truth won out.  He was lucky – he wasn’t silenced – he didn’t become a political martyr.   Speaking truth to power is part of the job description for an Old Testament Prophet.  And today in the Gospel – on the second week of our Advent Journey we meet the greatest prophet of them all, according to Jesus, John the Baptist. Unlike Nelson Mandela – we know that John was eventually silenced – beheaded by Herod.  John is one of the great advent figures – bridging the gap between the NT & OT.  He speaks with great authority, and that authority is recognised by the people and so he attracts great crowds.

What is his message for this advent ?  I think that he is warning not to be complacent in our faith.  He calls the Pharisees and the Sadducees ‘A brood of vipers’.  He is not confronting the power of Herod yet – but a much more subtle power – the power of respectability and the power of a good reputation and keeping a public face.   So let us examine our own faith and our own lives.

roman-triumphSt Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises writes very clearly about the seduction of power and honour.  In his meditation on the Two Standards – he talks about how the trappings of fame and honour are used by the enemy to seduce us …. to pull us away from God, so that we come to believe that we are all powerful.  There is a fascinating index called ‘The Power Distance index’ which measures how much a country respects authority and values hierarchies.  The higher the country is the more likely it is to be totalitarian and score high on corruption scales.  In ancient times when a Roman General or a Roman Emperor used to have a victory triumph (or parade) and was receiving the adulation of the masses – a slave would stand behind him and according to Tertullian whisper in his ear “Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! Remember that you’ll die”…..the famous memento mori.

So this Advent – let us heed John’s challenge.  Let us be honest about the little ways we are seduced into thinking that we are great, we are clever, lest we become complacent.  Advent is a time for our hearts to become humbler – that we dust away the complacency – as we would preparing a guest room – for a special guest.  But this time the room is our hearts – and for the grace of Christmas to go really deep – our hearts have to mirror that humble manger in Bethlehem.

Longing & Advent

AMDG

Last week we hosted a very interesting talk from Dr John Healey the Professor of Semitic Studies at the University of Manchester.  John and his wife, Elizabeth,  are just back from a visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they visited a number of churches and monasteries and also went to see the Chaldaean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda (who is a Redemptorist).  We had a group of students from Syria and also a student from Iraq at the talk.  It was very powerful, but also very depressing.  Some of the most powerful interventions where from the students. One talked about her family in Damascus, who said to her recently ‘We don’t belong here any more’.  Their family have been there for generations.  Another talked about how he grew up in Baghdad with many Muslim friends and neighbours, but how a darkness had descended and they no longer mixed.

It was distressing to hear – on one level we can only pray, but on another we started the first inter-faith soup run for the homeless  in Manchester last  week.   Maybe moderate forms of Islam & Christianity in the West may eventually exert pressure back in those countries where the Christians are slowly being exterminated. One of my favourite Advent Hymns is ‘ O Come, O Come Emmanuel,  and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear…..’   This longing for peace from all forms of captivity and diminshment is a very powerful part of our advent prayer…..  watch this below……  as a friend tweeted (@austeni)…   Stunning. Listen, and pray.

AMDG

I’m giving an advent day of reflection in Gorton today – thought I’d share my reflection below

impatientHave you noticed how quickly technology moves from being a luxury to an essential …..  When Television was invented it for many years it was only to be seen in rich houses, but now we can’t imagine not having a television, often a large flat screen, digital …. So we moved from thinking about television as being a luxury , now it is a necessity.  The same is true about cars, computers,  mobile phones and now not just an internet connection but a fast connection. A modern problem is when can’t connect.  Our mobile phone signal is patchy – and we get angry and frustrated.   Our internet connection is slow and we start clicking the mouse furiously or open new tabs.  All of this incredible digital stuff wasn’t around 20years ago but now our expectations have been raised……    The digital revolution is speeding things up – but the result is this – we are in danger of losing the habit of patience and the practice of waiting…..  Advent is about waiting  ……waiting in hope and waiting in joy………. this is an important part of Christian life.

maxresdefaultThere is a beautiful image in scripture of the watchmen waiting for the dawn.  For millennia, before our scientific age, when we didn’t understand how our solar system operates – there was always this slight nagging uncertainty about would the sun rise again? Panic ensued during a solar eclipse.  In the far north when the Arctic Winter means a perpetual twilight for weeks – when the sun rises for the first time in weeks – communities go out to greet the rising of the Sun .  This is in image that John Paul II was fond of as we approached the third millennium – to be alert waiting for sunrise  – watchmen and women waiting for the dawn of new hope  that Jesus beings afresh every Christmas.  He often called us to be sentinels of the Gospel, turning our eyes to the future, we confidently await the dawn of a new Day… Quoting Isaiah he said “Watchmen, what of the night?” and we hear the answer: “Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy: for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion”…. “As the third millennium of the Redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity and we can already see its first signs.” May Mary, the Morning Star, help us to say with ever new ardour our “yes” to the Father’s plan for salvation that all nations and tongues may see his glory  (POPE JOHN PAUL II, Message for World Mission Sunday, n.9, October 24th, 1999)

downloadThis waiting is the heart of our prayer.  St Augustine says that God often doesn’t answer our prayers immediately because he is waiting for our hearts to grow so that we can receive all the graces he wants to give us.  Our hearts grow in that silent and joyful, patient ,waiting. So can we prayerfully wait in prayer this advent. Three suggestions – firstly draw closer to the Lord, come to mass more often ( if you are just a Sunday Catholic – than choose one day in the week you can come to) – you are guaranteed the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Secondly in adoration – the faithful silence presence in front of the Blessed sacrament  - there you hearts will grow,  remember that Promise that Moses gives in the book of Exodus (14) -  The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still, you only need to be silent.  Take all those distraction that prevent you from joyfully waiting – those worries, those wounds and lay them before the Lord in adoration. Thirdly watch and wait with the Rosary – praying your beads compels you to slow down – as you go round in a circle, That rhythm can become a rhythm of hope.  If you drive hang  your rosary  round the rear view mirror – when you are stuck in traffic – instead of getting angry or impatient take it down – keep a list of names of people you can pray for in the car…..

Remember advent is a great opportunity to slow down and rediscover the art of waiting and hoping and growing your heart in expectation.

Remembering with Hope

AMDG

disciples-empty-tomb-wallpaper   Taken from Todays Homily

Physical death is inevitable for all of us.  One day our hearts will stop beating, our brains will stop working, our bodies will become stiff and cold, and start to decay. …….  I thought that would cheer you up!  ……..  But that is not the end of the story for us.  Our faith leads us beyond death.  Biological or physical cessation does not mean spiritual death for us.  So this November as we remember the dead…..we must always we remember that our faith is built on the rock of the physical resurrection of Christ – his defeat of physical death.  We can historically prove Jesus’s death. Historians tell me that even the empty tomb of Jesus can be historically proven with recourse to divergent and non-Christian Sources.  But the physical resurrection of Christ is a matter of faith.   It is the physical resurrection of Jesus that gives us hope in the face of our own death.   Some theologians have tried to water this down – but we remember in the gospels that Thomas touched the risen Jesus’s side, that the risen Christ ate with the disciples –these physical details matter.   The  physical resurrection of Christ – this allows us to make sense of death.  In today’s Gospel Jesus encounters the  Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection.  Jesus is talking to their unbelief  and says  that God is not the God of the dead but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive

mem-127aOur belief in the resurrection and in eternal life  allows us to hope even in the face of terrible killing and slaughter on a massive scale.   Today we remember those who have died in the terrible wars of  the twentieth century – In this country it is called Remembrance Sunday.  It is today because of the end of World War One – On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Here in the Holy Name in Manchester we have a war memorial with 226 names on it, 226 young men, sitting in these pews who were killed.  Today we remember them especially.  I will ask someone you all know, Michael Keneely to come and lay flowers by their names.  You may not know Michael by name – but you will recognise his face.  Michael is the old man that welcomes you at the back of church when you come to mass.  He was a marine in the Second World War and took part in the D-Day Landings on Sword Beach in Normandy.  It was the D-Day landings that led to the liberation of Europe.  Michael’s brother was later killed in Palestine.   Let’s give him a round of applause as he brings the flowers forward.

AMDG

           This is a modification of Today’s Homily on the Gospel of Zacchaeus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Jesuits when we pray, we often like to use our imaginations.  We call it imaginative contemplation.  You put yourself in the middle of the Gospel Scene – and watch, and listen and even try and smell & touch what is happening.  Today’s Gospel of Zacchaeus is a wonderful scene to do this with.  Zacchaeus the small tax collector, hated by many people for helping the Romans and becoming rich from his collaboration and probably his corruption.  Jesus is coming and as always attracting great crowds – so Zacchaeus  climbs the tree to see him pass, and Jesus invites him down – and we have this wonderful conversion of Zacchaeus – I’ll give half of what I own to the poor.  Notice the key dynamic with this story – it is through this encounter with Jesus, that his heart changes.   As he scurries down the tree he his joyful, even though everyone is complaining around him.   It is when we encounter Jesus – that our hearts change…..  In the mass we have the perfect setting to encounter Jesus.  We believe that the risen Lord is here amongst us now – that he is uniquely present in his word and in the Eucharist.  But just because we are present here – just because we are sitting in the pews – it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are encountering him.  Zacchaeus hears his invitation and comes scurrying down to meet him, joyfully.  We are here today at mass, and we maybe just going through the motions, here out of duty – it might even have become such a habit that we aren’t really noticing what is going on.  How can we encounter Jesus today if our hearts are not open to him, if we stay sitting up in the tree?  Even more dangerous – we may not feel the need for Jesus.  Zacchaeus knew he needed to be saved from his greedy ways. Look how he promises to give to the poor.  We may be a bit too complacent, a bit too comfortable to encounter Jesus.

NightFever2Pope Francis has a lovely image – of the shepherd who goes out to the save the lost sheep.  He says sometimes in the state of our church today, have lost the 99 sheep and only have one left.  And instead of going out to look for the 99 – we stay in and look after the one we have, like hairdressers fussing over the one sheep. How do we go out prudently and gently evangelise? On Friday night we had a group of 30 students praying in the church – they lit candles all over the place, had beautiful music, and then in groups of two – holding lanterns they waited outside the church and invited people in to light a candle.  Different people came in.  One man said that it was lovely to be invited in – he hadn’t been in a church for 20 years, and then he asked if he could stay a while and just sit.  Others came in and asked to speak to a priest after they had lit their candles.  It was a gentle way of reaching out to the lost 99 sheep as Pope Francis said.  We called the event – Nightfever ( a movement that started in Germany)  – and we will hold it every first Friday of the month.  So be careful that we don’t become too comfortable and too complacent in our faith.  Learn from Zacchaeus – what more can I do?  How can I help the poor – remember being in mass is not enough – we know we have encountered Jesus when our hearts our changed – so let’s sit in silence for a moment – and ask Jesus to help us to climb down from our trees.  How can we encounter him?   In what way can get more involved in our faith???  Don’t be frightened to ask him – here and now.

All the Saints

AMDG

All-SaintsToday’s celebration of all the Saints is a very special one for the church.  All Saints day grew out of a need in the early church to remember all the martyrs that couldn’t fit into the emerging  liturgical calendar.  Initially every martyr (saint) was given their own feast day – but in the first three hundred years of the church, so many were killed by Roman emperors (about 100,000 according to some scholars)  - that they couldn’t fit them in the emerging liturgical calendar – hence the birth of all saints day.    The status of Christianity changed dramatically during the reign of Emperor Constantine.  He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christian, and agreed on the Edict of Milan, which stressed religious tolerance.  His mother St Helena is credited with discovering the true cross of Christ. Christianity went from being a sect, heavily persecuted and underground, to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.  A bit further down the line Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  This was a remarkable moment  where the ancient temple to all the gods of ancient Rome became a Christian church dedicated to all the saints of the early church.  Pope  Gregory IV (827-844) extended this celebration to the entire Church and gave the feast universal status – So for Catholics it is called a Holy Day of Obligation (i.e. they must go to mass) . Such important feast days have their own vigil – hence Halloween – the evening of all Hallows.  Wearing costumes / jack-o-laterns etc / partys (fiestas) can all be traced back to the start of this three-day holiday.

1970405592_0e3f9698f0There are two paths to ‘sainthood’ in the Catholic Church.  One is to be a martyr –  or to be killed distinctly out of hatred for the faith (“odium fidei”), the other is to live a life of heroic virtue.  The second process usually requires independent proof of miracles as a result of someone praying for your intercession.  The pictures on either side of the blog today come from a marvellous set of tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Angels in  Los Angles.    THe tapestries are called the communion of Saints consisting  of females and males of all ages, races, occupations and vocations the world over. Saints from the Renaissance are intermingled with people from the 1st century and the 20th century. The artist – John Nava -  combined digital imaging and “Old Master” methods in creating the saints for the tapestries. He constructed figures from multiple studies, combined drawn and painted elements, had costumes made when needed and even drafted family members to serve as models on occasion. He wanted the figures to look like people we know now, and did not use a highly stylized form to depict the saints. Nava’s desire is that people identify and see that “a saint could look like me.”

Communion-of-Saints-tapestry-300x192

 

You can see these marvelous tapestries in more detail by clink on this link 
 

 

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