Saint Andrew, Apostle

Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 18(19):2-5; Matthew 4:18-22

"follow me  - - - I will make you Fishers of men " and it is striking how they do just that - with no hesitancy, even, leaving their nets dangling in the water. And thus Jesus calls Simon Peter, and today's Saint Andrew, and a little later, Simon and James, all fishers on the sea of Galilee.

Would we be able to drop everything and follow Jesus when He calls us? Many of those with a visible vocation, such as myself, actually spent years avoiding the call (in my case to the permanent diaconate). And yet - on the day of ordination, there was an insistent and urgent call to take those few steps from a seat in the congregation, forward to our Bishop who in the person of Christ conferred ordination. And most days, there is someone that needs to be listened to, and a response of giving time and presence there and then, immediately, is needed. Most of us, also, have many calls - to a vocation of work, marriage, prayer perhaps.

Perhaps as you read this you also are aware of a calling forward to something. If it is Christ calling you, then Christ will not stop - so carry on listening and if the call continues, some day, make an immediate response. And let us pray for each other's vocations, that God may bless us with a sure knowledge of what they are, and the courage to say Yes, Lord - I follow.

Tuesday of week 34

Daniel 2:31-45; Daniel 3:57-61; Luke 21:5-11

All three of the synoptic Gosples (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell of Jesus prophesying about the end times. However, Luke differed from he others in three ways:

Luke talks only of the destruction of the Temple, not of 'everything'. As the temple was destroyed by Roman military action in AD70 this is usually taken as evidence that Luke was writing after AD70. Note that prophesy does not mean 'prediction of time and place' for events. Instead read prophesy as a way of describing consequences for behaviour.

Matthew and Mark both place Jesus on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem, while Luke has Jesus in the temple complex. The importance of the Temple to Luke is clear - as his Gospel both begins and ends in the temple, and Jesus visits the Temple several times.

Luke has Jesus speaking of work that the disciples must do between now and the ned times. In this way Luke is telling the people of God that we need to permanently be making ourselves ready. The end times are going to come, but not necessarily imminently. For both Mark and Matthew, the end times are in our own lifetime. By AD 70 most if not all of those who had met Jesus in His lifetime would have been dying out - so the end times are at least more than one lifetime away.

Monday of week 34

Daniel 1:1-6,8-20; Daniel 3:52-56; Luke 21:1-4

It is said that the Temple had metal horns set up so that when bags of money were poured in a loud noise would be made, to allow everyone to know exactly how lavish the wealthy were in their giving. The ting ting of two small light coins dropping in from a poor widows' hand would make a barely audible noise in contrast. But Jesus noticed the noise, and knew exactly how much those coins meant to the widow.

It can hardly be said to be a bad thing that wealthy people give well to the Church - indeed many good projects result with outcomes that help all to build the church. We do need to remember the contributions that are less visible, less audible, and un-noticed - as for God, the amount given is not measured by the good the gift can achieve, but the goodness of the heart that is giving. It is especially important as we head into Advent (which does not start for another week yet!!!) that when we give, that we are motivated by what God is looking for, and not in order to make a show of our generosity.


Catherine of Alexandria

I Maccabees 6.1-13; Psalm 9; Luke 20.27-40

St Catherine was a learned woman of the fourth century.  Tradition has it that she was a well-born maiden of Alexandria in Egypt who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Maxentius after refusing to worship pagan gods.   She was condemned to be executed on a spiked wheel but at her touch the wheel shattered and she was instead beheaded.  Though it has proved difficult to verify her historically and it is possible that she was a kind of composite figure drawn from many stories of women condemned for Christian faith, it is clear that from very early days a cult surrounded her.  Through the Middle Ages she was among the most venerated of Christian martyrs.  At her death it was said that a milk-like substance flowed from her neck rather than blood.  Legends claim that her body was taken by angels to Mount Sinai, where a monastery was built in her honour.

St Catherine is venerated as the patron of philosophers and preachers, and she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the canonised saints noted for their intercessory powers.  She was adopted as patroness of the city of Bath. 

Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions

I Mc 4.36-37,52-59; I Chron 29; Luke 19.45-48

The Martyrs of Vietnam include 117 people (8 bishops, 50 priests and 59 laymen) who died between 1625 and 1886 and were canonised together in 1988.  They witness to the remarkable difficulties encountered by those who laboured to bring Christianity to this land.  An imperial edict of 1533 forbade Christianity, and only in 1615 did the Jesuits manage to establish a permanent mission.  The martyrs include European missionaries and native Vietnamese. Many of them were branded on their faces with the words ‘ta dao’ (false religion).

Andrew Dung-Lac was born in 1795 and at his baptism he took the name of St Andrew. He was ordained a priest on 15th March 1823.  During persecution he changed his surname from Dung to Lac in order to avoid capture.  He was beheaded on 21st December 1839 during the reign of Minh Mang.

Journey in Faith – moving on to Catechumenate

    Clement, Pope & Martyr

    I Maccabees 2.15-29; Psalm 49; Luke 19.41-44

    St Clement, who died around the year 97, is considered to have been the fourth Bishop of Rome, and is venerated in the Roman Canon (the first ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ of the Ordinary Form of the mass) after his predecessors Linus and Cletus. (St Peter, of course, was the first to hold that office.)  He is also named in the lists provided by the letters of Ignatius of Antioch and by Tertullian.  It is possible (if unlikely) that he is the Clement St Paul referred to as a fellow-labourer in Philippians 4.3.  Tradition has it that he was ordained by St Peter himself.  He was arrested during the persecution of the Emperor Trajan and sentenced to hard labour in the Crimea; ultimately he was thrown into the sea, tied to an anchor (his emblem in art). 

    The only writing that can be with certainty attributed to Clement is referred to as the First Epistle of Clement.  This is the earliest post-New Testament Christian writing.  (A ‘second epistle’ is of doubtful authenticity.)  This letter was written to settle disputes in the Church in Corinth.  We know from St Paul’s New Testament epistles to the Corinthians that this was a church that could be factious and disputatious; Clement’s letter, written a generation later, helps us see that Paul’s conflicts with this church were not of his own making.  Clement’s letter is an important step in the development of the Bishop of Rome’s universal jurisdiction.

    St Cecilia

    II Maccabees 7.1,20-31; Psalm 16; Luke 19.11-28

    Cecilia was a young noblewoman of 3rd Century Rome.  Apparently her parents insisted on her being wed to a pagan nobleman named Valerian, though she had taken a vow of virginity and had pledged herself to the service of God.  During the wedding, whilst musicians were playing festive music, Cecilia, it was said, ‘sang in her heart to God.’  When it came time to consummate the marriage, Cecilia told Valerian that an angel would strike him down if he attempted to violate her virginity; she directed Valerian to go along the Via Appia where he would encounter Pope Urban I who would baptise him.  Valerian complied with her instruction, but soon afterwards he and Cecilia were arrested and sentenced to death for their Christian faith.  As she was dying Cecilia asked the Pope to convert her home, in the Trastevere, into a Church.  She is commemorated in the Roman Canon, an indication of the antiquity of her cult.  She came to be regarded as the patron saint of musicians.

    In late 17th Century and 18th Century England St Cecilia’s day became a significant celebration of music, inspiring lengthy odes by the premier poets of the day, including John Dryden and Alexander Pope, set to music by composers of the stature of George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell.  The 20th Century poet W.H. Auden (1903-73) in his ‘Hymn to St Cecilia’ prayed ‘Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians: appear and inspire!’