Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Happy St George's Day

The National Shrine of Saint Jude is currently selling a number of saints’ prayer cards that were created and printed in the early years of this peaceful place. They are all beautifully prepared, in full colour and mostly A7 size or larger. Most of them include a prayer to the saint on the back. You can purchase these, here.

In this blog, we have already discussed St Garmon, but today as it is St George's day so we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the famous saint. Pictured below is the beautiful prayer card for St George.

Since Easter often falls close to Saint George's Day, the church celebration of the feast may be moved from 23 April. In England where it is the National Saint's Day for 2014 the Anglican Catholic calendars celebrate Saint George's Day on the first Monday after Easter Week, so on 28 April 2014 the Feast day will be celebrated at church.

Saint George (c. 275/281 – 23 April 303 AD) was born in Lydda, and  was a soldier in the Roman army and was later venerated as a Christian martyr. Saint George became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.

Why is he England’s Patron Saint?
The earliest documented mention of St George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral.  Early (c. 10th century) dedications of churches to St George are noted in England, for example at Fordingham, Dorset, at Thetford, Southwark, and Doncaster.  In 1222 the Synod of Oxford declared St George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England, and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order.

In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.

St George's Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

George's prayer card can be found here.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Thoughts from our Chaplain: Newness!

I was rather curious to see whom Magnificat had chosen for its Easter Sunday meditation. Well, its editors didn’t disappoint me, because it is none other that Pope Francis himself.

He talks about the newness the women experienced after the death of Jesus and how newness can make us fearful and thus, like the apostles, we would prefer to hold on to our own security. However, the Pope writes, “Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives.”  

This made me think of Emma Taggart (a parishioner here) who was received into the Church during the Easter Vigil. She received the sacraments of adult Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. What a privilege, but also what a responsibility! It is a great privilege of what God does to us: in baptism giving us a share in his divine life, in confirmation bestowing on us the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Eucharist giving us the Body and Blood of Jesus. The challenge is of course to respond as fully as we can to those gifts. This doesn’t count just for Emma, but for each one of us.

I was pleased to see so many at the Easter Vigil, who came to support Emma and, more importantly, to have a newness in their own faith journey to say a very fervent “I do” to our baptismal promises. It made for a very happy Easter indeed.

Fr Piet Wijngaard, O.Carm.