I have missed a few very important people of late. Not only the important feasts of saints, but also the important feasts of those saints who are patrons of important people, people I care about. Mea culpa. I have been, as usual, snowed under, literally and figuratively.
So, in order:
January 17th - St Anthony, Abbot. I love this man. He is a man of his word. His parents, sadly, died when he was 18 years old. He was left with responsibility for a large wealth of land and the care of his younger sister. He went to Church to pray. Matthew 19: 21 was read: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." Anthony went out and gave his fortune away, keeping only enough for the upbringing of his sister. Then he went to Church again. This time the Gospel was Matthew 6: 34: "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today". He went out and gave the rest of his inheritance away, and allowed his sister to be cared for by a local convent. He left public life in order to pursue a life in which he lived out Jesus' teaching. That deserves respect.
I'll tell you why. I am unlikely, God willing, to walk out on the world of commerce, capitalism and living as we know it.But, God knows, I wouldn't want to be called to it. Anthony was called to it, and he had the courage to respond positively. I'd be more likely to turn "Jonah" - you'd have to drag me in the body of a whale.
The Feast of St. Anthony, Abbot, inspired and inspires me to to pray for those incredibly special people who have the courage to respond to God's call. Every single one of them, no matter what their calling, is a hero.
January 25th - After that came the Conversion of St Paul. Another hero without a doubt. I have my 'debates' with Paul. He and I are sparring partners. Honestly, we fight. But, I respect him. Mostly I respect him because he took God at his word. If I had fallen from a great height, heard a voice from heaven and been inspired to change the direction of my life so totally, I might have been humiliated. Pride might have got the better of me. But, here is Paul. He stands up, changes, and gets on with it. Doing so he finds strength and happiness - but no end to the struggle. I know that feeling. I have changed my course of life, found my home, and discovered happiness without end to the struggle. The struggle goes on.
January 28th - Lastly, for now, came Thomas Aquinas. He is my hero. I love him. I could love him for all he taught. I could love him for his great wisdom. I could love him for the Summa Theologia. For all of these things I respect him. For all of these things I believe him worth listening to and obeying. But, I love him because, after all his work was done, he thought nothing of it. After a life devoted to the divine he was finally granted a mystical experience of His presence. Afterwards, he said: 'The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me." Thomas Aquinas never wrote another word. When later asked to return to writing, Thomas explained, "I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw." It takes courage to say such a thing. Courage and faith in the mercy of God. Humility to know our human knowledge of the divine is 'through a glass darkly': we do not know Him as he really is.
I love all these people because they keep their word. They respect the fact that language reflects reality and experience. They understand that truth telling is about actions as well as words. They are never afraid to retreat upon a misunderstanding. Each of these saints understands the importance of the fact that we have two eyes, two ears and one mouth - they look, think and reason before they speak, and never assume that once they have spoken they are right. Each of them have the humility to listen to others and to God. May I, one day, be the same.
There should be dinner attached to this. I do not know what to cook for those who spoke and lived with integrity, for those who never allowed there to be a gap between their thoughts and their actions. It is a rare, rare quality. Perhaps, there should be a rare, rare food to match? Or, perhaps, what is called for is honesty and integrity. A dinner that inspires truth telling and openness. A dinner that does what 'it says on the tin'. Something simple, something straight forward. If that were the case, you know what? I'll not write a recipe, I'll suggest something: Ham, egg and chips.