Historical History

As we left the local library and museum today, we stopped at the new Oxfam bookshop. Until recently, Oxfam had a few used books for sale in their main shop. The selected is now expanded, but still quite limited.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time passing up a used bookstore, especially if I haven’t visited it before. I saw several things that interested me. One I couldn’t pass up. For £3.99 I picked up a copy of The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is 632 pages, in almost perfect condition and was published in 1885. It’s not a reprint. It came off the press when William Gladstone was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria still had 16 years left on the throne.

I don’t know when I shall read it cover-to-cover, but it is nonetheless a jewel on the bookshelf and no doubt a useful Church history resource.

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St Mewan

Today is the commemoration of St Mewan. Never heard of him? Not surprising. I hadn’t either until I checked the Menologion.

He appears to have been born in South Wales, worked in the vineyards of the Lord in Cornwall, and moved on to Brittany. This is not an uncommon route of ministry, as all three regions shared a nearly common language.

I feel a bit of a link with St Mewan because he was ordained by St Samson of Dol, who was elevated to the episcopate by one of my own patrons, St Dyfrig. Mewan and his godson Austol (namesake of the town of St Austell in Cornwall) both followed Samson to his monastery in Brittany. Thus when I think of my visit to the cathedral in Dol during half-term break, I also made a pilgrimage to the memory of Mewan.

Holy Mewan, pray to God for us who also try to shine the light of the Gospel in a heathen Britain.

Our Father Among the Saints Columba

Today is the 1410th anniversary of the repose of Columba of Iona, one of the patron saints of Scotland. He is by no means one of the earliest bishops in Scotland. St Ninian first worked in Scotland in the 4th century. Nonetheless, Columba’s missionary work amongst the Picts was one of the great evangelistic efforts in this island.

Though like Jesus he began his Scottish mission with twelve disciples, Columba turned Iona into a school for missionaries to the Picts, much as my own patron St Dyfrig did for the Welsh at Hentland and Moccas.

I went to Iona 17 years ago. Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long ago. Anyhow, it would be a great place to be a monk, because there’s not much to do there other than pray. And you have to want to get there. Even today as a tourist attraction and place of pilgrimage, you have to want to get there. It’s not on the way to anywhere else.

Likewise, if you were going to be a missionary to the mainland or any of the other islands in the Hebrides in the 6th century, you would have to want to get there. You would have to be pretty committed to evangelism.

Columba would have probably never imagined that his rebuilt abbey and the community associated with it would be run by a woman and espouse liberal politics and theology, and pan-sexual ecumenism.

Adomnán’s Vita Columbae is one of the great hagiographies of the British church, written within first hundred years after Columba’s death. As the ninth abbot of Iona, Adomnán had access to those who knew Columba, so it is much more difficult to discount the stories told, as is often the habit of modern scholars when dealing with hagiographical literature. They have to find other ways of explaining away his prophetic gift and the miracles performed by him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because this aspect of his ministry is so well know, Columba is a popular figure with charismatics who have dabbled in Celtic Christian history. The only difference between them and the Orthodox is that as Orthodox, we don’t see the ministry of Columba as finished, but merely translated from this life to the next, where he prays for us as part of the great cloud of witnesses.

In response we sing:

By thy God-inspired life/ thou didst embody both the mission and the dispersion of the Church,/ most glorious Father Colum Cille./ Using thy repentance and voluntary exile,/ Christ our God raised thee up as a beacon of the True Faith,/ an Apostle to the heathen and an indicator of the Way of salvation./ Wherefore O holy one, cease not to intercede for us/ that our souls may be saved.

I’m Back

I am sorry, Gentle Reader, if I left you in a lurch, wondering where I might have been these past few days. I awoke this morning 4:45 BST+1 in Isigny-sur-Mer, Calvados, Basse Normandie and over 600 miles and 15 hours later arrived back in the Shire. I drove all but the last sixty miles and the 30 miles of sea between Dunkerque and Dover.

Last Saturday we hired a seven-seater and picked up my parents, who were already in the UK. We had reserved a five-seater that can be turned into a cramped seven-seater (a Vauxhall Zafira), but when we got to the car hire place they had upgraded us to a comfy true seven (a Chrysler Voyager). We spent the night near the Channel coast and took the ferry on Sunday morning.

We wanted to take my parents (and especially my dad) to see the D-Day sights in Normandy. We had seen them last summer and since then had planned to go back with my parents. We went to the same campground where we stayed for a fortnight last summer. Last year we had originally intended to stay for one night and just never left. It must be the best campground in Europe. It was good last year, before the owner made significant upgrades (like adding a covering and heating to the swimming pool)  over the winter.  He plans even more improvement for next year.

If you are going to France on holiday, you must go to Isigny and stay at Camping Le Fanal – whether as a tent camper (as we were last year) or in one of the chalets or mobile homes. It is family oriented, friendly, and extremely clean. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but we absolutely love it. There is so much of Europe to see, but we just would just hate to miss Normandy.

The owner remembered us from last year. We had booked accommodation that he thought was too small for all of us, and it was a very light week (our half-term was the week after a French holiday week and just before the northern Europeans start coming in), so he upgraded it.

The week before half-term was filled with beautiful weather.  Last week was a bit more turbulent. We had lots of rain. It would rain as we were driving to a place we wanted to see. As soon as we would get there, the rain would stop. As soon as we got back in the car, it would start again.

The only time it didn’t was when we travelled to Saint-Malo so I my father could preach there one night. It rained while we were trying to get our bags into the hotel. After that, any time we were out of the hotel, it was dry. When we left Saint-Malo it rained until we got to Dol, where I wanted to see the cathedral dedicated to our father among the Welsh saints, Samson, who was ordained to the episcopate by St Dyfrig. It stopped while I got out, then started again when I got in the car. It rained all the way to Mont Saint-Michel, then stopped the whole time we were there. As soon as we started to get in the car – you guessed it – it started tipping down.

If I don’t stop now this will turn into a disjointed, but complete, travelogue of how I spent my spring vacation.  As it is, I’ll re-visit a few experiences over the next few days. For now I should get to sleep.

Reality Check

As is the custom with most bedtime prayers, after the fixed bit, the kids as God to bless various grandparents, uncles, cousins, and pets. Tonight Abby included Spiderman and the Green Goblin. I told her we really shouldn’t pray for them because they aren’t real.

With that sound of disappointment that drops by about a fifth at the end (or sounds like a race car passing), she said,  “Oooooooooh.”  She perked back up and said, “They’re only real on the telly.”

Blood Money for Nothing

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were tortured into confessing that they infected 426 Libyan children with the HIV virus. They have been sentenced to death.

Why would the Libyans try to put the blame on foreign nurses? HIV principally transmitted through homosexual or non-marital heterosexual acts. This is not the sort of thing a fundamentalist Islamic country like Libyan would want to admit. That being said, the scientific evidence indicated that much of the infection was transmitted throughout the hospital by unsanitary practice.

The death penalty isn’t absolute. There is a way out. The Bulgarian government can pay $13.48 million in blood money for each for each family. That’s only a bit over $7.42 billion. But since the entire Bulgarian government’s annual budget expenditure is $12.16 billion (with revenues of only $13.28 billion) it might be just a little hard to scrape the cash together. The Libyans originally offer to trade them for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie) bomber, but they withdrew this offer.

It’s not surprising that folks in Bulgaria have turned to prayer. Thousands attended a prayer service led by Patriarch Maxim at the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia. They’ve even brought in the big guns with three miracle working icons of the Theotokos brought in from monasteries in Troyan, Rila and Bachkovo with the cathedral open throughout the night.

I don’t know if there is a traditional patron for nurses, but if you do, please add a comment.

Pray for Ashraf Ahmad Djum’a al-Hadjud, Kristiyana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova and Valentina Siropulo.

Singing, Sermons, and Saints

We had liturgy this morning. It was the bi-monthly visit from the priest (and a number of parishioners) from the Greek church in the adjoining shire.

Our family was a bit late, because Aidan had a mid-morning swimming lesson that had already be paid for before we remember that it was the appointed day for the service. I missed the chance to read the Epistle. We got there about just before the Great Entrance.

We had quite a crowd by our standards. Twenty-five that can definitely remember, fit into a very tiny space. We were packed in like sardines in the little oratory chapel kindly loaned to us by the local Catholic abbey.

Unprompted Abigail sang “Christ is Risen from the Dead” all the way from the house to the abbey. Non-stop. Over and over. Christ is risen from the dead / trampling down death by death / and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. We sing it three times before our meals and in place of “Oh Heavenly King” at bedtime prayers from Easter to Pentecost, so she hears it a lot. She sings it around the house all the time. When we sang it at the end of the Liturgy, she was disappointed that we only did it once. She tried to start singing it again until she noticed that no one else had joined in.

I just wish she had been a little more settled during the sermon as Fr Stephen spoke about “trampling down death by death” so I could have paid attention to the whole thing. He made an excellent observation about Christ as the new Adam, explaining that when Mary Magdalene saw Him immediately after the Resurrection she correctly identified Him as the gardener.

After the service I was also commissioned to assist in coming up with the name of our new community that is emerging. I have made a good case for the most important saint in the history of the Shire, St Dyfrig. As one of the founders of Christianity in the area and as a teacher and father to 2,000 missionaries sent to evangelise that part of this island that would eventually be called Wales, I am confident in his desire to intercede on our behalf. We’ll see how it all works out.

As this group will be affiliated with the Archdiocese of Thyateira, it is apparently customary to also attach a Greek patron. I’m not familiar with a lot of Greek saints, but I’m happy enough if one wants to tag along. We can use all the help we can get.