Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: Violet.
|Other saints: St Bernadette Soubirous (1844 - 1879)|
Hexham & Newcastle, France
She was born in 1844 to a destitute family in Lourdes, in France. On 11 February 1858 she went down to the river Gave with her sister and a friend, to look for firewood and bones. There she received the first of a series of visions of the Mother of God which led to Lourdes becoming a place of pilgrimage and healing. In 1866 she became a nun at Nevers, where she died on 16 April 1879.
It is a rule of the Church that saints are to be celebrated for what they are and what they do – to serve as examples of heroic virtue for us all – and not merely for what happens to them. There is no way that we can all go off and have visions of Our Lady, and the world would be a madhouse if we tried. So what of Bernadette? What heroic virtue has she that we should imitate? There are two: suffering, and humility.
Bernadette was seriously ill with asthma all her life and she died young; but she never let illness be an excuse for anything – how many times do we, feeling a little unwell, use that as an excuse for being bad-tempered or simply not doing what we ought?
To move away from Bernadette for a moment: imagine that you are a poor working-class boy with little education who happens to be good at kicking a ball about. Within a few years you find yourself earning more, annually, than your father earned in his entire lifetime. You receive attention, adulation, status – all that you could possibly desire. People emulate you. They hang on your every word. How would you feel? How would you act?
Next, imagine that you are a poor girl – not even working-class, because your father hardly ever has any work – poor in a way that we can hardly conceive of – unintelligent and uneducated, and suddenly something happens to you. Overnight you are famous. People come in crowds to see you (sometimes the police have to control them). Everyone treats you with respect and admiration. They hang on your every word and ask you, over and over, questions about even the tiniest detail of your experience. They press coins into your family’s hands. You shut yourself up in a convent far from home, but even there you are constantly visited by bishops and other eminent persons who just want a quick look at you.
Wouldn’t that turn your head? Just a little? Wouldn’t you think that there must be something about you that made you worth seeing? However tiny that something was?
Here is Bernadette’s response, in conversation with one of the nuns:
“What do you do with a broom?”
“Why, sweep with it, of course.”
“Put it back in its place.”
“Yes. And so for me. Our Lady used me. They have put me in my corner. I am happy there, and stay there.”
Saint Bernadette Soubirous is patron saint of the sick, and rightly so. But if there is to be a patron saint of celebrities and footballers, Bernadette would be a wise choice for that task too.
(Note: St Bernadette’s feast is celebrated on 16 April by most of the world but on 18 February in France. Some people called “Bernadette” celebrate their name-day on 11 February, which is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the date of the first vision).
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Basil the Great (330 - 379)|
St Basil the Great, or Basil of Caesarea, was one of the three men known as the Cappadocian Fathers. The others are his younger brother, St Gregory of Nyssa, and St Gregory Nazianzen. They were active after the Council of Nicaea, working to formulate Trinitarian doctrine precisely and, in particular, to pin down the meaning and role of the least humanly comprehensible member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Basil was the leader and organizer; Gregory of Nazianzus was the thinker, the orator, the poet, pushed into administrative and episcopal roles by circumstances and by Basil; and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil’s brother, although not a great stylist, was the most gifted of the three as a philosopher and theologian. Together, the Cappadocian Fathers hammered out the doctrine of the Trinity like blacksmiths forging a piece of metal by hammer-blows into its perfect, destined shape. They were champions – and successful champions – of orthodoxy against Arianism, a battle that had to be conducted as much on the worldly and political plane as on the philosophical and theological one.
In addition to his role in doctrinal development, Basil is also the father of Eastern monasticism. He moderated the heroic ascetic practices that were characteristic of earlier monastic life, to the point where they could be part of a life in which work, prayer and ascetic practices could be in harmonious balance. Knowledge of Basil’s work and Rule spread to the West and was an influence on the founding work of St Benedict.
The works of Basil that appear in the Second Readings are mostly from his works on the Holy Spirit, but there are also extracts from his monastic Rule.
|Liturgical colour: violet|
Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’. Liturgically, it is the colour of Advent and Lent, the seasons of penance and preparation.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 1:18-19 ©|
The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save. As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ©|
The Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, but we are preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.
|Afternoon reading (None)||1 Corinthians 1:25,27 ©|
God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. It was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning.