Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Week of Saints...

It began on Saturday with St. Patrick and it continues this week with the Feast Day of St. Joseph on 19 March and St. Cuthbert on 20 March. Both these men have much to offer our faith and our concept of how God works in our lives...

We know Joseph was a carpenter, a working man. The cynical Nazarenes ask about Jesus: "Is this not the carpenter's son?" Joseph was not a rich man, for all he could afford as an offering were two turtle-doves or pigeons when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised. Those with more money would have taken a lamb to sacrifice. 

We know Joseph was a compassionate man. When he discovered that his fiancee, Mary, was pregnant, he knew that the child was not his but was yet unaware that Mary was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to Hebrew law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. Joseph knew that women accused of adultery could be stoned to death so he decided to divorce here quietly and not bring shame or persecution to her. 

Joseph was also a man of immense faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately, and without question, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to warn him that his family was in danger from Herod, he immediately left everything behind and took his wife and baby to a new country, seeking safety. And he patiently waited in Egypt until the angel told him it was safe to go back.

We know more about the life of St. Cuthbert than we do about St. Joseph. Cuthbert was born in Northumbria in about the year 635. At the age of 17 he had a significant experience. While tending some of his neighbour's sheep on a hill, he saw a light descend to Earth and then return, escorting, he believed, a human soul to Heaven. The date was 31 August, 651, the night that St. Aidan died. From that experience, he decided that God was calling him to something greater and he went to the monastery in Melrose, Scotland, where he stayed for the next 13 years. At about the age of 30, Cuthbert moved to the holy isle of Lindisfarne, where for the next 10 years, he ran the monastery there. When he turned 40, he realised he was being called to be a hermit and so he moved to the more remote island known as 'Inner Farne' where he built a hermitage and lived there for another 10 years. People were unable to leave him alone and they travelled to see him in small boats, for healing and spiritual guidance.

Just after turning 50, he was asked to leave his hermitage and become a bishop. For the next two years he travelled around, evangelising as Aidan had done. And at the age of 52, feeling the approach of his death, he returned to the Inner Farne and to his hermitage and he died in the company of the Lindisfarne monks on 20 March 687.

On Monday, 19 March, we celebrate these two men with a service of Holy Communion. All are welcome to attend.