Some readers will remember that I like St Aloysius’ Church near Saint Pancras station in London. This window, with Mary at the centre of the Apostles on Pentecost morning arouses mixed emotions though. It is good to see a clear theology of Mary’s place in the Church, receiving the Holy Spirit with – I wish I could say ‘with everyone else’ – but it is with the Apostles only, not the 120 people who were gathered together. Perhaps the artist felt that the picture was crowded enough already, but where is Mary Magdalene, Johanna, the other women and where is John Mark, Paul’s future assistant that he would call his ‘son’ (Colossians 4:10)? He is usually identified with the boy who ran away naked from the garden on Maundy Thursday night, as well as with Mark the evangelist. It was to his mother’s house that Peter went after the angel sprung him from prison. (Acts 12.12) She was another Mary.
The window is not diverse enough to represent the first Church, though a few minutes looking through the clear glass out into the street would assure any visitor that St Aloysius’ is in the midst of diversity today. But there should be more women and more young people in that window!
Saint Aloysius was a Jesuit novice when he died in Rome aged 23, after catching plague from nursing the victims of an epidemic. Not an inappropriate neighbour for Saint Pancras, who was martyred for his Christian faith at Rome on 14 May 304, at the age of fourteen. John Mark, Aloysius and Pancras, young men who were saints. Worth remembering them, and young women saints like Agnes, Lucy and Therese, as we approach the great Synod of Pope Francis. Today’s young Christians are as capable of witnessing to the Gospel message as their parents, grandparents, distant ancestors, and the clergy. Let’s hear their voices.
Keep them in your prayers!
I thought I would start today’s reflection from a picture.
Usually the last Supper seems to be shown as an all-male affair, though I find it hard to imagine Jesus excluding such strong supporters as Joanna, Mary Magdalene, Mrs Zebedee or his own Mother. So here we have the Pentecost window at Saint Aloysius, near Euston Station in London. No apologies for the street scene visible behind it: the message of this window is not just for us, bu for the world outside the church building, where we spend most of our time.
The next picture shows another momentous moment, one from our own days. Here is Pope Benedict sitting down to eat a festive meal with poor people from his diocese of Rome: an unprecedented and prophetic event. It was not so long ago that Gormenghast style protocol decreed that nobody should see the pope eating. It was, perhaps, a useful excuse to avoid dining with political leaders who might capitalise on the photo opportunity, and claim papal approval of their policies rather than their cuisine.
The poor of Rome could not gain influence or anything other than a good meal in good company to celebrate Christmas; Benedict saw to it that they were not left out in the desert of their poverty.
The rules for the Passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples make clear that all Israelites are invited to the feast, and that their neighbours should make sure none are excluded.
The people of Israel could trace their birthday back to the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea into the desert of Sinai: as Christians we can look to the events of Holy Week and also to Pentecost as our foundation days, or birthdays. So it is appropriate to show Pentecost today, a gathering where Mary is prominent and one or two more female faces can be seen. The Spirit was poured out n them too; as it has been on all baptised men and women. Let us be as missionary as they were, accepting the paradox of passion and pain, of desert and defeat as essential to our story; and being at one with the people on the far side (which is merely centimetres away) of the church’s stained glass windows.
I give you a new commandment: that you love one another.
I have said before how much I like Saint Aloysius’ Church by Saint Pancras station in Central London, including this window of the Church gathered around Mary at Pentecost; except that it does not show the other disciples who were present, 120 men and women in all. (Acts 1:15)
Did that number include Mark, the boy who ran away naked from the posse in the garden? Possibly, he seems to become a companion to Saint Paul a few years later. We must not set Mary too far apart, though she is ‘blessed among women’. Other women, such as Mary Magdalene and Mrs Zebedee, were blessed by following the Spirit’s call to follow Jesus, even if they missed the group portrait.
Let’s pray that women’s inner calls may be heeded by those who can open doors to let them obey.
Follow the link for the parish website.
Saint Eanswythe supports the Folkestone arms, along with local man William Harvey, XVII Century medical researcher who described the circulation of blood.
In 1939 the church of Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Aloysius was free of debt, so Fr Walters arranged for the consecration of the building on Saint Aloysius’ Day, 21 June. During a four-hour long ceremony, Archbishop Amigo sealed relics of Saints Jucundina and Verecunda into the altar table. The service closed with the singing of the Magnificat. Interestingly, the parish historians could find no details of these saints; a point we will return to later in the week.
Father Walters welcomed Archbishop Amigo and other priests, civic dignitaries, and parishioners to luncheon at the Royal Pavilion Hotel. That evening a solemn Te Deum was sung in the first Catholic Church to be consecrated in Folkestone since the Reformation.
In 2106, the Parish Priest Father Bould had this to say about St Eanswythe, a Saxon princess-abbess and ‘Folkestone’s own patroness, virtually the founder of the town’. Her body still lies in the ancient church that bears her name, on the hilltop over the harbour.
‘To Catholics Eanswythe is ONE OF US: to other Christians she is an example and good person from the past, and to secular people she is an historical figure of greater or lesser importance. Eanswythe is part of our worshipping and praying life (and if she’s not for you, she should be!) and what happens to and around her relics concerns us.’ MMB.
Our Lady Help of Christians: pray for us.
Saint Eanswythe: pray for us.
Saint Aloysius: pray for us.
Folkestone Catholic parish website
icon and life of Saint Eanswythe
 A 19th Century church of St Aloysius was demolished after the present Catholic Church was built.
Saint of the Day: Saint Aloysius
Readings: 2 Kings (19: 9-11, 14 – 21, 31- 36) Matthew (7: 6, 12- 41)
St Aloysius Gonzaga was born of a noble family, and when he discovered the mercies of God, he gave up everything and joined the Society of Jesus.
As we continue to reflect on MERCY with our Holy Father Pope Francis, we can read in the letter of Aloysius to his mother: ‘I will sing for ever the mercies of the Lord.’ It is only when I, like Aloysius, allow the mercy of God to reach me that I can show others mercy. Do I need to be more attentive in listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life? It is the Spirit who assures us that God is our Father (Romans 8:15) and, as Saint Aloysius said, “it is better to be a child of God, than king of the whole world”. In the reading of today, we see King Hezekiah pleading for mercy from God. The King of Assyria has sent him a letter threatening to destroy him. Only because Hezekiah knows himself as a child of God, not as a king, does he take his problems to God, and God has mercy on him.
So let us listen to the Spirit today and, as Pope Francis has said, ‘Let us cast aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved’ (Pope Francis, Homily for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy).
Saint Paul the Apostle: Pray for us.
Saint Aloysius: Pray for us.