Speaking at the Patronal Festival and at the Commissioning of the Holywell Community the Bishop of Monmouth took as his text: The Revelation to St John 12:1-2
After that there appeared a great sign in heaven: a woman robed with the sun, beneath her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was about to bear a child, and in the anguish of her labour she cried out to be delivered.
A woman robed with the sun. You may be excused for thinking – on this Patronal day – that this woman in Revelation is Mary. It isn’t. The writer, St. John draws on the figure of Ziôn, the new Jerusalem, the church.
And that is quite appropriate because when we think of Mary, the mother of our Lord, we should always be drawn into two directions. To Jesus. And to the church. In ultimate truth it is the same direction, in practice it is a journey that twists and turns as we come to lay our lives and our will to God’s plan of redemption.
So today, as a parish community we celebrate the journey of Mary, and recognise that this our journey as faithful disciples of Jesus.
What I want to reflect about – for a few moments – is the cost of Mary’s discipleship and the cost of our own.
This week I have been surrounded by martyrs. No, not the type who make a fuss about nothing. No I mean real martyrs. St Teresa Benedicta of the cross ( Edith Stein) and also Maximilian Kolbe. St Maximilian is remembered today and St Teresa Bendicticta last week.
They were twentieth century martyrs. Both were born in Poland, both died in Auschwitz. Edith Stein was brought up a Jew , became an atheist and then converted to Christianity. She became a Carmelite nun living in the Netherlands at the Order of our Lady of Peace. Discovered to be a convert, she was taken to Auschwitz camp and gassed the next day.
Maximilian was a remarkable Polish priest who was devoted to the ministry of Mary. He famously took the place of another prisoner and after weeks of starvation was killed by injection.
They are radical examples of discipleship and yet they shared the same intent. To give all to God and by so doing to give all to those he calls us to serve.
Now those examples of red martyrs as they are called (for they were killed for their faith) are extreme and not really for us. But their lives are worth reading. Edith, or St Teresa Benedicta as she was called, was also a great thinker and writer. But here is a simple quote, which for me sums up the profundity and simplicity of discipleship.
“Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God.”
It is a call for all of us to get our priorities right. Start with God, centre on him and the rest will flow. I know it’s true because it works! If I am overly cocky or independent I will inevitably fall on my face. There are unwritten laws of the spiritual life which operate and that is the simplest and yet the hardest. Give your self to God. Like Mary did when she said “let it be”. Like Edith Stein or Maximilian.
And to give us an example of this intent to centre on God we have the Holywell Community in our midst. They take St Teresa Benedicta’s words to heart. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Of course in monastic terms the hour is part of the office. And each day the Holywell Community will be in the office, this church, praying the hour of Lauds, or morning prayer. They are not obvious saints. – Unless I have missed some thing! But they are models for us, and for themselves of a faithful community who tries to put God first. And it’s working. Now in its third year the community flourishes and is a place of growth, of acceptance and of vocation. It’s presence here is a blessing for the parish,the church and the wider community.
As I come to commission them for a further year I do so with hope and joy because I see God blessing their intent of putting him at the centre of their lives together. In the charism that they are given both as individuals and as a community may they live out the discipleship of Mary and others, and may they bless you as you bless them.