Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saint Edward the Confessor, King of England

Saint Edward, son of King Ethelred, whose kingdom of England fell to the Danish invaders, was unexpectedly raised to the throne of England in 1041, at the age of forty years. God had shown Edward to a pious bishop in a vision, as England’s King, anointed by Saint Peter: “Behold the one who will be King through My favour; he will be cherished by heaven, agreeable to men, terrible to his enemies, loving to his subjects, very useful to the Church of God.” The English people, tired of being governed by a foreign domination, decided in 1041 to reinstate the surviving son of their legitimate sovereign, and under the leadership of three noblemen, succeeded in crowning Edward on Easter Sunday of the year 1042. Edward had spent twenty-seven years of his forty in exile in Normandy, in the palace of his maternal uncle. When he was raised to the throne, the virtues of his earlier years, simplicity, gentleness, humility and a tender charity, but above all his angelic purity, shone with new brightness. By a rare inspiration of God, though he married to content his nobles and people, he preserved perfect chastity in the wedded state. So little did he set his heart on riches, that three times when he saw a servant robbing his treasury, he let him escape, saying the poor man needed the gold more than he. He loved to stand at his palace-gate, speaking kindly to the poor beggars and lepers who crowded about him, and many of whom he healed of their diseases. The people rejoiced in having a Saint for their king. Long wars had brought the kingdom to a sad state, but Edward’s zeal and sanctity soon wrought a great change. His reign of twenty-four years was one of almost unbroken peace. He undertook only one war, which was victorious, to reinstate Malcolm, legitimate king of Scotland. The country grew prosperous, the ruined churches rose again under his hand, the weak lived secure, and for ages afterwards men spoke with affection of the “laws of good Saint Edward.” The holy king delighted in building and enriching churches; Westminster Abbey was his last and noblest work. He had a particular devotion to the holy Apostles Saint Peter and Saint John the Evangelist, and had made a promise never to refuse an alms asked in the name of the latter. One day when he had no money with him, a poor man reached out his hand in the name of the Apostle, and the king gave him a valuable ring he was wearing. Some time later, Saint John appeared to two pilgrims returning from the Holy Land. He gave them a ring and said: “Take it to the king; he gave it to me one day when I asked for an alms in the habit of a pilgrim. Tell him that in six months I will visit him and take him with me, to follow the unblemished Lamb.” The King received it from them after hearing their relation of this incident, and broke into tears. And Edward did indeed die six months later, on January 5, 1066. Many miracles occurred at his tomb. In 1102 his body was exhumed and found intact and flexible, with its habits perfectly preserved also, appearing to be new. He was canonized in 1161 by Pope Alexander III. Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (11.37-41)

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited Him to eat with him; so He went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the One who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Material Means
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)

Our Lord’s indictment of the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees is manifest in the Gospels. But we must not think that all the scribes and all the Pharisees were the object of our Lord’s denunciation. Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, and though fearful of the censure of his colleagues, he visited Jesus by night to be taught by Him. He defended Jesus among his peers when their hostility was mounting, and he assisted Joseph of Arimathea when the moment came for Christ’s burial. Moreover, at the time of his visits to Jesus by night he said that “we know” that you are a teacher from God - implying that there were others apart from himself who recognized this. At the time of the trial of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, a doctor of the law and leading Pharisee solemnly urged restraint and a certain liberality in respect to the new persuasion. Moreover, Paul, though of the party of the Pharisees and intent on destroying the Christian sect, was upright and a true man of conscience. He was a good man though profoundly mistaken. All this is to say that not all the Pharisees were guilty of what our Lord says here. That having been said, our Lord’s words are clear that many were indeed guilty. Let us notice a detail in our Lord’s denunciation of them. We read that when He had finished speaking, He was invited by a Pharisee to dine at his house. We gain the impression, incidentally, that the Pharisees were well off. They were men of means. We notice that our Lord criticizes them for what they do not do with their means - they do not assist the poor. He says in our text that “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness”. The externals of their religion - those religious observances that were to be seen by others - are clean and polished and present a bright spectacle. But “inside” they are “full” - “full”, let us notice - of both greed and evil. Greed was a principal feature of their moral decay. Our Lord repeats His point in the same passage when He tells His host what he and his colleagues must do. “Give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you” (Luke 11:37-41). They must give of their means to the poor and the effect will be great for their own spiritual condition. It is yet another example of the Christian insistence on the Christ-like service of the poor. Our Lord was filled with compassion for the poor, and He exercised His Divine Power time and again for their benefit. We read that when Judas left the Last Supper, some thought that, having the care of the common fund, he was being directed by our Lord to give to the poor. This implies that part and parcel of the use of monies that came for the sustenance of the Apostolic body was almsgiving to the poor. When Paul eventually came up to Jerusalem well after his conversion to meet with the Apostles, he was assigned by them to work among the Gentiles, with the request that he have a constant concern for the poor. It is an essential feature of the Christian religion that the poor be cared for and that, to the extent possible, we use our means in their service. In our Lord’s description of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25), the Judge will say, "I was naked and you clothed me" - going on to explain that whatever is done to the least He counts as having been done to Him. But of course this is not just a command of supernatural revelation - that revelation granted to man by Christ and by the prophetic tradition prior to Him. It is clearly a command of the natural law to which the conscience of the prudent and good man will bear witness. When disaster hits, aid agencies appeal for generous donations, and the conscience of man sanctions their request. Each person hears the voice of conscience dictating to him that he assist the poor. It is the voice of God being naturally revealed, which is clearer still when supernaturally revealed. The poor have a right to sufficient goods of the earth to meet their legitimate needs, and it is, in effect, stealing from them to leave them in their abject poverty. As the Second Vatican Council states in its decree on The Church in the Modern World, “in his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself” (GS, 69, 1). Our ownership of goods makes us a steward of God’s fatherly Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others - first of all, of course, to those for which one is directly responsible, but also for all those in need. Let us resolve to use the good things God has given us for the benefit not only of ourselves, but for all those in need.

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