Love of Country

St George’s Day is kept in rather low-key fashion here in England. We fly the flag from our church towers, celebrate a rather sombre liturgy and do our best to pretend that we are more or less indifferent to love of country. I think that’s nonsense myself. Love of country, of the place where we were born or nurtured, where we live now, is perfectly natural. Not to celebrate our landscape, seascape and cityscape, our language, culture, and customs, our very people, is to be mean-spirited, ungrateful.

Sadly, love of country has sometimes been identified with a false sense of superiority. We do not need to be better than others to have value; nor would anyone with any sense claim to be so. Today is a day for giving thanks for all we have and asking for wisdom and generosity in our stewardship of the good things God has given us. St George, pray for us!

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St Augustine of Canterbury and the Problem of Conversion

I have a soft spot for Augustine. He wasn’t conventionally brave and kept dawdling on his way through Gaul, so un-eager was he to encounter the Anglo-Saxons. Gregory the Great wasn’t keen on his miracles attracting too much attention, but Augustine was quite happy to make sure the stories didn’t spread. Modest, yes; a monk (though not a Benedictine); with a profound reverence for the pope and the ability to stand firm in the face of opposition, Augustine was obviously an effective preacher. Today we stand more in need of his prayers than his preaching: for the conversion of England, which must be one of the most secular countries in Europe; for the Church, which is constantly in need of renewal; and for all the various organs of government on which we rely for the good ordering of civil society. St Augustine, pray for us.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
I haven’t commented on the suppression of the Cistercian community because some of the reporting in the secular press has been sensationalist and some of the commentary in the blogosphere has been of the ‘ya, boo, sucks’ variety. The suppression of any monastic community is a personal and institutional tragedy, calling for prayer not gibes.

A Vatican spokesman has mentioned ‘liturgical and financial irregularities’ as well as a questionable ‘lifestyle’. Others have commented adversely on Abbot Simone Fioraso’s stewardship. To an outsider it all sounds pretty damning; but we must remember that we are outsiders with imperfect knowledge and understanding. Let us pray that the suppression of the community will lead to good; and let us pray especially for those to whom the loss of the community, however flawed, comes as a great sadness.

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