St George’s Day, 2020
It’s quite a national sport at this time of year for the media and many critics to say St George didn’t exist. There may even have been something on the radio this morning, I don’t know. There’s something destructive about those who make such statements, which are meant solely to demolish faith, belittle the grace of God and talk down the possibility for holiness that we each have. I want to remind us why we need a national patron saint as we ask St George to pray for us on this Feast Day.
First, one of the the great blessings of having patron saints is fellowship. At a time when so many suffer with loneliness, we know that St George is praying in particular for those who live in this country at this time. When we are reborn by the water and the Spirit we are made members of the Household of faith, a chosen race. We try to be faithful Christians with others, not in our own strength. This is to be a personal relationship with Christ, but too often that is interpreted as being an individualistic relationship with Him, which is wrong. “I am the vine,” Jesus says, “You are the branches.” We’re joined to one another. Remember that as you consider what you will do with your time this day: how can you reach out to another and remind them of that union we have one with another.
Secondly, this fellowship is given so as to help us. I’m aware of people on this earth who have taught me lots of about faith and hope and love, including many members of our Church family here at St Mary’s and the Good Shepherd. In our first reading, St John witnesses the voice from Heaven declare that Christ has triumphed and that those who share in His victory do so “by the witness of their martyrdom.” Brothers and sisters, let’s remember that we’ve been given each other within the family of the Church to receive help from others as well as to provoke us to care for others.
Third, it reminds us we have a shared experience with the saints. One of the complaints, I understand, of people who act as historical advisors to television programmes and documentaries about the past is that modern producers want actors to touch each other a lot: holding hands, hugging, kissing etc etc. The historical advisors seem convinced that those who lived in the past were all too aware that if you get too close to someone physically you were likely to get the infection or disease they had and this could all too likely lead to death in those days. It sounds familiar doesn’t it in these days of social distancing? St George and all the saints struggled with disease and types of isolation and it did not dampen their Christian faith.
Fourth, having a patron saint shows us God is concerned with that which our life is constructed. What we do for work will have a patron saint; if we’re at college we can pray to those like St Thomas Aquinas and St Theresa Benedicta who worked in universities. The fact that we live in a particular country is of interest to God. We might find ourselves talking to people on occasions and wondering whether they’re actually interested in what they’re saying. Well, we can be certain that God is interested in what we say to Him and all these different aspects and facets of our life.
To be proud of England having a Patron Saint is not a political statement. Irrespective on our views of the future of the United Kingdom, or whether we should or should not have left the European Union, we all live in this place given over to St George. Talk of dragons and knights is obviously out of date but the underlying virtues persist of looking after the vulnerable and those otherwise left to the evils that ravage every human society.
Some say it is a shame that the Patron Saint of England isn’t himself English. But perhaps this is rather a sign of the pragmatism of the English and the welcome that has always been afforded, when we have ben at our best, to those who come from a different country. St George’s prayers are indeed at work among for many from this country have lived lives of excellent holiness. Think of St Alban, who also had a concern to protect others. Think of St St Boniface, who was keen to spread the Christian faith throughout Europe. Think of St Edward Confessor who shows the holiness that those who are married are called to emulate as well as those with weighty responsibilities placed upon them. Think of St Hilda who realised the English Church must play her proper role in the life of the universal Church. May they all pray for us and let’s be glad as we go about our chores this day that they and St George are praying for us before the Throne of Grace. Amen.