In recent posts, we have commented on how devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham and to Blessed John Henry Newman are to be found in abundance amongst new Catholics arriving in the Ordinariate. For obvious reasons, those in the Ordinariate probably have a newly re-invigorated sense of such devotion. It is rightly a source of joy that this is so.
Particular saints are venerated more in some places than in others, and more in some times than in others. This may be caused by a local connection, by a particular relevance to current events, or very simply because we find one saint more interesting or even likeable than another. Even although we are all united across time and space through our place in one Church, it is no surprise that we on earth, the Church Militant, should identify more readily with some of those of the Church Triumphant than with others.
The saints commemorated today throw up a little conundrum as far as the inhabitants of these isles are concerned. Saints Cosmas and Damian, the twin martyr physicians, are widely celebrated in both East and West, they are saints of extremely long standing, having been martyred before the year 300AD (not 300CE, as the BBC would have us say), and are well known for acts that remain very obviously good works even in these changed times (providing medical care without charging). They are even among the saints commemorated in the Communicantes prayer of the Roman Canon.
Yet, they are not especially known in this country.
There are a few churches dedicated to them (internet sources suggest there might be five parish churches in England dedicated to them). The Barbers’ Company in the City of London is dedicated to them, and the coat of arms of the Royal Society of Medicine includes them as supporters. The records of Canterbury Cathedral show that they once possessed some relics of the twin saints, as did Salisbury Cathedral, Bisham Abbey and other places. Salisbury Cathedral has some nineteenth century statuary of them. Yet, apart from this, the twin saints are not especially recognised or venerated here.
Amongst the great Cloud of Witnesses, there are many with whom we are not familiar. We do not know all the Church Triumphant any more than we know all the Church Militant or indeed all the Church Penitent. Yet, it doesn’t matter that we don't know them all. Even if we should show interest in others, and draw inspiration from the lives of the saints, what counts is that, being members of one Church, we ask the prayers of the Communion of Saints, of our brothers and sisters in this life, and of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and indeed also that we ourselves pray for others
As new members of the Catholic Church, members of the Ordinariate are very well aware that they have entered into a new and wider communion. Therefore, we are as conscious as anyone of the wider perception of that fellowship and communion, which includes the living and the dead, the Saints in Heaven and the Holy Souls in Purgatory, the known and the unknown, those to whom we are devoted and those of whom we have never heard.
As we pray for all members of Christ’s Church, and ask their prayers for us, let us join that common intercession most especially today with the prayers of Our Lady of Walsingham, of Saints Cosmas and Damian, and of Blessed John Henry Newman.
To finish, a much loved piece of Anglican Patrimony, the setting by Stanford of Iustorum Animae, the text used at the Offertory at Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints.
“Pray unceasingly, we must empty Purgatory”
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina “Padre Pio”