Fr Gerard Walsh, O.Carm, writes today's reflection. Fr Ged is based in Aylesford Priory.
One of the gifts of the Lockdown of 2020 has been the application of the internet into Church life. This can be seen particularly in Church circles were many priest have taken the bull by the horn and got out there on the airwaves posting daily Masses and reflections online with via Facebook or YouTube or one of the other social media platforms. Likewise at the Shrine of Saint Jude, we had our daily reflections, and now weekly reflections.
We began the Lockdown late March and early April the Church celebrated the feast day commemoration of St. Isidore of Seville on 4th April – what has this 7th Century Spanish Saint and Doctor of the Church got to do with the pandemic lockdown and the live streaming of religious services?
Well, in 1997, Pope St. John Paul II nominated St. Isidore the Patron Saint of the Internet (although the Vatican have yet to make it official, he is widely recognised today). It may seem a strange choice to name a saint who died over 1200 years before the advent of electricity and over 1300 years before the internet itself was invented to be its patron saint, but if we dig a little deeper we say that Isidore is a fine choice.
St. Isidore of Seville (c.560-636) was born in Seville in about 560 and after his father’s death he was educated by his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville. He was instrumental in converting the Visigothic kings from the Arian heresy, which asserted the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to him, but the Son is also God (i.e. God the Son).
Isidore was made Archbishop of Seville after his brother’s death; and he took a prominent part in the Church councils at Toledo and Seville. The Council of Toledo, in particular, laid great emphasis on learning, with all bishops in the kingdom commanded to establish seminaries and to encourage the teaching of Greek and Hebrew, law and medicine. He promoted the study of the philosophy of Aristotle, long before the Arabs discovered him and centuries before 13th Century Christian philosophers discovered him through the Arabs.
Isidore embarked on the project of writing an encyclopaedia of universal knowledge but did not live to complete it. Perhaps this has now been realised with a certain search engine beginning with G or an online encyclopaedia beginning with W. In my Carmelite community, in Aylesford, we often ask obscure questions during meals and recreation and frequently the response is: “There are no unanswered questions!”, as the smartphone is removed from the pocket and consulted.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, forty days after His resurrection at Easter. In the Gospel for that feast Jesus instructs to St. Jude and the other Apostles to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In other words, go and spread my Good News and gather and instruct my followers throughout the world and throughout time.
With the lockdown and social restrictions, this command of Jesus has been impossible to continue face-to-face, as it has been achieved over the last almost 2000 years, but through the internet and the social media platforms, under the patronage of St. Isidore and through the intercession of St. Jude, the patron of hope, many have been able to partake in the Mass in various services. Even those without access to the internet have been able to participate through the media of television and radio.
So, this obscure saint of the 6th Century is really a saint for our times! At the time of writing this the churches are beginning to open up for private prayer and the day when we can worship together once more is looking more and more hopeful even is certainly new restrictions are in place. So, I call on the intercession of Sts. Jude and Isidore in hopeful thanksgiving to God, for the gift of the internet and making evangelisation in these trying times possible.
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US. SAINT ISIDORE, PRAY FOR US.