Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Feast of All Saints of Wales and Memorial Bl. John Duns Scotus

 I have spent the past few days on my return from France preparing for today which in Wales and Scotland are celebrated as the feast days for all Saints of Wales (in Wales) and  Bl. John Duns Scotus (in Scotland).     So many thoughts came to mind and once again I found that the Sacred Heart provides a very powerful  way to focus on what this day means to me.

Fr. John FitzGerald OM. 
Today  at mass a number of ideas came to the surface.  The first was that meditating on all the saints of Wales  was difficult and so I let my mind wander.  It soon rested on the memory of someone who was VERY important to me as as student - the Catholic chaplain.  This was inevitably  a time of questions and doubts.   But fortunately, the chaplain at my college was  a truly  remarkable man and was a real inspiration both intellectually and spiritually.  ( I think I also learnt a lot on how speak and lecture from him as well. )  Not many Catholic priests get obituaries in national newspapers, but Father John FitzGerald O.Carm. was one of them.  He was a Carmelite friar, priest, poet, philosopher, teacher and translator.  In his sermons and general chat he would illuminate the contribution of Celtic Christianity and above all the Christian tradition in Wales.  Read about him HERE.   As I thought about the Welsh saints  I imagined what Fr. 'Fitz' would have said.  First he would have quoted a few Welsh poems and something appropriate in  Greek or Latin or several other languages, from which he would distill a simple message.  I imagined he would have said something like, pray that  you could have a heart as open, humble, brave and pure as theirs.  I remember his  lucid and elegant accounts of complex theological arguments and no-body  ever came close to his exploration of the readings from scripture at mass.   Sadly, I don't think he ever wrote them down.  Such a loss.  He was also someone who demonstrated that - as Christians  - we had to use our heads and our hearts to praise God.  Both the head and the heart had to be open to the world.  He also gave me a sense of the importance of language in thinking and feeling.  I am sure he would have quoted a well-known saying in Wales often : 'Cenedl heb iaith yw cenedl heb galon.' ( A nation without a language is without a heart. )  In a sense prayer is the language of the heart - the language of love.  To pray is to raise the mind and the heart  to God.  And, as I reflected on the lives of our saints from way back in the 5th century  through the persecutions of later centuries and to the saints of our own time ( like Fr. Fitz!)  their holiness which serves as a model for our own lives is to be seen in how they spoke the language of love.  And, as they spoke from the heart and not just the head the people of their day listened and understood.  With that in mind I naturally thought of a great Welsh hymn which Fr. Fitz  would have quoted at the drop of a hat and the twinkling of an eye.  

Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na’i berlau mân:
Gofyn wyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân.
Calon lân yn llawn daioni,
Tecach yw na’r lili dlos:
Dim ond calon lân all ganu –
Canu’r dydd a chanu’r nos.
Pe dymunwn olud bydol,
Chwim adenydd iddo sydd;
Golud calon lân, rinweddol,
Yn dwyn bythol elw fydd.
Hwyr a bore fy nymuniad
Esgyn ar adenydd cân
Ar i Dduw, er mwyn fy Ngheidwad,
Roddi i mi galon lân.

And the translation

I don’t ask for a luxurious life,
the world’s gold or its fine pearls:
I ask for a happy heart,an honest heart, a pure heart. 
A pure heart is full of goodness,
More lovely than the pretty lily:
Only a pure heart can sing -
Sing day and night. (CHORUS) 
If I wished worldly wealth,
He has a swift seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart,
Will be a perpetual profit.
Late and early, my wish
Rises on the wing of song,
For God, for the sake of my Saviour,
To give me a pure heart.  ***
And that - as Fr. Fitz would have said - sums it all up very nicely.  That  is what our  Welsh saints had, a pure heart.  As Fr. Fitz would have also said: ' Beati mundo corde quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt '.  (Matt, 5.8)  'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. '  When we pray to the Sacred Heart that is what we are praying for - what the saints have achieved: to see God.  And, if we are to see God   -in all things - we must not allow ourselves to love what the world counts as valuable and desirable.  First and foremost we must  ask for the grace of a pure heart. It is only when we have a pure heart can we see God in the world around us and in the people we meet.

As I reflected on this I suddenly realized that as a Carmelite Fr. Fitz would have had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart!  How could I not have thought about this before!  The phrase idiot comes to mind.

I also reflected today on Bl.John  Duns Scotus.  The Seraphim on the upper left of the icon has become the doorway for meditating on him and the Franciscan tradition.   I find it a joy to read the account in Bl. Gabriel Allegra's book how Teilhard was surprised and delighted by finding out more about Duns Scotus' work.  I think I will re-read that part of the book later today!  Meanwhile, thanks to my old Chaplain,Fr. Fitz (OM),  I now have to explore the Carmelite tradition of the heart.  What a fitting a new direction to have emerged on  this day!


***  So many recordings to choose from but the one I like is by a young choir who do a great job in singing what is in effect our second national anthem.   Isn't it the BEST national anthem!? And the very  best anthem for young people in a old materialistic world.  GO HERE
 The recording by  Bryn Terfel is also quite good.  Go Here

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