Wednesday, 7 May 2008

May 7

Today is my birthday. I'm 23 years old. Oh bother, I'm getting on!

As blogged on this day last year, I have the awesome pleasure of sharing my birthday with the feast day of St John of Beverley, who is, geographically, the nearest saint to me as well as St John Fisher, who of course was born in Beverley.

Fittingly, this morning, I got in the car and made the short trip to the historic market town about 10 miles from my home in Sutton-on-Hull for 9.30am Mass at St John of Beverley RC Church. Fr Roy Lovatt started Mass by saying that St John of Beverley is not on the universal calender or the national calender for feastdays. Fr said that he had a decent shout to be on the universal and said the fact he doesn't even appear on the national was a "scandal". Naturally, I agree. As this blog has said before, it's shameful how little we know or are even bothered about our nation's saints.

Fr Roy said that at one point in England, St John of Beverley was the most revered saint behind Our Lady. "We certainly haven't forgotten him", Fr said. He went on to explain how St John was a popular figure, with people following eager to listen to him and deepen in their faith. He was particularly popular with the young, something that was celebrated both this afternoon and on Sunday at St John of Beverley RC Primary in the town. Today, a Mass was due to take place there for the kids followed by a tea party outside. On Sunday, there is a St John of Beverley day. There's going to be lunch and tea, wine, activities and games for the children and entertainment. This is how local saints should be celebrated. It's fantastic to see the word "feast" being put into practice. What a great opportunity to emphasise to young Catholics how important their patrons are.

Back to this morning's Mass, St John remains an important figure both in the heritage of the town and in the faith. People still make a visit to the church named after him for these very reasons. Once, the premier places of pilgrimage in England were Canterbury and Beverley.

St John is one of the patrons of the Diocese of Middlesbrough. He was Bishop of Hexham and, later, of York. He was born in the village of Harpham, East Yorkshire. At a young age, he moved to Canterbury to be educated by St. Theodorus, the archbishop, and St Adrian. He then went to St. Hilda's, Whitby, where he became a Benedictine monk. He became the Bishop of Hexham in 687. He liked to take time out for long periods of contemplation, especially during Lent. He would take a poor person with him each time and would serve them each day. On one occasion at the beginning of Lent, he took a dumb young person, who couldn't say a word and who had scabs and scales on his head, without any hair. On the second Sunday of Lent he made the sign of the cross on his tongue, and loosed it. Then he taught him to say "Gea", which meant "yes" in Saxon, followed by the letters of the alphabet and so on. The youth miraculously obtained his speech.

This story is why he is the Patron Saint of the deaf. St John is attributed with several other miracles, involving the blessing of Holy Water. John became the Bishop of York in 703 and was present at the synod of the Nidd in 705. He had a monastery built at Beverley which he used as his retreat centre. In 717, he retired there and died on 7th May 721. His relics are at the magnificent Beverley Minster. As I said at the beginning, his shrine was for centuries one of the most popular pilgrim centers in England. He was canonized by Pope Benedict IX in 1037. King Henry V's victory at Agincourt was attributed to the aid of him and Saint John of Bridlington. Other kings also took his standard into battle and asked for his intercession.

After Mass there was a cup of tea followed by exposition. I then was invited by Sue, Fr Roy's wife, into the house for tea and cakes and caught up with the family.

For lunch, I went to The Altisidora pub in the picturesque village of Bishop Burton. It's years since I've been there - we used to go often when I was younger. They do magnificent food. I had steak and chips. You pass through the village on the Hull to York road. Bear it in mind if you're ever up that way.

Talking about saints, I once again have to hold my hands up to a truly terrible performance in terms of bringing you more 40 martyr reflections. Eastertide is running out and I've got no chance of finishing the series by Sunday. I suppose I will just endeavour to do them as and when I get the chance.


Sophia Sparx said...

Have you seen this site? People confess their sins online, anonymously at

Santiago Chiva de Agustín said...

Hello. Congratulations for your blog. Do you know why the young people pray the holy rosary? You can watch here fifty testimonies of young university students
(in Spanish, with english subtitles)
See it:

Santiago (Granada, Spain)