Guest Post from Mull Monastery: St Fillan and the healing power of love.

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Our first commission of St Fillan was linked to the story of the repentant wolf that willingly bows down in obedience to the saint’s gentleness. It was a commission for which I am particularly grateful, because I had never prayed to St Fillan before having to think about the composition of that icon. Later on, while trying to find out more information about the Saint, we’ve discovered that he is a protector and healer of people suffering from mental illnesses.

There are ancient stories about a small loch next to his hermitage, the waters of which had healing powers through the saint’s prayers. People who suffered from many mental afflictions would travel to see the saint and to ask for his intercession. Once they immersed in the waters of the saint’s loch, they regained their health and spiritual strength. Some of them spent the night in the cold waters, waiting for God’s mercy to descend upon them.

Mental illness… Mental suffering… What exactly does that mean? How many of us, how many of the lovely, wonderful people I know who suffer from depression, loneliness and fear still thirst to this day for someone like St Fillan, whose love can heal them? There is something fearsome and beautiful about this Saint who made himself a vessel for the Holy Spirit, so that God’s presence in the temple of his holy body may soothe and heal the pain of his brothers.

Holiness does not come easy. We always forget that. Holiness only comes through self-denial and self-sacrifice to the point of death – be that physical death, or death by removing oneself from partaking into the world in order to open oneself to Christ. Only sacrifice bears the fruit of holiness, because only the one who has enough love as to give one’s life for the sake of one’s brother is perfect.

Saints are holy not because they are special, nor because they are loved more by God. Saints become holy because their hearts burn with love for the world – that holy fire kills them to the world, and turns them into temples of the Holy Spirit. The healing power of a Saint’s love has nothing to do with our romantic vision of holiness, and it has everything to do with their determination to self-sacrifice for the life and salvation of the world. Saints become Christ-like in their love and healing power because they become Christ-like in their willing self-sacrifice.

The whole world needs healing today. We all need someone to love us not because of who we are, but despite who we are. We need Saints like St Fillan to love us unreservedly and unconditionally – only such Christ-like love will drag us out of our profound sadness and loneliness. Through the prayers of St Fillan, may we all feel the healing power of Christ’s presence in our lives.

The Prophet Amos

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  •  shepherds of all nations
  • fig tree farmers, especially
  • the peoples of Israel/Palestine.
  • All nations who grieve God by participating in evil, mistreating the strangers in their lands.
  • All who are ready to loving others with renewed hearts .

Ternan – Bishop of the Picts.

I will soon be rector of St Ternan’s church in Banchory. Here is the little known story of Ternan, who is venerated as the “Bishop of the Picts.”

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He was a Pict of the Mearns in Alba who was converted during St Ninian’s Pictish mission, he was educated at Candida Cassa, he was baptized in early manhood by that disciple of St Ninian whom the Roman writers confused with Palladius, whose native name is Pawl Hen or Paul the Aged. Paul was a missionary, a Briton, and worked with St Ninian. He survived into the early years of the sixth century and thus lived long enough to meet St David, but he could not see him because he was blind with old age.

Ternan  founded a banchor (place of Christian learning) where is today the town of Banchory and, indeed, there are remains of a Celtic foundation to be seen in a number of carved stones close by the old grave-yard. It was here that St Ternan is said to have taught his convert, the Pict St Erchard. The Banchory in Erchard’s time was filled with  manuscripts, and active missionary teachers, spreading the Gospel and Christian civilisation.

What was thought to be Ternan’s skull, and his copy of St Matthew’s Gospel (mentioned in the Aberdeen Martyrology) in a case richly adorned with gilt and silver, are said to have been preserved at Banchory until the 16th Century. So also was his bell called Ronecht, said by tradition to have been given to him at Rome by the pope, and to have miraculously followed him to Alba. This bell is last recorded as being transferred to the custody of Alexander Symson, vicare of Banquhoriterne in 1491. When the glebe was being excavated for the railway in 1863 an old bronze bell was found. It is not clear if this really is Ternan’s bell, but it now hangs on the front wall of Banchory Ternan East Church as a visible reminder of the debt that is owed to this early pioneer of Christianity in Scotland

INTERCEDING

 

On this day lift before God:

  • All teachers, scholars and missionaries.
  • Bishops serving Christ’s church today.
  • The people of Banchory.
  • Tattooists and those who adorn their bodies with tattoos.
  • Bell makers and ringers.
  • The peoples of the once Pictish lands

 

 

Saint Meriadoc -7th June

On 7th June we remember St Meriadoc, Bishop, patron of Camborne in Cornwall. St Meriadoc (also known as Meriasek) was probably a Welshman who founded at least one church in Cornwall and several churches and monasteries in Brittany in the 4th century. He eventually became a bishop there (despite his desire to be a hermit) and his feast is celebrated in several Breton dioceses to this day.

The rare Cornish miracle play: Beunans Meriasek, tells his life story. St Meriadoc was once very rich but he gave away all his possessions – much to the consternation of his relatives – and devoted his life to prayer and caring for the sick and needy.

His bell is still in the church at Stival in Brittany. Placed on the heads of migraine sufferers or the deaf, it is said to heal them.

I came across BBC1’s video of Longfellow’s cafe. It is also doing healing work in the community, allowing teenagers with autism to be a blessing to those around them and to live dignified, purposeful lives. It seems appropriate to share that video today as a way of remembering that God is still working, saints are still serving and communities are still being made whole.

 

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • The peoples of Cornwall and Brittany.
  • Those who work with others, despite a preference for quiet and solitude.
  • All who suffer migraines.
  • Those who enjoy their lives as part of the deaf community and those struggling with hearing loss.
  • Longfellow’s cafe and other kingdom places, where the world is already turning and glory is shining all around!

Isidora, fool of Tabenna

Once, a desert monk, Saint Pitirim, had a vision. An angel of God appeared to him and said, “Go to the Tabenna monastery. There you will see a sister wearing a rag on her head. She serves them all with love, and endures their contempt without complaint. Her heart and her thoughts rest always with God. You, on the other hand, sit in solitude, but your thoughts flit about all over the world.”

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The Elder set out for the Tabenna monastery, but he did not see the one indicated to him in the vision among the sisters.

Then they led Isidora to him, considering her a demoniac, because she worked in the kitchen and fulfilled the dirtiest, covered her head with a plain rag, never became angry, never insulted anyone with a word, never grumbled against God or the sisters, and was given to silence.

Isidora fell down at the knees of the Elder, asking his blessing. Saint Pitirim bowed down to the ground to her and said, “Bless me first, venerable Mother!”

To the astonished questions of the sisters the Elder replied, “Before God, Isidora is higher than all of us!” Then the sisters began to repent, confessing their mistreatment of Isidora, and they asked her forgiveness. The saint, however, distressed over her fame, secretly hid herself away from the monastery, and her ultimate fate remained unknown.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • all who unassumingly take on tasks others consider menial.
  • all who have no desire to stand out.
  • all who tend toward silence.
  • all who make a habit of overlooking others.
  • all whose minds flit about uncontrollably.

Catherine of Sienna – 29th April

4E0C1EB8-F870-443E-9E96-2815DA0B8D22Catherine of Sienna is a celebrated mystic. She entered the Dominican order at 16 and died aged 33. She wrote extensively, including some words about the gift of tears.

Tears express an exquisite, profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and for tenderness.

Many Saints have had the gift of tears, renewing the emotion of Jesus himself who did not hold back or hide his tears at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and at the grief of Mary and Martha or at the sight of Jerusalem during his last days on this earth.

According to Catherine, the tears of saints are mingled with the blood of Christ, of which she spoke in vibrant tones and with symbolic images that were very effective.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • Young people who have vibrant faith in Jesus.
  • All whose prayers are expressed through tears.
  • All whose visions and writing draw us Godward.

Theodora of Alexandria – 9th April

Sister Vassa celebrates another of St Theodora’s feast days, which brings particularly rich associations. A thought-provoking story.

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • all who live with shame for things they have done.
  • all who live lives of repentance.
  • all who are falsely accused.
  • all who care for the children of others.
  • all who are forced to take on new identities.

 

Saint Shenoute the Archimandrite – 8th April

This is the famous portrait of Saint Shenoute of Atripe, Archimandrite of the White Monastery Confederation, which has recently been revealed.

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“Tears to him were sweet as honey, so that his eyes were deeply sunken, like holes in walls, and because of the great flow of tears continually streaming from his eyes like water, they had become very black.” There was no question about Shenoute’s extraordinary charisma and power of personality.

He is one of the early desert fathers to have considered the lives of those living outside the monastery walls. He was keenly aware of the poverty of Egyptian peasants and is remembered as the founder of Coptic  culture.

Many miracles are also credited to him. We are told that when Shenoute was once in Constantinople, he “was walking into the king’s palace when he found a grain of wheat which had been thrown away. He picked it up and put it in the pouch in his goat-skin habit until he returned to his monastery.” Back in the monastery in Atripe, when “it was a summertime there, and as the brothers were grinding grain for bread, he took the grain of wheat he had brought with him on his return from the king’s palace, and threw it under the mill-stone; and the Lord sent so great an abundance from the mill-stone that they were quite unable to gather it all up.”

On another occasion, we read of an apparition in which Saint Paul appears to Shenoute, and told him: “Because you love charity and give alms to anyone that asks you and keep all the commandments in all ways because of the love of God, behold! The Lord has sent me to you to comfort you because of what you do for the poor and the destitute.” Paul then presented Shenoute with a loaf of bread and gave it to him; and Shenoute took it and tied it in his scrip. Paul told him to put the loaf in the bread-store from which the brothers distribute the bread. When Shenoute arose from the vision, he found the loaf tied in his scrip; and he took it and secretly put the loaf in the store-room and closed the door. The blessed loaf was the reason for miraculous heaps of bread pouring forth; and “the multitudes and the brothers were supplied for six months by the abundance of bread which came forth from the door of the bread-store, and to this very day that bread-store is called ‘the Store-Room of the Blessing.”

The stick Shenoute is carrying, is a palm branch with its leaves removed. Once, when a well being dug collapsed on the labourers, Shenoute arose and took his palm branch, and went down to the well: “He reached out with his palm-branch and drove it into the wall of the well. It immediately took root and sent up palm-branches and palm-leaves, and the men who were working ate its fruit. From that day to this, the well has never moved again.”

INTERCEDING

On this day lift before God:

  • Coptic Christians
  • All those moved  to action by the plight of the poor around them.
  • All working to feed the hungry.
  • All whose prayers take the form of tears.