Sunday, September 20th: Please welcome our guest preacher, The Rev’d Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff.
Born in Tarsus, in what is now eastern Turkey, in the year 602, Theodore was a learned, Greek-speaking Christian. In 637, when he was about 35 years old, Muslims arrived from Arabia and conquered Tarsus, making life intolerable for Christians who refused to convert to Islam. Theodore, along with many others, fled westward. He eventually arrived at Rome, where he became a member of a monastery. Theodore led a life of prayer and scholarship, and when he was 66 years old, was chosen to be Archbishop of Canterbury. He was consecrated in Rome, and set off for England. He ruled as archbishop for 22 years, and his tenure was marked by assiduous devotion to his people, the establishment of a monastic school which ushered in a kind of renaissance of Anglo-Saxon scholarship. Despite the many burdens of his archiepiscopal office, Theodore is said to have spent long hours, as an old man, patiently teaching the young children at his school. He died at the age of 88 – remarkable in his time – in the year 690. He was buried at the monastery of Ss. Peter and Paul at Canterbury. His shrine, along with the entire monastery, was ransacked and destroyed during the Reformation, in 1538.
Born in 1827, Patteson prepared for the studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1854. He had a lifelong interest in languages, and was proficient in many. He was recruited for the mission field by George Augustus Selwyn, the first bishop of New Zealand, and left for the South Seas in 1855. He engaged in mission work in the islands for several years, establishing several schools and churches, and was consecrated the first bishop of Melanesia in 1861. The territory of Melanesia was vast and Patteson’s work was daunting. Head-hunting and cannibalism was practiced by some of the tribes in Melanesia, and the natives were preyed upon by European slave-traders, instilling in them a suspicion of whites and their motives. Patteson pursued his work with zeal, eventually teaching himself 23 of the hundreds of Melanesian languages, and working with the colonial government to bring an end to the slave trade. On September 20, 1871, Patteson was killed, along with several companions, by natives as they landed on Nukapu Island. The natives were evidently seeking revenge against the ravages of the blackbirders. Patteson’s body was found floating in a canoe, covered by a palm mat, with a palm branch in his hand. Like that of his crucified Lord, the body of Bishop Patteson was marked by five wounds.
Matthew was one of the inner circle of the Lord’s disciples, the twelve Apostles. Tradition says that he was a publican (a tax collector) when the Lord called him, saying “Follow me”, and the Gospel says that Matthew “rose and followed him” (Matt. 9.9). Of Matthew’s life after the Lord’s ascension little is known for certain. Some early writers (e.g. Eusebius of Caesarea) say that Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew. Most early writers agree that Matthew preached the Gospel in “Ethiopia”, south of the Caspian Sea (in what is now Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India). Somewhere in this region he is said to have been martyred. The cathedral at Salerno has claimed to possess his relics since the tenth century.
Walsingham was one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in medieval Europe. At Walsingham (in Norfolk, England) the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision in the year 1061 to a Saxon noblewoman named Richeldis de Faverches. The Virgin asked Richeldis to build a wooden house in imitation of the holy house at Nazareth, where the Annunciation took place and where the Word took flesh. This simple wooden house, with its image of our Lady and our Lord, was the most popular pilgrimage destination in England for five hundred years. During the Reformation, in 1538, the shrine and its adjoining priory were destroyed, and all of its gold and silver treasures were confiscated. The ancient image of Mary and Jesus was taken to London and burned. The sub-prior of the monastery, Nicholas Milcham, and ten others were convicted of high treason for resisting the destruction of the shrine and monastery, and were hanged, drawn and quartered. The site of the shrine was sold by Henry VIII to a private citizen who built a mansion there. An anonymous ballad, “The Lament of Walsingham”, records the sentiments of the people: “Weep, weep O Walsingham, / Whose days are nights, / Blessings turned to blasphemies, / Holy deeds to despites. / Sin is where our Lady sat, / Heaven is turned to hell, / Satan sitteth where our Lord did sway, / Walsingham, O farewell!” In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the shrine was restored by devout Catholics (Romans and Anglicans). In 1897 Pope Leo XIII blessed a new image, now housed at the “Slipper Chapel”. And in 1931 the Anglican vicar, Father Alfred Hope Patten rebuilt the Holy House. Walsingham has once again become an important place of pilgrimage and blessing for the faithful, and a place of cooperation and unity for Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics.