Friday, 30 September 2011

Angels for Michaelmas

A Brief Homily for Holy Communion
on the Feast of S. Michael & All Angels

Parish Church of SS. Mary & Nicholas, Littlemore, Oxford

29th September, 2011, 7.30 p.m.

Readings: Genesis 28:10-17 & John 1:47-51

Tonight is the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, a fond day for Oxford and Cambridge because it is the name our universities give to the Autumn terms; a fond day for me because it is traditionally the beginning of the season in which geese are eaten. This is not because geese are fondly associated with angels – if you have ever kept them, as I have, you’ll know they are decidedly NOT angelic, especially in the Spring – but because geese eat grass, and once the free grass stops growing in the autumn, you might as well eat them, rather than waste valuable corn feeding them.

Our Scriptures are full of angels, like our two readings tonight, but nowhere are we really told what they are, or even what they are for. In literature that never made it into the Bible there is an elaborate “angelology”, literally, the science of angels, which divides them into nine ranks. Some of you may know the hymn “Ye watchers and ye holy ones”. It is by Athelstan Riley. I suppose Mr and Mrs Riley thought that with such a plain surname, he needed a colourful first name. My parents took a similar approach, but the other way round. The first verse speaks of

“Bright Seraphs, Cherubim and Thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluya!
Cry out Dominions, Princedoms, Powers,
Virtues, Archangels, Angels’ choirs,
Alleluya ….”

We used to sing this at school where we learnt nothing about Christianity, it being a C of E foundation, so it was a very long time before I realised that all these outlandish characters represent the nine ranks of traditional angelology, starting with the Seraphs, and ending with the common or garden angels who just sing a lot and hang around on ladders.

I don’t think it could be demanded of us that we believe in angels, although I’ve never heard of it doing anyone any harm. Some people believe we each have a Guardian Angel, who is the voice of conscience which stops us making fools of ourselves, or reminds us we are driving too fast.

But what are angels, what do they do? The name comes literally from a Greek word meaning “messenger”, and when we read about them in the Bible they are usually messengers of God. Sometimes quite literally, as when Gabriel told Mary the Good News of the Incarnation, more often, as in our readings tonight, pointing out the presence of God in places and in people where we might not expect it. In his dream, Jacob’s angels open his ears to the voice and presence of God, not only with Jacob, but in the land itself, the Promised Land. Jesus tells Nathanael that angels will show him a greater truth even than the one he has realised, that God himself is revealed in the Promised Son.

I knew a mystic once, a very old, and rather deaf, lady who would sometimes come and tell us her visions after the service. One time she said, “I know we say it every week, but I don’t think I ever listened before – “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” – and I looked up, and the church roof was gone [at this point, the vicar’s face went white, fearing a prophecy!], and there they all were, singing with us. Wasn’t that a lovely thing, dear?” And she trotted off to her lunch.

She was my angel that day. May you too be someone’s angel. Amen.

Richard Haggis
Littlemore, Oxford
September 2011

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Limerick

That naughty old bishop, Montefiore
At one time caused quite a furore
He suggested the Son
Might have been ... "one"
Thank goodness he's since gone to glory
INTERCESSIONS FOR EVENSONG
COMMEMORATING THE CHURCH’S 175TH ANNIVERSARY

Saturday, 24th September, 2011, 4 p.m.

PARISH CHURCH OF SS. MARY AND NICHOLAS
LITTLEMORE, OXFORD

God, our maker and redeemer, we come before the throne of the heavenly grace to offer our prayers for this church, this parish, this people, for one another, and for ourselves:

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

At this Festival time, we pray with thanks for the witness of our church here in Littlemore, for all those in its 175 years who have illuminated its walls with their prayers, those who have come here and found your love and your solace, your kindness and your joy, your truth and a true faith, those who have led the celebrations at the altar, and sought to enlighten from the pulpit, those who have gone out refreshed, to witness to your faith and hope and love in the world;

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Father, as we give thanks for past and present, give us eyes to look towards the future, and your light for the path we must take, the better to bear witness to your Good News in our midst; give us courage and wisdom, hope and heart, to make good choices, to risk change, and being changed, and to dare to become all that you will us to be;

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

We pray for your blessing on this parish and this city, for its universities, colleges and schools, and especially for Oriel College, our partron, for its hospitals, care homes and hospices, factories, businesses, shops, and watering holes, for our families, and friends, and neighbours, and all the communities to which we belong; we pray especially for our brothers and sisters in the faith, who ascend the holy mountain with us, but by a different path, for the congregations of the Roman Catholic and Baptist churches in Littlemore, for the people of the University Church of S. Mary the Virgin, out of which our parish grew, for all Christian people, for those of other faiths, and those whose faith is known only to you; may your kindly light lead us all to that place where our differences shall be lost in wonder, love, and praise;

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Father of your compassion we pray for all those at this time who are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity; in the quietness of our hearts we name before you those known to us in a silent moment now …. Be with us in our hard times, and show us the way to be good friends to those who need us;

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Lord of life, whose son conquered death and rose again, we pray with thanksgiving for the lives of all those who have died; at this time we pray especially for Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas, Blessed John Henry Newman, for Jemima Newman, and all the many benefactors of this church, by gift and prayer, and deed; we pray for all who have touched our lives also with their love, and called our love out, and especially for those who have led us in the way of faith; in the fullness of time, may we share with them in the eternal banquet prepared for all your children;

Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord
And let light perpetual shine upon them

May they rest in peace
And rise in glory

Silence for Private Prayers

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with us all, evermore, Amen.

Childhood - Letter to the Daily Telegraph

No idea if this will get in, but for what it's worth -

Dear Editor,

The "childhood" that your correspondents mourn is a relatively recent invention. My late grandfather was born in 1908 in a workhouse, his mother died when he was 6, he was left as a deposit on a debt at 12 working for nothing and sleeping under a kitchen table, became a barrowboy at 15 and was fed by gypsies, and was given just one present in his whole childhood.

He would have given his eye teeth for a bellyful of burgers and the leisure to waste time on computer games.

He could read and write, though.

Yours faithfully,

(The Revd) Richard Haggis

PS - I know this sounds like something out of Dickens, but it is verifiably true. He was an amazing man.

26 Bampton Close
Littlemore
Oxford
OX4 6NN
"A previous Chancellor, Robert Lowe, described the office in the following terms in the House of Commons, on 11 April 1870: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a man whose duties make him more or less of a taxing machine. He is entrusted with a certain amount of misery which it is his duty to distribute as fairly as he can.""

From the sometimes dubious Wikipaedia, but rather a nice line if it is true.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Sunday Prayers - 18th September 2011

Intercessions for Holy Communion
at the
Church of SS. Mary & Nicholas, Littlemore, Oxford

18th September 2011, 10 a.m.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16
The Labourers in the Vineyard


Father, may our prayer be our work
May our work be our prayer

God our Father, Lord of the vineyards in which we toil in your Son’s name, we pray for the Church in this place and throughout the world. We pray for the bishops who serve our dioceses, and for our clergy who care for our parishes, for all congregations who gather in your name in every denomination, to pray your praise and to set it forth before your other children, in word, and work, and example. Hear our prayer for Rowan our Archbishop, and John our Bishop; for Margreet and all, lay and ordained, who serve us here. We pray that the Holy Spirit may bring them vision and joy, commonsense and kindness, guide their deliberations and enlighten their choices.

Father, may our prayer be our work
May our work be our prayer

We pray with joy for this beautiful world which you made and gave to us to look after. Hear our prayer for the those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, elected and unelected, for the work of the United Nations, for those in the Middle East who are discovering new freedoms; may those with power use it wisely and well, and may their people have courage to hold them to account for wrongdoing and cruelty, and gracious hearts and minds to encourage them in the ways of peace and justice;

Father, may our prayer be our work
May our work be our prayer

We pray for our families, and friends and neighbours, for all the communities to which we belong; and we give you thanks that we were made for one another and for you; we thank you for the love and laughter that we share, for the shoulders to cry on, the tables at which to rejoice in fellowship, the pubs and clubs, the bus-stops and shops, where we can make, for however long or brief a moment, new friends;

Father, may our prayer be our work
May our work be our prayer

Hear our prayer for all who suffer in any way, for ourselves, and all who suffer sorrow, anxiety and grief, physical pain or frailty; we pray especially for the families and friends of those who have lately died in the Welsh mining accident; we pray for all whose work is hard and dangerous; we pray for those who face the fear and horror of military combat around the world, and for those who love them; We have been especially asked to pray for …. and in a moment together, aloud or silently, we remember before you the names on our hearts at this time ….

Father, may our prayer be our work
May our work be our prayer

God our Father, you are Love, and in the Divine Trinity in whom we are all baptised, you show us that love, which is immortal and eternal; hear our prayer of thanksgiving for all those we have known who have exchanged this world for the Kingdom of Heaven, we thank you for their love, and we pray for those whose love was never known or never saw the light of day; especially at this time we remember …

Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord
And let light perpetual shine upon them

May they rest in peace
And rise in glory

Let us take a moment in silence together to offer our own personal and private prayers to the Lord of the vineyard in which we serve …

Father may our prayer be our work
May our work be our prayer

Merciful father …

Epitaph on a Puritan - Hilaire Belloc

"He served his God
so faithfully and well
That now he serves him,
face to face, in hell"

Friday, 16 September 2011

Letter in The Daily Telegraph, 16.09.11

SIR – Our economy is over-invested in housing. Building companies who bought at the height of the last house-price boom cannot be blamed for wanting to wait before developing their land. But the state could buy that land off them, and build at a speed that would ease the need for housing while also reducing its value.

One person can only live under one roof. A house should not be an investment. The Government should smash the housing market and free up money for investment in real industry that creates work.

Rev Richard Haggis
Littlemore, Oxfordshire

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Mystery of Fathers

"I want to pick your brains about metallurgy"

"Oh, I've forgotten all that stuff"

Twenty minutes later, after a tutorial which included heaviness of osmium, the conductivity of irridium, the percentage purity of sterling silver and 22-carat gold, the oxidisation of copper, the smelting and thieving of lead, the strength and consistency of titanium, and the qualities of platinum when it is heated over a gas ring (it keeps its colour), I had all I needed for a little sermon about how sometimes the noble needs to be mixed with the base in order to do its job.

"Forgotten all that stuff"!

Dads.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

A Homily for Holy Communion on
Friday, 9th of September, 2011, 9 a.m.

Motes, Beams, and Unconditional Forgiveness


Notes from a brief ex tempore sermon to the
Sisters of the Love of God,
at Fairacres Convent, Oxford

Friday, 9th September, 2011


Gospel: Luke 6:39-42


When I was younger, this reading always puzzled me. I didn't have a churchy childhood, so I'm not really sure how I heard of it. Motes seemed to me quite easy - aren't they the flecks of dust that float in the air when a shard of sunlight catches them, and your Mum has not been paying attention to the housework? But beams were different. A "beaming" person was someone happy, with a nice smile. What was wrong with having a beam in your eye? I was too young to think then "Ooh, that's a bit saucy". But, thanks be to God for the New English Bible, which translated these words as "a speck" and "a plank". Here was a little sliver of the comedy of Jesus which somehow made its way into our Gospel, a comic image which is timeless. A silly fellow with a great big plank of wood over his face, telling everyone else how to do things. Some of you may remember Eric Sykes's classic slapstick silent film "The Plank", in which just about everything that can go wrong when an idiot is walking about with a plank, does. Jesus was a funny guy. I think he would have liked Mr Sykes.

Eric Sykes is not a satirist. He is a gentle comedian. But I am drawn to satire in all its forms. I like the Flanders and Swan definition: “The purpose of satire, it has been rightly said, is to strip off the veneer of comforting illusion, and cosy half-truth. And our job, as I see it, is to put it back again.” Tom Lehrer took a slightly different line – he resigned from writing satirical songs in the 1970s when Henry Kissenger was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He claimed he couldn’t compete with the Nobel Committee.

But Jesus has a hard message for us too. I imagine in a convent not a lot of wallspace is given over to mirrors. I'm not a great fan either. A kind friend says this explains the state of my hair. But how are we to see this plank in our own eye? Where is our mirror? With a great big lump of wood slapped across our face, how are we to see anything at all? Maybe that is Jesus's point. Maybe he means us not to judge others, nor to judge ourselves. The ascetical tradition speaks of finding a "soul friend", or a confessor, to talk to about the things that make us anxious and guilty. At its best, the hope is that we will find someone who will at least like us, listen to us, and stop us from being too hard on ourselves, from turning that plank into a lean-to, which is the well-trodden path of Christian masochism, and sometimes appalling architecture.

Our consolation must be that the throne of the heavenly grace is occupied by the most generous and forgiving judge we can any of us imagine.

For our motes and beams, our specks and planks, Lord Have mercy.

Amen

Richard Haggis
Littlemore, Oxford
September 2011

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Unexpected Welcomes

A Homily for the Feast of the Birth of the Mother of God
being also the end of the Octave of Saint Giles of Provence

Church of SS. Mary & Nicholas, Littlemore, Oxford
Thursday, 8th of September 2011, 7.30 p.m.
Readings: Psalm 113 & John 19:25-27

Unexpected Welcomes

This evening we keep the Feast of the birth of Mary, the Mother of God. It is also the end of the “octave” of Saint Giles of Provence (octave means eight days in which a special day is remembered and observed). Technically, that is cheating, because Saint Giles doesn’t qualify for an octave, because he isn’t important enough. But here in Oxford we have Saint Giles’ Church, Saint Giles’street – the widest in our city, and Saint Giles’ Fair, so we can do the Orthodox thing, and claim a special local consideration. As luck would have it, we can combine the two, and here is how:

Saint Giles is the patron saint of many things – of lepers and cripples, of those with a secret sin, of blacksmiths and cobblers, and of nursing mothers. As a preacher, I personally take comfort in knowing there is a patron saint of cobblers, but that a celibate monk should be the patron saint of nursing mothers is more interesting. The legend is that Giles lived as a hermit in a cave, and one day the King of the Visigoths (remember them?) was out hunting with his cronies and they wounded a hind. She came to Saint Giles’s cave and he nursed her back to health. In return when she gave birth to her fawn, she shared her surplus milk with Giles. And so he became the patron saint of nursing mothers. I once served in the parish of Saint Giles-in-the-Fields in London, and for many years we had in our parish the first hospital for new mothers.

I’m not a mother, and only tenuously a father, unless you count two cats and a stepson in the Amazon, but it seems to me that motherhood is about welcome. Welcoming a stranger. I have noticed how sometimes when children are born, the mother seems to know precisely who they are already, so the stranger can be welcomed long before breathing the outside air, but at whatever stage, we all start off as strangers.

Our Gospel reading tonight speaks of welcoming the stranger – the Beloved Disciple takes Jesus’s mother, Mary, into his home. There is no evidence to suggest they had even met before the momentous event that gave birth to our redemption. I hope, being fond of my mother, and indeed, of many people’s mothers, that Jesus’s mother didn’t have to live in a cave. But I am glad that in her grief and loss, God gave her someone else to love, for “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children”.

God, give us grace and kindness, to open our homes and our hearts to the stranger, that joy may abound, and life together may be life more abundant indeed. Amen.

Richard Haggis, Littlemore, Oxford, September 2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Rational Belonging

Kenneth Clarke, the Lord Chancellor, has said that: "The general recipe for a productive member of society is no secret. It has not changed since I was inner-cities minister 25 years ago. It's about having a job, a strong family, a decent education and beneath it all, an attitude that shares in the values of mainstream society. What is different now is that a growing minority of people in our nation lack all of those things and indeed, have substituted an inflated sense of expectations for a commitment to hard graft." (The Guardian, 6th September 2011)

I dimly remember from studying economics at university that there is a creature called "the rational egoist". Broadly, this creature serves his own interest with steely logic. He will take risks if the prospect of gain is proportionate to them, and avoid them if he stands a significant chance of making things worse for himself. He is not altruistic unless other people can see, think the better of him, and improve his chances of future benefit through their goodwill. Goodwill is something that can be paid for. He is prepared to trade in both love and money - although his love is not really worth having. He is not an attractive creature, but he is clever enough to make it look as if he is, until he has made enough. The trouble is, enough is never enough, and tomorrow never comes.

A lot of economic theory is based on this model, which suggests that with infinite resources, supply will rise to meet demand, and with finite resources, prices will rise to match supply.

And, of course, it doesn't work. People's tastes and priorites may be quite out of step with their financial worth. The woman who lives in a draughty room of her mansion rather than selling up and going somewhere more comfortable is not a rational egoist. The man who is offered a job that pays more, but stays with the one he actually enjoys, is not a rational egoist. Parents who would lay down their own lives to save their children, are not rational egoists. The person who keeps a cat when there is no mouse problem, or a dog when there is no cat problem, is not a rational egoist. The art-lover or gardener or hobbyist who invests money in things that will never bring any return at all, is not a rational egoist.

And there is the heart of the economist's problem - love cannot be priced up, budgeted for, or predicted. And when we have love, enough may well be enough.

So, returning to Lord Chancellor Clarke's analysis, what are we to do with the irrational egoists who brought chaos to our streets, and wrought punishment on themselves? Presumably not the same brutal punishment wrought on those who bankrupted the economy and expected (correctly) to be bailed out?

It is relatively easy, in economic terms, to create jobs. But jobs worth having are another matter. Stable families are a matter beyond even that. Whether there is any real political commitment to closing the gap between rich and poor for the sake of society in general, I rather doubt. Mr Blair - whatever happened to him? - used to talk about a stakeholder society. Or was it Sir John Major? Or even Lady Thatcher? They blur in my mind. It seems to me that a decent stake in society is a home of your own, a job worth doing, an education for your children, and freedom from the fear of illness that you can't afford. Doesn't seem a lot to ask in the country that started the Industrial Revolution.

People with something to lose don't start riots.

Friday, 2 September 2011

"The Old Is Good", he says

A Homily for Holy Communion on
Friday, 2nd of September, 2011, 9 a.m.

for the Sisters of the Love of God
Fairacres Priory, Oxford


Gospel: Luke 5:33-39

“The Old is Good”, he says

+ May I speak in the name of the Divine Trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I wonder if some of you might share the experience of hearing something from the New Testament for the first time, having been convinced that we’d heard it all before? ““The old is good” he says” falls into that category for me. Why would Jesus say the old is good? He is surely the new wine, not the old, and he is good. Is he being ironic? Teasing those who are conservative and old-fashioned? Or is it to be taken at face-value, that there are riches in old things – and, dare we suggest, in old people? Of course there are riches in old people! We all know this for a fact. I have a great-aunt who will be ninety next month, and even just on the telephone she can make you laugh within a minute. She is blessed with a projectile kindness, and she doesn’t care who knows it.

But what is true of old people is also true of old things. When I was a college chaplain in Cambridge, the cellar convinced me at last that there is a genuine truth behind wine snobbery. I came a little unstuck when having sampled a most delightful Crozes Hermitage 1985 (I think it was) I ordered a case – 8 of the 12 bottles were corked! But the other four were sublime. I got them for a song, it would have been churlish to demand my money back. This year we have been celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorised Version of the Bible. No translation since has achieved such poetry in its prose. Combine it with Coverdale’s Psalter, and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, and “the old is good” indeed.

But no matter how old we are, didn’t Jesus mean us to be “new wine”? We can’t do much about our old skins, and sometimes we creak and groan a bit when newness comes upon us too fast and furious, but isn’t the Gospel about “newness of life”?

There was a television programme some years back called “180 – not out”, which I think was a title drawn from the pub game of darts, which was having a bit a craze back then. Two people were interviewed. One was the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who was 80, and the other was Catherine Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army, who was 100 – combined score – 180.

Mr Muggeridge, as might have been predicted, went on and on about how awful old age was and how he’d really rather like to die soon. Miss Bramwell Booth said, “I know I’ve had more than my fair share of life, but I still wake up each morning and pray, God, if you please, it’s so lovely, could you maybe spare me just one more day?”

Of the two, I think I know which one was the new wine. And hers was a most attractive gospel. She lived to be 104.

“The old is good”, indeed.

Amen.

Richard Haggis
Littlemore, Oxford
September 2011








Thursday, 1 September 2011

Fairs & Patronage - Some Thoughts on the Feast of Saint Giles

Littlemore, Oxford, 1st of September, 2011

Saint Giles is one of my favourite saints. Apart from the annual Saint Giles Fair in Oxford at the beginning of September, I knew nothing about him until I became Associate Rector at the church of Saint Giles-in-the-Fields in central London, just north of Covent Garden, south of Bloomsbury, east of Holborn, and west of Soho. Very few people have ever heard of it, although another neighbour, Saint Martin-in-the-Fields has an international reputation. This is a shame because, in my view, it is the most beautiful church in London, designed by Henry Flitcroft, and built between 1730 and 1734. All is elegance and proportion, unlike James Gibbs's S. Martin's; and it is designed for worship, unlike Nicholas Hawksmoor's S. George's Bloomsbury. It is an easy church to pray in, and after all, when it comes to prayer, we need all the help we can get.

Giles is listed in the books as "Giles of Provence", but he was not a Frenchman. He came from Athens, born to a rich family, and at some point he got the God-thing, and started to travel about to find a place to pray without being bothered by people who thought he was holy. He settled in Provence, by the mouth of the Rhone (good taste in wine!), in a cave, and, his family money long forgotten, sustained himself on the riches of the woods. It all sounds rather idyllic, if you like being on your own, and far from the maddening crowd. But his lovely, private, house of prayer came tumbling down one day, when the King of the Visigoths and his cronies were having a hunting party. One of them shot a doe (doe, a deer, a female deer) and didn't kill her outright. She found Saint Giles's cave, and he nursed her back to health. This was a double-blessing, because she was expecting at the time, and when the fawn was born, the doe allowed Saint Giles to have her surplus milk. And so, rather implausibly, this celibate hermit became the Patron Saint of Nursing Mothers.

The King - his name was Wamba, which sounds more like someone you expect to find collecting litter on Wimbledon Common - discovered what Giles had done, and took a shine to him. He wanted to reward him, but Giles said he needed nothing. But King Wamba was insistent, and finally Giles said "this part of the world needs an abbey". The King thought about it and replied "I will build an abbey - but on one condition". "What is that?" "That you must be its abbot". And so, biting the bullet, Giles consented to become an abbot, for the sake of the people who needed an abbey.

It is often overlooked that abbeys and priories did tremendous good in those distant days (they still do now!) - they were hospitals for the sick and hostels for the pilgrims, places of prayer and spiritual wisdom and guidance, their very presence said loud and clear "God is here, his Spirit is with us".

But Saint Giles was not done yet. He went to seek the Pope's blessing on his labours, and the Pope gave him a handsome pair of doors for his monastery. Giles, in exasperation, knowing he could not afford to transport them home, threw them into the sea. When he returned, there they were on the beach, soon to be installed and become a sign of both welcome, and enclosure, the openness, and the secret, of God.

And that brings us to another little story. One day King Wamba was at Giles's abbey, and he gave notice that he would not receive communion, and could not say why. As Giles said mass he noticed a little scrap of paper on the altar, which explained the King's problem - it was not put there by the King. He gave him absolution as if he had confessed aloud, and the King could come to the altar. So, Giles became the patron saint of those with a secret sin.

But Giles is best known as the patron saint of lepers and cripples (I know we don't use the word any more, but they did then). I have never discovered why this should be, but that is how our church in London came about - it was in the fields, to be a hospital for lepers. You may also notice that here in Oxford, and also in Cambridge, and in Lincoln, and in countless other places, there are churches dedicated to Saint Giles on the edge of the city. This is where the unacceptable could be accepted. Saint Giles is also the Patron Saint - what a busy man! - of blacksmiths and cobblers. As a preacher, I take great comfort that there is a patron saint of cobblers. The reason is that as you left your town for another, you made sure you and your horses were well-shod for the journey, so blacksmiths and cobblers plied their trade near those Saint Giles' churches, and they adopted him as their own.

But is any of this true, can we know? We can't even be sure when Giles lived, although the 8th century AD is the front-runner. I know I want it to be true, but am sufficiently a man of science to know that wanting it doesn't make it so. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe what matters is that someone many years ago heard his calling and acted upon it. Maybe what matters is that lepers and cripples and nursing mothers and and people with secret sins, blacksmiths and cobblers, the people who lived on the edge of Mediaeval life, took comfort from his prayers, that he cared for them. Doesn't that lead in its own small way to Life More Abundant? And isn't that small way part of the greater Way, of Christ?

Thank you God, whoever you are, for Saint Giles, whoever he was.