Sebastian and Catherine at the bandstand

We began our time together ithis mornning n glorious sunshine and blue skies with a wonderful Mary Oliver poem ‘Just a minute said a voice…’ which begins:

‘Just a minute’ said a voice in the weeds.

So I stood still

In the day’s exquisite early morning light….

Which allowed us all to give our Creator a minute and to be present to the moment.

Then it was a sharing of the story of two saints arising from our recent visit to Tuscany.

Steve shared an image of Saint Sebastian and gave an overview of his significance before sharing an image of a fresco we had come across in St Augustine’s, San Gimignano, dating from the 1400s. We had been rather aghast at its theology.

There despite Mary baring her bosom to show how much she had done to nourish the world, despite the wounds shown by Christ to show how he had sacrificed himself to save the world, God was unmoved. He just hurled his arrows of plague and pestilence upon the people anyway! Only by pleading with St Sebastian to protect them could the people find help – you see him here spreading his cloak over them to deflect the arrows! When we saw this artwork we agreed ‘That’s not MY God’!

The next day we had visited Siena and I was keen to visit the home church of St Catherine of Siena – where, coincidentally, her mummified head (and right thumb!) are on display over the altar in a chapel dedicated to her! The image of her face shared on WhatsApp was less enjoyed- you can look it up on Google images should you wish! Like her contemporary of Julian of Norwich in the 1300s, she challenged errant Church theology and corruption as mystic, author and activist. Despite being born into a time of plague, she taught that our relationship with God is not one of contention but rather God was the sea and we the fish – God is the one who sustains all life, in whom we are immersed.

Repentance and spiritual renewal was not to be found through the sacraments or indulgences (!) but by love for God and resonating with our favourite Celtic saint, Brendan, she encouraged total trust in God: ‘Turn over the rudder in God’s name, and sail with the wind heaven sends us.’

Finally, a favourite quote of mine by her: ‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ Which I have shared many a time with pupils I have taught as well as taking to heart for myself. There are different seasons in our lives with numbers of callings, I think, but it always worth coming back to as we consider what our calling is that only we can fulfil…

So, we walked with and considered those three quotations and what any might have to say to us:

‘Turn over the rudder in God’s name, and sail with the wind heaven sends us.’

‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’

‘God is the sea and we are the fish’

We returned to pray for folks we know and for the world in all its turmoil, oppression and injustice, before using the Companions liturgy to share bread and wine. A final Celtic blessing was followed by much discussion of these things and others over coffee at Cool River!