24 April 2017

Mr Corbyn and S George

Mr Corbyn, the "hard left" party leader in British politics, has never been primarily known for an interest in Liturgy or Hagiography. But he has just made the commitment that, should he become Prime Minister, the Festivals of the Patron Saints of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland will be made public holidays!

Some time ago, there was a proposal that there should be a Patron Saint of the United Kingdom. I found it strange that such an ephemeral institution as "the Yew Kay" should have a Patron.

All political arrangements are transient and include flawed elements. And the United Kingdom particularly so; it had its genesis in the unwholesome imperatives of the whig agenda after the Dutch Invasion; subsumed Ireland only in 1800; lost most of it little more than a century (of bungled rule) later; and retains only a questionable and debated hold over the part of Britain which Whiggery tried to rename North Britain. It seems to me that a much more useful sense of identity is urged by the suggestion in Fr Aidan Nichols' The Realm that Christians should think of having a bipolar existence. We belong to a cultural construct which is 'at once internationalist as the Church of all nations, and yet patriotic'. And surely our priority must be S Paul's striking metaphor that our politeuma is from above: our real passports are issued neither by England nor by the UK nor even by Europe, but in heaven. That is why S George - whose feast is transferred to today - is such an ideal Patron for England. He never came here; indeed, Provincia Brittannia had not even become Angleland when he bore witness. He reminds us that faith in Christ, even unto death, is what takes priority by several thousand miles over narrow loyalties. According to the lectio iv at Mattins, he was declared Protector of the Kingdom of England by that admirable Pontiff, Benedict XIV, at a time when, according to the constitutional understanding of the intruding Hannoverian Regime, there was no such thing as a kingdom either of England or of Scotland!

If the UK were to have own patron Saint, S Aidan has been urged on the grounds that he has Irish, Scottish, and English connections. Well, I've nothing at all against S Aidan. Far from it. But my alternative proposal (granted that the UK did need a patron) would be S Theodore: a Greek-speaking Syrian monk sent by a Pope of Rome to be Archbishop of Canterbury.

I feel myself a Christian before a citizen of the UK. Indeed, I feel myself a Latin Christian in my culture before I think of myself as English. I feel quite as much at home in still-quite-Catholic Western Ireland or worshipping at a Latin Mass in the Alpine foothills overlooking Lake Garda, as I do in England.

Er ... well ... perhaps a bit more so. Am I a disgrace? Or do all readers feel a similar superior loyalty?

21 comments:

Joshua said...

The Patroness of Australia is Our Lady Help of Christians (if I may be permitted an opinion, I think the Ordinariate has an even lovelier title for her, as Our Lady of the Southern Cross); that of Tasmania, St Patrick.

Tasmania happens to be almost exactly the same area as the Irish Republic, and of course St Patrick is patron by reason of the Irish Catholics who came or were brought here; but the same observation applies as regards England and St George: this island wasn't even Van Diemen's Land, wasn't even known to those beyond these shores, when St Patrick was alive.

Joshua said...

And - I didn't think I'd ever write such words - I applaud Mr Corbyn for announcing, in the very unlikely event that he wins the upcoming general election, that he would make St Patrick's Day, St David's Day, St George's Day and St Andrew's Day public holidays. More public holidays are an excellent idea.

Alan said...

Interesting piece, Father, and I believe it's the first time I've seen a cogent argument for S. George's position as patron.

On Jeremy Corbyn's proposal, I think it's excellent. It addresses this country's "holiday deficit" in a much better way than a political/military anniversary guaranteed to be a poke in the eye to some internal or external former adversary.

Corbyn is not so "hard left". For the first half of my life he would have appeared merely to be a mildly left-leaning but bog-standard Labour MP. His real deputy, John McDonnell, by the way, got along fine with the late rector of Hayes when I worshipped there, and sent his son to the parish school, where his wife is a governor. I remember an interesting conversation with the now shadow chancellor in the garden of Hayes rectory, with intermittent breaks to wipe the rector's dogs' calling cards off our shoes.

Serious point, and coming back to ecclesiastical matters: Corbyn, I think, is the victim of a lazy form of journalism which has an established script - hard left, unelectable... An elderly Argentinian gentleman benefits from a similar lazy narrative. Imagine that B XVI had undermined the most senior black cardinal in the Vatican, and the likely journalistic reaction. That S. JP II had called back to his side a cardinal who had covered up kiddy-fiddling. That S. Pius V had purported to dethrone the head of a sovereign state (Whoops!)...

Riddley said...

An excellent question! I Poped only a few years ago and have found my sense of loyalty and allegiance changing quite markedly since then in unexpected but (I think) healthy ways.

The day after the EU referendum I went to the Brompton Oratory for Mass and found the place swarming wth Knights of Malta, many of them rather grand in visage and manner. I was delighted with the referendum result but equally delighted to share pew space with representives of the "good bit" of Europe and Christendom.

Claudio Salvucci said...

That superior loyalty can be admittedly tough to accept on this side of the pond thanks to our Founding Mythology. Thanks be to God, I am finally rid of that execrable, insane American attitude that the Founders in 1787 did what Christ at Pentecost could not: produce a permanent, visible, corporate Union that would serve as a beacon to all mankind.

I have happily transferred my patriotism to the heavenly America--whose founding fathers are cataloged in the Martyrology.

Mike said...

A Christian first and always, and an exile in want of a Christian prince for these USA.

Nic said...

Happy S George's Day, Fr.! I do hope today will be an appropriate one to have said 'Domine, salvum fac regem nostrum," ahem, well, you know the rest.

Just a little thought. Would all of our forbears recognize today as the feast of the Patron of this land? Would Good King Philip? (no, NOT Mr May). The book I had been using for the previous fortnight informed me after mass on Saturday that "Post Nonam terminatur Officium de Octava". It seems Low Sunday is a greater double of the First Class, so that sounds jolly important, but was it always so in England? Could the national patron occupy the Sunday AFTER the Octave of Easter?

On the subject of the interesting political disputation now in progress, since you mention it, I shall be exercising my vote in tactical way in favour of the rather maligned allotment-digger you mention. I cannot see why Mrs May should expect me to turn out to dower her with more power than she currently enjoys.

Sadie Vacantist said...

It would be great if Corbyn poped (he has a weakness for Latina women) and he does seems a better egg than Blair for some reason.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

As an Irish-Algonquin Catholic born in Vermont (USA) my capitol is Rome.

Ben Whitworth said...

St Magnus (whose feast is transferred to today in the diocese of Aberdeen) is the patron of Orkney, Shetland and Caithness; St Cuthbert is the patron of the North of England. A healthy regionalism would surely see their feast days made into bank holidays in their respective territories.

Thomas said...

The nation-state as we have come to know it is largely a product of the so-called Enlightenment. Who knows what geo-political entity I will be deemed a citizen of even in the next few years? I think of myself as a Catholic before any other identifying group or characteristic.

Anon. said...

@Nic, reginam nostram, surely!
@Joshua, “Our Lady of the Southern Cross” has always struck me as rather a fabricated title.

Claudio Salvucci said...

Amateur Brain Surgeon: Algonquin, eh? Jesus chauerimir!

Joshua said...

I first came across this title when I paid a visit to Our Lady of the Southern Cross Church at Dunsborough, W.A.

The Diocese of Toowoomba has Our Lady of the Southern Cross as its patroness, by a 1998 Papal bull. There is a church in that diocese dedicated under that title way back in 1960.

http://www.twb.catholic.org.au/documents/patron.html

GOR said...

When I came to the US - decades ago – I was annoyed to see what the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day had become – a drunken orgy. I was at pains to impress upon people that in Ireland the feast was firstly a Holyday of Obligation, where attendance at Mass was the first priority. Given recent religious reality in Ireland, I - understandably - no longer press the point.

Perhaps you might have more success in Britain? I doubt it, but the effort would be commendable.

John Vasc said...

If there is such a sudden 'felt need' to honour St George (for example) with a state 'bank holiday', perhaps 'we happy few' English Catholics could first show how genuine our devotion is by actually turning up to Holy Mass on his feastday when it is *not* a 'day off work': and doing so in rather more substantial numbers than were generally in evidence at yesterday's transferred feast of St George.
If it *were* to be made a bank holiday, I wonder how many would attend Mass rather than going straight to the excursion, pub or B&Q of choice.

Anon. said...

"way back" in 1960 and Toowoomba under Bill Morris

mjw83 said...

In Queensland, St. George’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day were bank holidays or public holidays from 1877 until 1930, St. Andrew’s Day was a bank holiday from 1877 until 1904 and a public holiday from 1912 until 1930 and St. David’s Day was a public holiday from 1912 until 1930. (1 March had previously been unofficially observed as Eight Hours’ Day.)

Joshua said...

De Maria numquam satis.

Anon. said...

By that reasoning, we can look forward to any number of titles. Will Our Lady of the Golden Wattle or Our Lady of the Spotted Gum be next? And the claim was not that Our Lady of the Southern Cross is merely another title but that it is a "lovelier" one than Auxilium Christianorum.

John Vasc said...

Joshua - Certe!

mjw8 - That's very interesting - early 1930 was when the Great Depression took hold in Australia, causing massive unemployment, and as elsewhere, more draconian working conditions for those who did have a job. Perhaps the new Labor government was meeting an employers' demand for lower wages and increased hours? (One is reminded of how, under Henry VIII, the hard-nosed Thomas Cromwell abolished many of the Feastdays and their local fairs to increase agricultural output - see Eamon Duffy's 'The Stripping of the Altars').
Or perhaps the abolition had more local reasons pertainign to Queenland itself?