... Holy Days this month

      (from Parish Pump, UK)



2nd June             First Sunday after Trinity
9th June              Second Sunday after Trinity
16th June           Third Sunday after Trinity
23rd June           Fourth Sunday after Trinity  
30th June           Fifth Sunday after Trinity

High Days & Holy Days for June

Editor: This month includes the following special days.  As saints’ days do not change from year to year, these have appeared on this site before.  The one with the asterisk is new this year.

1            Justin Martyr - first ever Christian philosopher
2            Erasmus - a good saint for when you’re all at sea
3            The Martyrs of Uganda
4            Petroc – the abbot of Padstow
5            Boniface of Crediton – Apostle to Germany, Martyr
6            Gudwal – the first Christian in Brittany?
8            William of York – victim of injustice
9            Columba of Iona – missionary to Scotland
9            Ephrem of Syria – hymn writer
11         Barnabas – Paul’s first missionary companion
13          Antony of Padua – friend of St Francis of Assisi
14          Richard Baxter – Puritan Divine
15          Evelyn Underhill – mystical writer of the 20th century
15          Who was Evelyn Underhill?
16          Richard of Chichester - wanting God more clearly, dearly and nearly
16          Father’s Day – time to celebrate male role models
20          Summer Solstice – longest day of the year
22         St Alban – helping a stranger in need
22          St Alban – British martyr under the Romans
22          Alban – Britain’s first Christian martyr
24          John the Baptist – preparing the way for the Messiah
*NEW 25           Maximus – first Bishop of Turin
29          Feast of SS Peter & Paul - the two most famous apostles


1st June - Justin Martyr on the Damascus Road

Sometime in the summer of 165AD seven Christian men were put to death in Rome.   Accused of belonging to an illicit religion, they refused point blank to offer sacrifices to pagan gods. Threatened with torture and execution they replied that suffering and death gave them confidence to appear at the Great Tribunal ‘of our Lord and Saviour.’ 

The sentence was pronounced and having been scourged, all seven were beheaded. Their leader was named Justin and we know him in Church History as Justin the Martyr.  His conversion to Christianity, although a quiet and low key affair, is a story that should be known.

Justin was born in the year 100AD in Samaria, near the modern town of Nablus. His family was Gentile and pagan and as a young man Justin was drawn to the study of philosophy.  Soon he was a recognised pagan philosopher, and he began to travel as an itinerant teacher, wearing the distinctive cloak of the philosophers. He tells us that his search for truth led him to study the various schools of Greek philosophy, but in none of them could he find the assurance he was looking for.

Then something happened that radically changed his life. Walking one evening by a seashore, he fell into conversation with an old man. Justin listened as the old man told him that the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible had been fulfilled and they could be found in the writings of the Christian Bible. He further told Justin that truth can only be known through the one true God and that His Spirit would enlighten Justin. Justin was deeply moved by the conversation, began to read the New Testament – and was converted to faith in Christ.

Now a Christian believer, Justin continued to travel, still wearing his philosopher’s cloak but now preaching and teaching the Christian gospel. He wrote two Apologies explaining and defending the Christian faith. He travelled to Asia Minor and finally to Rome where he taught in a Christian school. His strong defence of Christianity came to the notice of the authorities and he was arrested with six of his friends. Refusing to acknowledge pagan gods, they were executed together. Who was the old man who introduced Justin to Christianity? We don’t know and Justin doesn’t even tell us his name, if he ever knew it. Justin’s conversion happened because a Christian witnessed to him.  We should use every opportunity we have to pass on the Good News!


1st June             Justin Martyr, first ever Christian philosopher

Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165AD), is regarded as the first ever Christian philosopher. He was born at Nablus, Samaria, to parents of Greek origin, and was well educated in rhetoric, poetry and history before he turned to philosophy. He studied at Ephesus and Alexandria and tried the schools of the Stoics, the Pythagoreans, and the Platonists. Then in about 130AD Justin became a Christian, and never looked back. His long search for truth was satisfied by the Bible, and above all by Christ, the Word of God. 

This apologist and martyr is known as the most important early ‘apologist’. He went on to offer a reasoned defence for Christianity, explaining that it was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. Justin’s aim was evangelism: he thought that pagans would turn to Christianity if they were made aware of Christian doctrine and practice. Justin’s martyrdom took place in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, along with six other believers. At his trial, whose authentic record survives, he clearly confessed his Christian beliefs, refused to sacrifice to the gods, and accepted suffering and death. As he had previously said to the emperor: “You can kill us, but not hurt us.” 


2nd June             Erasmus, a good saint when you’re all at sea

Do you like messing about in boats? If so, then you’ll have heard of St Elmo’s Fire. It is the light that is sometimes seen on mastheads of boats after storms at sea.

St Elmo is another name for St Erasmus, a fourth century Syrian bishop who was not afraid of violent storms. Legend has it that one day when Erasmus was preaching outside, a thunderbolt hit the ground right beside him. That might have distracted many modern bishops, but not Erasmus – he just kept on preaching. His courage won him the respect of sailors, who also had to brave the elements of nature in their daily work. He died about 300AD.

But when Erasmus was made the patron saint of sailors, it led to a curious confusion. His emblem became the windlass, a kind of hoist used by many sailors at sea. So far so good, but many medieval Christians, seeing the windlass emblem, assumed it was some sort of torture instrument. They knew that Erasmus had died in the persecution of Diocletian, and so concluded that a windlass had been used to hoist out his intestines (which it hadn’t).

But no matter - Erasmus was still adopted by another set of suffering people. Not only did sailors remember the thunderbolt, and look to him, but soon, anyone with gut ache as well!  


3rd June             The Martyrs of Uganda

The Ugandan Church had dozens of martyrs within just ten years of Christianity arriving there. At first, it had gone so well: the first Anglican missionaries arriving in Uganda in 1877 were welcomed by the Kabaka (king) of Buganda, Mutesa. Mutesa also welcomed the Roman Catholics and Muslim Arabs, and, being a natural diplomat, retained his power by cleverly playing off the three groups against each other.

His son, Mwanga ll, who became king about 1883, was very different. Mwanga II wanted to retain absolute power, and deeply resented the missionaries and new converts, whom he felt were giving their allegiance to Christianity, instead. 

And so it was that on 31st January 1885 he ordered the execution of Yusufu (Joseph) Rugarama, Makko (Mark) Kakumba, and Nuwa (Noah) Serwanga. That October, even the Anglican Bishop, James Hannington, was murdered.

When Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, a senior advisor to the king and a Catholic convert, condemned Mwanga for ordering Hannington's death, Mwanga had him arrested. Mukasa became the first Catholic martyr on 15th November 1885, when he was beheaded at Nakivubo.

Between December of 1885 and May of 1886 many more converts were murdered. The crisis came in May, when Mwanga ordered all the converts to choose between Christianity and complete obedience to his orders. (Mwanga had been furious and humiliated when the Christian pages in his own court refused his homosexual advances; it was unheard of to deny the king anything.) 

Courageously, the young Christians chose their faith. And so it was that 26 pages were wrapped in straw and burned to death at Namugongo on 3rd June, 1886. In the following months, many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith. They included two Christians who were in the king’s court, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe and Charles Lwanga. Both had rescued royal pages from Mwanga’s sexual advances.  

The last Christian to die in this persecution was Jean-Marie Muzeeyi, beheaded at Mengo on 27th January 1887. The final list of 45 known Protestant and Catholic martyrs includes only those who could be formally accounted for. 

The end result of the Namugongo martyrdoms was directly opposite to Mwanga's intentions. The sight of these young Ugandan Christians, who could die singing hymns and praying for their enemies, inspired many bystanders. They wanted to know about such a faith as this. Within a few years Christianity had taken firm root in Uganda.


4th June             St Petroc, the founder of Padstow

If you would like to be in Cornwall this summer in search of peace and quiet, Petroc is the saint for you. Especially if you ever find Padstow a bit too crowded for your liking! He would have sympathised.

This 6th century abbot is Cornwall’s most famous saint. Petroc set sail from South Wales, landed at Haylemouth, and founded a monastery at Lanwethinoc – now called Padstow, after him (Petroc’s Stow).

Padstow must have been popular even in those days, because about 30 years later Petroc, in search of some peace and quiet, moved on to build another monastery at Little Petherick (Nanceventon). Here he must have decided to try some 6th century equivalent of ‘Fresh Expressions’, because he engaged with his local community by building a mill and a chapel. 

In time, Petroc began feeling crowded again. So, he tramped off to the remote wilds of Bodmin Moor, where he lived as a hermit – until some 12 monks turned up to join him.  Firmly, Petroc kept them all housed in a monastery on a hilltop, while he enjoyed his private space in a cell by the river.  

But even here Petroc was not alone. One day a terrified stag came rushing through the woods, pursued by the hunt. Petroc flung open the door of his cell, and the panting animal took refuge. When the huntsmen arrived on the scene, they did not dare to argue with the famous holy man, and instead went their way. The stag’s gratitude made him tame, and Petroc would come to be portrayed with a stag as his special emblem. 

Petroc was buried in the monastery in Padstow but in c.1000 his shrine and relics, including his staff and bell, were translated to Bodmin. Here they have stayed ever since, except for a short, unplanned trip to Brittany in 1177, when they were stolen and carted off by a naughty Canon of the Church. Henry II intervened, and everything but a rib of Petroc was eventually returned.


5th June             Boniface of Crediton – Apostle to Germany, Martyr
Boniface is the saint for all preachers and teachers who wonder if they can make a lasting difference to anyone’s life. For this monk-teacher from Crediton went on to become the apostle to Germany, and is considered to have been the most influential Englishman in the history of Europe. 

Boniface began life as Wynfrith, when he was born in at Crediton, in what was then Wessex, in 675. He became a monk in Exeter, moved to Nursling, near Southampton, and worked in the community as a teacher. He became an expert in biblical exposition and compiled the first Latin grammar ever written in England.

Writing the first Latin grammar was a peaceful occupation. But then in 718, when he was 43, Wynfrith felt called by God to go as a missionary to the pagan tribes of Frisia, an area on the present-day border between the Netherlands and Germany. He was not welcomed! In fact, the hostility against him was so great that soon he fled for his life. The following year he was offered a good post as an Abbott back near Southampton, but he refused, and instead went on to Rome to ask for help for his mission. 

By 722 Pope Gregory II had given his support, and consecrated Wynfrith as Boniface, a missionary bishop to the pagans of Bavaria and Hesse. With the support Boniface now had from Rome, he returned to Frisia, and began to see some success.

Boniface devoted the rest of his life to evangelising Frisia and building up the young church there. He was fearless, famously felling a sacred oak tree dedicated to the worship of Thor.  When nothing bad happened to him, the people decided that perhaps Thor was not so strong after all, and many converted to Christianity. 

Boniface was also a gifted administrator. He founded monasteries and in 741 made a joint commitment with the Frankish King Pepin to reform corrupt clergy. Boniface went on to improve leadership for the church throughout Europe, which won him the respect of both Pope and Kings.  

In about 747 the Pope made Boniface Archbishop of Mainz, but he soon resigned, and returned to his beloved Frisia. Boniface carried on preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ until he was martyred in Dokkum in 754, by a group of pagan bandits.

Later, Hildegard of Bingen wrote of him:   

O Boniface, you are the friend of the living God
And the true crystal shining
In the benevolence of the straight way
Where you ran wisely.


6th June             St Gudwal, the first Christian in Brittany?

If you would love to be in Brittany for your holiday this summer, then spare a thought for Gudwal, because this obscure 6th century Celtic abbot got there before you did. Indeed, Gudwal seems to have liked Brittany so much that he decided to stay on.

When you visit Brittany today, you will find Catholic churches everywhere. Not so in the sixth century – when only the extraordinary range of megalithic monuments dominated the landscape. There were (and still are) passage dolmens, stepped pyramids and stone circles. The best-known site is Carnac, where remains of a dozen rows of huge standing stones run for over ten kilometres. Some of the megalithic ruins in the gulf of Morbihan date back to at least 3300 BC – that is even older than Stonehenge.

Religion was certainly plentiful in Brittany back then. But Gudwal was one of the earliest pioneers of Christianity in the region. He did a bit of 6th century ‘church planting’, too - when he decided to build a hermitage in the middle of all that paganism – probably at Locoal. In time, 188 monks came to join him, and they built a little monastery – probably at Guer. 

But it was the man himself – his holiness and kindness – that drew people’s attention more than the buildings. A man of deep spirituality and prayer, Gudwal willingly spent himself on helping the local people – it was said that he healed many by his prayers for them.  


8th June             William of York, a victim of injustice

Have you ever been the victim of someone else’s malice and ambition? Then William of York (d 1154) is the saint for you. William Fitzherbert was born into a noble family, with royal connections. He was also smart – appointed treasurer of York at a young age, and also as a chaplain to King Stephen. But none of it went to his head - he was loved for his kind, amiable and easy-going personality. 

Then in 1140 Thurston, the archbishop of York, died. The canons of York knew whom they wanted, and with royal support William was made Thurston’s successor. Yet all was not well:  a disappointed minority hated him and had the support of powerful men.  William was accused of simony, and of being unchaste. The row brought in the Pope and several bishops, and William was cleared. Yet still – all was not well. That Pope died, and the new Pope was a Cistercian, who preferred the enemies of William. And so, he was deposed.

Yet William seems to have taken all this malice and power-grabbing in his stride. He simply retired to Winchester to live as a devout monk until 1153. Then that year several of his key enemies died, and he was restored as archbishop to York. At last all looked good for him – and he made a triumphant return to York in 1154.

But then – disaster struck again: a few days later William was dead - poison was strongly suspected. He was buried in his cathedral and miracles were reported at his tomb. He was regarded as both the victim of grave injustice and as a saint. In 1421 the famous St William window was made, depicting his life and miracles and death in 62 scenes. 


9th June             Columba of Iona, missionary to the UK

In 563 AD St Columba sailed from Ireland to Iona – a tiny island off Mull, in the Western Highlands. He brought Christianity with him.

Columba (c. 521 -97) was born in Donegal of the royal Ui Neill clan, and he trained as a monk. He founded the monasteries of Derry (546), Durrow (c.556) and probably Kells. But in 565 Columba left Ireland with twelve companions for Iona, an island off southwest Scotland. Iona had been given to him for a monastery by the ruler of the Irish Dalriada. 

Why would a monk in his mid-40s go into such voluntary exile? Various explanations include going into voluntary exile for Christ, an attempt to help overseas compatriots in their struggle for survival, or even as some sort of punishment for his part in a row over a psalter in Ireland. Whatever the reason, Columba went to Iona and spent the rest of his life in Scotland, returning to Ireland only for occasional visits.

Columba’s biographer, Adomnan, portrays him as a tall, striking figure of powerful build and impressive presence, who combined the skills of scholar, poet and ruler with a fearless commitment to God’s cause. Able, ardent, and sometimes harsh, Columba seems to have mellowed with age. 

As well as building his monastery on Iona, Columba also converted Brude, king of the Picts. Columba had great skill as a scribe, and an example of this can be seen in the Cathach of Columba, a late 6th century psalter in the Irish Academy, which is the oldest surviving example of Irish majuscule writing. In his later years Columba spent much time transcribing books. 

Columba’s death was apparently foreseen by his community, and even, it seems, sensed by his favourite horse. He died in the church just before Matins, and it is a tribute to this man that his traditions were upheld by his followers for about a century, not least in the Synod of Whitby and in Irish monasteries on the continent of Europe.

Here is a prayer of St Columba:

Christ With Us
My dearest Lord,
Be Thou a bright flame before me,
Be Thou a guiding star above me,
Be Thou a smooth path beneath me,
Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me,
Today and evermore.


9th June             Ephrem the Syriac, prolific hymn writer

Here is a saint for you, if you have ever been touched by the words of a song.

Ephrem the Syriac was born 306AD in Nisibis, Turkey. Baptised in 324, he joined the cathedral school in Nisibis, where it was soon obvious that he had an outstanding gift for writing both music and lyrics.

Ephrem would have agreed with St Paul about the value of using music to express our faith in God. In an age of widespread illiteracy, he saw that hymns could be powerful carriers of orthodox Christianity, even when sung by uneducated people.

And so Ephrem wrote – and wrote. His poetry was so powerful, and his melodies so evocative, that soon his hymns were spreading far and wide across the Roman Empire. And wherever they went, his hymns took the Christian gospel along with them.

Some of Ephrem’s hymns were written to refute heretical ideas, while others praised the beauty of the life of Christ. To Ephrem, everything around us could become a reminder of the presence of God, and thus an aid to worship. 

Ephrem became the most prolific and gifted hymn-writer in all of eastern Christianity.  His hundreds of hymns influenced the later development of hymn-writing in both Syriac and Greek Christianity.

Ephrem was also a well-respected Christian theologian and writer, always keen to defend orthodoxy from the widespread heresies of the time. Ephrem stressed that Christ's perfect unity of humanity and divinity represented peace, perfection and salvation.

After Nisibis fell to the Turks in 363, Ephrem fled to Edessa, where he continued to work. But plague struck the city in 373, and while nursing others with the plague Ephrem finally died of it himself on 9th June. But his music lives on - more than 500 of his hymns still survive today.


11th June           Barnabas, Paul’s first missionary companion

Would you have liked to go to Cyprus on holiday this year? If so, spare a thought for the Cypriot who played such a key role in the New Testament.

He was Joseph, a Jewish Cypriot and a Levite, who is first mentioned in Acts 4:36, when the Early Church was sharing a communal lifestyle. Joseph sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. His support so touched them that they gave him the nickname of Barnabas, ‘Son of Encouragement’.

Barnabas has two great claims to fame. Firstly, it was Barnabas who made the journey to go and fetch the converted Paul out of Tarsus, and persuade him to go with him to Antioch, where there were many new believers with no one to help them. For a year the two men ministered there, establishing a church. It was here that the believers were first called Christians. 

It was also in Antioch (Acts 13) that the Holy Spirit led the church to ‘set aside’ Barnabas and Paul, and to send them out on the church’s first ever ‘missionary journey’.  The Bible tells us that they went to Cyprus, and then travelled throughout the island. It was at Lystra that the locals mistook Barnabas for Zeus and Paul for Hermes, much to their dismay.

Much later, back in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul decided to part company. While Paul travelled on to Syria, Barnabas did what he could do best: return to Cyprus and continue to evangelise it. So, if you go to Cyprus and see churches, remember that Christianity on that beautiful island goes right back to Acts 13, when Barnabas and Paul first arrived.

In England there are 13 ancient church dedications and not a few modern ones. Barnabas the generous, the encourager, the apostle who loved his own people – no wonder he should be remembered with love.


13th June           Antony of Padua, friend of St Francis of Assisi

Antony of Padua knew St Francis of Assisi. Both men were true followers of Christ in a time of great religious confusion and social turmoil.   

Like Francis, Antony (1193 – 1231) was born into a wealthy family. Antony’s father was a nobleman of Lisbon, Portugal, who sent his son at 16 to study the Bible at Coimbra. It was important study: the early 13th century was a time of many heresies, and also when the Christians of Portugal and Spain felt threatened by the Moors. When in 1220 Antony heard of the martyrdom of several Franciscan friars in Morocco, he sailed to Ceuta, a Spanish city beside Morocco, to take their place. But ill-health soon forced him to return home.

A failed plan is not always a disaster in our lives. It was soon apparent that God had other work for Antony to do. His superiors sent him to take part in the General Chapter of Assisi in 1221, where he met St Francis of Assisi. Francis was so impressed with Antony that he sent him to teach theology to the friars at Bologna and Padua, and later at Montpelier, Toulouse and Arles. Antony earned the name ‘the hammer of heretics’. 

Antony was elected as Provincial of northern Italy in 1227, and spent hard weeks on the roads each year, visiting the friaries under his charge. Antony also wrote ‘Sermons for Sunday’, which became greatly loved. When he was sent to Rome to discuss the Rule and the Testament of Francis, his preaching at the papal court was hailed as a ‘jewel case of the Bible’. But Antony’s real heart was as a Christian pastor: he spent the final months of his life at Padua, preaching, hearing confessions and helping poor debtors to pay their debts.

His preaching was so popular that Antony filled the marketplaces with listeners. The cult of Antony has always been strong. He seems to have been an outstanding representative of the Franciscan pre-scholastic period, very close in spirit and outlook to Francis himself. The most usual representations of Antony show him with a book and a lily, and the infant Jesus. Antony’s care for the poor is remembered by the 19th century’s charity:  Saint Antony’s Bread, which devoted itself to feeding the poor. 


14th June           Richard Baxter, English Puritan church leader

If Richard Baxter were alive today, he would probably be contributing to the Thought for the Day on Radio 4, because he had a gift for the soundbite. Try these memorable quotes:

Preaching a man a sermon with a broken head, and telling him to be right with God is equal to telling a man with a broken leg to get up and run a race.

If God be not enough for you, you will never have enough. Turn to Him more, and know Him better, if you would have a satisfied mind.

When I compare my slow and unprofitable life with the frequent and wonderful mercies received, it shames me, it silences me, and leaves me inexcusable.

I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men. 

As it was, Richard Baxter lived from 1615 to 1691, and so instead of broadcasting, became a well-known English Puritan church leader, poet, hymnodist, theologian and controversialist. 

His 19-year ministry at St Mary and All Saints Kidderminster was very influential – he was an impossible preacher to ignore!

As a matter of fact, the BBC would have loved him because he was so outspoken that after the Restoration, his non-separatist Presbyterian approach made him one of the most influential leaders of the Nonconformists, and he spent some time in prison for various religious ‘offences’. He irritated both the Catholics and the Calvinists over various theological views and practices. Yet he was well respected - Dean Stanley called him ‘the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen.’

After the Restoration in 1660, Baxter, who had helped to bring it about, settled in London, and the power of his preaching and his skill as leader was well respected. He had been made a king’s chaplain, and was offered the bishopric of Hereford, but as a moderate dissenter to the C of E, he refused. He was then barred from preaching, but turned to writing, and in all produced some 168 works. He died peacefully in London in 1691.


15th June           Who was Evelyn Underhill?

Evelyn Underhill was an English Anglo-Catholic writer, poet and novelist. She is known for her numerous writings on religion and spiritual practice. Underhill was born in Wolverhampton in 1875, and during her lifetime published 39 books and more than 350 articles and reviews.

She married Hubert Stuart in 1907. Together they travelled regularly to Switzerland, France and Italy, where she pursued her interests in art and Catholicism and visited numerous churches and monasteries. She pursued a daily routine that included writing, research, worship, prayer and meditation.

During the First World War Underhill worked at the Admiralty in the naval intelligence (Africa) department. In 1921 she became an Anglican and later changed her views about conflicts and in 1939 she became a Christian pacifist.

From 1924 she became widely respected as the creator of Anglican retreat houses in the UK. Her first was at Pleshey, a small village in Essex. These were havens of peace and prayer where many drew closer to God; sought His will for their lives and found renewed strength on their return home. Underhill also believed that retreat attendees should be warm, comfortable and well-fed as their physical well-being was just as important as their spiritual needs.

In her 50s, her writings became more focused on the Holy Spirit, and she became a prominent figure as a lay spiritual director, guest speaker, radio lecturer and a proponent of contemplative prayer.

Underhill died in Hampstead, North London, on 15th June 1941, aged 65 years.


15th June           Evelyn Underhill, mystical writer of the 20th century

For anyone interested in Christian mysticism, Evelyn Underhill may be a good place to begin. She died on 15th June 1941 after a life full of remarkable achievements: author of more than 30 books that explored the intersection between the spiritual and the physical, the first woman ever to lecture to the CofE clergy, the first woman to conduct spiritual retreats for the Church, the first woman to establish ecumenical links between churches, and one of the first women theologians to lecture in English universities. Evelyn was also an award-winning bookbinder. 

Born in 1875, the daughter of a barrister from Wolverhampton, and then wife to a childhood friend, also a barrister, Evelyn moved in cultured, educated circles, and travelled widely each summer along the Mediterranean – both her father and husband were keen yachting enthusiasts.

Evelyn’s inner, spiritual journey was more complex: from agnosticism to theism, on to Neoplatonism and then Roman Catholicism she went, until in 1921 she became an Anglican - with a later fascination for the Greek Orthodox church. Her daily life was one of reading, writing, and doing various forms of religious work, from visiting the poor to counselling people in trouble.

Her spiritual search began in childhood, after a number of "abrupt experiences of the peaceful, undifferentiated plane of reality—like the 'still desert' of the mystic—in which there was no multiplicity nor need of explanation". Trying to understand these mystical experiences sparked her passion and lifelong quest. 

Evelyn became one of the most widely read writers on mysticism in the first half of the 20th century. Her greatest book, Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness, was published in 1911, and is romantic, engaged, and theoretical rather than historical or scientific. While writing it she came into contact with Baron Friedrich von Hugel, who became her spiritual mentor for many years. He gradually steered her away from mysticism and towards a more Christocentric view of reality.  

During World War I Evelyn worked in naval intelligence, but in later years became a Christian pacifist.


16th June           Richard of Chichester, wanting God more clearly, dearly and nearly

Ever wonder where the prayer … ‘May I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day’ comes from?  Richard of Chichester, a bishop in the 13th century, wrote it.

He began life as Richard de Wych of Droitwich, the son of a yeoman farmer. But Richard was a studious boy, and after helping his father on the farm for several years, refused an advantageous offer of marriage, and instead made his way to Oxford, and later to Paris and Bologna to study canon law.

In 1235 he returned to Oxford, and was soon appointed Chancellor, where he supported Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his struggles against King Henry III’s misuse of Church funds. After further study to become a priest, Richard was in due course made a bishop himself. He was greatly loved. He was charitable and accessible, both stern and merciful to sinners, extraordinarily generous to those stricken by famine, and a brilliant legislator of his diocese. He decreed that the sacraments were to be administered without payment, Mass celebrated in dignified conditions, the clergy to be chaste, to practise residence, and to wear clerical dress. The laity was obliged to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, and to know by heart the Hail Mary as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. 

Richard was also prominent in preaching the Crusade, which he saw as a call to reopen the Holy Land to pilgrims, not as a political expedition. He died at Dover on 3rd April 1253. In art, Richard of Chichester is represented with a chalice at his feet, in memory of his having once dropped the chalice at Mass! One ancient English church is dedicated to him. 

And, of course, he is author of that famous prayer, now set to popular music, which runs in full: “Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.”


16th June           Father’ Day, a time to celebrate male role models

In the UK, USA and Canada, the third Sunday in June is Father's Day. It’s usually a good time for sons and daughters to take their father to his favourite restaurant, or to watch a favoured sport, or whatever else he enjoys doing.  

How will you celebrate it this year? If your own father cannot be with you, how about a Zoom meeting?

How do these special days ever get started, anyway?   Well, Father’s Day began because way back in 1909 there was a woman in Spokane, Washington, named Sonora Louise Smart Dodd. That year she heard a church sermon about the merits of setting aside a day to honour one's mother. Mother's Day was just beginning to gather widespread attention in the United States at this time. But Sonora Louise Smart Dodd knew that it was her father who had selflessly raised herself and her five siblings by himself after their mother had died in childbirth. So the sermon on mothers gave Sonora Louise the idea to petition for a day to honour fathers, and in particular, her own father, William Jackson Smart.

Sonora Louise soon set about planning the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane in 1910. With support from the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA, her efforts paid off, and a ‘Father’s Day’ was appointed. Sonora Louise had wanted Father’s Day to be on the first Sunday in June (since that was her father's birthday), but the city council didn't have time to approve it until later in the month. And so on 19th June, 1910, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane.

Gradually, other people in other cities caught on and started celebrating their fathers, too. The rose was selected as the official Father's Day flower. Some people began to wear a white rose to honour a father who was dead, and a red one to honour a father who was living. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day - a permanent, national holiday.


20th June           Summer Solstice, longest day of the year

June, of course is the month of the summer solstice, the month of the Sun.  Sol + stice come from two Latin words meaning ‘sun’ and ‘to stand still’.  As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. The Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year.  The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, and the Southern Hemisphere celebrates in December.

While the Druids worship at Stonehenge and elsewhere, here are some Christian alternatives that honour the Creator rather than the created.

A Canticle for Brother Sun

Praised be You, My Lord, in all Your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who makes the day and enlightens us through You.
He is lovely and radiant and grand;
And he heralds You, his Most High Lord.
               St Francis of Assisi

God in All

He inspires all,
               He gives life to all,
He dominates all,
               He supports all.
He lights the light of the sun.
               He furnishes the light of the night.
He has made springs in dry land.
               He is the God of heaven and earth,
               of sea and rivers,
               of sun, moon and stars,
               of the lofty mountain and the lowly valley,
the God above heaven,
               and in heaven,
               and under heaven.
A prayer of St Patrick



22nd June          St Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr

Alban was the very first Christian martyr in Britain - or at least the first we know of. A ‘martyr’ is someone who has died for the faith - the word literally means ‘witness’. He was probably killed during the persecution under the emperor Diocletian in the early years of the fourth century, in the late stages of the Roman occupation of Britain. His martyrdom took place in the amphitheatre outside the Roman city of Verulamium, which is now St Albans, in Hertfordshire.

The church historian Bede, writing 600 years after Alban‘s death, records that Alban was a Roman citizen (possibly a soldier) who gave shelter to a priest who was being hunted by the Romans. During the priest’s stay in his home, Alban was converted to the Christian faith. When the soldiers eventually tracked the priest down, they arrived at Alban’s house and insisted on searching it. What they found was Alban dressed in the priest’s clothes, while their real prey escaped. They arrested Alban and demanded that he make a sacrifice to the Emperor - a common test of loyalty. He refused. He was then condemned to death and taken into the amphitheatre, which still stands in the fields below St Alban’s Abbey, to be put to death. One of his executioners was converted, Bede claims, but the other one took a sword and beheaded him.

He was buried nearby, on a site where a shrine was later erected. In the early fifth century two Continental bishops, Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes, were sent to Britain and record that they visited the shrine of Alban at Verulamium. The date of their visit was given as 429.

The martyrdom of Alban is a reminder that Christianity was planted first in these islands during the Roman occupation, though it was all but extinguished in England in the dark centuries that followed, until people like David, Cuthbert and the other Celtic missionaries restored the faith in many parts of the land - especially in the north. The fact that his shrine existed and was venerated right through to the time of Bede also demonstrates that the faith did not die out completely, even in the south of England.

Not a great deal is known about Alban apart from the story of his martyrdom, but what we do know is probably enough to give him a substantial claim to be the patron saint of England ahead of the foreigner St George.


22nd June          St Alban, British martyr under the Romans

On 22nd June the Church remembers St Alban, who was put to death on that day in 250AD, on the site of the town in Hertfordshire that now bears his name and has a splendid cathedral which houses his shrine.

Christianity was struggling to survive in third century Britain under Roman rule. In the middle of the century there were two periods of specific and ruthless persecution. During one of these Alban, who was not a Christian himself, gave shelter to a Christian priest who was being hunted down by the authorities.

During his stay with Alban the priest greatly impressed him with the depth and integrity of his faith, and he sought instruction and then baptism. Eventually, however, the soldiers tracked the priest down and he would have been taken away and killed.

Alban, however, put on the priest’s robes, so that when the soldiers arrived they assumed that he was their prey. The priest was able to continue his ministry, but Alban was taken away, interrogated and eventually charged with promoting a banned religion. All through, he refused to say anything that could implicate anyone else, but (according to an account by the Venerable Bede) boldly confessed his faith in Christ. He was tried, sentenced to death, and executed.

He is widely recognised as the first British martyr, though two Christians were martyred in Wales during the same persecutions. Alban’s body was buried near the site of the present town and later became a major place of pilgrimage.


22nd June        St Alban, helping a stranger in need

Alban should be the patron saint of anyone who impulsively offers to help a stranger in need… and finds their own life turned upside down as a result.

The story goes that Alban was a Roman citizen quietly living in England in the third century.  Then, miles away in Rome, the emperor, Diocletian ordered a persecution of the Christians. Nothing to do with Alban… except that suddenly he found a desperate priest on his doorstep, being hunted down by local soldiers. Alban decided to give the priest shelter, and within days was converted to Christianity himself, and then baptised.  

As if this was not brave enough, when the soldiers arrived, Alban decided to take the priest’s place. He dressed up in the priest’s clothes to enable the priest to escape. Not surprisingly, the soldiers then arrested Alban himself. Now a Christian, Alban refused to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods, and so was condemned to death.  

But the story doesn’t end there, for Alban went to his execution with such holiness and serenity that one of the executioners was converted, and the other executioner’s eyes fell out (or so the story goes). Alban was buried nearby, and the shrine built to his memory was soon known for its healing powers. Alban’s cult extended all over England, and nine ancient English churches were dedicated to him.


24th June           John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Messiah

John the Baptist is famous for baptising Jesus, and for losing his head to a woman. He was born to Zechariah, a Temple priest, and Elizabeth, who was a cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. John was born when his mother was advanced in years, and after the foretelling of his birth and the choice of his name by an angel, we hear nothing more of him until he began his mission of preaching and baptising in the river Jordan c27.

John was a lot like an Old Testament prophet: he lived simply on locusts and honey in the wilderness, and his message was one of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom. He went on to baptise Jesus, at Jesus’ firm request.  When John went on to denounce the incestuous union of Herod Antipas with his niece and brother’s wife, Herodias, he was imprisoned and eventually beheaded at the demand of Salome, Herodias’ daughter.

John is the only saint to be remembered three times in the Christian calendar, in commemoration of his conception, his birth (June 24), and his martyrdom. When John saw Jesus he said that Jesus was the “Lamb of God”, and he is the only person to use this expression of Jesus. In art John is often depicted carrying a lamb, or with a lamb near him.


*NEW 25th June           Maximus of Turin, first Bishop of Turin

When many of us think of a ‘Maximus’, we remember the popular film Gladiator and Russell Crowe starring as a Roman general who ends up as a slave successfully defying the Emperor. 

But Maximus of Turin, the first Bishop of Turin, also led a tumultuous life in fighting evil.
He had seen violence and suffering when in 397 he witnessed the martyrdom of Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander, three missionary bishops in Italy.

The following year, 398, great trouble came to Northern Italy when it was swept by barbarian incursions.  Turin soon filled up with soldiers and refugees seeking safety.  Maximus challenged the wealthy landowners of the city to use their fine estates and houses to help relieve the suffering of those in need. He also told them not to seek profit from the unrest, but instead to use their wealth to redeem prisoners of war. 

All in all, Maximus of Turin risked his own life to act as guardian of the city.  One historian has recorded that he "governed his flock wisely and successfully” during those terrible days of invasion, widespread panic and death.

Remarkably, more than 100 of Maximus’ sermons still survive. They reveal him to have been a passionate evangelist, standing up to rural paganism, and stressing the importance of Christians knowing their faith. His writings and sermons did much to help the spread and consolidation of Christianity in Northern Italy.

Maximus of Turin even has a link with us: he is thought to have consecrated St Patrick as Bishop, on Patrick’s return journey from Rome to Ireland.


29th June           Feast of SS Peter & Paul, the two most famous apostles

St Peter, ‘the Rock’

The two most famous apostles are remembered this month, for they share a feast day.
St Peter (d. c. 64AD), originally called Simon, was a married fisherman from Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee. He met Jesus through his brother, Andrew. Jesus gave him the name of Cephas (Peter) which means rock. Peter is always named first in the list of apostles. He was one of the three apostles who were privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the Agony in the Garden. 

When Peter made his famous confession of faith, that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus recognised it as being the result of a revelation from the Father. He in turn told Peter that he would be the rock on which His Church would be built, that the ‘gates of hell’ would never prevail against it. Peter and the apostles would have the power of ‘binding and loosing’, but Peter would be personally given ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’.  Jesus also forewarned Peter of his betrayal and subsequent strengthening of the other apostles.  After His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter before the other apostles, and later entrusted him with the mission to feed both the lambs and the sheep of Christ’s flock.

Peter played a big part in the early Church, and he is mentioned many times in the Book of Acts, where in the early chapters he organised the choice of Judas’ successor, preached with stirring authority at Pentecost; and was the very first apostle to work a miracle. Peter went on to defend the apostles’ right to teach at the Sanhedrin, and to condemn Ananias and Sapphira. It was Peter who first realised that Christianity was also for the Gentiles, after his meeting with Cornelius. Later he took a prominent part in the council at Jerusalem and went on to clash with St Paul at Antioch for hesitating about eating with Gentiles.

Early tradition links Peter with an apostolate and martyrdom at Rome. The New Testament does not tell us either way, but Peter being in Rome would make sense, especially as Peter’s first epistle refers to ‘Babylon’, which was usually identified with Rome. Peter’s presence in Rome is mentioned by early church fathers such as Clement of Rome and Irenaeus. Tradition also tells us that Peter suffered under Nero and was crucified head-downwards. There is no conclusive proof either way that St Peter’s relics are at the Vatican, but it is significant that Rome is the only city that ever claimed to be Peter’s place of death.

St Peter was a major influence on Mark when writing his gospel, and the First Epistle of Peter was very probably his. (Many scholars believe that the Second Epistle was written at a later date.)

From very early times Peter was invoked by Christians as a universal saint. He was the heavenly doorkeeper, the patron of the Church and the papacy, a saint both powerful and accessible.

In England there were important dedications to Peter from early times: monasteries such as Canterbury, Glastonbury, Malmesbury, Peterborough, Lindisfarne, Whitby, Wearmouth, and especially Westminster. Cathedrals were named after him, too: York, Lichfield, Worcester and Selsey. In all, it has been calculated that 1,129 pre-Reformation churches were dedicated to St Peter, and another 283 to SS Peter and Paul together. 

Images of Peter are innumerable, but his portraiture remains curiously the same: a man with a square face, a bald or tonsured head, and a short square, curly beard. Not surprisingly, his chief emblem is a set of keys, sometimes along with a ship or fish.


29th June           St Paul, apostle to the Gentiles

Like Peter, Paul (d. c. 65) also started life with another name: Saul. This great apostle to the Gentiles was a Jew born in Tarsus and brought up by Gamaliel as a Pharisee.  o keen was he to defend the god of his fathers that he became a persecutor of Christianity, and even took part in the stoning of Stephen. He hunted Christians down and imprisoned them, and it was while on his way to persecute more Christians in Damascus that he was suddenly given his vision of Christ. 

It was the decisive moment of Paul’s life – Paul suddenly realised that Jesus was truly the Messiah, and the Son of God, and that He was calling Paul to bring the Christian faith to the Gentiles. Paul was then healed of his temporary blindness, baptised, and retired to Arabia for about three years of prayer and solitude, before returning to Damascus.

From then on Paul seems to have lived a life full of hazard and hardship. He made many Jewish enemies, who stoned him, and wanted to kill him.Nevertheless, Paul made three great missionary journeys, first to Cyprus, then to Asia Minor and eastern Greece, and lastly to Ephesus, where he wrote 1 Corinthians, then to Macedonia and Achaia, where he wrote Romans, before returning to Jerusalem. 

After stonings, beatings and imprisonment in Jerusalem he was sent to Rome for trial as a Roman citizen. On the way he was shipwrecked at Malta; when he finally reached Rome he was put under house-arrest for two years, during which time he wrote the four ‘captivity’ epistles. Later Paul may have revisited Ephesus and even have reached Spain.  Tradition tells he was eventually martyred at Rome during the persecution of Nero, being beheaded (as a Roman citizen) at Tre Fontane and buried where the basilica of St Paul ‘outside the walls’ now stands. 

The belief that Peter and Paul died on the same day was caused by their sharing the same feast day.

Paul was not only a tireless missionary, but a great thinker. His epistles played a major part in the later development of Christian theology. Paul’s key ideas include that Redemption is only through faith in Christ, who abrogated the old Law and began the era of the Spirit; that Christ is not just the Messiah, but the eternal, pre-existent Son of God, exalted after the Resurrection to God’s right-hand; that the Church is the (mystical) body of Christ; that the believers live in Christ and will eventually be transformed by the final resurrection. 

It is difficult to overemphasise the influence of Paul on Christian thought and history:  he had a major effect on Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and others. In art, Paul is depicted as small in stature, bald and bandy-legged, with a long face, long nose and eyebrows meeting over deep-set eyes. His usual emblems are a sword and a book.  In England he was never as popular as St Peter, and ancient English churches dedicated to him alone number only 43. 

The history of the relics of Peter and Paul is not very clear. Tradition says that Peter was buried at the Vatican and Paul on the Ostian Way under his basilica. Certainly, both apostles were venerated from very early times both in the Liturgy and in private prayers, as testified by Greek and Latin graffiti in the catacombs of the early 3rd century.