It's a Bank Holiday here in Ireland today (Public Holiday). We also celebrate the feast of St Kevin, hermit and founder of the monastic city of Glendalough. The rest of the Church celebrates the feast of St Charles Lwanga and his companions, the martyrs of Uganda - in Ireland we celebrate them tomorrow, transferred to make way for St Kevin.
There are many stories around St Kevin, as to how true they are, we do not know. Certainly he was man deeply immersed in God and sought him in solitude. He attracted many disciples, so he soon found himself trying to organise a community of Irish monks (not an easy task I tell you: we Irish may seem lovely, but we are hard to live with it!). Glendalough became a real centre of prayer and in the 12th century it became the cathedral city of its own diocese. Now in ruins, you can see some hints of its importance and beauty.
While the monastic city is gone, at least we still have the example and intercession of St Kevin, and the faith that he lived is also ours to be lived. Many Catholics in Ireland today are lamenting the loss of much of our Catholic heritage - indeed the Gospel today seems to sum up what has happened: the vineyard has been taken over and the children of the Creator have been banished from the garden the Lord planted for us. There is truth in that: the world was created for the children of God but it seems many rebelled and have tried to oust the children and even God himself. While the Beatitudes promise that the meek will inherit the earth, we the children of God do have to make adjustments for the time being as the tenants run riot. In the end all will be sorted, for now we try and flourish where we are.
One of the great threats to our faith and our religious freedom is militant homosexualism. Last week France legalised "gay marriage" and it seems other European countries will follow suit - the UK will if David Cameron has his way - which seems to be happening. Ireland will not be far behind - once abortion is in place I think our government will work on gay marriage. In Ireland we will need a Constitutional referendum to allow gay marriage - unless of course the Supreme Court judges do what they did with abortion and impose an interpretation on the Constitution that permits it.
St Charles Lwanga
Our feast today, that of St Charles and his companions, is most apt: these martyrs died because they refused to give in to the impure desires of their king. You all know the story: King Mwanga preyed on the young men and boys of his court. As his Christian subjects objected, he killed them. St Charles Lwanga, a handsome young man, not only refused the king's advances, but he sought to protect the others, in particular the little pages who had no chance when the king called for them. Charles was nourished by his Catholic faith and refused to participate in the king's homosexual acts because they were deeply sinful. In the end a furious king denied his pleasure condemned Charles and those under his protection. Most of the pages were burned to death - Charles being singled out for special treatment. Others were killed on the way to the execution site - St Matthias Kalemba being one. Others died in the months before and after the holocaust. The martyrs were both Catholic and Anglican - an ecumenical witness to Christian moral teaching.
We need the example and prayers of St Charles and his fellow martyrs. The very grace that gave them strength can help us too. Despite the passing of centuries, things have not changed: we too find ourselves in a situation where our rulers now demand that we assent to what is immoral, and if we resist we are threatened with punishment be it fines, removal of charitable status, social exclusion or being thrown to the savage dogs in the media. Though the world was created for us, it seems it has been turned against us. St Charles teaches us that we must remain firm even if it means we have to make the ultimate sacrifice - in the end Christ is our life, not this world nor its rulers, and we must remain true to Christ. Christ alone can give us eternal life.
St Kevin encourages us to foster our relationship with Christ and to make the sacrifices we need to make so we have time to commune with the Lord in silence and solitude. It will be in those fervent hours alone with God in prayer that we will be nourished and made strong for our public witness. Our new vineyard is now the heart of the Lord - in that Sacred Heart a place is made ready for us, an inheritance no one can take from us.