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Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Philippians 4:21-23

Final Greetings

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

———————————————————————————

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s gratitude to the Philippians for their gifts to him over the years.

We have now reached the conclusion of Philippians and Paul’s benediction.

John MacArthur sets the scene for us (emphases mine):

So as the dear Apostle Paul watches the candle flicker, probably at night, and realizes that the darkness of night is soon to fall and waits the morning dawn when he hands the scroll, as it were, to Epaphroditus and he says, “Epaphroditus, the letter is done, you can now return to Philippi and give it to the leaders of the church,” as he waits to send off that dictated letter which an amanuensis or secretary has taken down, just before he is finished in the flickering of that last evening, he picks the stylus up himself and with his own hand it is very likely that verses 20, 21, 22 and 23 were written.

You say, “Well what makes you think that? The word of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul in writing the final words of 2 Thessalonians said this, “I, Paul,” chapter 3 verse 17, “write this greeting with my own hand and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter, this is the way I write.” You wouldn’t write a letter without signing it to authenticate it, neither would Paul. And he says in that verse, “In all the letters I write, I always take up the pen and authenticate this.” You can understand how important that would be, right? People could be sending all kinds of letters and saying they were from Paul, it was vital that the true Word of God through that instrument be validated by his own inimitable inscription. And we know from Galatians 6:11 that he wrote with large letters. There’s reason to assume a rather large clumsy letters were his common way to sign off which would be very difficult to counterfeit. And so he picks up the stylus from his secretary, or amanuensis, and pens this final word. And as he does he introduces to us this lovely theme of sainthood.

Paul tells the Philippians to greet every saint in Christ Jesus and says that the brothers with him greet them also (verse 21).

The greeting Paul speaks of is more than saying ‘hello’. It suggests affectionate fellowship.

MacArthur says:

The simple verb translated “greet” or “salute,” although that has so many military connotations we don’t use it anymore, the simple verb means to say “hello” but not just in a vacuum, it implies a note of affection and a desire for one’s well being. And here we could assume that Paul is saying affectionately, “I want you to express to all the saints how much I desire their spiritual well being. Share my love and passion for their spiritual development.” That’s really what’s on his heart. It says I care, I care about you.

Would you notice he says “greet every saint.” He doesn’t say greet all the saints in sort of the collective way. Instead of using the collective “all” he uses the individualistic word “every.” And here he is noting for us that every saint is worthy of Paul’s concern, Paul’s care, Paul’s affection and Paul’s wishes for spiritual well being. Now this is a monumental and unique element of the Christian faith that we are to love one another the same. We are to consider others better than ourselves. There is no stratification in the body of Christ. There are to be no favorites. God is not a respecter of…what?…of persons. We are not to elevate some over the other. And what Paul shows us here that is…in his affectionate desire for the spiritual well being of the saints he included everybody. This is his heart. This is what he was after in chapter 2 when he said to them, “If there’s any encouragement in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any affection and compassion, please make my joy complete.” Why? “By having the same mind, loving everyone the same way, being united in Spirit, having one purpose, not being proud but humble, regarding one another as more important than yourself and not looking on your own things but the things of other,” namely, having the mind of Christ, the mind of humility. That’s fellowship.

That is not always how fellowship works in reality, but that is how it should work and what we should strive for.

MacArthur says that this instruction of greeting is meant for the church leaders:

Now the injunction here in verse 21 is directed at the church leaders who will get the letter. And when he says, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus,” he is telling the pastors and elders and deacons to go greet the people on his behalf individually, assuring them of his love and his desire for their spiritual well being. This is the way it is with Christ. He had a heart for the individual. I remember Mark 5:31 where out of the midst of the multitude He felt the little lady who touched His garment. He always had that sense of being touchable. So it is in the church. There’s no stratification, there’s no elevation. We’re all commonly saints. None of us is superior to or inferior to the other, we are what we are by the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, and only because of His grace.

MacArthur explains who the brothers are in that verse:

Now I want you to know that while he was a prisoner in Rome for this time writing this letter, he had some pretty formidable folks coming to see him. He calls them the brethren who are with me and they send you the same desire for spiritual well being and affection and they’re the ones with me. These are his specific coworkers, as opposed to all the rest that he mentions in verse 22. And doing a little bit of background on this you find out who they were…quite an amazing group of people.

For example, we know that during his imprisonment Timothy was with him because he refers to him in the letter clear back in chapter 1 verse 1, then in chapter 2 verse 19. Timothy was his protege, his son in the faith, a very gifted, great, godly man, thirty years the junior of Paul but nonetheless a very unique and gifted man. There was also Epaphroditus, that godly saint who had come from Philippi, he too was with Paul, and you know the character of that man, it’s mentioned at the end of chapter 2. He was such a devout Christian that he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his own life just to serve Paul. That is a sacrificial man.

So Timothy was there, and Epaphroditus was there. Chapter 1 and verse 14 also indicates to us that there were some other brethren who were courageously preaching the Word of God without fear, so there were a group of other preachers there, evangelizers. In addition to that it’s very likely that Tychicus and Aristarchus were there, well known and noble Christians. There are many who would tell us that Luke was there and Mark was there. If we compare all the data we have, and that’s a formidable duo, namely the two who wrote the two gospels, Mark and Luke. And some have suggested it’s very likely Onesimus was there, the runaway slave who ran into Paul and was converted to Christ, who went back then to serve Philemon. Others would say a man named Jesus Justus was there. And then there are some unnamed brethren who were there with him.

The point that I want you to see is very interesting, it’s this. That as high up the ladders of stratification as they might be, these gentlemen are only described as the brethren. And again we pull them down from any supposed rank and we talk again about the commonality of sainthood. Timothy may have been unusually gifted, and certainly was. Epaphroditus may have been a noble Christian soul, and certainly he was. And among the preachers at Rome, there were unquestionably some extremely gifted men. And no one would argue about the spiritual qualifications of Tychicus and Aristarchus, given that they had spent a lot of time with Paul. And who would question Mark and Luke’s character? But as formidable as they were, they need only be associated with such sort of non-descript and troublesome characters as Onesimus. And they are all pulled together in one term “brethren.” You see, the fellowship of saints is a common bond without strata ... There isn’t any stratification here. This is the common identity, the brethren who are saints, those others who love Christ. The fact that they were gifted in different ways doesn’t make them any superior at all. In fact, Paul when identifying himself said, “I am the least of all Apostles,” and in another epistle he said, “I am the chief of sinners.”

Paul goes on to say that all the saints greet the Philippians, especially those in Caesar’s household (verse 22).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

He sends salutations from those who were at Rome: “The brethren who are with me salute you; the ministers, and all the saints here, send their affectionate remembrances to you. Chiefly those who are of Cæsar’s household; the Christian converts who belonged to the emperor’s court.” Observe, (1.) There were saints in Cæsar’s household. Though Paul was imprisoned at Rome, for preaching the gospel, by the emperor’s command, yet there were some Christians in his own family. The gospel early obtained among some of the rich and great. Perhaps the apostle fared the better, and received some favour, by means of his friends at court. (2.) Chiefly those, etc. Observe, They, being bred at court, were more complaisant than the rest. See what an ornament to religion sanctified civility is.

MacArthur points out the unifying nature of the greeting:

further opening up to us the window on fellowship, in verse 22 he says, “All the saints greet you,” and he just wraps his arms around the whole Roman church, all the people in Rome that were Christians…the wider circle of Christians, they send their love and their affection and their wishes for spiritual well being and growth.

Beloved, that’s the heart of Christian fellowship. We’re all saints, none superior to the other, though differently gifted and at points in our life differently faithful. But we are all one brotherhood, we are all one fellowship, we are all one body in Christ. And the less comely members, Paul says to the Corinthians, are not less significant, but are perhaps in many cases more significant, as the less beautiful members of your body are more significant than those ones which receive all the kudos. And so we find here that the fellowship of saints is a very simple thing, it is the sharing of common love and the desire for spiritual well being. The Christian singer is not a soloist, he’s a member of a choir. The Christian soldier is not solitary figure, he’s a member of an army. The Christian scholar is not a privately tutored leaner, he’s a part of a class and a school. The Christian son is not just a lonely child, he’s a member of a family. The Christian runner is not an individual performer, he is a part of a team. That’s the fellowship.

Catholics and Anglicans do not normally refer to each other as saints. That is something we leave to other denominations.

MacArthur defines what a saint is in Paul’s context, one which many Protestant denominations use:

Saints are not some group of people exist in isolation, as cold as the stone that marks them out. They’re common possessors of the eternal life of God who share their love with each other.

So sainthood is characterized then by being separated from sin unto God for holy purposes through faith in Christ. The worship of saints is godward praise in response to truth and blessing. The fellowship of saints is a loving and non-discriminating mutual care.

Number four, the joy of saints. Paul opens a window to that for us in verse 22 and I think he must have had a gleam in his eye as he penned this with his own stylus. He says in verse 22, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” And I just think he loved to say that. Why? Well this is the joy of the saints. You say, “What is the joy of the saints?” I’ll tell you what the joy of the saints is. In Luke 15 Jesus told a story about a lady who lost a coin, looked all day, found the coin, called her friends and rejoiced.

Then He told a story about a man who had sheep, lost a sheep, found the sheep, called his friends and they rejoiced. Then He told a story about a man who lost a son, found the son, called his friends, had a feast, they rejoiced. And through that fifteenth chapter of Luke the Scripture says that when a soul is saved there is joy in heaven. The theme of Luke 15 is the joy of heaven over the salvation of a soul. And may I say to you that that’s not the only place where there’s joy when a soul is saved. What is the joy of the saints on earth? The greatest, highest joy we have, isn’t it, is to see someone come to Christ.

We had the first two of those parables in the Gospel from Luke 15 in the Year C readings on September 10, 2022, the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The final element of sainthood is realising, as Paul did, that — even though we still sin — we still live in Christ:

Listen, He’s the theme of this whole letter, did you get that? The name of Christ is mentioned 40 times in these four chapters, one every couple of verses, He’s the heart of the whole thing. He is central to it. Paul began by describing himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. He addresses the Christians as saints in Jesus Christ. When referring to his imprisonment he says my bonds are in Jesus Christ. When he speaks about life he says for to me to live is Christ. When he speaks about death he says for me to die is Christ. When he exhorts people to godly conduct, it is to be like Christ. When he calls for proper attitudes, it is to have the mind of Christ. When he speaks of choices and desires and hopes, he says they are to be built on trust in Christ. When he speaks about joy it is the joy of Christ. When he speaks about strength it is the strength of Christ. When he calls for power and knowledge and fellowship, it is the knowledge of Christ, the power of Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings that he longs for. And when he looks for eternal hope and glory, he says I am looking for Christ. And when it’s spiritual steadfastness he needs, it is in Christ. And when it is sufficiency he wants, it is in Christ. It is Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ

Our whole life is Christ, beloved. If you get nothing else, get that out of Philippians. Called by Christ, saved by Christ, to have the mind of Christ, to serve the way Christ served, to become like Christ. That’s the message. To be like the beloved Redeemer. We are saints, not yet all we should be, but moving to become like the one who called us saints.

MacArthur tells us of Paul’s mention of Caesar’s household in verse 22, which would have included a lot of employees, just as the British Royal Family has. By contrast, the Caesar at that time was the perverse Nero, who hated Christians:

Paul knows what joy this will bring when he says, “Especially those of Caesar’s household.” Why so? Because Nero was the Caesar and everybody knows what Nero thought about Christ and Christians. Nero had fancied himself a god, a competing deity, a competing lord and demanded that the people in the Roman Empire worship him. Now the household of Caesar would not just have been his own family, the household of Caesar is a word to indicate all who were in his direct employ. And if you study history you find it’s a very interesting group. You can do reading on it yourself. You will find it included courtiers, princes and higher ups in his personal court, judges. It included cooks, food preparers, tasters who tasted the food to make sure he didn’t get poisoned. Musicians, custodians, builders, people who attended to his stables, it included soldiers and those who led them, it included people who managed his financial affairs. All of those people who were in any sense a part of the direct system, they would have been by our definition today government workers, a large group of people. And I believe that because Caesar and his whole enterprise was the direct counterpart to Christ, that there was some special exhilaration in the heart of Paul when somebody in Caesar’s household became a Christian…when they turned their backs on emperor worship and embraced the true Christ.

Now to whom is he referring? Who are these who got saved? Well, two groups. First of all, those who had come to Christ in Caesar’s household since Paul had become a prisoner. Paul being the instrument of God that he was, you can be sure that the Roman soldiers who had been chained to him heard the gospel. In fact, if you have any question about it, I remind you of chapter 1 verse 13 which says that since his imprisonment, the gospel of Christ had become known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everybody else. The Praetorian Guard or the Roman soldiers were exposed to Paul…it’s one thing to be chained to Paul, to guard him, it’s something else to have Paul chained to you. Talk about not being able to get away. And the result was people were coming to Christ in the Praetorian Guard. So some of those in Caesar’s household that you can rejoice over are converted soldiers and others who heard the Word, too, who were part of serving the Caesar.

But there’s something else here as well. There’s no reason to assume that it doesn’t also include people who were Christians before Paul’s imprisonment. The gospel had already come to Rome and many had come to know Christ.

MacArthur gives us a list of names we have already seen in our studies of Paul’s letters. These come thanks to the Victorian New Testament scholar, the Revd J B Lightfoot, not to be confused with the Revd Dr John Lightfoot whom Matthew Henry cites. I have not read that they were related:

J.B. Lightfoot, that great New Testament scholar, has a marvelous treatment of this whole idea of the Christians in Caesar’s household. And studying all kinds of lists that have been discovered archaeologically that give us names of Caesar’s household, and they’ve found them in archaeological digs, he has taken all the names on all those lists that have been discovered, gone over those names to see if he can recognize any of them, and found amazingly many parallels on the list of government workers with the list of names in Romans chapter 16. You remember when Paul was writing the epistle to the Romans and the sixteenth chapter he commends many, many people who helped him. Many of those names appear on the lists of Caesar’s household. In fact, Lightfoot concludes that Romans 16 should studied that way and that it’s pretty clear that people like Ampliatus, Apelles, Stachys, Rufus, Hermes, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, at least, and maybe others, were very, very much a part of Caesar’s household. So you have some people being converted out of Caesar’s household while Paul was a prisoner. You have some who were already Christians before that. And now Paul just loves to say, gathering up both groups, all the Christians in Caesar’s house send their love. How wonderful, how thrilling that the household of Caesar, the enemy of Christ had yielded up many souls to the conquering Christ. The crucified Galilean had already begun to rule the governments of the world spiritually. Surprising joy, surprising joy.

You can read more about them and others in my posts on Romans 16:

Romans 16:7-10 – Andronicus and Junia (Junias), Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, those of the household of Aristobulus

Romans 16:11-13 – Herodion, those ‘in the Lord’ in the household of Narcissus, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus and Rufus’s mother

Romans 16:14-16Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, and the brothers who are with them; also, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas

Paul concludes by commending the grace of Jesus Christ to the Philippians’ spirit (verse 23).

We need divine grace daily, the way we need water and food. We cannot live in Christ without His grace.

MacArthur elaborates:

You want to hear something, you didn’t deserve to be saved and you don’t deserve to be kept saved. Do you understand that? You are no more worthy of your salvation now than you were then. And so you are sustained by grace just as you were saved by grace. It is grace by which our whole life exists. That’s why Paul says in Romans 5:2, “This grace in which we stand.” We live in it. Our life is governed by grace, guided by grace, kept by grace, strengthened by grace, sanctified by grace, enabled by grace. Listen, if God only gave us now that we’re Christians what we deserve, we’d still be damned to hell. It is the constant grace of forgiveness, the grace of enabling strength, the grace of comfort, the grace of peace, the grace of joy, the grace of boldness, the grace of revelation and instruction. We are dependent on all of it all the time.

He started out in chapter 1 verse 2 wishing them grace. He ends up wishing them grace and again comes full circle. He says the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. What do you mean by that? Your spirit, your person, your inner man, the real you…may you know the fullness of grace, that purifying, beautifying, sanctifying grace.

What an uplifting note on which to end this study of Philippians.

Next week, I will introduce Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It, too, is a short letter, and most of it is in the Lectionary. We will see some familiar themes and names over the next few weeks.

Next time — Colossians 2:1-5

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St George Paolo Uccello Musee Andre Jacquemart Paris

The painting above is by Paolo Uccello and can be viewed at the Musée André Jacquemart in Paris. You can read more about it and the legend it depicts here.

St George‘s Day is April 23, but you’d never know it in most parts of England.

Saturday came and went, as have other St George’s Days. This year it seemed as if only GB News and the Conservative Party remembered our patron saint.

On Friday, April 22, Patrick Christys had harsh words for self-loathing Englishmen. His is an excellent editorial. Not surprisingly, he got a lot of nasty comments:

Red Wall MP Brendan Clarke-Smith of Bassetlaw started Saturday with a happy greeting:

On Saturday afternoon, GB News’s Nana Akua said she is proud to be English. She also pointed out that Britons seem to know the date of all the UK’s patron saints’ feast days except for St George’s. How true. Hers was also an excellent editorial. Fortunately, she got a lot of compliments:

That evening, Neil ‘The Coast Guy’ Oliver, a Scot, discussed the overall malaise that the British have over their nationality:

Why this is I cannot figure out, but it’s been around for decades. I encountered it when I first moved here. It’s a pernicious disgrace that gets worse by the year.

Excerpts of Oliver’s editorial follow, emphases mine:

Personally, I’ve had more than enough of the message.

It is no accident that our past, our shared past, is being used as the stick with which to beat us. To seek to do as much is a well-worn tactic. If a people can be made ashamed of the figures from their past – those who, by their efforts and endeavours, brought us to where we are today – then the moral legitimacy of the present is undermined and then destroyed. It is in this way that those of us who take pride in Britain and Britishness are made to keep our heads down and to shut up.

Today is St George’s Day, of course. St George, patron saint of England, was from territory we know now as Turkey. He died in Palestine and is also the patron saint chosen by the people of Georgia, the Lithuanians, the Maltese, the Portuguese and the Venetians.

He was a Christian martyr but most clearly he stands for the necessity to face adversity in defence of the innocent and helpless. Symbols matter, and as a symbol, George is a good one. I like to see all of the patron saints remembered and celebrated – Andrew, Patrick and David too.

I am a Scot, but a British Scot. I have said this many times and I will keep on saying it. Because it is the whole of Britain that I love most dearly of all. It is all one place to me, united and made whole by a history that is deep beyond the reach of memory. Long before there was an England, or a Scotland, or a Wales there was a long island called Britain, or at least a name that sounded a lot like Britain.

Few places have histories longer than ours, histories as rich and complex. This has been a consequence of how much our predecessors achieved. Few nations even attempted to reach so far around the world. British history is long and convoluted on account of how much was accomplished. There is no denying the dynamism of Britain and the British. That those who went before us did so much to shape the modern world means our history is, inevitably, riven with good and with bad – with achievements and with mistakes. So much has been done in our name. And there has, let us not forget, long been a substantial and necessary body of opinion heartily and enthusiastically criticising our own past behaviour. This has been appropriate, but it is worth pointing out that we were rightly critical of ourselves long before the present campaign to tear the old place down in its entirety.

More by luck than good judgment, and mostly by means of the magic carpet provided by making television, I have seen a great deal of Britain. I have been around the coast many times. I have been back and forth across the interior. I have seen the landscape from the sky, from the cockpit of fighter jets, vintage biplanes and microlights. I have been on its encircling waters in kayaks, battleships and just about anything in between that floats, and under its waters in scuba gear and a nuclear submarine.

I have had a thorough look around. Long before the end I realised it was all one place, that the national borders drawn across it had no meaning for me and were invisible anyway.

I love this place. But I also believe in it

Those whose agenda it is to run down Britain want nothing less than that it might cease to exist in any recognisable form, so that it might be replaced with something utterly different. It’s worth noting that those those who demand a national apology from Britain, are not in the business of accepting apologies and moving on. To apologise to those who hate what Britain has been is only to offer our throats to the wolf.

As well as the place, I love the people of Britain. In my travels around the place, I have experienced nothing but welcome – in England, Ireland, Wales and at home in Scotland. The British people I love are those whose voices have been silenced and ignored of late – those who want only to go honestly about their business, paying their dues and trying to make something good of themselves and of the patch of the world in which they live. That Britain has fostered people like those – millions of them, silent witnesses all – is, on its own, the justification for the continued celebration of Britain.

Every day I meet people like that – unsung and, most recently, told that they are products of something innately bad, that they need to feel ashamed of themselves and of their sense of themselves.

The world plainly needs Britain – or at least the idea of Britain. Every day now, more and more people arrive on our shores – invited and uninvited. Britain is still a bright light in a darkening world and attracts those who can see a better life is available for the taking here. In fact, Britain is so strong at heart that she even weathers the incompetent leadership with which she is burdened from time to time.

In order to love someone, or someplace, completely, it is necessary to accept the good and the bad. I love this place – and in loving it I accept our history is shot through with dark as well as light. The time for crawling on our knees to those unforgiving individuals and organisations that seek only to punish, without any hope of redemption, is past.

Let’s lift up our chins and look the rest of the world straight in the eye, as is our right, and our hard won inheritance from the ancestors.

Well said!

About 20 years ago, there was an informal online campaign to get a new patron saint for England. Why? What is wrong with St George? These were left-leaning individuals politically. Ironically, they said that George wasn’t ‘English enough’. They took issue with his Turkishness. Most strange.

On Sunday morning, The Political Correction had on Dr Gavin Ashenden, who used to be one of the Queen’s chaplains. He has since become a Roman Catholic and is a layman.

He told presenter (and former politician) Arlene Foster that England’s original patron saint was St Edmund, king and martyr.

He was England’s patron saint until the 14th century and died defending the English people valiantly from the Vikings.

However, around the time that the Royal Family instituted the Order of the Garter, they were looking for another saint, for whatever reason.

St George was chosen, he said, for his chivalric virtues. Ashenden explained that the dragon is a symbol for evil. The devil is depicted as a dragon in Revelation. Therefore, through his brave, virtuous life of faith, George was slaying evil in a way. George died a martyr under Diocletian.

Ashenden said the fact that George was from Anatolia was immaterial. It was his bravery, character and faith that the English loved.

Ashenden said that people took Christianity very seriously in the Middle Ages. They loved God and they respected the law, which they considered was God-given through their rulers.

He added that one of the popes of that era reduced violence and war by decreeing that battle could take place only on days when no prominent saint’s day was celebrated. At the time, holy days comprised about 30 per cent of the year. What a great idea that was. We should devise something similar today.

You can see Dr Ashenden’s interview on his website. The first segment is about St George and is around four minutes long.

Incidentally, April 23 is also Shakespeare’s birthday.

Happy St Valentine’s Day to all my readers!

The traditions behind this day go back millenia. During pagan times, it was called Lupercalia and took place on February 15. It is thought that Pope Gelasius I turned the event into a Christian feast day in the fifth century, assigning it to St Valentine. However, Gelasius is better known for giving the Church the feast of Candlemas, February 2, encouraging a devotion to Mary. Incidentally, the Latin word Febrare, from which we derive February, means ‘to purify’. Read more about the history of February 14 here.

There is also the question of which St Valentine is remembered. All three lived during Roman times and were connected with love and marriage. As such, in 1969, the Catholic Church dropped the feast day, but parts of the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church remember the saint on February 14. Read more about the three Valentines and romantic traditions that developed through the centuries here.

For many, February 14 is either a day of joy or one of dread.

For those who do not have someone special with whom to celebrate, this year, The Times has an article about the application of the Drake Formula, used in seeking alien life (!), to romance.

It says, in part (emphases mine):

The quest to find intelligent life out there can feel hopeless. You can search for years without any progress.

Yes, searching for a viable romantic date has a lot in common with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence …

As with rocky exoplanets, so with girlfriends. Love interests have to live close, be of the right gender, attractive to you and — crucially — attracted to you in turn. Drake calculated that perhaps 1 in 200,000 star systems contained contactable alien civilisations.

The adapted formula is based on an idea by Peter Backus, now at Manchester University. In a paper titled, Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK, Backus tweaked the original variables.

The rate of star formation became the birth rate, while the other variables sought to narrow down that number to women in his city and age range.

Backus concluded his odds of finding love were infinitesimal.

However, Steven Wooding, a member of the Institute of Physics who works for Omni Calculator, said:

… that there is hope. “The problem with the Drake equation and aliens is there is a lot of uncertainty in those numbers. Whereas we definitely know people fall in love.”

Incidentally, Backus himself is happily married. He told The Times:

My love life is actually great. I am married to the loveliest, smartest, most gorgeous person I know.

Good for him!

But what if someone has a sweetheart who doesn’t fit their ‘type’? Is that person Ms or Mr Right?

The Telegraph says that some seemingly improbable couples can — and do — truly love each other:

The flight of Cupid’s arrow is notoriously unpredictable. Sometimes people fall in love with the boy (or girl) next door. Sometimes mutual friends set us up, with varying degrees of subtlety and success. But sometimes people fall for another human being who seems to be not only not their “type”, but from a different planet altogether. The eyes meet, the arrow hits home. It will never last, friends say. But sometimes it does

Clearly, fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle or upbringing don’t need to stand in the way of happiness, even if dating algorithms would never match you. One in every 10 UK couples identifies as intercultural and, according to the 2001-11 Census, one to two per cent of all UK marriages are interfaith.

“We’re drawn towards certain individuals, almost as if we’ve known them our whole lives,” says psychotherapist Malcolm Stern, author of Slay Your Dragons with Compassion. “It’s that easy dialogue that happens between you the second you meet that creates an instant connection. Somehow you just click.”

Of course, where there are profound cultural and religious differences, or a large age gap, opposition from family members, or society in general can give a certain “us against the world” feeling. Research shows that the average age difference for UK couples is between three and five years. But there are long-term marriages where the divide is greater. Somehow these marriages do work …

If you make each other happy, who’s to say what’s right or wrong in love? …

As with all major choices in life, one has to be discerning as a potentially serious relationship develops:

If you have a similar outlook, there’s a good chance your love will endure. But if you have markedly different personalities, a recent study found that while opposites may attract at first, after a while they may well start attacking each other, with differences leading to frustration and animosity.

Psychologist Edward Waring found that self-disclosure is the way to build intimacy between couples who seem incompatible, in order to discover what values, beliefs, and personality traits they share and to reveal what really matters to them. According to the Association for Psychological Science, chemistry emerges from interactions and encompasses the feeling that a relationship is special and different from other ones.

The Telegraph‘s article gives us profiles of four successful couples who come from different backgrounds. I wish them well.

For those who got engaged at the most romantic time of the year, the question of what sort of wedding to have looms large.

This year, a few articles appeared in the British press advising against lavish ‘Bridezilla’ festivities. Personally, I find such displays rather vulgar.

The Telegraph has a cautionary article on the subject: ‘Marriage rests on shaky ground when the wedding itself is the big event’.

Columnist Jane Shilling warns against ostentation:

the influence of celebrity, both in selling product and framing modern mores, has led to a steady normalisation of weddings as extravagant displays of that most perishable of commodities, romance, rather than the solemnisation of a relationship intended to last a lifetime.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, can the type of wedding one has predict success or failure in marriage?

Not really.

Things can go either way.

Celebrity-type weddings can sometimes be ill-fated:

… the Marriage Foundation, a charity dedicated to promoting the advantages of marriage, sounds a cautionary note. A survey commissioned by the Foundation found that weddings costing more than £20,000 were twice as likely to end in divorce than more modest ceremonies.

On the other hand, a modest celebration does not guarantee success in marriage:

Frugality apparently offers no sounder footing for a durable partnership: the survey found that almost a third of weddings attended by fewer than 10 guests ended in divorce.

My advice for those who are single? First, don’t give up on love. Secondly, marry your best friend. Thirdly, be sensible: make sure one of you can cook from scratch. As the old American saying goes: kissin’ don’t last; cookin’ do.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, despite the circumstances in various countries this year.

May I wish those who observe it in the UK and the Commonwealth a happy Boxing Day.

In Ireland, December 26 is observed as St Stephen’s Day.

You can read a history of both Boxing Day and St Stephen’s Day below:

Boxing Day – a history

St Stephen was the Church’s first martyr. His trial and death comprise Acts 7. Some might be surprised to find in the first few verses of Acts 8 that Saul of Tarsus — later St Paul the Apostle — was instrumental in Stephen’s death.

This post has two interesting videos about Stephen’s life and the example he has set for all Christians:

St Stephen, the first martyr

The next post has expositions from Acts 7 and Acts 8:1-3 about Stephen’s final hours. The post also explains the charity that made Boxing Day a long standing tradition. It ends with an exploration of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas about the Bohemian monarch’s dispensing charity ‘on the feast of Stephen’ in severe winter weather as well as the his alarming martyrdom:

December 26 — St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day and more

I plan to post again on Christmas on Sunday. Monday is a public holiday here in the UK and Ireland because Boxing/St Stephen’s Day falls on a Saturday. The last time this happened was in 2015. Being able to extend Christmas is always a bonus.

December 13 is the feast day of St Lucy, virgin and martyr:

St Lucy led a short but courageous life. The story of her martrydom in the fourth century spread quickly throughout Europe, from her native Italy to England and Sweden.

Sweden still has the best commemorations and celebrations of this young martyr’s feast day. Before the Gregorian calendar was established, December 13 was the shortest day of the year. As the name Lucy comes from the Latin lux, or light, a young Swedish woman represents the saint and her symbolism by wearing a wreath of lit candles on her head:

This year, December 13 also happens to be Gaudete Sunday, the Advent Sunday of rejoicing at the prospect of Christ’s birth:

St Lucy’s story appears in the fifth century book, Acts of the Martyrs.

Lucy was born to nobility in 283 in Syracuse, Sicily. She died in 304.

Her father, a Roman, died when she was five years old. Her mother, Eutychia, was likely to have been Greek, given her name.

Eutychia never remarried after her husband died. She was also in poor health, suffering from a bleeding disorder.

Lucy devoted herself to the Lord and made a silent vow of chastity. Eutychia was unaware of this and, for her daughter’s future security, arranged for her to marry a pagan nobleman.

Meanwhile, Eutychia was urged to seek a cure at the shrine of St Agatha, who had been martyred five decades before. Her shrine was in Catania, 50 miles from Syracuse. Mother and daughter made the pilgrimage together.

While there, it is said that St Agatha appeared to Lucy in a dream. St Agatha told the young woman that her mother would be cured and that Lucy would be the glory of not only Syracuse but also Catania.

Once Eutychia was cured, Lucy encouraged her to give their wealth and possessions to the poor.

When Lucy’s betrothed discovered the news, he was furious. He went to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse, and denounced her.

Paschasius ordered Lucy to burn a sacrifice to the emperor’s image, but she refused.

Paschasius then ordered her to be defiled in a brothel.

When the guards came to take Lucy away, her body had miraculously become too heavy to move. The guards tried to burn her body by heaping wood on her and setting it alight. However, the wood would not ignite.

Lucy died only when a guard thrust a sword into her throat.

Lucy is often seen holding her eyes or with her eyes on a salver. This part of her story did not enter her biographical details until the 15th century. There are two versions of what happened to Lucy’s eyes. One says that she made various predictions to Paschasius about the Roman emperors that angered him such that he ordered that her eyes be gouged out. The other version says that Lucy gouged out her own eyes in order to discourage a persistent suitor who admired them.

Whether the story about the eyes is true, St Lucy is the patron saint of those suffering from eye disorders, especially the blind.

Her relics were sent throughout Europe and are resident in a few important churches. Most of these churches are in Italy, but others are in France, Germany and Sweden.

St Lucy is also the patron saint of Syracuse, of those with bleeding disorders or throat infections as well as of authors, cutlers, glaziers, laborers, martyrs, peasants, saddlers, salesmen, stained glass workers, and of Perugia, Italy.

Her feast day is commemorated not only in the Roman Catholic Church but also in the Anglican and Lutheran Churches.

Source: Wikipedia

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

Greetings and best wishes to all of those who plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special someone.

There really was a Saint Valentine who inspired this special day of love. Actually, there were three. Read more about about Valentine of Rome, Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Genoa below:

A bit of history about Valentine’s Day

This next post describes how Valentine’s Day evolved through the ages:

More history about Valentine’s Day

I hope that everyone celebrating this day dedicated to love has a wonderful time.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the Leader of the House of Commons and a prominent Roman Catholic.

I will post more about him in due course. He is a kind and gentle man as well as a principled politician. His wife and children are blessed to have him as husband and father, respectively.

On Sunday, October 13, 2019, The Express published an article of his about the canonisation of St John Newman, which took place that day.

Excerpts from ‘The canonisation of a new British saint is a historic moment, says JACOB REES-MOGG’ follow, emphases mine.

The most historic fact is that St John Newman is the first British saint since 1401 who did not die as a martyr:

The last one was John of Bridlington, in 1401.

Rees-Mogg explains that, prior to the Reformation, nearly everyone in England revered the saints, although sometimes became angry with them. He offers the Catholic perception of sainthood:

Almost every individual would have had a particular saint to whom he or she prayed. Villages, towns, guilds – even the whole country – had saints who could be called upon. St George is the most famous now but St Edward the Confessor was much venerated, as were men such as St Thomas à Becket.

These saints would intercede for the individual or group, asking God to answer their prayers. They do not act individually but as a conduit between fallen Man and the inestimable divine.

It gives people a personal connection to God of an understandable and human kind, although in the Middle Ages the faithful sometimes took this a little far and could become cross if a saint’s intercession did not work. They might even throw the saint’s relics on to the floor

Not surprisingly, the Blessed Virgin is the most venerated and, historically, England had a particular devotion to her and was seen as “Our Lady’s Dowry”.

That said, the Prince of Wales, an Anglican, was among those who attended the canonisation ceremony at the Vatican.

Rees-Mogg tells us about John Newman’s life. He was the son of a banker and had a comfortable upbringing, yet one that involved Bible study at home:

Newman was born into a conventional Anglican family in 1801 where, as he said, he was “brought up from a child to take a great delight in reading the Bible”. This was a time before Catholic Emancipation, which came in 1829. When, aged just 16, he went to Trinity College, Oxford, it was not yet open to Catholics to study there.

He loved and was happy both at Trinity and later at Oriel College, where he became a fellow at the age of 21.

His incredible intellect led him to secular success and he won honour because of his spiritual virtue.

In the 19th century the Church of England was able to bring worldly as well as religious benefit to its leading figures. However Newman, after a period of intense struggle, gave all this up.

He had to resign his fellowship and office in the Church of England, which must have been especially difficult as it removed his income in middle age – as had happened to his own father when his bank had failed.

Rees-Mogg does not go into much detail about the years between 1822 and 1825, so here is a bit from the saint’s Wikipedia entry. Whilst at university, Newman was at the forefront of the Oxford Movement, which created High Church Anglicanism. The High Church revived pre-Reformation vestments and rituals. It was highly controversial at the time. Interestingly, Newman came to the Oxford Movement with strongly Calvinist leanings and held that the Pope was the Antichrist.

Newman’s father died in 1824, the same year that the young man was ordained an Anglican deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The following year, he was ordained an Anglican priest in the same cathedral. His first assignment was as curate at St Clement’s Church in Oxford.

Then, between 1825 and 1847, through his work both as a clergyman and fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, supplemented by his own writing and study, which involved travels to southern Europe, especially Italy, he began to shift theologically. In 1839, he began thinking about leaving Oxford and setting up a religious community. In 1842, he and a few friends left the city for the nearby town of Littlemore. They acquired a set of buildings in town and lived semi-monastic lives, writing and studying. The buildings later became Newman College.

In 1843, Newman took out an ad in the Oxford Conservative Journal, publishing an anonymous statement in which he renounced everything negative he had ever pronounced against the Catholic Church.

In 1845, he was received into the Catholic Church by an Italian priest in a rite held at Littlemore.

In 1846, Newman went to Rome. There he was ordained a Catholic priest, and Pius IX awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree.

In 1847, Newman returned to England as part of the Oratorian community. He is responsible for founding the famous London Oratory as well as the Oratory in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, in the Midlands.

Newman lost many friends and family members from his immediate circle during these years.

Rees-Mogg offers this succinct summary of Newman’s conversion:

Newman’s conversion was not led by any hostility towards the Anglican Church. He argued for as long as he could that it was essentially Catholic, even maintaining that the Thirty-­Nine Articles, a famously Protestant declaration, were not incompat­ible with Catholicism.

However, in the end his studies on the Ancient Church led him to the conviction that “in speaking against the Church of Rome I may be speaking against the Holy Ghost”. This effectively forced him to con­ vert, regardless of the risk to friendship, finances and status.

Once Newman had converted he was freer to devote himself to elucidating and propagating the Faith.

As for the two Oratories:

The success today of the Brompton Oratory, which is full every weekend and benefits from many vocations, derives from Cardinal Newman, whose first Oratory was at Birmingham. This continu­ing benefit of his work shows how the lives of the saints influence others for genera­tions. Newman spent his life searching for the truth and wanted to help others to find it too.

Rees-Mogg has this to say about saints and miracles:

Newman’s canonisation requires two authenticated miracles as proof of his sanc­tity. The first was that through his interces­sion, a man was cured of a spinal disease and the second a woman was healed of unstoppable bleeding.

Miracles are not caused by a saint but because a saint asks God to use His power.

Many people, even Christians, mock belief in miracles but, as Newman said, to anyone who can accept the most stupen­dous of all miracles – the Incarnation and Resurrection – lesser, almost minor mira­cles are easy to believe in.

Not surprisingly, a lot of hostile comments about Catholic belief followed Rees-Mogg’s article.

I offer this article partly for information and partly because my late mother, a lifelong Catholic, had always hoped that John Cardinal Newman would be canonised one day. That day has now arrived.

The following video was made in 2014, but I saw it for the first time last week.

Leonora Hamill filmed this stag, named Chambord, in the Church of Saint-Eustache in Paris, which held Easter Day services for the parishioners of Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was devastated by fire during Holy Week on April 15, 2019.

Look how beautifully the stag blends into its surroundings:

It has a respectful look round the altar before leaving.

This is a sublime blending of God’s creation and His gift of aesthetics to mankind.

Some who have seen it recall the pagan deer deity Cernunnos, but, according to the YouTube comments, Ms Hamill filmed it to promote the Church of Saint-Eustache, located near Les Halles in the French capital. It is a church, by the way, and not a cathedral.

It is no coincidence that she chose a deer, as Saint Eustache — or Eustace, in English — was a Roman general named Placidus who saw a vision of a crucifix between a deer’s antlers. This was in the second century AD.

Upon seeing the vision of the deer with the crucifix between his antlers, Placidus changed his name to Eustace, which means ‘upstanding’ and ‘steadfast’.

Eustace wasted no time in converting his family and all were baptised.

Then, they underwent a series of dramatic trials of faith that were reminiscent of Job’s. According to Wikipedia (emphases mine):

A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea-voyage, the ship’s captain kidnapped Eustace’s wife Theopista; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons Agapius and Theopistus, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith.

Although God restored his social standing and reunited him with his family, he died as a martyr for the faith in 118, when he refused to offer a pagan sacrifice:

There is a tradition that when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the emperor Hadrian condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox,[5] in the year AD 118.

He was part of the General Roman Calendar of saints until 1970, when he was removed from the list, presumably because his life’s story could not be fully authenticated.

Nonetheless, after his death he was venerated in many countries across Europe. He still is today in several of them and, fortunately, remains listed in the Roman Martyrology.

St Eustace is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, as is St Blaise. The list of the Fourteen Holy Helpers was devised in Germany during the Black Death in the 14th century. People sought their intercession in times of need. St Eustace was the healer of family troubles. The Catholic Church unceremoniously dumped several of the individual feasts of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in 1969, although Catherine of Alexandria’s optional feast day of November 25 was reinstated in 2004, possibly because Joan of Arc was said to have heard the saint’s voice.

Other individual feasts days of the Fourteen Holy Helpers were dropped, such as those of Saints Christopher, Barbara and Margaret of Antioch.

Back now to Eustace, who is also the patron saint of hunters, firefighters and anyone facing adversity. His feast day is September 20.

There was another saint who had a similar vision of a deer. His name was Hubertus, or Hubert. He lived near Liège and was the eldest son of Bertrand, the Duke of Aquitaine. Hubert was born in 656. Although he was an agreeable character, he loved hunting. He loved it so much that, one Good Friday morning, while everyone went to church, he went hunting.

According to the legend, recounted by Wikipedia:

As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

Lambert was the Bishop of Maastricht at the time. Lambert was later canonised, as was Hubert.

Lambert became Hubert’s spiritual director, and the young nobleman renounced his title, gave his worldly goods to the poor, studied for ordination and made his younger brother Odo guardian of his infant son Floribert.

Sadly, Lambert was assassinated and died as a martyr. Hubert brought his mentor’s remains to Liège in great ecclesiastical pomp and circumstance.

One could say that Hubert put Liège on the world map. It was only a small village when he had Lambert’s remains brought there. Not long afterwards, it grew in prominence. Today, it is a renowned city. St Lambert is its patron and St Hubert is considered its founder and was its first bishop.

St Hubert’s feast day is May 30. He died on that day in 727 or 728.

His legacy, in addition to increasing Liège’s prominence, involves God. Hubert evangelised passionately to the pagans of the Ardennes region at the time. He also developed a set of ethics for hunting animals humanely, standards which are still used today among French huntsmen, who venerate him annually during a special ceremony.

His feast day is November 3. He is one of the Four Holy Marshals, another group of saints that also was venerated in the Rhineland. He is the patron saint of those involved in hunting as well as forest workers, trappers, mathematicans, metal workers and smelters. A few ancient chivalrous orders also bear his name.

In closing, those familiar with the German digestif Jägermeister should know that the drink’s logo refers to Eustace and Hubert’s respective visions:

I wonder if that label has ever converted anyone. It would be nice to think so.

July 24 is the feast day of St Boris, a mediaeval Slavic martyr who died for the faith with his brother (or half-brother) Gleb early in the 11th century.

Boris Johnson became Britain’s next Prime Minister on July 24. Let us hope that the association of PM and saint bodes well.

A number of resignations took place prior to his becoming PM.

One was in the Conservative Party …

… other resignations took place in government:

Guido Fawkes says there ‘will be more’ (red and italics in the original):

Officially resigned:

    • Alan Duncan
    • Anne Milton
    • Rory Stewart
    • Philip Hammond
    • David Gauke

There will be more…

And so there were.

This is good. These people were never really on board with Brexit, especially a no deal departure.

Guido was correct in his prediction. David Lidington, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, was the next to tender his resignation:

The second tweet below is interesting. One wonders what he means by ‘relishing the prospect of … speaking freely’:

More followed:

Mordaunt tweeted:

There were more resignations, including that of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond:

Savid Javid succeeds Hammond:

Boris wants to make his Cabinet all-inclusive. He has appointed a female Brexiteer as Home Secretary:

If we want to talk about diversity:

Ex-Labour member — and former actress/Labour MP Glenda Jackson‘s son — tweeted:

Also:

Continuing with the resignations:

Boris’s opponent for Conservative leader is also leaving government:

The Education Secretary has also left:

From this, we can conclude that Boris wishes to wipe a long-standing Conservative cabinet clean:

I repeat: this is likely to be good news.

Since July 23, the day he became Conservative Party leader, Boris has been busy putting his team together. It will be comprised of both Leavers and Remainers in an effort to promote national unity. I hope it works. He has a working majority of just two MPs at present.

That day, Guido Fawkes reported:

Former dairy farmer, MP since 2010, and whip since 2017 Mark Spencer has been confirmed as the first appointment Boris will make to his Cabinet when he become Prime Minister tomorrow. Spencer will take on the unenviable brief of Chief Whip …

Sky’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Griffith has been appointed as a corporate adviser, while May’s Principal Private Secretary Peter Hill is resigning and will be replaced by Boris’s own choice of civil servant …

David Frost is reportedly joining Boris’s team in the Olly Robbins role – Frost is the CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was previously Boris’ SpAd and the boss of the Scotch Whisky Association. The LCCI have arguably been the most pragmatic industry group towards Brexit under his tenure, it’s definitely a boost for Brexit…

SpAd is ‘special adviser’.

But what has really set the cat amongst the pigeons is the appointment of Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings as senior adviser. Remainers are furious:

More to come soon.

stdunstanDo you ever wonder about the origin of displaying ‘lucky’ horseshoes near a door?

I always thought it was pagan superstition.

However, the origin lies in a legend about St Dunstan — whose feast day is on May 19 — and the devil.

St Dunstan’s two encounters with the devil are said to have taken place in Mayfield, East Sussex. VillageNet has a detailed description of Mayfield’s history, including the legends about Dunstan (emphases mine):

The saint, formerly a blacksmith, was working at his forge when the Devil paid him a visit, disguised as a beautiful woman, with a view to leading him astray. However St Dunstan spotted the cloven hooves beneath the dress, and grabbed the devil’s nose with his red hot pincers! thus foiling Satan’s evil intentions. According to another legend, Satan returned again as a weary traveller in need of a horseshoe, Dunstan saw through the disguise once again and beat the Devil until he pleaded for mercy, and swore never to enter any house with a horseshoe above the door.

St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Atlanta has this variation on the legends:

He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil.

English literature contains many references to him, for example in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and in this folk rhyme:



St Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull’d the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.

Another story relates how Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

In 1871, Edward G Flight wrote a humorous poem about the legends with accompanying text, which is equally amusing. The renowned George Cruikshank provided the illustrations (see one on the right, courtesy of CatholicSaints.Info). The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of Saint Dunstan and the Devil, Showing How the Horse-Shoe Came to Be a Charm Against Witchcraft is worth a look. Here is an excerpt of the text (emphases in the original):

To all good folk in Christendom to whom this instrument shall come the Devil sendeth greeting: Know ye that for himself and heirs said Devil covenants and declares, that never at morn or evening prayers at chapel church or meeting, never where concords of sweet sound sacred or social flow around or harmony is woo’d, nor where the Horse-Shoe meets his sight on land or sea by day or night on lowly sill or lofty pinnacle on bowsprit helm mast boom or binnacle, said Devil will intrude.

Flight’s work includes a letter from ‘a friend’ describing the virtues of the noble horse and how the horseshoe repels the devil (emphases mine):

… In proportion as they developed unblemished honour, with undaunted bravery, graceful bearing, and magnanimous generosity, were they deemed worthy to rank among Christendom’s bright chivalry.

The horse-shoe was, no doubt, regarded as typical of the noble qualities of its wearer. These being so hateful to the ugly, sly, intriguing, slandering, malevolent, ill-conditioned, pettifogging, pitiful arch-enemy, it might well be supposed that the mere apparition of that type would scare him away. To this supposition is ascribable the adoption of the horse-shoe, as an infallible charm against the visits of old Iniquity.”

The Drinks Business has a good page on St Dunstan and provides us with a more recent, although doubtful, story concerning the holy man and the devil. This, they say, was popular during the past two centuries. It concerns the frost that occurs in the West Country in England around St Dunstan’s feast day, May 19:

The tale was apparently particularly popular in Devon in the 19th and 20th centuries and goes thus.

Dunstan had bought some barley and made some beer, which he then hoped to sell for a good price. Seeing this the Devil appeared before him and offered to blight the local apple trees with frost (the tale is presumably set in Somerset, perhaps when Dunstan is Abbot of Glastonbury). This would ensure there was no cider and so drive demand for beer. Dunstan accepted the offer but stipulated that the frost should strike from the 17-19 May.

As stories go this comes close to blackening the good name of the saintly man who tweaked the Devil’s nose and the legend likely arose among disgruntled cidermakers who perhaps thought Dunstan wasn’t doing enough to protect their crop on his feast day.

The article also says that, because Dunstan was not only a blacksmith but also a silversmith and jeweller, the London Assay Office used to start its new hallmark year on his feast day:

He was, reputedly, a skilled blacksmith and jeweller and is generally venerated as a patron saint of smiths.

In his various roles as bishop and archbishop he worked hard to restore monastic life in England and reform the English church.

Dying in 988 he was canonised in 1029 and until Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in 1170 he was considered England’s favourite saint.

His association with silversmithing meant that for a good 600 years the London Assay Office hallmarks ran from 19 May (his feast day) to 18 May the following year. This was only changed in 1660 when Charles II moved it to his own birthday, 29 May.

What a fascinating history to a centuries-old legend about the lucky horseshoe.

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