Wednesday 19 October 2022

Marlene Dietrich and Saint Frideswide

This time of year is an especially glorious one here at the Oratory. In the church we have just ended the magnificent Forty Hours with its solemn liturgies and hours of silent prayer before Our Lord, when so many hundreds of people have come to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. For the Fathers and all around us we have also had the joy of clothing another new novice — a source of much joy and encouragement — do keep Brother Vincent in your prayers. In the city and university it is also the beginning of term, when students return or else come here to begin what they are promised will be the best years of their life. All of these things remind us that each one of us can enjoy a very real sense of belonging, not only to the places and institutions of which we are part, but for us as Christians to the Body of Christ which is His Church.

That sense of belonging is an important one, and one we must foster and cherish. In an age of heightened emphasis on identity we can often find ourselves more divided than ever before. Yet it is a problem as old as the Fall — that unless we feel we belong, we feel unloved. There is all sorts of depressing poetry on this theme; and Marlene Dietrich even put it into song (as only she could) — Ich weiß nicht, zu wem ich gehöre — I don’t know to whom I belong. When we forget that our human fraternity derives from the paternity of God, that we are brothers and sisters because we have the same Father in Heaven, then we run the risk of division and of forgetting to Whom we belong. If we all belong to God, recognise, know, and embrace that, then no-one is left by the wayside.

If only we could communicate to everyone that they really are wanted, really are loved by God, that they do belong, and belong to Him. How much more harmonious and happier we should all be! Belonging to God and to His Church reminds us that there is a place for us, not in this life only, but in our true home in Heaven. Our belonging to Christ and His Church also enables us to see our other ‘homes’ in a much greater perspective. Our families and friends become not just those we love and are loved by, but those that Almighty God has, from all eternity, desired us to know so that we should help each other to heaven. Our jobs and our daily tasks become those means of really living our holiness in that ‘Little Way’ so beloved of St Thérèse of Lisieux. And even the places where we belong take on a new meaning in God and gain for us new friends.

This week on Wednesday we celebrate Saint Frideswide, the patroness of Oxford and the University. She belongs to us all as a special friend in Heaven; she prays for us in this city and parish and through her prayers and encouragement reminds us that we belong to God and to Heaven. This week you might read about her or visit those places known to her and to us. We have Masses for her feast at the usual times and Benediction on Wednesday at 6:30pm. She belongs to us and we to her because we all belong to God.

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