St John the Baptist And The Saints of The Fortnight
I was thinking about the solemnity we celebrate today, that of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Now normally a saints feast does not take precedence over the Sunday feast of the Lord's Day. So the fact that John's birthday did not get "bumped" to tomorrow, and the fact that we even celebrate his birth really got me to thinking about why the Church celebrates his birth.
If we look at the Church's calendar, we see that very few births are celebrated. Jesus' is of course, and so is Our Lady's (September 8). The reason for celebrating their births, their entrance into this world, human history, not to mention Salvation History, is pretty obvious.
John the Baptist is the only other birth(I think) that is celebrated within the Liturgical Year. It goes to show the importance of his entrance to our world, and to Salvation History. John recognized and "beheld the Lamb of God" while he was still in his mother's womb. He was born with a very specific mission, and he followed it to the letter. He was to point to the One greater than himself, the One whose sandals he was not worthy to untie. He would recognize Jesus, the Lamb of God again at the Jordan and proclaim this fact to all who were there that day. From that day until his martyrdom, he would decrease so that his Lord, the One whose way he had prepared, could and would increase.
Here in the United States, we are also in the midst of observing the Fortnight to Freedom. This campaign of the bishops is a time for Catholics to pray, and where necessary and appropriate, speak out in defense of our religious liberty which is being threatened and attacked by our government.
The fortnight began on the eve of the feasts of Saints John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, today as I already stated, is the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Wednesday, June 27 is the feast of St Cyril of Alexandria who fought fearlessly against the heresies of his day. Thursday, June 28 is the feast of St Irenaeus also martyred for defending the faith. The two pillars of our faith, Saints Peter and Paul, are celebrated on Friday, June 29. The feast we celebrate on Saturday, June 30, is relatively new to the Liturgical Calendar; it is the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church. Finally we have the feast of the Apostle Thomas on July 3 who is often remembered for his doubt of the Risen Christ, but who also made one of the most simple and beautiful acts and professions of faith.
All of these saints have on thing in common besides the crown of martyrdom~ they followed their consciences instead of the political errors of their day.
We often hear that phrase used today in the mainstream: "Follow your conscience." There is something missing from that phrase, and also something very wrong with it as it is used in our mainstream society. Our culture takes it to mean that we should do whatever we, as individuals, see fit. What is missing from the phrase is the term "well~formed"; our consciences need to be well formed in the light of Truth and faith before we follow them, otherwise they lead us down a dangerous path.
So as we celebrate the feasts of all these great saints,let us heed John the Baptist's words and Behold the Lamb of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let our consciences be illumined by His light and truth so that we may have the courage of the martyrs to fight for and defend our faith.