Saints and Seasons was compiled in 2011 from notes written by the Revd Sue to introduce some of the heroes and occasions that mark the church year. Saints days are fixed and occur on the same date each year; festivals that relate to Easter, however, move with Easter: the months may or may not therefore correspond to the current year...
3rd July: Thomas the Apostle
Thomas is mentioned as an Apostle in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, but it is in John's gospel that his significance is revealed. First, he is heard encouraging the other disciples to go to Judea with Jesus. Then, by asking Jesus what he meant when he talked about where he was going, Thomas learned that Jesus himself is the Way. He is best known for being the Apostle who doubted reports of the resurrection, causing Jesus to show him the marks in his hands and feet and side. He then proclaimed, "My Lord and my God." Thomas encourages many who feel guilty for doubting, as his doubts led to the blossoming of a strong faith. Traditionally it is believed that he went to India, where he died a martyr.
11th July: Benedict of Nursia
Benedict was born in Nursia, central Italy, in about the year 480. As a young man he was sent to study in Rome. There he was appalled by the corruption in society and withdrew to live as a hermit at Subiaco. He soon attracted disciples and began to establish small monasteries. In about 525 he survived an attempted poisoning and moved to Monte Cassino with a group of loyal monks. Later in life Benedict wrote his Rule for Monks, based on his own experiences of fallible people trying to live out the gospel. He never intended to found an order but his rule was so good with its balance of prayer, study and manual labour, that it was used all over Europe. Benedict died at Monte Cassino in about 550.
22nd July: Mary Magdalene
All four gospels give Mary Magdalene a unique place among Jesus' followers. She probably came from Magdala by the Sea of Galilee. She is described as being healed by Jesus before accompanying him during his ministry. She stayed with the other women by the cross during the crucifixion and she was the first disciple to discover the empty tomb on Easter morning. She was the first person to see the risen Lord, who sent her to take the good news of the resurrection to the other apostles. So, in the early church she was known as the 'Apostle to Apostles.' She is remembered both for the forgiveness given to repentant sinners and also as an advocate for the contemplative life.
25th July: James the Apostle
James, who is often called 'the Great', was a Galilean fisherman. With his brother John he was one of the first apostles called by Jesus. The two brothers were with Jesus at his Transfiguration and in the garden of Gethsemane. They annoyed the other disciples by asking Jesus if one of them could sit on his right and the other on his left when he came into his glory. They were also present for the resurrection appearances. James was put to death by the sword on the order of Herod Agrippa who hoped that by killing church leaders he could stem the tide of people becoming Christians. He was possibly the first Christian martyr in the year 44.
31st July: Ignatius of Loyola
Born in 1491, the son of a Basque nobleman, Ignatius served as a soldier and was wounded at the battle of Pamplona in 1521. While he was recovering he read a Life of Christ and became a Christian. During this time he wrote a first draft of his Spiritual Exercises. He gathered six disciples and together they took vows of poverty and chastity and promised to serve the church. By 1540 Ignatius had won the Pope's approval for his order The Society of Jesus (known as the Jesuits). For the next sixteen years he directed the work of the order as it spread around the world, until his sudden death on this day in 1556.
Unless otherwise indicated, notes based on material in Exciting Holiness: Collects and Readings, Brother Tristram SSF, and Following in their Steps, Eleanor and Rachel Sayers. Illustrations from Signs, Symbols & Saints: Images from Turvey Abbey, CD Rom, © McCrimmons Publishing, used under license.