Many Catholics today come to Mass for a blessing of throats as it is the feast of St Blaise. This year it is not possible touch their throats with crossed candles because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Here at St Thomas of Canterbury we are celebrating a local saint, Lawrence (or Laurence) who succeeded St Augustine as Archbishop of Canterbury. He was among those who had come over with Augustine in 596. Lawrence witnessed the conversion and baptism of Ethelbert, King of Kent. When Ethelbert died, his son Eadbald who had never been baptised, reverted to the pagan ways and there arose great animosity to Christianity especially as the new king proposed to marry his stepmother. The hostility was such that two other bishops, Miletus and Justus fled to Gaul and Lawrence was contemplating doing the same. St Bede is his Ecclesiastical History tells that Lawrence had a dream in which St Peter berates him and “set about him with a heavy scourge” Peter said to him, “Have you forgotten my example? For the sake of the little ones whom Christ entrusted to me as proof of his love, I suffered chains, blows, imprisonment and pain. Finally I endured death, death of crucifixion , at the hands of unbelievers and enemies of Christ, so that at last I might be crowned with Him.” The next day Laurence visited Eadbald and showed him the marks from the whipping, thus effecting Eadbald’s conversion to Christianity.
In the first reading today from the letter to the Hebrews we read: “So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.” This is a timely encouragement to endurance. In these tough times there is a great temptation to give in or give up. We won’t have St Peter appearing in a dream to berate us, but we have gentle words to Jesus. “Come to me all you labour and are overburdened” Also we have the figure of Jesus in the garden facing the prospect of pain and death, praying to the Father. When we are tempted to flee or escape our difficulties we are given the strength to stand and face the trial with the power and strength of the Spirit.