Gogoniant i’r Tad, ac i’r Mab, ac i’r Ysbryd Glân. Amen.
What a wonderful occasion this is and how blessed we are to be at this Mass and Pilgrimage today. We are following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have been drawn to Holywell by the eternal memory of St. Winifred, her powerful intercession and undying desire to heal in body, soul and spirit all who with humility and faith come to this sacred place that commemorates her holy life and glorious martyrdom. Although a Welsh saint, unlike most of her compatriots, St Winifred is venerated far beyond the borders of Wales. In the Middle Ages, the Kings of England came regularly to her shrine and well, to venerate her relics and bathe in the miraculous waters of her holy well. And today, we are here, thanks to the generous initiative of the Latin Mass Society. First of all then, let us give thanks to Almighty God for this Mass and Pilrimage.
We have just heard proclaimed that memorable Gospel passage from St Matthew Ch. 25 in which Jesus recounts the Parable of the Ten Virgins, of whom five were wise and five foolish. Together with the Parable of the Talents, which follows, it serves as a severe warning and reminder that we must be prepared for death and judgement. “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” It is important to remember that often a parable makes only one point, and usually one to do with our relationship with Jesus and whether we really recognise him for who he is: the Incarnate Son of God, our Saviour. Parables should never be interpreted in an ethical or moralistic way. If this parable were concerned with the ideal Christian life, then the wise virgins should have had the charity to share their oil with the foolish, but they did not. Selfishly, as well as wisely, when asked to do so, they said,”No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the shops and buy some for yourselves.” As a result, when the foolish virgins arrive late at the wedding banquet and, finding the door shut, they plead, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” they hear from the bridegroom, from Jesus himself, the bleakest words in the Bible, the very antithesis to the whole Gospel story, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Nothing more definitive or negative than that!
Of course, the parable is a story and not fact, for as St Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself,” and in the prophet Jeremiah we read, “I do not want the death of a sinner, but that he repent and live.” Jesus came to preach a gospel of repentance and forgiveness. Through faith and baptism and the Church’s sacraments he offers us all the graces we could possibly need to become wise virgins, men and women who are ready to be judged and so prepared for heaven, Christians whose hearts and minds are fixed only on Jesus and, in him, on a world that stands in desparate need of salvation. Such a virgin was St Winifred and we ask today to be given her single-mindedness and purity of faith and love, that nothing and no one be more important ot us than Jesus Christ, and him crucified. As we know, St Winifred gave her life for Christ, so prepared was she by her purity and integrity, that she refused the advances of Caradoc and was beheaded by him. So ready was she to share in the Resurrection of her Redeemer that her life was miraculouly restored to her through the prayer of St Beuno, her uncle, and his total reliance on Christ’s power to restore life even when, in human terms, there could be no hope, as Winifred’s head had been severed from her body. Her sacrifice, united to that of Christ on the Cross, gave rise to this holy spring and well which would become a source of hope and healing for generations of Christians, and not only Catholics, right up to the present day.
How can we follow the example of St Winifred today? Well the world is full of Caradocs thirsting to spill our blood for Christ because, as we are all aware, Our Lord and his Church remain objects of hate and ridicule and there are many who long to see and are working for the destruction of the Catholic Church. Some of our enemies are easy to recognise and we know their methods, but others are more subtle and astute, like Satan when he appeared in the form of a serpent to Adam and Eve. What can we do but walk firmly in the footsteps of St Winifred? She did not give in to temptation, nor did she capitulate before the enemy. She walked resolutely towards the church where her uncle was celebrating Mass with her parents and, when the enemy attacked, she commmended her soul to God and willingly gave up her life, confident in the Resurrection and the hope of eternal life. For St Winifred, family, religion, personal integrity and the love of Jesus her Lord came first. Let us pray today at her shrine and well for her protection and intercession that we may bear witness to Christ and to his Church with fidelity and joy as she did. In the words of St David, “Byddwch lawen a chedwch eich ffydd a’ch cred.” Be joyful and keep your faith and belief. Amen.