Another Saint, a Riot and Mark 7:15

Yesterday’s headlines oozed acrimony, animosity and anger. So do today’s.

It could be worse. I could have been reading about a replay of Oxford’s St. Scholastica Day riot. I’ll get back to that.

February 10th is the Memorial of Saint Scholastica.

It’s also when Mark 7:1423 is the Gospel reading. The gist of which is at the start —

“He summoned the crowd again and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand.
“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.'”
(Mark 7:1415)

As usual, our Lord’s disciples waited until later to ask about the parable. And I suggest reading Mark 7:18 as an example of patience with cluelessness.

Which reminds me. I’m planning on using the daily readings as a starting point for these daily journal entries. At least for a while. That being the case, I’d better do a quick review.

Sacred Scripture, Tradition and Making Sense

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library. (2009)Reading and studying the Bible is part of being Catholic. Or should be. But this isn’t one of those roll-your-own-theology ‘Bible and me’ faiths. I can and should learn from the Bible, the Magisterium and Tradition. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 7495, 101133)

Our Tradition — capital “T” — is the Apostolic Tradition, passed along from the Apostles. The Magisterium is the Church’s teaching authority, also passed along through the millennia.

As a Catholic, I must respect and follow our Tradition. Which isn’t even close to trying to live as if it’s still 1947, and that’s another topic.

Back to today’s gospel.

Jesus explained that externals, like eating non-kosher food, don’t “defile” us.

It’s what we can generate inside that’s a problem. As examples, our Lord listed things that defile a person:

  • Evil thoughts
  • Unchastity
  • Theft
  • Murder
  • Adultery
  • Greed
  • Malice
  • Deceit
  • Licentiousness
  • Envy
  • Blasphemy
  • Arrogance
  • Folly

I could take that list, note that arson isn’t included, and that kind of trouble I don’t need.

Saint Scholastica Day, Oxford, 1354

George Floyd riots collage. (2020)What we know about Saint Scholastica comes mainly from Pope Gregory I/Gregory the Great’s “Dialogues.”

Apparently Gregory the Great said that Saint Scholastica shows how love outvotes law.

Which, at least one academic said, proves that Saint Scholastica is a fictional character, imagined by Gregory.

I don’t think so. But I also think that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. And that George Washington is a real person. Even though Mason Locke Weems wrote whoppers about him.

Anyway: Scholastica lived and died in central Italy and was instrumental in organizing Benedictine nuns. She died on this day in 543.

Fast-forward 821 years, to Oxford, England; the Swindlestock Tavern.

Two Oxford students didn’t like their wine. They argued with the taverner. A brawl ensued.

Three days later, upwards of 90 people had been killed; about a third of them townsfolk.

King Edward III sent a legal team to Oxford. Assorted litigation followed, fines were imposed and the town’s mayor and bailiffs sent to London’s Marshalsea prison. Which wasn’t a bad place for folks with money. And that’s yet another topic.

It wasn’t Oxford’s first town-and-gown brawl and wasn’t the last.

Poets and historians issued sporadic retellings of the St. Scholastica Day affair. The Bishop of Lincoln imposed an annual penance on Oxford. That lasted until 1825.

And, finally, in 1955 — six centuries after the three-day incident — Oxford’s mayor and vice-chancellor gave each other honorary titles;1 which may have buried the hatchet. And not, as one might have expected, in either’s back.

Remembering Love

Thomas Cole's 'The Voyage of Life - Youth,' detail. (1840)Getting back to today’s Gospel, I figure that the St. Scholastica Day riot wasn’t caused by wine, taverns, Oxford University, or St. Scholastica.

All of the above were involved, more or less.

But blaming externals misses an important point. Things, and other people, don’t make me act badly.

I’m affected by the world and other people, “…but the things that come out from within are what defile….”

Trouble happens when I don’t love God and my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

And, what’s harder, act like I believe it:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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