St Luke Thursday Week 33 Year I

All Saints of the Society of Jesus

Print Version November 5th, 2003

I used to love the stink of sulphur and smoke that told you things were under way. The sky burning and the ground littered with spent carcasses of fireworks. As a kid we’d spend the weeks running up to bonfire night out in the freezing evenings scavenging bonfire wood and dragging from door to door our “Guy” begging for money for fireworks. A serious work.
A cold and complex work: keeping your wood dry; keeping it out of the hands of the big lads down the hill who would raid yours to make theirs bigger. Calculating just what proportion of rockets to bangers to roman candles made the best of the meagre money you’d scrounged together.
And then come tonight … the Guy would be burning away, the fireworks would be screeching and exploding all around, and you’d be baking potatoes and sausages in the fire—frozen on one side, scorched on the other—you and the sausages.
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot.”
None of us really thought that we were burning an effigy of a Catholic caught 400 years ago in a plot to blow up the King and all his ministers. Or, if we thought it, we didn’t think it strange. Or even consider the power of propaganda to keep such a memory going for four centuries.
King James, so his own tongue told it, was warned in a dream, by God himself no less, that the filthy, treasonous Catholics were plotting to blow him up and all parliament with him. He dispatched his men straight to the spot under the parliament building were Guy Fawkes, Catholic and munitions expert, was in hiding with enough gunpowder to blast them all to Kingdom Come. Fawkes was arrested, tortured, and killed along with whoever else it was expedient to polish off at the time. And every year since Guy Fawkes has been burned in effigy by hordes of school children out for some fun. But Fawkes was a fall guy … who was really behind the gunpowder, treason and plot? “Jesuits,” said the king. “Lying, equivocating, treacherous, devil Jesuits!”
Now that’s probably all propaganda. But it makes you wonder what was so troublesome about those Jesuits, whether real or imagined, that it was worth inventing rituals so powerful that they persist even today. Why did James fear them so? Why, more recently, did the El Salvadoran military fear the professors of the UCA? Or any number of political powers between the two in time and space.
The answer is in the readings today. And it extends beyond the Company of Jesus to anyone who wishes to walk in company with Jesus. “The word is very near to you” and “Unless a grain of wheat…”

Entry Filed under: Homilies,Loyola Hall


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