These days after Christmas are some of the best - Stephen the first Martyr, John the beloved disciple, and the Holy Innocents. I've a special devotion to all three; Holy Innocents in South Norwood is where I was Baptized (how appropriate, you might say) - Stephen is the Patron of our Seminary in Oxford where I was Principal for eight years, and John is Patron of my first parish in Farncombe. So on St John's Day I celebrated in Our Lady of Lourdes, New Milton, together with the latest member of the Pastoral team in Lymington, Fr Marcin Drabik, who is a Polish priest.
He told us about the custom in Poland on St John's Day of blessing cups of wine after Mass, in memory of John, who drank unharmed from a poisoned chalice because first he had blessed it. Hence that strange attribute of John the Evangleist, the chalice with a serpent emerging from it. The faithful in New Milton have taken Fr Marcin to their hearts, and are delighted to have a man ministering to them under the age of forty (or even under the age of seventy, come to that!) They were very pleased to drink the blessed wine - and I was reminded of the Orthodox custom of blessing bread after Mass for all to share. Now we can look forward to more Polish customs through 2013 - which I pray may be a very blessed and happy new year for all who read this blog.