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©2001 The Society of
Archbishop Justus, Ltd


Hallo again to all.

Today we are thinking about mortality. The events of the last month have forced it on us.

Many children who have come of age in developed countries in the past half century have had the amazing privilege of knowing that they were safe. Killer diseases, wars, catastrophes: these were all things that happened either very far away or very far in the past. Youngsters of college age often have never had a close friend or relative die, and sincerely believe that the most dangerous thing in the world is speeding on the motorway without a seat belt.

To a young person for whom death is just an abstract concept, shown on television and studied in history books, there is no sense to be made out of suicide attacks and military bombs straying into residential neighbourhoods. No sense to be made about giving up one's life for one's faith. But suddenly every young person in the world has been set to thinking about who could possibly fly an aeroplane into a building or carry a bomb into a public market. We old folks are pretty sure that they did it because their faith was strong, and they believed that God supported their actions. Whether they were right or wrong about that is a separate issue, because that is what they believed, and they were willing to die for it.

Our church was strengthened by the blood of martyrs. Most of us have read the lives of the saints. We have read or heard the stories of how courageous and faithful people of the early church were willing to die for their faith in God, in order that the church might live.

As we read through all of the news this week, we have noticed that the concept of mortality, of imminent death, of random or fateful death, is creeping back into life in the first world. Death no longer comes just from drunk drivers or drive-by shootings, but from larger, more mysterious, and less controllable forces.

We don't really want any of our readers to become martyrs, even though we think of all of you as saints. But we suspect that the concept of death and mortality is creeping into your world just as it has crept into ours. This is not pleasant, but it is an intriguing link to the communion of saints. In an era when the black death could kill half a village in a few weeks, by a means not understood by the sick and dying, everyone's faith was stronger. When we read in today's News Centre that 'Jedi Knight' is now listed as an official religion in the UK, we wondered if that would still be true once intimations of mortality seep into the psyches of its practitioners.

We dealt with the relationship of faith to mortality by taking our oldest prayer book, published in 1703, and reading the Great Litany. It hasn't changed much over the centuries. We'd like to suggest that you find the time to do the same. And we do try to say Compline at night, whenever we can.

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 14 October 2001