When selling a house the seller is advised to make sure that a potential buyer’s first impression is positive. As the buyer comes through the front door the hall has to be tidy, clean and inviting. What is true for the home is also important for a church. This is why, in recent weeks and with the help of parishioners, the very small porch of St Joseph’s church has been tidied up. The main notice-board has been moved outside and the two tables, which previously were filled with a huge variety of disposable goods belonging to over five hundred parishioners, are now used only for essentials. At least, that’s the idea!
Recently, one of those “essentials” that were placed on the tables were the prayer-cards of St Ralph Sherwin. I expected these cards to be there for a very long time. And, as so often happens, I was totally wrong! The prayer-cards were gone within the week. And so were the cards that were put out to replace them. A prayer-card with a picture of St Ralph Sherwin (a photograph of the stained glass window of the saint in St Joseph’s Church Martyrs chapel) with a prayer to Saint Ralph Sherwin, obviously means a great deal to very many parishioners.
St Ralph Sherwin died for his faith We who follow him in the same faith have a real sense of identity with St Ralph. We recognise that we are fortunate in not having to follow him in martyrdom but we can follow Jesus, with St Ralph’s help, in realising what is most important and what really matters. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to live in love and to share God’s love with others. Our identity is bound up with the recognition that we are loved by God. The beauty of the prayer card, which reflects the colours of the stained-glass window and the prayer (which is printed below) bring home to us the beauty of God’s love which is within us.
The prayer is written by Jonathan Whitby-Smith, who is currently studying for the priesthood in Allen Hall and who set up the current, excellent, web site providing information and resources associated with St Ralph Sherwin (www.ralphsherwin.com). Jonny began this work last summer whilst working for a month in St Joseph’s Church, Derby. If you haven’t viewed the web-site it would be great to do so.
The prayer refers to how we “follow” the Lord and his call. In this regard it reminds us how Jesus called his disciples to “follow” him at the beginning of his public ministry. That privilege is also ours. But, at the end of the day, to “follow” Jesus means that, in a certain sense, we only see the back of him. At the completion of his public ministry Jesus did not ask his disciples to “follow” him. Instead, he addressed them as “friends”. It was an invitation to sit down with him “face to face”. That privilege is complete for St Ralph Sherwin. For us, it is something we can look forward to but already anticipate as we sit down with Jesus in the Eucharist.
Prayer to St Ralph Sherwin
Most Holy Priest and Martyr, Saint Ralph Sherwin,
you gave your whole life freely and earnestly, forsaking all risk to yourself,
seeking to do the Lord’s will “today rather than tomorrow”.
You died for love of Christ and his Church,
as a witness to bring others to the truth.
Pray that we might follow the Lord more earnestly,
with eyes fixed firmly on his Son,
never putting off till tomorrow what can be done today.
Obtain for us the grace to share your courage and conviction,
to live lives transformed by love of Jesus,
following His call wherever it may lead,
sharing Him with all whom we meet. Amen.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be thou unto me Jesus.”
The final words of St Ralph Sherwin, prayed repeatedly during his martyrdom until he could speak no more