Most people will be aware that March begins with St David’s Day on the first day of the month when the Welsh wear daffodils, and some still proudly pin leeks to their chest — leeks were the traditional emblem but today the daffodil seems more popular. Then 17 days later the Irish wear shamrocks to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, and, of course, there’s Mothering Sunday. But March is also the time the Church has 14 other special days, some well-known, others not so.
Among the other well-known saints celebrated by the Church this month is Joseph of Nazareth (19 March). Often overlooked in the early Church, Joseph has become an icon of the working man. There are many churches dedicated to ‘Joseph the Worker’. He stands in the Church calendar for the ’ordinary’ person, a straight-forward craftsman who never expected or chose to be in the spotlight of history. He did what he could, and he was obedient to everything that he believed God required of him. To do the ‘ordinary’ thing well, to be was visited by the Angel Gabriel who announced that she was to become the mother of God’s son.
One of the lesser known saints of March is Chad, sometimes known as the recycled bishop (2 March). He died kind, caring and open to guidance: these are great gifts, and Joseph seems to have had them in abundance. Closely linked with Joseph is another special day in the Church calendar – The Annunciation on 25 March. It celebrates the conception of Jesus exactly nine months before his birth on 25 December. It was when Mary in 672AD after being consecrated as bishop, deposed, and then reconsecrated again. The two bishops who consecrated him first time around were, it is said, ‘dubious’. Chad took his dismissal with good heart, and peacefully retired. But then Pope Theodore had second thoughts: Chad was of excellent character: humble, devout, and zealous. So, he reconsecrated him as the first bishop of the Mercians. Second time around, Chad was a great success – again. When Chad died, he was quickly venerated. People took a great fancy to his bones, believing that they would bring healing. Even today, four large, recycled bones, dating from the 7th century, and believed to be Chad’s, are in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Birmingham.
Another less well known saint from the same era is Rupert (27 March). He is the saint for those who like The Sound of Music -or salt with your food! Rupert was bishop of Worms and Salzburg, and he founded the great monastery of St Peter in Salzburg in the 8th century, firmly establishing Christianity there. True, it would be another 11 centuries before a certain young Julie Andrews wandered about singing of her Favourite Things and Something Good, but today Salzburg is the ‘Sound of Music City’! Not only did the real Trapp family once live there, the movie was filmed in and around it. Rupert helped the people by developing the local salt mines and his emblem is a barrel of salt.
Although not venerated as a ‘Saint’, the Church of England remembers on 8 March a WWI hero best known today as ‘Woodbine Willie’. He was the Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC, a much-loved army chaplain who served on the Western Front in WWI. When the war broke out, he was vicar of St Paul’s Worcester and he volunteered to go to the Western Front as a chaplain. Life on the front line in the trenches was a desperate affair, but he hit on a way of bringing a few moments of relief to the stressed soldiers — as well as good cheer he handed out ‘Woodbines’, the most popular cheap cigarette of the time. He once described his chaplain’s ministry as taking ‘a box of fags in your haversack, and a great deal of love in your heart.’
March is the month to remember God’s extraordinary work in our world with simple ‘Favourite Things‘ such as daffodils, leeks, shamrocks, salt, music and even Woodbines – but not on 10th March which is No Smoking Day!
Source : Association for Church Editors