Saints' Days in July
July is full of Saint’s Days: St Thomas, St Mary Magdalene and St James, as well as many other lesser known saints.
We can learn something from them all.
St Thomas (3rd July) teaches us that there can be no true faith without doubt,
otherwise there would be only unthinking certainty. He knew that Jesus had died and did not believe, or dare hope,
that reports of the Resurrection were true - he was the only disciple who had not seen the Risen Christ. But when he
did, his response was immediate: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20 : 28). St Thomas is featured in Window 11 - see right.
St Swithun’s Day is on 15th July. Swithun was a lifelong Christian, educated in the monastery attached to Winchester
Cathedral, of which he later became Prior. In 838 he was consecrated Bishop of Winchester and was known for his wisdom,
holiness of life and humility. He died in 862 and was buried, at his own request, in an ordinary grave on the North
side of the Cathedral ‘where men might walk over his grave and where the rain of heaven might fall on it’. When a
new cathedral was built, 100 years later, the bishop of the day decided to move Swithun’s remains to a great shrine
inside the cathedral. It is said that on the day appointed for the ceremony, 15th July, the most violent rain fell
and continued to fall for 40 days, preventing the removal of his remains for nearly six weeks. And hence the saying
that if it rains on St Swithun’s Day then 40 days of rain will follow. But it does seem a shame that he has become
synonymous with rain rather than celebrated for a life of Christian simplicity and holiness.
Mary Magdalene (22nd July) reminds us of the prominent, yet mostly unrecorded, place of women disciples
in Jesus’ ministry and the Early Church. The Gospels tell us that she was healed by Jesus before accompanying him during
his Ministry. Mary, other faithful women and the disciple John were the only people to remain at the foot of the cross
during the crucifixion; all the other (male) disciples fled. She was the first disciple to discover the empty tomb and
was privileged to be the first person to see the Risen Christ, who sent her to tell the others - a commission that earned
her the title ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ in the Early Church.
And finally, St James (25th July), called from his fishing nets by Jesus to become a ‘fisher of men’.
With Peter and John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, present with him at the most significant
moments of his Ministry, eg The Transfiguration and the Garden of Gethsemane. James was the first Apostle to be martyred,
executed by Herod Agrippa in 44AD in a vain attempt to stop the growth of the Early Church. St James is featured in Window 10 - see right.
Saint’s Days are based not on the person’s birthday but on the date of their death, their birthday in the new life of heaven.
So, we rejoice in the lives and examples of the Saints, ordinary people with ordinary people’s faults, who in their different
ways let the light of Christ shine through their lives and actions.
The Rev Brian Atkinson