For Roger Jupp, the disciplines of Lent bring challenge and reward
Fr Philip Strong had been Vicar of St Ignatius, Hendon in Sunderland since early 1931. On 7th August 1936, while presiding at the morning Mass, he felt a kind of foreboding. Arriving back at the vicarage, a letter was awaiting him in which he was invited to accept nomination as Bishop of New Guinea. His knowledge of foreign parts was limited and he thought at first that he was being asked to go somewhere in Africa. Only after he had consulted an atlas did he realize that his proposed diocese was a very large island in the Pacific near Australia. The evening before his consecration at St Paul’s Cathedral was spent at Lambeth Palace and, after dinner, Archbishop Lang spent time with Strong in his study. After receiving his blessing, Lang pointed to the large crucifix hanging in his study and said: ‘You can thank God that there will be more of that in your life than there is in mine.’ Strong always believed Lang’s words to be prophetic because, not so long after the beginning of his ministry in New Guinea, the Japanese invaded New Guinea. During all that perilous and uncertain time, Strong steadfastly remained at his post and encouraged missionaries and staff to do the same, his life – as well as theirs – being constantly at risk. As we know, many were killed, each one of them in Strong’s belief a martyr for the faith. The statue of one of them, a Papuan catechist Lucian Tapiedi, stands now over the west door of Westminster Abbey alongside other 20th century martyrs.
Pondering now on Archbishop Lang’s words to Bishop Strong, we might wonder how much of the cross of Jesus Christ we would want in our lives – even how much of it we could bear. The call of Jesus to each one of us, ‘Follow me,’ is the same for all. It is the common vocation of Christians. For each one, of course, it will mean something different, but whatever it is will require a measure of steadfastness, resilience and faithfulness. And those things can only come from the one who has issued the call, Jesus Christ himself. The preacher at Bishop Strong’s consecration took the text ‘My God shall supply all your needs,’ appropriately so in the light of those words of Archbishop Lang. And Strong himself, on taking leave of his people at Hendon, preached on his favourite text, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’ (Philippians 4:13). Indeed, these words of St Paul became something of a motto for him, and he used them often during his ministry. In the pulpit at Hendon, as he took leave of his parishioners for a ministry which he had little doubt would be challenging, Strong said ‘in my last message to you as Vicar, I feel I can do nothing better than repeat these words and ask you to make them your own.’
As we begin Lent and consider its disciplines, I am wanting to suggest that we might take these words from St Paul, from Archbishop Lang, and from Bishop Philip Strong, and feed them into our hearts and minds to help us to take up the cross of Christ which is both the call and the challenge of Lent. That word discipline which I have just used in terms of the keeping of Lent may seem a bit old-fashioned and sound rather harsh. But, looking at its root, it has to do with the making of a disciple. Through our keeping of Lent, can we become more like disciples, more like those called to follow Jesus in his way? Encountering the cross as part of walking that way is inevitable and it should be no surprise to us. So how about taking on a little bit of discipline, that is, taking on the way of the disciple? Call me old-fashioned, perhaps, but how about having a Lent Rule as part of a better, more organized keeping of Lent? Here is one, but it’s not my own and it was passed on to me by another, older priest a few years ago. I pass it on to you here and suggest you might like to make it your own.
- GIVE UP … for example
something of food and drink (e.g. alcohol) or some personal pleasure
- TAKE UP … for example
attending an extra weekday Mass, spending an extra time in private prayer, coming to Stations of the Cross, giving something extra for the Church and for those in need
- READ UP … for example
have a Lent book, read through a book of the Bible with a commentary or use a daily reflections booklet
- OWN UP …
prepare to come to Confession some time during Lent in preparation for Easter. If you have not done this before, speak to one of your clergy.
- LOOK UP …
never forget that Lent is a preparation for Easter, so always look up to the Cross – and beyond it – to Easter.
You might like to put your own Rule on paper, then bring it to Mass on during Lent and, when the bread and wine are brought to the altar at the Offertory, you can imagine your Lent Rule being put on the altar as your personal offering in this holy season, and there promise to do your best to keep it. And there remember, too, as Bishop Strong would want you to remember, in all the challenges of Lent, and beyond: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me because ‘God shall supply all my needs.’
The Rt Revd Roger Jupp is Superior-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament and served as the Bishop of Popondota from 2003 to 2005.