Michaelmas Day saw me at a church in Camberley giving a talk about the nature of priestly ministry and location, a shortened version of one I delivered a few months ago, to a group of people exploring their own sense of vocation. I found myself talking about Mary, our former sacristan, the ex-nun who had had to leave her missionary order after suffering a breakdown of health in Africa, but who always saw herself as a detached member of the community - a community which eventually repented its harsh treatment of her to some extent. 'I've always kept my vows, and I've always said my Office', she told me. Michaelmas Day was the date of her taking her final vows, so for me it's the 29th of September, rather than the date of her death in March, when I think of her most: it's become not only the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, but also the observance of the Solemn Profession of Vows of Blessed Mary Fearon. Infuriating sometimes, Mary, but a saint. Saints are often like that.
At Morning Prayer before I headed out, I and Roy our verger said Psalm 150 together, the psalm set by the Church for M.P. on Michaelmas Day. It imagines the whole of creation joined together in a song of worship to God - 'let everything that has breath praise the Lord, alleluia' - and the angels lead that song. I thought of Mary singing the song of the angels along with them, as we should all pray we will one day. It's the work all Christians are called to do, before and after everything else.
Perhaps it seems a bit childish or flippant, bolting my own experience, rooted in my particular place and context, onto the great experience of the Holy Church, my memory of Mary onto the solemnity of the Angels. But it's only a Christianised version of what I think most human beings do, generating meaning and structure through connecting their own story with something bigger than they are. And it makes my small life with my own small and struggling church part of something beautiful and wondrous.