Blessed Adrian Fortescue was one of the few virtuous relatives of Anne Boleyn. While he was a student in Oxford he was attracted by the Dominicans and was enrolled in the Order as a lay member. There is no evidence that he took part in politics or plots and he lived quietly in Devon with his family. On a whim Henry VIII had him arrested. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, which declared Henry the ‘Supreme Head of the Church in England’ he was condemned for treason. Blessed Adrian was beheaded on 9th July 1539. He was beatified in 1895 by Pope Leo XIII.
Our life of faith as Catholics is not meant to be something we simply add to our regular, everyday life. Catholicism is an entirely new way of living. It’s not a hobby or a set of options we can pick and choose from. We can easily think that we have a life, and if we do certain things faithfully, it will become a better life—a Christian life. But this isn’t what God wants. God didn’t become a man and suffer the agony of the Cross just to give us a better life. He did it so that we would receive a new life, complete with a new set of principles, a new centre, and a new source of hope and power. In other words, God became man and died for us so that he could make us into a new creation.
To help his followers understand this fundamental truth, Our Lord spoke of patched clothing and old wineskins. His listeners would have readily understood that a patch might change the appearance of an old cloak, and maybe improve its usefulness, but it would still be the same old cloak. They also would have known that new wine was still fermenting and that its container had to be supple and flexible enough to expand with the gases the wine produced. The old, inflexible wineskin simply wouldn’t be able to handle the demands or the changes made by the new wine.
When Our Lord died on the Cross, he carried our old life along with him. What he offers us now is the ability to become a new creation filled with his own divine life. And so, how do we take hold of this new life? Well, try the old fashioned daily examination of conscience, which we do at Compline at the end of each day, when we ask, along with St. Paul: “Why do I do the very things I hate?”
That’s the old life still squirming inside. As we deepen our conversion, we are transformed more and more into the likeness of God. So, let us allow the Holy Spirit to have his way in us, so that we can become soft, flexible wineskins ready to accept more and more of his new wine.