St Bede the Venerable wrote of this event: ‘As we celebrate the heavenly birthday of blessed John, dearly beloved brothers, we must not only recall with pious devotion his steadfastness in suffering, but also turn into weapons of salvation the malice of those at whose hands he suffered’.

It was John the Baptist who said of our Lord, ‘He must increase, and I must decrease’.

This ‘decreasing’ is taken to the uttermost in his beheading, for John was the forerunner of the Lord both in his life and in his death.

May he pray for us, and may the weapons of malice indeed be transformed into weapons of salvation in our own day. May God bless you.