Feast of St. Jose de Anchieta (June 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. José de Anchieta

Image in the Public Domain



Apostle of Brazil and Father of Brazilian National Literature


You must come with a bag-full of virtues.

–St. José de Anchieta’s advice to missionary priests


I like the Great Man (and Woman) School of History, for people who did not do anything noteworthy do not interest me.  Those who made a mark, however, deserve attention.

St. José de Anchieta was such a man.  He, born in San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, on March 19, 1534, came from a prominent and wealthy family.  He, educated in Portugal, joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 17 years, in 1551.  The order dispatched our saint to Brazil; he arrived on July 13, 1553.  In that Portuguese colony our saint made many marks.

St. José’s legacy in Brazil has survived.  He cofounded the city of São Paulo as a mission on the Feast of St. Paul the Apostle in 1554.  Eleven years later he helped to found Rio de Janeiro, in full, São Sebastiãno de Rio de Janeiro, named in honor of St. Sebastian.  The Apostle of Brazil, a man in constant pain for 44 years due to a dislocated Spain, mastered the language of the Tupi people, who lived near São Paulo, and spent 20 years writing a grammar and a dictionary of that tongue.  He became the Father of Brazilian National Literature due to his plays, which he wrote in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Tupi; these were the first Brazilian plays.

Our saint had a fine memory.  For five months he was a hostage of the Tamoyo people.  He, with plenty of time on his hands yet lacking writing tools, wrote a Latin poem in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the sand and memorized all 4,172 lines of the text.  After his captivity ended Anchieta wrote the poem on paper.

Anchieta, from 1577 the Jesuit provincial, was a man of zeal, intellect, and many virtues.  He applied all of these in Brazil from 1553 to 1597, when he died, aged 63 years, in Reritgba, now renamed Anchieta.

The Roman Catholic Church has recognized our saint.  Pope Pius VI declared Anchieta a Venerable in 1786.  Pope John Paul II made him a Blessed in 1980.  Finally, in 2014, Pope Francis canonized our saint.





Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Saint José de Anchieta,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Brazil.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 716



Feast of Blesseds Giovanni Maria Boccardo and Luigi Boccardo (June 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Turin, 1890

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-06635



Founder of the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan/Gaetano

His feast transferred from December 30

brother of


Apostle of Merciful Love


His charism as an educator and founder was to reveal the merciful love of Jesus, priest and king, to his brothers, especially in the education of the clergy…and in the spiritual direction of many that approached him in the confessional.

–Mother Teresa Ponsi, Superior General of the Poor Sisters of Saint Cajetan/Gaetano


The Boccardo Brothers did much to help their fellow human beings.

Gasparo Boccardo and Giuseppina Malerba Boccardo, parents of ten children, raised a pious family.  Their eldest child was Giovanni Maria Boccardo, born in Moncalieri, Turin, on November 20, 1848.  A younger brother was Luigi Boccardo, Giovanni Maria’s godson, born on August 9, 1861.  The Barnabites educated both brothers; Giovanni Maria graduated from their high school in 1864.  Next he attended seminary.  In 1871, in Turin, Giovanni Maria became a priest.  Luigi followed suit, also in Turin, thirteen years later.

The Boccardo brothers eventually came to work together.  Giovanni Maria initially taught in seminary.  Next he served as the spiritual director of seminarians in Turin.  He, having earned his doctorate in theology in 1877, became honorary canon at the Church of Sancta Maria della Scala, Chieri, Turin.  Starting in 1882 Giovanni Maria was a parish priest in Pancalieri, Turin.  There he cared for the sick and the poor, helped at other congregations, became involved in the religious education of children and in prison ministry, ministered to victims of a cholera outbreak in 1884, and founded a hospice for the poor sick later that year.  Giovanni Maria also founded the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan/Gaetano, to care for the poor sick, the elderly, the neglected, ill priests, and the longterm sick.  Luigi served as his brother’s assistant priest at Pancalieri, Turin.  Luigi also served as the Vice-Rector and spiritual director at Consolata College, Turin.  He taught and provided spiritual direction to seminarians, visited prisoners, and heard many confessions.

Giovanni Maria, afflicted with paralysis in 1911, had to surrender his ministries during the next two years.  He, aged 65 years, died in Moncalieri, Turin, on December 30, 1913.  He left behind 44 volumes of writings about spiritual matters.  Pope John Paul II declared Giovanni Maria a Venerable then a Blessed in 1998.

Luigi continued in good works after his brother died.  The younger brother took over as a Superior of the Poor Sisters of Saint Cajetan/Gaetano in 1913.  Six years later he became the director of a school for the blind.  In 1932 Luigi founded the Sisters of Jesus the King, a contemplative branch of the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan/Gaetano.

Luigi, aged 76 years, died in Turin on June 9, 1936.  Pope John Paul II declared him a Venerable in 2003.  Pope Benedict XVI raised him to the status of Blessed in 2007.

The Boccardo brothers understood that how they cared for others–especially the vulnerable–was of the highest moral imperative.  That which they did for the least, they did for Jesus.





O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of Gerard Manley Hopkins (June 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Gerard Manley Hopkins

Image in the Public Domain



English Roman Catholic Poet and Jesuit Priest


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shoot foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed.  Why do men then not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

All is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell:  the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins


Gerard Manley Hopkins comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Company, 1997).

Gerard Manley Hopkins, scholar and priest, was a giant of Victorian English literature, but only after his death.  He was one of those authors whose work entered the literary canon post mortem.

Hopkins grew up in a devout High Anglican family in which various art forms–visual and written–were common.  His father was Manley Hopkins, a former British consul general to the Kingdom of Hawai’i and the founder of a marine insurance company.  Manley was also a Sunday School teacher and a churchwarden at St. John’s Church, Hampstead.  The father was also a punster, fortunately.  Our saint’s mother, Kate Smith Hopkins, encouraged her children’s piety.  At her urging our young Gerard grew up reading from the New Testament daily.

Hopkins, born in Stratford, London, on July 28, 1844, was a fine student.  After studying at Cholmondley Grammar School, Highgate, he matriculated at Baillol College, Oxford University, in 1863.  According to Baillol College lecturer Benjamin Jowett, Hopkins was “the star of Baillol.”  Hopkins, influenced by the Oxford Movement, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1866; John Henry Newman received him into Holy Mother Church.

Hopkins became a Jesuit then a priest.  He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1868.  At that point he burned the poetry he had written until then.  In 1875, in Wales, however, he resumed the composition of verse.  Unfortunately, he could never get any of it published.  Even literary friends who read Hopkins’s poetry commented that it was unreadable, due to its rhythms and odd syntax.  Hopkins, ordained a priest in 1877, served in parishes in London, Oxford, Liverpool, and Glasgow before teaching classics at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire.  From 1884 to 1889 he was Professor of Classics at University College, Dublin, Ireland.  Life in Ireland did not agree with our saint; his health failed and he worked too hard.  Hopkins died of typhoid fever in Dublin on June 8, 1889.  He was 44 years old.

Hopkins expressed himself eloquently in his poetry.  He delighted in nature, in which he recognized the presence of God.  His joys and sorrows were also evident in verse, not published until 1918.  Hopkins’s collected works have enriched the lives of many people since then, fortunately.

Hopkins, who spent much of his time in Ireland in emotional anguish and physical illness, found peace at the end.  His final words were

I am so happy!





Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Gerard Manley Hopkins and all those

who with words have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728


Feast of Roland Allen (June 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Roland Allen

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest, Missionary, and Mission Strategist

The Episcopal Church added Roland Allen to its calendar of saints at the General Convention of 2009.

Roland Allen was, during his lifetime, a marginal figure in global missions.  He, born in Bristol, England, on December 29, 1868, was the fifth of five children of an Anglican priest.  Our saint, an Anglo-Catholic, attended St. John’s College, Oxford, then the Leeds Clergy Training School.  Allen, ordained to the diaconate in 1892 and the priesthood the following year, turned to foreign missions early in his career.  The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) dispatched him to its North China Mission in 1895.  Allen was planning to lead a new school for the training of Chinese catechists in 1900 when the Boxer Rebellion started.  He wrote of that time in The Siege of the Peking Legations (1901).  Our saint, on furlough in England, married Mary B. Tarlton.  The Allens, in northern China, welcomed their first child into the world in 1902.  Our saint fell ill, however, so the family returned to England.

There Allen became a parish priest.  He resigned his post in protest in 1907, however.  Our saint could not, in good conscience, obey the rule requiring him to baptize all babies presented for that sacrament, even if the parents lacked any Christian commitment.

Allen spent the rest of his life–much of it in Kenya–researching and pondering missions strategies.  While he did this he supported himself and his family financially by lecturing and writing.  In a series of books, notably Missionary Methods:  St. Paul’s or Ours (1912), Allen argued for revolutionary propositions:

  1. Missionaries should be voluntary clergy with secular employment, in the style of St. Paul the Apostle, who made tents.
  2. Missionaries should abandon all paternalism.
  3. Missionaries should adapt their methods to local customs.
  4. Missionaries should train local people to take over the missions.

Allen, aged 78 years, died in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 9, 1947.  His work did not become influential until the 1960s, however.

Allen understood something crucial:  Western missionaries were often their own worst enemies, bringing with them to foreign lands their prejudices, ethnocentrism, and imperial politics.  This baggage interfered with the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission.  Our saint’s critique was sharp and accurate, meant to help the Church.





Almighty God, by your Spirit you opened the Scriptures of your servant Roland Allen,

so that he might lead many to know, live, and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Give us grace to follow his example, that the variety of those to whom we reach out in love may

receive your saving Word and witness and their own languages and cultures to your glorious Name;

through Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Numbers 11:26-29

Psalm 119:145-152

2 Corinthians 9:8-15

Luke 8:4-15

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 415


Feast of Chief Seattle (June 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  Chief Seattle

Image in the Public Domain


SEATTLE (CIRCA 1786-JUNE 7, 1866)

First Nations Chief, War Leader, and Diplomat

Also known as Si’al and Si’ahl

Chief Seattle comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via the calendar of saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  In Frederick E. Hoxie’s Encyclopedia of North American Indians (1996) Jay Miller’s profile of Seattle describes him as

Duwamish, Suquamish, and Lushootseed war leader and diplomat.

The chief is a welcome addition to my project of hagiographies.

Chief Seattle commanded respect from tribesman and White settlers alike.  His birthplace was the location now known as Blake Island, in Elliott Bay, near the site of the city of Seattle.  Our saint, born circa 1786, came from tribal nobility.  His father was Shweabe, of the Suquamish, from the west side of Puget Sound.  Seattle’s mother was Sholitza, of he Duwamish, from the other side of Puget Sound.  Our saint became a chief in the early twenties.  With his first wife, Ladaila, Seattle had a daughter, Kikioblu (Angeline).  After Ladaila died the chief married Owiyal, with whom he had two sons and three daughters.

Seattle was a respected chief, war leader, and orator.  By the late 1700s the unfortunate combination of guns and epidemics had led to a series of tribal wars in the area of the Puget Sound.  The subsequent addition of White settlers made the troubles of indigenous people greater.  Over the years Chief Seattle led a number of successful raids.  He was, not, however, a warmonger.  Our saint understood matters of self-defense.

Chief Seattle became a Christian in 1838.  That year a Roman Catholic priest baptized him and gave him the baptismal name Noah.  The reason for this choice was Seattle’s enjoyment of the parallels between the flood stories of the Suquamish people and the Book of Genesis.

Chief Seattle gave up violence in 1847, when one of his sons died in a raid on another Indian village.  Our saint then turned to diplomacy full-time.  In the Treaty of Port Elliott (1855) tribes in the Puget Sound area exchanged 54,000 acres for hunting rights, fishing rights, education, health care, payments, and reservations.  Violations of the treaty by some White settlers led to the Indian War (1855-1858).  In 1856 Chief Seattle learned of a planned attack on the settlement of Seattle, named after him against his wishes.  He helped the White settlers by sharing the information with them.  He was done waging war.

In 1855 Chief Seattle wrote a profound letter to U.S. President Franklin Pierce, one of the least of the American leaders, in terms of quality:

THE GREAT CHIEF in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer, for we know if we do not so the white man may come with guns and take our land. What Chief Seattle says you can count on as truly as our white brothers can count on the return of the seasons. My words are like the stars – they do not set.

How can you buy or sell the sky – the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? We will decide in our time. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the redman. But perhaps it is because the redman is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to listen to the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am a savage and do not understand – the clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind itself cleansed by a mid-day rain, or scented by a pinõn pine: The air is precious to the redman. For all things share the same breath – the beasts, the trees, and the man. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

If I decide to accept, I will make one condition. The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and I do not understand any other way. I have seen thousands of rotting buffaloes on the prairie left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast also happens to the man.

All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.

Our children have seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame. And after defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their bodies with sweet food and strong drink. It matters little where we pass the rest of our days – they are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods will remain to mourn the graves of the people once as powerful and hopeful as yours.

One thing we know that the white man may one day discover. Our God is the same God. You may think that you own him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the Body of man, and his compassion is equal for the redman and the white. This earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites, too, shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by the talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

We might understand if we knew what it was the white man dreams, what hopes he describes to his children on long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The white man’s dreams are hidden from us. And because they are hidden, we will go our own way. If we agree, it will be to secure your reservation you have promised.

There perhaps we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last redman has vanished from the earth, and the memory is only the shadow of a cloud passing over the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people, for they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. If we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your memory the way the land is as you take it. And with all your strength, with all your might, and with all your heart – preserve it for your children, and love it as God loves us all. One thing we know – our God is the same. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot escape the common destiny.

Chief Seattle, who frequently visited the settlement named after him and was at love and charity with his neighbors, died at the Port Madison Reservation on June 7, 1866.  He was about 80 years old.





Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Chief Seattle, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs (June 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Last Stand:  Science Versus Superstition, by Udo J. Keppler

From Puck Magazine, July 19, 1899

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-28614

Charles Augustus Briggs is the man on the left in the clergy collar.



U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Episcopal Priest, Biblical Scholar, and Alleged Heretic

father of


Biblical Scholar and “Heretic’s Daughter”


It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved.

Galileo Galilei


Progress in religion, in doctrine, and in life is demanded of our age of the world more than any other age.

–Charles Augustus Briggs


Above:  Charles Augustus Briggs

Image in the Public Domain

The tribe of alleged heretics includes luminaries.

Charles Augustus Briggs was one of the relatively liberal clergymen who became epicenters of controversy in the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (“Northern,” but actually national) in the late 1800s.  He, born in New York, New York, on January 15, 1841, was a son of Alanson Tuthill Briggs (Sr.), who managed the family business, the largest barrel-making company in the United States, and Sarah Mead Berrian Briggs.  Young Charles studied at the University of Virginia from 1857 to 1860; there he had a conversion experience.  For a few months our saint was a soldier in the New York Seventh Regiment during the Civil War.  Next Briggs matriculated at Union Theological Seminary (UTS), New York, New York.  He left in 1863, due to his father’s extended illness, to manage the family business.

Briggs married Julia Valentine Dobbs in 1865.  The couple had seven children, five of whom survived our saint.  These five were:

  1. Emilie Grace Briggs (1867-June 14, 1944);
  2. Agnes Briggs, who married Philip Ketteridge;
  3. Alanson Tuthill Briggs (II) (1871-January 31, 1946);
  4. Herbert Wilfrid Briggs; and
  5. Olive M. Briggs.

Briggs became a Presbyterian minister.  The First Presbytery of New York licensed our saint to preach in April 1866.  That June Charles and Julia Briggs traveled to Berlin, where he studied for his doctorate at the University of Berlin.  At that institution our saint studied under proponents of historical critical scholarship of the Bible; Isaac A. Dorner was, by Briggs’s account, an influential figure in the shaping of his theology.  Also in Berlin the Briggses welcomed their daughter Emilie Grace into the world.  Our saint, back in the United States, served as the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Roselle, New Jersey, from 1869 to 1874.  That year he accepted an appointment to Union Theological Seminary as Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Languages.

Briggs remained at Union Theological Seminary for the rest of his life, although not always as a Presbyterian.  He was, according to student then colleague, Presbyterian minister and UTS professor William Adams Brown (1865-1938), a

walking encyclopedia, combining an essentially conservative theology with a critical scholarship.

Most of Briggs’s critics within and beyond the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. never questioned his intellect, but they did doubt his orthodoxy.  Briggs, from 1880 to 1890 the Editor of the Presbyterian Review, was a champion of historical criticism scholarship, of Higher Criticism of the Bible.  Our saint argued for propositions that no not cause the author of this post to arch his eyebrows.  Briggs argued, for example that

  1. The Book of Isaiah is the product of two authors.  (I have read commentaries that argue for three Isaiahs.  The editors of The Jewish Study Bible argue for two Isaiahs.)
  2. The Book of Zechariah is a composite work.  (The study Bibles in my library agree with this conclusion.)
  3. The Torah is not the work of Moses, but a composite of various documents edited, cut, and pasted during the time of Ezra.  (Renowned Jewish Biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman supports this conclusion in his books Who Wrote the Bible? (1987), Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), and The Bible with Sources Revealed:  A New View Into the Five Books of Moses (2003).)
  4. The Book of Jonah is a work of fiction.  (Of course it is.  The story is a magnificent satire of the excesses of postexilic Jewish nationalism and a reminder that God’s love extends to all Gentiles, even national enemies.)
  5. The Bible is neither inerrant nor infallible.  The dogmas that it is constitute barriers to faith for many people.  (I have read the Bible too closely to affirm either inerrancy or infallibility.  To label the recognition of the obvious heretical is  to encourage one not to love God with all of one’s intellect.)

These and other views of Briggs allegedly subverted the Christian faith.

Briggs favored the reordering of American Presbyterian theology and the revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith, to moderate the rough edges of its Calvinism.  He, an ardent ecumenist and supporter of organic union among denominations, argued against “orthodoxism,” or a false orthodoxy that betrays the principles of the Protestant Reformation and of the best aspects of the Presbyterian tradition.  In Whither? A Theological Question for the Times (1889) Briggs wrote:

Orthodoxism assumes to know the truth and is unwilling to learn; it is haughty and arrogant, assuming the divine prerogatives of infallibility and inerrancy; it hates the truth that is unfamiliar to it, and prosecutes it to the uttermost.  But orthodoxy loves the truth.  It is ever anxious to learn, for it knows how greatly the truth or God transcends human knowledge….It is meek, lowly, and reverent.  It is full of charity and love.  It does not recognize an infallible pope; it does not know an infallible theologian.

Briggs did not remain either a Presbyterian or alive long enough to witness the triumph of his position in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  He lived until 1913, a decade after the denomination revised the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. did not side officially with the Modernist side in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy until the middle and late 1920s, however.  The Presbytery of New York put Briggs, since 1891 the Edward Robinson Chair of Biblical Theology at UTS, on trial for heresy and acquitted him on that charge in 1892, but the General Assembly of 1893 suspended him from ministerial duties until he repented.  He never repented.  Briggs, after preaching as a layman for a few years, became an Episcopal priest in 1899 instead.  He, 72 years old, died of pneumonia on June 8, 1913.

Briggs, working from his secure professional home at Union Theological Seminary, continued to teach, write, and edit.  One of his greatest accomplishments was the Hebrew and English Lexicon (1905), a classic and standard work.  His fellow authors were Francis Brown and S. R. Driver, but his daughter Emilie Grace contributed to the work also.  She, assistant to her father from the 1890s to 1913, was a crucial participant in his late scholarly endeavors.

Emilie should have had a doctorate.  In 1897 she made history by becoming the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary.  She pursued graduate studies and wrote her dissertation, The Deaconess in the Ancient and Medieval Church, which the UTS faculty approved.  Yet she never received her doctorate, due to the fact she could never get the dissertation published, a requirement for receiving a doctorate from UTS at the time.  She revised the dissertation for decades and various professors helped her try to get it published, to no avail.  Emilie taught Greek and the New Testament at the New York Training School for Deaconesses, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, from 1896 to 1915.  After her father’s death in 1913 her main project was his legacy.  He left some scholarly books unfinished.  She, the author of several scholarly articles, finished and got published Theological Symbolics (1914), History of the Study of Theology (two volumes, 1916), and a commentary on Lamentations.  Emilie, who studied the order of deaconesses, completed other projects her father never had time to finish; she could not get them published, however.  She also collected and organized her father’s papers, which she donated to the library at UTS in 1941.  Emilie, who never married, died, aged 77 years, on June 14, 1944.

Charles Augustus Briggs and his daughter and intellectual heir, Emilie Grace Briggs, belong on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  They were fearless in their embrace of both faith and reason.








O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Charles Augustus Briggs, Emilie Grace Briggs, and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34






Feast of Venerable Matthew Talbot (June 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  Venerable Matthew Talbot

Image in the Public Domain



Recovering Alcoholic in Dublin, Ireland

The saints of God include Apostles, bishops, priests, nuns, monks, martyrs, poets, jewelers, merchants, painters, sculptors, and scholars, among many other types of people.  The saints of God also include construction workers and recovering alcoholics.

Venerable Matthew Talbot overcame alcoholism and a difficult youth to become a constructive member of society, if not a prominent member thereof.  He, born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 2, 1856, was the second of twelve children, nine of whom reached adulthood, grew up frequenting pubs in the Irish capital with his brothers and abusive father.  Our saint, an alcoholic at the age of 12 years, spent the next 16 years wasting his life as an  unrepentant drunkard while working either at the docks or at construction sites.  Then, at the age of 28 years, he had a conversion experience.  The construction worker in Dublin went to a priest at Holy Cross College and wowed not to drink for three months.  During that frequently difficult period of initial sobriety Talbot kept his promise.  He also attended Mass daily at 5:00 a.m. before reporting to his work site at 6:00 a.m.  Our saint made a series of three-months vows of sobriety and kept all of them.  For 41 years he remained sober, crediting divine grace and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For a while Talbot lived austerely, in the style of certain Irish saints.  He fasted. Sometimes our saint slept on a stone slab with a rock for a pillow.  At other times he slept on a wooden plank with block of wood for a pillow instead.  Talbot, aware of many of his sins, paid debts he owed he friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who had, on their credit, bought him drinks.  He also made restitution to people voluntarily.  Once, prior to his conversion, Talbot had stolen an elderly man’s fiddle.  Our saint, penitent, spent much time and effort attempting unsuccessfully to locate that man, for the purpose of making restitution.

The reformed Talbot, who tried in vain to convince his brothers to leave their hard drinking in the past, lived simply and gave to charities.  He lived with his mother until she died.  Afterward he rented a room.  Our saint had three pieces of furniture:  a bed, a table, and a chair.  He also attended Mass daily the first thing in the morning.  Talbot, whose expenses were small, gave most of his salary to charities (such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society) or directly to neighbors, acquaintances, and friends in need.

Talbot spent his final years ailing and receiving aid.  In 1923 doctors diagnosed him with tachycardia, or a dangerously rapid heartbeat.  He could no longer do construction work.  The money from the Irish National Health Insurance program proved inadequate for even his simple lifestyle.  However, friends and the St. Vincent de Paul Society kept him afloat financially.

On Trinity Sunday, June 7, 1925, Talbot died while walking to church; he collapsed on a sidewalk.  He was 69 years old.  The funeral was a sparsely attended ceremony.  Two sisters and their families, a few coworkers, and some fellow members of the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception were present.  However, the Roman Catholic Church granted Talbot the recognition he was due in 1975; Pope Paul VI declared him a Venerable.

Today the legacy of Venerable Matthew Talbot lives via services for addicts.  Across the English-speaking world, as a simple Google search proves, Matt Talbot Houses, Hostels, Recovery Centers, et cetera, help men and women with drug and alcohol addiction.

The story of Venerable Matthew Talbot demonstrates that God can transform the negative into not only the positive but the life-changing.








O blessed Jesus, you ministered to all who came to you.

Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom.

Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy;

remove the fears that attack them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery;

and to those who care for them, give patient understanding and persevering love;

for your mercy’s sake.  Amen.

–Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Book of Common Worship (1993), page 738


Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 130

Romans 7:14-25

Matthew 11:28-30

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