Archive for December 2016

Reflections on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of My Confirmation   Leave a comment

bulletin-december-22-1991

Above:  Cover of the Bulletin, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia, December 22, 1991

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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On the morning of December 22, 1991, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, I became an Episcopalian.  The Right Reverend Harry Woolston Shipps (who died recently), then the Bishop of Georgia, confirmed me.  Officially I retained membership in The United Methodist Church until the following Autumn, on the occasion of the 1992 Charge Conference of the Sumner Charge (four congregations at the time).  Indeed, I remained substantially a Methodist for a long time, but I had begun to think of myself as an Episcopalian prior to my confirmation at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, Georgia.

I have become convinced that I was supposed to become an Episcopalian, for the affiliation is a natural fit for me.  I am, after all, somewhat Roman Catholic while retaining many Protestant influences. Ritual appeals to me strongly also.  Furthermore, The Episcopal Church grants me a wide berth to respect certain traditions, break with other traditions, bring my intellect to bear on my spiritual life, disagree peaceably with many people, and be an introvert without feeling out-of-place.  Evangelicalism, as I have experienced it, is relentlessly extroverted.  That is not an inherently negative characteristic, but the manner in which many extroverts fail to respect the value of introversion and therefore marginalize introverts is unfortunate.  Indeed, personality typing helps to explain why certain denominations and styles of prayer are preferable to some people but not others.  That which feeds one person starves another.

I have never looked back from my choice to become an Episcopalian.  As I have become more liberal in some ways, more conservative in others, and incorporated Lutheran theology into my thought, I have become a different type of Episcopalian than I was in 1991.  My faith life is a work in progress; I wonder how it will proceed as I continue from day to day.  The Episcopalian way of being simply makes sense to me.  Since I moved to Athens, Georgia, in August 2005, I have dwelt spiritually primarily at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  I have also frequented two university chaplaincies (Episcopalian and Presbyterian U.S.A.), attended services at First Presbyterian Church and Holy Cross Lutheran Church, engaged in community volunteering at one Presbyterian U.S.A. and two United Methodist congregations, participated in a performance of the first part off Handel’s Messiah at Oconee Presbyterian Church (Watkinsville), and attended community functions at four other churches (Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational Charismatic) in the area.  Furthermore, I have attended a diocesan gathering at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, without ever entering a worship space there.  The fact that I seldom want to attend services in another denomination demonstrates the fact that I have found my niche.  Why should I seek another place?  Nevertheless, I am agreeable to ecumenical engagements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

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That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Feast of Sts. John Cassian and John Climacus (February 29)   Leave a comment

Vatican Flag

Above:  The Vatican Flag

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN CASSIAN (360-435)

Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, and Spiritual Writer

His feast = February 29

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SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS (CIRCA 570 OR 579-MARCH 649)

Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Saint John of the Ladder, Saint John Scholasticus, and Saint John the Sinaita

His feast transferred from March 30

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Above:  St. John Cassian

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Cassian was an influential figure in both Eastern and Western Christianity.  He, from what is now Romania, entered the world in 360.  Our saint came from a wealthy family and received an excellent education.  For about three years he and Germanus, a friend, were monks at Bethlehem.  Next the duo pursued monastic life in Egypt.  Circa 399 they and about 300 other monks left for Constantinople after St. Theophilus, the Pope of Alexandria (reigned 384-412) and successor of St. Mark the Apostle, wrote a letter opposing Origen‘s noncorporeal understanding of God.  The monks sought the protection of the Alexandrian Pope’s rival, St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople.  At the imperial capital St. John Cassian became a deacon.  In 404, following the deposition of St. John Chrysostom, St. John Cassian traveled to Rome to defend the patriarch to the Bishop of Rome.

St. John Cassian spent the rest of his life in the West.  He, ordained to the priesthood, settled at Marseilles, Gaul.  Circa 415 our saint founded a monastery and a convent at that city.  He also wrote about monasticism in the Institutes and the Conferences.  St. Benedict of Nursia (circa 480-circa 550) was so impressed with the Conferences that he listed it as one of the books for reading aloud after supper.

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Above:  Icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Cassian, who died at Marseilles in 435, influenced St. John Climacus, born in Syria circa 579.  He became a monk at Mt. Sinai at the age of 16 years.  Eventually our saint became an anchorite then an abbot there.  Finally, shortly before his death, St. John Climacus resigned his abbotcy to become a hermit again.  His second name, “Climacus,” came from his influential book, translated into English as The Ladder to Paradise and as The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  He wrote of the 30 steps to moral perfection, with each step corresponding to a year of Christ’s life from birth to baptism.  The steps were:

  1. On the renunciation of the world;
  2. On detachment;
  3. On exile or pilgrimage;
  4. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience;
  5. On painstaking and true repentance which constitute the life of holy convicts; and about the prison;
  6. On remembrance of death;
  7. On mourning which causes joy;
  8. On freedom from anger and on meekness;
  9. On remembrance of wrongs;
  10. On slander or calumny;
  11. On talkativeness and silence;
  12. On lying;
  13. On despondency;
  14. On the clamorous, yet wicked monster–the stomach;
  15. On incorruptible purity and chastity to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat;
  16. On the love of money or avarice;
  17. On poverty (that hastens heavenward);
  18. On insensibility, that is, deadening the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body;
  19. On sleep, prayer, and psalm-singing in the chapel;
  20. On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil and how to practice it;
  21. On unmanly and puerile cowardice;
  22. On the many forms of vainglory;
  23. On mad pride, and, in the same Step, on unclean blasphemous thoughts;
  24. On meekness, simplicity, guilelessness which come not from nature but from habit, and about malice;
  25. On the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual feeling;
  26. On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues;
  27. On holy solitude of body and soul;
  28. On holy and blessed prayer, mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer;
  29. Concerning heaven on earth, or godlike dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection; and
  30. Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues.

Climacus, who died in March 649, became an influential figure in both Eastern and Western monasticism via his book.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF BLESSED KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servants Sts. John Cassian and John Climacus,

and we pray that by their teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth we have seen

in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

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Feast of Nicholas Ferrar, George Herbert, and All Saintly Parish Priests (February 27)   Leave a comment

Flag of England

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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NICHOLAS FERRAR (FEBRUARY 22, 1592-DECEMBER 4, 1637)

Anglican Deacon and Founder of Little Gidding

His feast transferred from December 1 (in The Episcopal Church) and December 4 (in The Church of England)

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GEORGE HERBERT (APRIL 3, 1593-MARCH 1, 1633)

Anglican Priest and Metaphysical Poet

His feast (Anglican) = February 27

His feast (Lutheran) = March 1

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A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) lists February 27 as the feast of “George Herbert, 1633, and all saintly Parish Priests.”

george-herbert

Above:  George Herbert

Image in the Public Domain

George Herbert, born at Montgomery, Wales, on April 3, 1593, came from a distinguished family.  His older brother was Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648), poet, ambassador, and proto-Deist philosopher.  Our saint, educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, became the Public Orator at Cambridge in 1620.  This position was usually a stepping stone to political advancement.  Herbert, a Member of Parliament in 1624 and 1625, found himself on the wrong side of royal politics, for he was an ally of John Williams (1582-1650), the Bishop of Lincoln, whom King Charles I (reigned 1625-1649) did not like.  (Eventually, after Herbert’s death, Williams regained royal flavor and became Archbishop of York in 1641.)

Herbert, ordained a priest in 1629, married Jane Danvers.  He also became the Rector of Bemerton, where he was a fish out of water.  The rectory was barely habitable, the church building was in terrible condition, and the congregation was poor.  The former Cambridge don was an excellent priest to his congregation.  On March 1, 1633, about a month short of his fortieth birthday, Herbert died of tuberculosis.  He seemed to have been a failure.

On his deathbed Herbert entrusted The Temple, his collected poems, to his friend, Nicholas Ferrar, who lived at Little Gidding, just down the road.  Ferrar had the book published; he wrote the preface.  Among the more famous texts as “Love Bade Me Welcome.”  Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) set five of Herbert’s poems to music as the Five Mystical Songs (link #1, link #2).

Nicholas Ferrar, born at London, England, on February 22, 1592, studied at Clare Hall, Cambridge, then became a fellow there.  Bad health became a fellow there.  Bad health forced him to leave Cambridge in 1613.  For five years Ferrar traveled in Europe.  In 1618 our saint returned to England and went to work for its Deputy Treasurer.  In 1624, after the dissolution of the Virginia Company, Ferrar became a Member of Parliament.  He left Parliament two years later, became an Anglican deacon, and founded the community of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire.  The community, which grew to about 40 people, included some of Ferrar’s relatives.  Members of the community lived simply, helped poor people, meditated, fasted, recited the Book of Psalms daily, and observed a regimen of of daily prayer dictated by The Book of Common Prayer (1559).

Ferrar died at Little Gidding on December 4, 1637.  He was 45 years old.  The community did not survive Ferrar for long, for a Puritan raid in 1646 destroyed Little Gidding, allegedly the “Arminian Nunnery” that was part of a plot to spread Roman Catholic practices throughout England.

I do not like Puritans, puritans, or Puritanism.

As for “All Saintly Parish Priests,” I write as the son of a United Methodist minister.  My formative experiences have given me a grasp of the difference between the clergy and the laity that many of my fellow parishioners who lack the background of a preacher’s kid can never understand.  George Herbert, I perceive, performed a variety of mundane and important pastoral tasks and administered sacraments.  Nobody should underestimate the value of such work, which is seldom the stuff of extended accounts in reference works and biographies, on par with the deeds of political and military leaders.  I also know that the clergy live in proverbial glass houses a variety in which others–including politicians–do not.  All saintly parish priests deserve prayers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF BLESSED KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Good Shepherd, king of love, accept our thanks and praise for the love and care we have received

and for your servants Nicholas Ferrar and George Herbert.

May our care for each other grow constantly more reverent and more discerning.  Amen.

Ezekiel 3:16-21

Psalm 15 or 99

2 Corinthians 4:1-10

John 10:11-16

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), pages 681-682

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This is post #1500 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of Luis de Leon (February 27)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Map of Spain and Portugal, 1584

Image in the Public Domain

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LUIS DE LEON (1527-AUGUST 23, 1591)

Spanish Roman Catholic Priest and Theologian

Luis de Leon expanded his horizons, much to the disapproval of the Inquisition.  Our saint, born in 1527 at Belmonte, Cuenea, Spain, was an Augustinian priest who taught the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas at the University of Salamanca.  He chose to move beyond scholastic theology and studied Platonism, Arabic philosophy, Jewish mysticism, et cetera.  De Leon also mastered the Hebrew language so he could study the Hebrew Bible better.  During our saint’s study of the Old Testament he identified certain mistranslations in the Vulgate of St. Jerome.  News of this led to de Leon’s incarceration (without sacraments as well as knowledge of the charges against him) by the Valladolid Inquisition from March 1572 to December 1576.  Eventually the Inquisition cleared de Leon of all charges and released him.  His experience with the Inquisition influenced some of de Leon’s subsequent writings, as when he contrasted the arrogance of certain authority figures with the humility of Christ:

What can we say about kings and princes who not only lower and despise some of their subjects but think that this is the only way they themselves can feel important and try their best so that the groups they have lowered and despised will be held down and despised generation after generation?

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 93

De Leon’s academic and ecclesiastical career advanced post-Inquisition.  In his masterpiece, The Names of God (1583), he meditated on the titles of Christ.  Our saint received academic promotions and, in 1591, shortly before his death, became the provincial for the Augustinian order in Castille.  He died at Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Spain, on August 23, 1591.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, you have enlightened your Church by the teachings of your servant Luis de Leon;

enrich it evermore with your heavenly grace, and raise up faithful witnesses, who by their life and teaching

may proclaim to all people the truth of your salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Nehemiah 8:1-10

Psalm 34:11-17 or 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Matthew 5:13-19

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), page 684

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Feast of St. Gabriel Possenti (February 27)   Leave a comment

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Above:  St. Gabriel Possenti

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT GABRIEL POSSENTI (MARCH 1, 1838-FEBRUARY 27, 1862)

Penitent

Also known as Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

St. Gabriel Possenti came from a large and devout family of Assisi, the Papal States.  Our saint, born Francesco Possenti, was a son of Agnes (died in 1842) and Sante Possenti.  Several of Francesco’s siblings died of various ailments.  Our saint, educated by Christian Brothers and Jesuits, struggled with varieties of sin.  For a while his pattern was as follows:  nearly dying of one disease or another, promising to enter religious life if he were to recover, recovering, and reneging on that vow and returning to a life devoted to temporal pleasures, such as chasing women.  Finally, in 1857, at the age of 19 years, our saint joined the Passionist order.  He devoted his life to prayer, spent much time contemplating the death of Jesus, and had a devotion to Our Lady.  Before St. Gabriel could become a priest he died of tuberculosis at Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy, on February 27, 1862.  He was 23 years old.

Pope Pius X declared St. Gabriel a Venerable in 1905 and a Blessed three years later.  Pope Benedict XV canonized our saint in 1920.

St. Gabriel is the patron of young people, students, clerics, Catholic Action, and Abruzzi, Italy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Jesus, founder and member of the reconciled society,

thank you for St. Gabriel Possenti, whom you called to a forgiving and forgiven life,

and for the success with which you crowned his work.

May we too reflect the glory we receive from you.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 34 or 119:1-8

Ephesians 6:11-18

Matthew 25:31-46

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), page 687

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Feast of St. Paula of St. Joseph of Calasanz (February 26)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Map of Spain and Portugal, 1855

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PAULA OF SAINT JOSEPH OF CALASANZ (OCTOBER 11, 1799-FEBRUARY 26, 1889)

Foundress of the Daughters of Mary

Paula Montal Fornes devoted her life to God and helped many people.  The native of Arenys de Mar (near Barcelona), Spain, came from a pious family.  Her father, Ramon Montal, died when she was 10 years old.  Our saint helped her mother, Vicenta Fornes Montal, raise the other children in the family.  Paula also helped to support the family financially by working as a lace-maker and a seamstress.  Furthermore, she helped to care for other children in the parish.  When she was 30 years old our saint and a friend, Inez Busquets, founded a school at Gerona.  Paula founded a college in 1842 and another school four years later.  In 1847 she founded the Daughters of Mary to operate and staff these institutions.  Our saint, who assumed the name St. Paula of St. Joseph of Calasanz, led the congregation, which received papal approval in 1860.  She died at Olesa de Montserrat, Barcelona, on February 26, 1889.  She was 89 years old.

Pope John Paul II declared our saint a Venerable in 1988, beatified her in 1993, and canonized her in 2001.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Gracious and eternal God, by your grace St. Paula of St. Joseph of Calasanz,

kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church,

inflame us with the same spirit of discipline and love,

that we may always walk before you as children of light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

1 Kings 19:9-18

Psalm 119:161-168

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 6:24-33

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), pages 685-686

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