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)

friend of

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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