Archive for February 4, 2017

Feast of St. Margaret Clitherow (March 26)   Leave a comment


Above:  St. Margaret Clitherow

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Martyr in England

Her feast transferred from March 25

The Feast of St. Margaret Clitherow is March 25 in the Roman Catholic Church.  March 25, however, is also the Feast of the Annunciation.  My rule regarding biblical feasts on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is, with few exceptions, to reserve a date with a biblical feast for that biblical feast and to transfer other commemorations that might fall on that date to other dates.  I have decided during the ongoing renovation of the Ecumenical Calendar to follow Roman Catholic custom and retain March 25 as the Feast of St. Dismas also; he was a biblical saint, after all.  Clitherow, however, lived in the 1500s.  Therefore I have transferred Clitherow’s feast to March 26.

Margaret Middleton, born at York, England, in 1556, was a daughter of Thomas Middleton (a candle maker and, for two years, the Sheriff of York) and Jane Middleton.  Our saint grew up an Anglican and married John Clitherow.  She converted to Roman Catholicism circa 1574.  Our saint endured more than one term of imprisonment for being a Roman Catholic, for allowing clandestine Masses on her property, and for sheltering Roman Catholic priests (including her husband’s brother).  Her final trial (on March 14, 1586) resulted in a death sentence.  Clitherow refused to answer any charges and to incriminate family members and servants.  Her last words, during the fatal pressing on Good Friday, were

Jesus, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy on me.

Both of her sons became priests and her daughter became a nun.

Pope Pius XI declared Clitherow a Venerable then a Blessed in 1929.  Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1970.





Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of St. Margaret Clitherow,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives

to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

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

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59



Feast of Harriet Tubman (March 26)   1 comment


Above:  Harriet Tubman

Image in the Public Domain




The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives and legacies of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman on July 20.  I have decided, however, to break up that commemoration on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Therefore I establish her feast day as being separate and set it at March 26, following the lead of Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997).

Our saint, born circa 1820 in Dorcester County, Maryland, was originally Araminta “Minty” Ross, a slave.  She endured the humiliations and injustices of slavery; her Christian faith, among other things, helped her to do this.  Our saint was a mystic; she entered into trances and understood God to speak to her.  After a trance in 1849 she escaped to freedom in Canada.

“Minty” became Harriet Tubman in 1844, when she married John Tubman.  He died in 1851.

Tubman’s faith compelled her to put her life at risk for the freedom of slaves.  From 1851 to 1861 she made at least 19 trips to Maryland and back to Canada, to bring more than 300 slaves to freedom.  “Moses,” as many slaves called her, was a physically slight person and a moral giant.  She put her life at risk to help others; the bounty for her capture was $40,000.  (Aside: $40,000 in 1861 currency = $1,110,000 in 2015 currency.)  Tubman relocated to upstate New York in 1858/1859.  During the Civil War she worked as a nurse, a scout, and a spy for the U.S. Army.  She even participated in a raid that freed more than 750 slaves.

Tubman continued her good works after the Civil War.  She, although poor, took African-American orphans and elderly people into her home.  Although she was illiterate, our saint founded schools for African-American children.  When she came into more money, she helped those who were more impoverished than she was.  Our saint, who married Nelson Davis (died in 1888) in 1869, was the adoptive mother of Gertie Davis (born in 1876).  Our saint also advocated for feminist causes, working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  Tubman, however, chose to focus more on the problems of African Americans than on those of women in general.

Tubman died at Auburn, New York, on March 10, 1913.  She was in her nineties.

In 2016, when the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced plans to replace President Andrew Jackson‘s image on the $20 bill with the likeness of Tubman, candidate Donald Trump denounced the proposed change as an example of political correctness.  Actually, Tubman did more that was positive for the United States than Jackson did.  Jackson, for example, executed the policy of Indian removal, set the stage for the morally indefensible Trail of Tears, and led the charge to destroy the Second Bank of the United States.  The last item alone makes his place on money dubious.





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

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

Help us, like your servant Harriet Tubman, 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 Blessed Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador (March 24)   1 comment


Above:  The Scene Immediately After the Assassination of Archbishop Romero

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador


I have frequently been threatened with death.  I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection.  If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.

Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned.  But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life then may my blood be the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality….A bishop will die, but the church of God–the people–will never die.

–Archbishop Romero, quoted in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 133


This feast exists in various denominations.  From Roman Catholic websites I know of the beatification of Romero on May 23, 2015, and of the fact of decades of official suspicion that he was a Marxist.  And, based on my library, I know the following statements to be accurate:

  1. The Episcopal Church observes the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980,  and the Martyrs of El Salvador.”
  2. The Church of England keeps the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr, 1980.”
  3. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada observe the feast of “Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, 1980.”

Furthermore, Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1979), places Romero’s feast on March 24, the same date of the saint’s feast on the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Church of England calendars.


Archbishop Oscar Romero became a martyr for challenging the repressive government of El Salvador which had death squads that targeted civilians.  The U.S. Government, for reasons of Cold War politics, provided military aid to this regime during the Carter and Reagan Administrations.  The Cold War provided cover for a multitude of murders, apparently.

Romero, born at Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador, on August 15, 1917, became an apprentice to a carpenter at the age of 13 years.  The following year our saint discerned a vocation to the priesthood; he began to prepare for it.  Romero studied in El Salvador at in Rome.  Our saint, ordained a priest on April 4, 1942, became a parish priest in his homeland.  He also served as the diocesan secretary at San Miguel.

The episcopate summoned.  On April 25, 1970, Romero became the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador.  He left that post on October 15, 1974, to become the Bishop of Santiago de Maria.  There he began to liberalize.  Romero had been suspicious of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and of the call (from 1968) of Archbishop Helder Camara for the Church to advocate for social justice for the poor and the oppressed, not to identify with those who oppress them.  Despite Romero’s gradual shift to the left (in progress), he remained relatively conservative when he became the Archbishop of San Salvador on February 3, 1977.

Romero’s move to the left accelerated soon after he became archbishop.  On March 12, 1977, government gunmen assassinated Father Rutilio Grande, a priest committed to social justice for campesinos.  The following Sunday the archbishop suspended Masses in the capital city and demanded the punishment of the guilty.  Romero became a vocal opponent of the regime, which killed civilians as a matter of policy; he was the “Voice of the Voiceless.”  The junta that seized power in 1979 did not cease the repression.  Early in 1980 our saint wrote President Jimmy Carter and requested that the U.S. Government halt military aid to the government of El Salvador.  This did not endear the archbishop to the Salvadoran regime, of course.

On Sunday, March 23, 1980, in a homily, Romero effectively signed his death warrant.  He said in part:

I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the Police, and the garrisons.  Brothers, you belong to our own people.  You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail that says:  Do not kill!  No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God.  No one has to comply with an immoral law.  It is time ow that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.  The Church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of the dignity of the human person, cannot remain silent before so much abomination.

We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood.  Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of the longsuffering people, whose laments rise to heaven everyday more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God:  stop the repression!

–Translated by Nena Terrell and Sally Hanlon; quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, editors, Cloud of Witnesses (2005), pages 278-279

The following day, Monday, March 24, 1980, Romero preached his final homily at a hospital chapel in San Salvador.  He said in part:

“God’s reign is already present on earth in mystery.  When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.”

That is the hope that inspires Christians.  We know that every effort to better society, especially when so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.

–Translated by James R. Brockman, S.J. and quoted in The Violence of Love:  The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero (San Francisco, CA:  Harper & Row, 1988), page 242

A government gunman assassinated Romero after the completed that homily.

Civil War began later that year and continued until 1992.  The government of El Salvador (the one receiving military aid from the United States Government) killed more than 75,000 civilians as a matter of policy.  Among those murdered by death squads were Roman Catholic priests, members of Roman Catholic orders, and lay people associated with them.


Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,

If thou wouldst my disciple be;

Deny thyself, the world forsake,

And humbly follow after me.


Take up thy cross; let not its weight

Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

My strength shall bear thy spirit up,

And brace thine heart and nerve thine arm.


Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

Nor let thy foolish heart rebel;

The Lord for thee the cross endured,

To save thy soul from death and hell.


Take up thy cross then in his strength;

And calmly every danger brave;

‘Twill guide thee to a better home,

And lead to victory o’er the grave.


Take up thy cross and follow him,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

Charles William Everest (1814-1877), 1833


Oscar Romero took up his cross and followed Christ.





Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor,

and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope:

Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador,

we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life,

even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,

be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

–Isaiah 2:5-7

Psalm 31:15-24

Revelation 7:13-17

John 12:23-32

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 287