Archive for June 2019

Feast of Blessed Liborius Wagner (December 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed Liborius Wagner

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED LIBORIUS WAGNER (DECEMBER 5, 1593-DECEMBER 9, 1631)

German Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1631

Religious persecution is always wrong.  Frequently it occurs when atheists or antitheists (to use Reza Aslan’s term) persecute religion in general.  On other occasions, religious persecution is of members of one religion by adherents of another one.  Another variety of religious persecution is intrafaith, such as Christians persecuting other Christians.  Consider the martyrdom of Blessed Liborius Wagner, O reader.

Wagner, born in Mühlhausen, Unstrut-Hainich, Thuringia, on December 5, 1593, grew up a Lutheran.  At that time of polarized religion and the Religious Wars, our saint’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1613 led to a break with his parents.  Four years later, Wagner became a teacher.  The date of his ordination to the priesthood was March 29, 1625.

Religious conflict during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) forced Wagner to move from town to town.  In 1631 he was a priest in Altenmünster.  The approach of Swedish forces compelled Wagner to flee.  He hid with and ministered to his parishioners in nearby Reichmannhausen.  Swedes captured our saint on December 4, 1631, after someone betrayed him.  The Swedish Army dragged Wagner behind a horse for a few miles to Mainberg.  There they tortured the priest, who refused to renounce his faith.  The immediate cause of his death was beating with firearms and swords, on December 9, 1631.

Pope Paul VI declared Wagner a Venerable in 1973 then beatified him the following year.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDRA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Blessed Liborius Wagner

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant to us, who now remember him in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 714

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Feast of John Greenleaf Whittier (December 8)   2 comments

Above:  John Greenleaf Whittier

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER (DECEMBER 7, 1807-SEPTEMBER 7, 1892)

U.S. Quaker Abolitionist, Poet, and Hymn Writer

John Greenleaf Whittier was one of the greatest American poets of the nineteenth century.

Whittier, born and raised in a Quaker family on a farm near Haverhill, Massachusetts, on December 7, 1807, worked hard as a youth.  He was a farmer, of course, but was also a cobbler.  (Farming was not his sole concern, although he remained a grounded person.)  Our saint had little formal education–a few terms at Haverhill Academy, actually.  While there, he began to write.  William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) made Whittier a published poet in the Newburyport Free Press, in 1826.  The two men became lifelong friends in 1829.

Whittier’s friendship with Garrison advanced our saint professionally.  In 1829 Garrison helped Whittier become the editor of The American Manufacturer, Boston, Massachusetts.  This was a politically Whig publication that focused on industrial and agricultural interests.  While editor of The American Manufacturer, Whittier became involved in the abolitionist movement.  Our saint went on to edit The New England Weekly Review (1830-1832), The Pennsylvania Freeman (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1838-1840), and The Middlesex Standard (Lowell, Massachusetts, 1844-1845), as well as to join the staff of The Washington National Era (1847-1869).

Whittier put his literary skills to work in the service of abolitionism in other ways, too.  He wrote Justice and Expediency (1833), a best-selling pamphlet.  That year, as the secretary of the Anti-Slavery Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our saint helped to draft the declaration of principles.  Four years later, he published Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolitionist Cause in the United States.

Whittier did more than write and edit.  In 1835 he won a seat in the Massachusetts legislature.  The following year, he became the secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  In 1835 and 1838 Whittier experienced pro-slavery mob violence–first in Concord, New Hampshire.  Three years later, he witnessed the burning of the offices of The Pennsylvania Freeman.

Throughout mob violence and the United States Civil War Whittier, a womb-to-tomb Quaker, remained a staunch pacifist.  Although he preferred secession to war, he welcomed Confederate defeat at the end of that war.

Whittier became more radical as he aged.  By the end of his life, he had abandoned enough of his former, traditional ideas about gender to support women’s suffrage.

Whittier also composed religious poems, some of which congregations sang as hymns, starting during his lifetime.  He denied being a hymn writer, though; his Quaker congregations did not sing hymns.  Nevertheless, generations of Christians have sung some of his texts, including “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,” as hymns.

Whittier moved in with three female cousins in Danvers, Massachusetts, in 1876.  He died in Hampton Falls, New York, on September 7, 1892.  He was 86 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDRA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

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

We bless your name for inspiring John Greenleaf Whittier

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), 728

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Feast of Blessed Marin Shkurti (December 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed Marin Shkurti

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED MARIN SHKURTI (OCTOBER 1, 1933-APRIL 1, 1969)

Albanian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1969

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You shoot me because I am a priest.  I am innocent.  Long live the faith in Christ.  Long live Albania.

–Blessed Marin Shkurti, April 1, 1969

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Albania, for most of the Cold War, was a Communist state that remained apart from the Soviet Bloc.  The Soviet Union and its satellites were hardly paradise, but Albania was worse.  Persecution of religion was a long-standing policy, but, starting in 1967, the country was officially atheistic.  The government closed all houses of worship and imposed a decade-long sentence for preaching.

Blessed Marin Shkurti, born in Samrish, Shkodrë, Albania, on October 1, 1933, became a priest and celebrated his first Mass on December 8, 1961.  He ministered openly until 1967.  Then he became an underground priest.  In 1968 he fled to Yugoslavia, but authorities extradited him.  The following year, courts convicted many of his relatives and sentenced them to either hard labor or long prison terms.  Our saint, convicted to treason, received the crown of martyrdom on April 1, 1969.  He was 37 years old.

Pope Francis declared Shkurti a Venerable then beatified him in 2016.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love

in the heart of your holy martyr Blessed Marin Shkurti:

Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,

that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-5

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 715

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Feast of Emma Francis (December 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of the United States Virgin Islands

Image in the Public Domain

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EMMA FRANCIS (DECEMBER 7, 1875-APRIL 8, 1945)

Lutheran Deaconess in the United States Virgin Islands and Harlem

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God is God.  He alone is All-wise.  On Him we must trust for the future although it appears dark to us.

–G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 389

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Emma Francis devoted her life to serving God and being a positive influence in society.  She, born on St. Kitts (in the West Indies) on December 7, 1875, was a daughter of Mary H. Francis and the Reverend Joseph Francis.  After a Moravian education on Antigua, our saint trained in Germany to become a missionary.  She was originally supposed to go to Africa, but the leaders of the missionary training school became concerned that white missionaries would discriminate against her.  So, in 1906, Frances began to train in Friendenshort to become a deaconess.  She, consecrated in 1907, transferred in 1908 to the Ebenezer Home for Girls, Frederikstad, St. Croix, Danish territory until 1917.  She taught in the orphanage for all but six years of the remainder of her life.

Frances spent 1921-1927 in Harlem, New York, New York.  In 1922 she became the first African-American deaconess in North American Lutheranism–in the United Lutheran Church in America (extant 1918-1962), a predecessor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  While in Harlem, she helped to found the Lutheran Church of the Transfiguration, now the Christ Center at Transfiguration.

Francis, a stickler about observing the Sabbath, worked well with at-risk youth for decades.  She also learned German and Spanish so she could expand her ministry.

Deaconess Emma Francis, 69 years old, died on April 8, 1945.

In 2019 the Queen Louise Home campus of Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands has a special unit for children and young adults with severe physical and developmental disabilities.  The name for that unit is the Sister Emma Cottage, appropriately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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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,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior 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), 60

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Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra (December 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Nicholas of Myra

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA (MARCH 15, 270-DECEMBER 6, 343)

Bishop of Myra

We know little about St. Nicholas of Myra.  Legends abound, but confirmed information is scarce.  We know the following, though:

  1. St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, on the coast of what is now Turkey.
  2. He suffered incarceration and torture after Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) launched an empire-wide persecution of Christianity in 303.

St. Nicholas may have attended the First Council of Nicaea (325), from which the first draft of the Nicene Creed emerged.  According to one story, he slapped Arius, founder of the Arian heresy.  (I do not know if the story is true, but I suppose that it is plausible.)

St. Nicholas apparently earned his reputation as a generous person, hence many stories of financial assistance to those in need.  His generosity to impoverished children eventually contributed to stories of Santa Claus.

The Roman Emperor Justinian I “the Great” (reigned 527-565) revered the late Bishop of Myra as a saint.  The Church has followed that practice, wisely.

May kindness and love define our characters, communities, social institutions, societies, and governments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea:

Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children,

the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt and grief;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 19:17, 20-23

Psalm 145:8-13

1 John 4:7-14

Mark 10:13-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 105

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Feast of Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (December 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Stille Nacht

Scanned from The Pilgrim Hymnal (1912) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Notice that the translation is not the one we usually sing these days.

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JOSEPHUS FRANCISCUS MOHR (DECEMBER 11, 1792-DECEMBER 4, 1848)

Austrian Roman Catholic Priest

collaborated with

FRANZ XAVER GRUBER (NOVEMBER 25, 1787-JUNE 7, 1863)

Austrian Roman Catholic Teacher, Musician, and Composer

Father Mohr and Herr Gruber come to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Stille Nacht, their famous Christmas carol, which they debuted at Midnight Mass at St. Nikolaus Church, Oberndorff, Austria, on December 24, 1818.  Accounts tell us that Mohr sang tenor and Gruber played guitar and sang bass, and that Gruber had composed the tune for Mohr’s text.

Franz Gruber, born into poverty, resisted his family’s intentions when he became a musician.  He, born at Unterweizberg, near Hochburg, Austria, on November 25, 1787, was a son of Josef and Maria Gruber.  Josef was a linen weaver.  Young Franz secretly studied violin and organ.  He openly worked as a weaver until he was 18 years old.  His parents, like many other well-meaning relatives of a host of people over time, encouraged their son to enter a lucrative profession.  Our saint understood his vocation, though.  He became a teacher at Arnsdorff, working there from 1807 to 1829.  In 1808 he married his first wife, Maria Elisabeth Fischinger Engelsberger (d. 1825), a widow.  They had two children, who died young.  In 1816 Gruber started to work as the organist at St. Nikolaus Church, Oberndorff.

Joseph Mohr was, according to conventional social standards, illegitimate–a bastard.  (Actually, no human being is illegitimate and the proper standard of being a bastard is having bad character.  Mohr was no bastard.)  Mohr, born in Salzburg, Austria, on December 11, 1792, was the son of Anna Schoiber and mercenary Franz Mohr.  Franz was away from home much of the time.  Father Johann Nepomuk Hiernle, on staff at Salzburg Cathedral, became young Joseph’s father-figure.  Father Hiernle guided the youth’s education and musical training.  Mohr studied violin and sang in the choir.  He sang in the choir at Salzburg Cathedral then in the choir at the University Church and the choir at the Monastery Church of St. Peter.  Our saint studied at the monastery of Knemsmünster in 1808-1810, resumed studies in Salzburg in 1810-1811, then attended seminary.  He graduated and became a priest in 1815.  He served in various parishes through 1828, before transferring to Hintersee (1828-1837) and Wagrein (1837-1848).

In 1817-1819 Mohr was the assistant priest at St. Nikolaus Church Oberndorff.  He and Gruber collaborated on Stille Nacht, of course, and on at least one other composition, a setting of the Te Deum.  The traditional story that Mohr wrote Stille Nacht on short notice may not be true; he probably had composed the text some time prior, and merely pulled it out of a drawer.

Gruber continued to teach, work as a musician, and marry.  In 1829 he began to teach at Berndorff.  Gruber, the headmaster, starting in 1833, also worked as a musician at Hallein, near Salzburg.  He sang, played the organ, and conducted the choir.  Maria Breitfuss, his second wife, died in 1841.  Four of their ten children lived to adulthood.  In 1842 he married Katherine Wimmer.

Gruber died on June 7, 1863.  He was 75 years old.

Mohr served as the village priest in Wagrein from 1837 to 1848.  In 1838 he founded the village school and created a scholarship program that allowed impoverished children to attend.  Our saint also turned his attention to the effective care of the elderly of the village; he helped both the young and the old.

Mohr died in Wagrein on December 4, 1848.  He was 55 years old.

Morh and Gruber contributed much to the world via their famous Christmas carol.  That was only a portion of their positive work, however.

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Loving God of the Incarnation, we thank you for your servants Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber,

who improved their corners of the world in practical ways and who left an enduring legacy with Stille Nacht.

May the examples of their holy lives inspire us to add beauty to the world and to care for those who need assistance,

to the glory of God and for the common good.  In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:9-10

Psalm 84

1 Corinthians 13

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Feast of St. Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4)   2 comments

Above:  Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, Russia, Prior to Its Demolition in 1931

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALEXANDER HOTOVITZKY (FEBRUARY 11, 1872-AUGUST 19, 1937)

Russian Orthodox Priest and Martyr, 1937

Orthodox Church in America feast day = December 4

Russian Orthodox Church feast day = August 7

St. Alexander Hotovitzky served God, followed Jesus, and received the crown of martyrdom.  He, born in Kremenetz, Russian Empire (now Ukraine), on February 11, 1872, was a son of archpriest Alexander Hotovitzky, Rector of the Volhynia Theological Seminary.  Our saint studied at that institution then at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, earning his M.A. degree in 1895.

Then Hotovitzky’s time as a missionary in the United States began.  After time in Alaska, our saint became reader at the new St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, New York, New York.  He married Maria Scherbuhina, became a deacon, then finally joined the ranks of priests at February 25, 1896.  Bishop Nicholas ordained him at the diocesan cathedral in San Francisco, California.  As pastor of the St. Nicolas Orthodox Church, New York City, our saint ministered to immigrants and started congregations in various towns and cities, from Yonkers, New York, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He also helped to build the new St. Nicholas Cathedral (dedicated in 1902) in New York City.

Hotovitzky returned to the Russian Empire in 1914.  He served first in mainly Lutheran Helsinki, Finland, in 1914-1917.  In August 1917 our saint became assistant pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow.  He worked closely with St. Tikhon of Moscow (1865-1925), who had been the Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska (1898-1905) then the Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America (1905-1907), prior to returning to Russia. St. Tikhon became the Patriarch of Moscow in late 1917.  Hotovitzky played an active role in administering the Diocese of Moscow.

Hotovitzky kept the faith under Bolshevik rule.  He helped to found the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, to maintain the church.  He also became a prisoner twice (in 1920 and 1921) for conducting religious education in 1922, when the state, on the pretense of helping the poor, confiscated icons and sacred vessels.  The cathedral and the Russian Orthodox Church, in fact, had been doing much to help the poor and continued to do so.  As the state executed many Russian Orthodox clergymen, our saint faced charges in 1922; he allegedly sought to regain church lands and property the state had confiscated, and had supposedly tried to overthrow the government.  Hotovitzky, sentenced to a decade of incarceration on December 13, 1922, served a term that ended in October 1923.

The persecution continued.  Hotovitzky, arrested on September 24, 1924, spent three years in exile in the Turuhan region.  After returning from exile, Hotovitzky assisted the future Patriarch Sergius I.  During the 1930s our saint served at the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, Moscow, until his final arrest, in 1937.

Hotovitzky has been an official saint since December 4, 1994.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr, Saint Alexander Hotovitzky,

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant to us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

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

Sirach (Eccelesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2020), 714

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