Archive for July 2020

Detergents   Leave a comment

Opposition to puns should never deter gents from telling jokes about clothes washers.  No, these punny men should maintain their commitment to clean humor, no matter how others spin the witticisms.

Anti-Intellectualism and Right-Wing Populism   1 comment

Truthiness, Alternative Facts, and Damn Lies

Stephen Colbert, during his years of hosting The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, spoke, in the character of a composite of most of the on-air talent at the FOX News Channel of “truthiness,” defined as

the quality or seeming or feeling true, even when being false.

“Truthiness” is the quality of anti-intellectualism, of the distrust of expertise and reference works.  Objective reality, the character of Stephen Colbert said on October 17, 2005, is

all fact and no heart.

The television persona of Colbert rejected objective reality.

Objectively, surveys revealed that more self-described conservatives than self-described liberals did not get the joke.  More self-described conservatives than self-described liberals failed to realize that Colbert was playing a character.

That which Colbert said in political satire has become the governing strategy of the Trump Administration.  One may recall that, in early 2017, Kellyanne Conway used a now-infamous term:

alternative facts.

Her boss is a proponent and purveyor of alternative facts, half-truths, conspiracy theories, and what Samuel L. Clemens called

damn lies.

Anti-intellectualism is a political and religious tradition in the United States and elsewhere.  (Traditions are, by definition, old, so I choose not to call anti-intellectualism an “old tradition.”)    Related to anti-intellectualism is another tradition, distrust of science.  I trust science and consider myself an intellectual, of course.  Another cousin, so to speak, is the distrust of expertise.  I like experts, people who have read, studied, researched, et cetera.  They are well-informed, by definition.  I do not pretend that they are infallible, but I trust them before I trust an uninformed person on the street.  If that makes me an elitist, so be it.

Right-wing populism embraces truthiness and alternative facts as it rejects intellectualism, expertise, and science.  This tendency is proving deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Wearing masks in public and maintaining social distancing should NOT be controversial, but they are.  The Coronavirus will not vanish one day, magically.  No, it will remain with us for a very long time.  The Bubonic Plague still exists, but how often does it become a news story?  COVID-19 will eventually join the ranks of generally contained diseases that break out here and there, now and again, with limited effects.  We will get to that day sooner rather than later by acting responsibly, both collectively and individually, and by trusting that people who study this disease know more about it than people who do not.

Unfortunately, as human psychology proves, ego defense mechanisms are generally impervious to objective reality.  The least effective way to convince one to change one’s mind may be to present objective information, especially if one’s ego is invested in an erroneous belief.  Consider opposition to vaccination, O reader.  I understand why, centuries ago, when vaccination was new, that many people feared it.  However, given that vaccination has proven effective, fear of it is irrational and contrary to objective reality.

Aside:  I report that the worst reaction I had to an immunization was the exception to the rule.  My standard reaction is none, except for momentary discomfort; I despise needles.  I recall, however, that I passed out momentarily once.  On the other hand, I got a piece of chocolate, so I cannot complain.

This pandemic presents people with a choice:  Behave responsibly and reject misinformation or embrace conspiracy theories and racist, nativistic, xenophobic, and objectively false statements and those who peddle them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Allegedly Pro-Life Republican Politicians Who Are Pro-Death During a Pandemic   Leave a comment

ESPECIALLY THE GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA, WHO IN WORDS OF THE MAYOR OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, TODAY, DOES NOT “GIVE A DAMN ABOUT US”

Some politicians who claim the label “pro-life” with regard to abortion are pro-death with regard to COVID-19.

I will get a side point out of the way.  I am cautiously pro-choice.  On principle, I oppose abortion except in extreme cases.  Medical emergencies do exist.  Sometimes somebody will die, regardless of the decision one makes.  Life does not always spare people those dilemmas.  I hold that the people who should make those decisions are usually the ones closest to the individuals affected.  In certain circumstances, however, they may not be.  This can be a complicated issue.

Now, back to the main point….

Recently, the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, mandated that we who live here wear masks in public places.  This was a socially responsible order consistent with science.  This morning, while watching the news briefly (for the few minutes I could bear to do so), I heard that the Dishonorable, Excrable (to use an old word) Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia, overrode that ordinance and its counterparts elsewhere in Georgia.  He decreed that no local government may issue a COVID-19-related order stricter than state policy.

Kemp, elected in 2018, ran as a pro-life, pro-gun liability.  He captured what political analysts call the Bubba Vote.  I voted for Stacey Abrams, his main opponent, who came close to winning.

If Kemp were as pro-life as he claims to be, he would issue stricter statewide policies and support the mandating of wearing masks in public.  He is only one politician I condemn for hypocrisy related to being pro-life regarding abortion but not regarding COVID-19.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Becoming   4 comments

One’s life is the continuous process of becoming the next version of oneself.  Former versions of oneself are legion; the next version of oneself awaits.  We all change in a plethora of ways throughout life.  Hopefully, we improve.  Hopefully, we deepen in faith.  Hopefully, we become kinder and more forgiving.  Hopefully, we become more knowledgeable.  Hopefully, we become more compassionate.  Hopefully, we become better at work.  Hopefully, we improve at all worthwhile pursuits.  Hopefully, our language skills will improve.  Hopefully, we will improve (in a number of activities) with practice.  Hopefully, we become more grateful.  Hopefully, we become more loving and less judgmental.  Hopefully, we become more aware of social injustice and refuse to turn a blind eye to it and to defend it any longer.  Hopefully, we practice the Golden Rule more often.

I can speak and write only for myself.  That is all I try to do in this post.

I have noticed changes in myself.  Times of loss and great stress have led to spiritual and emotional growth.  Even during times loss and great stress have not defined, I have changed spiritually.  I have, for example, started growing into mysticism.  Nobody has found this more surprising than I have.  I have also shifted theologically; I have moved toward the center, overall.  I have retained my propensity to ask questions and understand doubts as gateways to deeper faith, though.  When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, one of the other residents in the dormitory told me I would go to Hell for asking too many questions.  I have never changed my mind about her; she did not ask enough questions.  God, who gave us brains, does not intend for us to check our intellects at the church door.  Healthy faith is never anti-intellectual.  I could name some people who do not consider me a Christian, but I will not do so in this post.  To them I say, “You know who you are.”

I am becoming the next version of myself.  Who will he be?  May he be the person God wants him to be.  Those to whom I say, “You know who you are,” will think what they will think.  So be it; I do not answer to them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF NAPLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR.; AND HIS SON, DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR.; EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF MISSISSIPPI AND ADVOCATES FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE TYRRELL, IRISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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Some Oxymorons   Leave a comment

I have been pondering some oxymorons.  “Business ethics” and “military intelligence” are ubiquitous on such lists.  I point out, however, that “military intelligence” need not be oxymoronic and is not always so.  Furthermore, ethical businessmen and businesswomen exist.  I know some of them.

“Negative growth.”

This is a term from business reporting.  Is not an instance of negative growth a loss?

“Auto correct.” 

As frequently as “auto correct” is hilariously or embarrassingly wrong, we should call it “auto incorrect.”

“Jumbo shrimp.”

This is an oldie and a goodie.

“More/less/very/not as/somewhat unique.”

Degrees of uniqueness do not exist.  Period.  Please do not speak or write like a half-witted illiterate who does not know what words mean.

“Mandatory volunteerism.”

Volunteerism is voluntary.  Forcing people to work without pay for a fixed period of time is indentured servitude.  Forcing them to do it for life is slavery.

“Google Translate.”

There is a good reason that the inaccuracy of “Google Translate” is fodder for YouTube Channels and segments of late-night talk shows.  Literal translation frequently yields awkward phrasing and/or gibberish.

“Cat Owner.”

Unless one refers to the cat as owning himself or herself and probably the human(s), too, “cat owner” is an oxymoron.

“New Tradition.”

Traditions are old, not new.

“Instant Classic.”

Classics have stood the test of time, so cannot be instant, by definition.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

Posted July 10, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Language

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A Few Reasons I Am Grateful   Leave a comment

I am grateful for many reasons.  If I were to do nothing but count all of them and elaborate on each one, I would spent much time doing so.  I have learned that the best way to proceed is to focus on a few at a time.

A few reasons I am grateful follow.

I grateful that experiences of great loss become opportunities of grace.

Grace is free, not cheap; it carries with it the obligation to extend grace to others.  I seek such opportunities.

Bonny died last October 14.  Her sudden, violent death has created a persistent, open wound in my psyche.  I have accepted that I will never be the person I was prior to that fateful morning.  My life changed that day.  Since then, parts of my life have been stripping away.  I have learned more clearly the distinction between the necessary and the desired.  That has been a form of grace.

And, just as I have learned who my friends really are, I have gained experiences I can use to help others experiencing their own emotional traumas.  I have begun to wonder to whom God may send me so that I may, out of my pain, contribute to healing.

I am grateful for my parish.

De facto, I have belonged to St. Gregory the Great the Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, since August 2005.  My membership transferred slightly later.  For nearly fifteen years, I have, so to speak, become part of the woodwork of my church.  I have assumed leadership roles (usually ones I did not seek) and formed relationships.  This parish has seen me through the darkest times of my life and functioned as a vehicle of grace.  Individual parishioners have also prevented me from falling too far into the abyss and proven that I am not alone.  They have taken care of me when I have needed that.

As long as I reside in Athens-Clarke County, I will remain part of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church.

I am grateful for necessities fulfilled.

I had plans at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.  They were rational plans, not half-baked, magical thinking.  Then the pandemic and its economic fallout derailed those plans.  Through it all, I have never been at risk of going hungry, becoming homeless, and not being able to pay my bills.

The fulfillment of necessities continues by a variety of means.  Words are inadequate to express my gratitude.

I am grateful for a better understanding of what constitutes a necessity.

Simple living is a blessing.  We live, we accumulate, and we die.  Then others decide the fates of our worldly possessions.  Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, although one does need certain possessions.  Taming one’s appetites for consumption is a good spiritual practice.

Now that I am in the midst of packing to leave my apartment, full of memories that grieve me, I am grateful to rid myself of many possessions.  My identity is in God, not my stuff, for lack of a better word.

I am grateful for the joy that comes from serious Bible study.

I have spent hours at a time studying texts, consulting commentaries, pondering what I have read, taking notes, and synthesizing ideas.  I have derived much pleasure and fulfillment from doing so.

I am grateful for wonderfully bad movies.

I mean movies that are so bad they are good.  If they make Ed Wood flicks seem like plays by William Shakespeare by comparison, so much the better.  We all need harmless, escapist pleasures, do we not?

I am grateful for good movies.

Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and John Huston version of The Maltese Falcon, among other fine films, enrich my life.

I am grateful for my intellectual nature.

I descend from a long line of bookworms.  I am suited for life in a college or university town.  I recall the intellectual stagnation and the anti-intellectualism of many of the communities and small towns in which I grew up and my father served as a minister.  I cannot honestly deny that these experiences helped to shape me both intellectually, spiritually, and politically.

I would starve intellectually and spiritually in many towns and congregations.

I am grateful for the Incarnation, the life of Christ, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection.

Thereby came the atonement.

 

I saved the best for last.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

Feast of Helen Barrett Montgomery (July 31)   7 comments

Above:  Helen Barrett Montgomery

Image in the Public Domain

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HELEN BARRETT MONTGOMERY (JULY 31, 1861-OCTOBER 19, 1934)

U.S. Northern Baptist President, Social Reformer, Biblical Translator, and Supporter of Foreign Missions

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Jesus Christ is the great Emancipator of woman.  He alone among the founders of the great religions of the world looked upon men and women with level eyes, seeing not their differences, but their oneness, their humanity.

–Helen Barrett Montgomery, at the Baptist World Congress (1923)

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Helen Barrett Montgomery comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year With American Saints (2006).

Helen Barrett Montgomery blazed trails for women in Christianity in the United States of America.  Helen Barrett, born in Kingsville, Ohio, on July 31, 1861, was a daughter of educators Amos Judson Barrett (d. 1889) and Emily Barrows (Barrett).  The family moved to Rochester, New York, in 1874; Amos matriculated at Rochester Theological Seminary.  He went on to serve as the pastor of Lake Avenue (Memorial) Baptist Church, Rochester, New York (1876-1889).

Helen became an educator.  She graduated from Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1884.  She had mastered Greek.  Our saint, a teacher in Rochester, New York, then in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, married William A. Montgomery. a businessman of Rochester, on September 6, 1887.  The couple adopted a daughter, Edith Montgomery.

Montgomery was a Christian feminist.  She, a suffragette, remained active at Lake Avenue (Memorial) Baptist Church for more than four decades.  The congregation licensed our saint to preach in 1892.  Montgomery also taught a Sunday School class for women for forty-four years.  She also served as a delegate to annual conventions of the Northern Baptist Convention (now the American Baptist Churches U.S.A.), organized in 1907.  Our saint, elected the President of the Northern Baptist Convention in 1921, became the first female leader of a denomination in the United States of America.  Montgomery also served as the President of the Women’s American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  Our saint, a theological Modernist, helped to fend off the fundamentalist faction of the denomination.  Northern Baptist fundamentalists favored an official confession.  Montgomery championed the Baptist principle of liberty.  Much of the fundamentalist wing of the Northern Baptist Convention broke away.  Schismatic groups included the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (1932) and the Conservative Baptist Association of America (1947).

Montgomery, a progressive and a reformer, worked with Susan B. Anthony in founding the Rochester chapter of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union.  Our saint, chapter president (1893-1911), helped impoverished women and children, frequently immigrants.  Tangible improvements included health clinics, a legal aid office, and playgrounds.

At a time when few women held public office, Montgomery spent a decade (1899-1909) on the Rochester School Board.  She helped to introduce vocational training, kindergarten, and health education.

Montgomery and Susan B. Anthony helped to make the University of Rochester co-educational.  They and the university trustees agreed that, if Montgomery and Anthony raised $50,000 ($1,574,901.72 in 2020 currency) by 1900, the university would become co-educational.  The women succeeded, and the university admitted female students in 1900.  However, the university operated a separate campus for women from 1930 to 1955.

Montgomery’s published works included:

  1. Life in Old Florence (1895);
  2. Christus Redemptor:  An Official Study of the Island World of the Pacific (1906);
  3. How to Use Christian Redemptor:  An Outline Study of the Island World of the Pacific (1906);
  4. How to Use Gospel in Latin Lands (1907);
  5. The Empire of the East (1908);
  6. Western Women in Eastern Lands:  An Outline History of Woman’s Work in Foreign Missions (1910);
  7. How to Use:  A Handbook of Suggestions to Accompany the Text Book The Light of the World:  An Outline of Christianity and Non-Christian Religions, by Robert E. Speer (1911);
  8. How to Use:  A Handbook to Accompany China’s New Day (1912);
  9. Following the Sunrise:  A Century of Baptist Missions, 1813-1913 (1913);
  10. The King’s Highway:  A Study of Present Conditions of the Foreign Field (1915);
  11. Our Neighbor Japan:  A Book for Adult Classes in the Sunday School (1917);
  12. How to Use Our Textbook Women Workers of the Orient:  A Handbook of Suggestions (1918);
  13. The Bible and Missions (1920);
  14. A Woman’s Life and the World’s Work (1921);
  15. Prayer and Missions (1924);
  16. The Centenary Translation of the New Testament, a.k.a. the Montgomery New Testament (1924); and
  17. From Jerusalem to Jerusalem (1929).

Montgomery was the second woman to translate the New Testament.  Julia Evelina Smith self-published her translation, The Holy Bible:  Containing the Old and New Testaments, Translated Literally from the Original Tongues in 1876.  The Northern Baptist Convention published Montgomery’s Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924).  The translation’s genesis was necessity; extant translations proved unsatisfactory to our saint and unintelligible to many younger people.

Montgomery, an indefatigable supporter of foreign missions and a philanthropist, died in Summit, New Jersey, on October 19, 1934.  She was 73 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, we praise you for the men and women you have sent

to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life

[such as your servant Helen Barrett Montgomery].

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your kingdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Isabella Graham (July 28)   Leave a comment

Above:  Isabella Graham

Image in the Public Domain

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ISABELLA MARSHALL GRAHAM (JULY 29, 1742-JULY 27, 1814)

Scottish-American Presbyterian Educator and Philanthropist

Isabella Graham comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year With American Saints (2006).

Our saint, in the name of and for the love of Christ, became an active philanthropist.  Isabella Marshall, born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, on July 29, 1742, was the sole daughter of John Marshall and Janet Hamilton (Marshall).  Young Isabella, educated at a boarding school, came from a devout Presbyterian family.  Our saint officially joined The Church of Scotland at Paisley when she was 17 years old.  Her minister was John Witherspoon (1723-1794), with whom she was in contact on-and-off.

Our saint married Dr. John Graham, a surgeon in the Royal Army, in 1765.  She their four children (three daughters and one son) who survived infancy accompanies Dr. Graham to Canada then to Antigua.  When Dr. Graham died after a brief illness on November 22, 1774, Isabella was pregnant.  She and her children settled in Scotland, and our saint raised five children as she took care of her aging father in Paisley.  Our saint also founded two successive schools, the second one being a boarding school for girls in Edinburgh.  Furthermore, Graham founded the Penny Society, to help the destitute sick.

Meanwhile, Witherspoon, who had moved to Princeton, New Jersey, in 1768 then signed the Declaration of Independence years later, had built a new life in the United States of America.  He, visiting Graham in Scotland in 1785, encouraged her to cross the Pond for good.  Our saint waited until July 1789, when her children had finished their schooling.

Graham settled in New York, New York.  She taught for a few years before devoting herself entirely to philanthropy.  She founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children in 1797.  Our saint went on to found and/or organize the Orphan Asylum Society (1806), the Society for Promoting Industry Among the Poor, and a Sunday School.  She was also crucial to the first missionary society in New York City and led (1812f) the Magdalen Society in New York City.  Furthermore, Graham visited hospital patients and female convicts, supervised the writing of tracts, and distributed Bibles and tracts.

Graham, aged 71 years, died in New York, New York, on July 27, 1814.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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Lord 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 your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Mechthild of Magdeburg, St. Mechthild of Hackeborn, and St. Gertrude the Great (July 28)   2 comments

Above:  Eisleben and Helfta, Germany

Image Source = Google Earth

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MECHTHILD OF MAGDEBURG (1210?-1282/1285)

German Mystic, Beguine, and Nun

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SAINT MECHTHILD OF HACKEBORN (CIRCA 1241-NOVEMBER 19, 1298)

German Nun and Mystic

Also known as Saint Mechthild of Helfta

Her feast transferred from February 26, November 16, and November 19

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SAINT GERTRUDE THE GREAT (JANUARY 6, 1256-NOVEMBER 17, 1302)

German Mystic and Abbess

Also known as Saint Gertrude of Helfta

Her feast transferred from April 12, November 15, November 16, and November 17

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What hinders spiritual people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins.  I tell you in truth:  when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul becomes so dark…and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.

–Mechthild of Magdeburg, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 320-321

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The smallest details of creation are reflected in the Holy Trinity by means of the humanity of Christ, because it is from the same earth that produced them that Christ drew his humanity.

–St. Mechthild of Hackeborn, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 505

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Inscribe with your precious blood, most merciful Lord, your wounds on my heart, that I may read in them both your sufferings and your love.

–St. Gertrude the Great, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 488

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These three saints knew each other.

Before I write about these mystics, I seek to clarify identities.  In this post, O reader, you will read of two Mechthilds and two Gertrudes.  That some secondary sources indicate confusion does not surprise me.  However, even a small effort easily separates the identity of one Mechthild from the other and the identity of one Gertrude from the other.

One of my purposes of this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, is to emphasize relationships and influence.  Sometimes one can properly tell one saint’s story in the context of at least one other saint.  That is the case in this post.

Beguines were informal female monastics.  These women formed intentional communities without taking vows or receiving formal ecclesiastical approval.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, born in Saxony circa 1210, came from a devout and wealthy family.  Starting at the age of 12 years, she reported daily greetings from the Holy Spirit.  In 1230, our saint, seeking to deepen her faith, became a Beguine and embarked on a religious life of prayer and asceticism.  She also criticized ecclesiastical corruption and worldliness.  Mechthild of Magdeburg made enemies in the Church, not surprisingly.  Details of her clash with another Beguine, Hadewijch of Brabant (1200-1248), have faded from the historical record.  Mechthild of Magdeburg’s book, The Flowing Light of the Godhead, was the most important work of German Roman Catholic mysticism prior to Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1327/1328).

Mechthild of Magdeburg was nearly blind in 1270, when she became a Cistercian nun at St. Mary’s Convent, Helfta, near Eisleben.  She spent the rest of her life (until 1282/1285) there.

One of the other nuns at Helfta was St. Mechthild of Hackeborn/Helfta (c. 1241-1298), born at the family castle, Helfta.  She was also a mystic.  St. Mechthild of Hackeborn/Helfta, educated by nuns, had become a Cistercian nun at Roderdorf, Switzerland.  Then, in 1258, she transferred to Helfta, where her older sister, Gertrude, was the abbess.  St. Mechthild had her first mystical experience at Mass; she saw Christ in the host and the wine.  She also had a reputation as a counselor within the convent.

St. Mechthild was a close friend of St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302).  St. Gertrude, who arrived at the abbey when five years old, stayed.  St. Mechthild was chiefly responsible for raising her.  St. Gertrude, who had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, reported many mystical experiences.  She, who referred to Christ as her Beloved Spouse, became a capable spiritual director.  St. Gertrude compiled St. Mechthild’s teachings and visions in the Book of Grace.

St. Mechthild, about 57 years old, died on November 19, 1298.

St. Gertrude, the abbess (1292f), lived until November 17, 1302.  She was 46 years old.  Her book was The Herald of Divine Love.

Ecclesiastical authorities generally recognized Sts. Mechthild and Gertrude with feat days yet not extended that courtesy to Mechthild of Magdeburg.  Trying to sort out that matter has become somewhat complicated due to confusing one Mechthild for the other.  The Roman Catholic Church has assigned multiple feast days to Sts. Mechthild and Gertrude.  In Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, The Episcopal Church has assigned them one feast, November 19.  The Church of England has defined November 19 as the feast day of Mechthild of Magdeburg.  The date on this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, comes via proximity to July 27, the feast day of Mechthild of Magdeburg in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants Mechthild, Mechthild, and Gertrude

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by their teachings we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ your Son;

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

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 119:41-48

Luke 10:38-42

–Adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, 582

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Feast of Jane Holmes Dixon (July 24)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JANE HART HOLMES DIXON (JULY 24, 1937-DECEMBER 25, 2012)

Episcopal Suffragan Bishop of Washington and Bishop of Washington Pro Tempore

Second Female Bishop in The Episcopal Church

Third Female Bishop in the Anglican Communion

Witness for Civil and Human Rights

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The Kingdom of God is for all people.

–Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon

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Jane Holmes Dixon spent her ordained ministry and most of her life opposing the othering of human beings.

Jane Hart Holmes, born in Winona, Mississippi, on July 24, 1937, grew up in a racially-segregated society.  The hospital where her father, a physician, worked, had racially-segregated wings.  The Holmes family had an African-American domestic employee, Julia Toliver, who lived in a small house behind the Holmes family home.  This was the way of the world.  As long as our saint lived in Mississippi, she never questioned it.   White supremacy was consistent with the Presbyterian fundamentalism of the Holmes family.  Our saint began to awaken to the injustice of which she was apart while a student at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (Class of 1959).

Holmes, a teacher, did not return to live in Mississippi.  She married attorney David McFarland “Dixie” Dixon (Sr.) in 1960 and moved to the District of Columbia.  The couple had three children:  David Jr., Edward, and Mary.  Our saint was a stay-at-home mother, a Sunday School teacher, and a member of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C., for years.  During this time, in the late 1960s, she met Diane Rehm (b. 1936), who became her best friend.  Rehm, eventually a radio talk show host, had Dixon on the show as a guest more than once.

Note:  The archives of Rehm’s radio show are easy to access.

Dixon, aged 40 years, embarked on her destiny in 1977.  The Episcopal Church had approved the ordination of women to the priesthood at the General Convention the previous year.  In the fall of 1977, our saint matriculated at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia.  Before she could become a deacon, she needed to get a job at a church.  This was a challenge in 1980 and 1981.  Those congregations in the Diocese of Washington that were open to hiring a woman in a pastoral role had already done so.  Dixon, ordained to the diaconate in June 1981 then the priesthood the following year, served as an associate at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Burke, Virginia (in the Diocese of Virginia), from 1981 to 1984.

Above:  St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Laurel, Maryland

Image Source = Google Earth

Then Dixon returned to the Diocese of Washington.  She was the Associate Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C., from 1984 to 1986.  For the next six years, our saint served as the Rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Laurel, Maryland.  Dixon, elected the Suffragan Bishop of Washington in June 1992, became the second female bishop in The Episcopal Church the following November 19.  Throughout her episcopate, some conservative congregations in the diocese refused to acknowledge her legitimacy.  After Roland Haines, the Bishop of Washington, retired at the end of 2000, Dixon served as the Bishop of Washington Pro Tempore (January 2001-July 2002).  Then she retired.

Dixon proclaimed a generous, inclusive Gospel, the opposite of her childhood religion.  Sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of othering people had no place in our saint’s version of Christianity.  The Golden Rule was the guiding rule.  Social justice and orthodoxy were inseparable were inseparable.  This principle dated to the Old Testament, at least.

Dixon remained active in socially and theologically progressive organizations (such as the Interfaith Alliance) after she retired.  Toward the end of her life, our saint’s physical well-being was waning, but her commitment to a more just society and world never did.  On December 24, 2012, after cooking for her family at home in Washington, D.C., Dixon went to bed.  She was tired, she told her husband.  Our saint never woke up.  She was 75 years old.

Love is more powerful than hate, Dixon preached.  Her adult life proclaimed confronting structures of injustice, hatred, and oppression with the Golden Rule, the greatest subversive commandment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Jane Holmes Dixon,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following her example and the teaching of her holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718

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