Archive for February 2021

Feast of St. Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro (August 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BONIFACIA RODRIGUEZ CASTRO (JUNE 6, 1837-AUGUST 9, 1905)

Cofounder of the Congregation of the Servants of Saint Joseph

St. Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church.

St. Bonifacia came from a poor and a devout family.  She, born in Salamanca, Spain, on June 6, 1837, was one of six children of Maria Natalia Jimenéz Castro and tailor Joseph Rodriguez Gutiérrez.  Our saint, baptized at the age of four days, went to work for low pay in a rope factory at the age of fifteen years.  She also attended Mass daily and had a devotion to Sts. Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.

St. Bonifacia became the nucleus of a group of devout friends.  They gathered in her home for devotions regularly.  These young women founded the Association of the Immaculate and Saint Joseph (the Josephine Congregation).  In January 1874, this group founded the Congregation of the Servants of Saint Joseph.  The mission of the new congregation was to emulate the model the Holy Family had established, and thereby to prevent impoverished women from falling into lives of abuse and crime.  Our saint and the other members of the Congregation, in association with the poor and working-class women with whom they labored, established and operated a number of houses.  The Congregation received Papal approval from Leo XIII in 1901.

St. Bonifacia died at the house in Zamora, Spain, on August 9, 1905.  She was 68 years old.

Holy Mother Church recognized our saint.  Pope John Paul II declared her a Venerable in 2000 then beatified her in 2003.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized our saint in 2011.

The Congregation’s global ministry continues.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BINNEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “ARCHBISHOP OF NONCONFORMITY”

THE FEAST OF ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER AND ELIZABETH EVELYN WRIGHT, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATORS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HOST OF MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BADGER, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER; FIRST MISSIONARY TO THE WESTERN RESERVE

THE FEAST OF PEDRO ARRUPE, ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND MARGINALIZED, AND SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

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O God, by whose grace your servant Saint Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro

became a burning and shining light in your Church:

Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline,

and walk before you as children of light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 2:42-47a

Psalm 133 or 34:1-8 or 119:161-168

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 6:24-33

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 723

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Feast of St. Maxim Sandovich (August 7)   1 comment

Above:  Grab, Poland

Image Source = Google Earth

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SAINT MAXIM TIMOFEYEVICH SANDOVICH (FEBRUARY 1, 1888-AUGUST 6, 1914)

Russian Orthodox Priest and Martyr, 1914

Also known as Saint Maxim of Gorlice

Alternative feast day = September 6

Saint Maxim Sandovich comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Orthodox Church in Poland, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople).

Being an Eastern Orthodox Christian in the Austro-Hungarian Empire could be hazardous to one’s health.  The Roman Catholic establishment of the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire regarded its Eastern Orthodox subjects as being disloyal to the Hapsburg Dynasty and loyal to the Russian Empire.  Religious persecution in the name of imperial security was par for the course.

St. Caesarius of Arles (468/470-543), writing regarding Christ’s command to take up one’s cross and follow him, commented:

What does this mean, “take up a cross”?  It means he will bear with whatever is troublesome, and in this very act he will be following me.  When he has begun to follow me according to my teaching and precepts, he will find many people contradicting him and standing in his way, many do not only deride but even persecute him.  Moreover, this is true, not only of pagans who are outside the church, but also of those who seem to be in it visibly, but are outside of it because of the perversity of their deeds.  Although these glory merely in the title of Christian, they continually persecute faithful Christians.  Such belong to the body of the church in the same way that bad blood is in the body.  

–Quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament II:  Mark (1998), 112

St. Maxim Sandovich came from a Greek Catholic family.  He, born in Zdynia, Poland, Austria-Hungary, on February 1, 1888, was a son of farmers Tymoteusz (Timofej) and Krystina Sandowicz (Sandovich).  The father was a cantor in the local Greek Catholic parish.  After attending local schools, our saint served spent several months as a novice at the Greek Catholic monastery in Krakow.  Yet attempts to Latinize the Greek Catholic Rite dissatsfied him.  Our saint left the Basilian Order and the monasery in 1904.  

St. Maxim left the Austro-Hungarian Empire for the Russian Empire.  There he became a novice at the Pochaev Lavra, a monastery now in the Ukraine.  Our saint went on to study for the Russian Orthodox priesthood at the seminary in Zhitomir (now in the Ukraine).  He graduated in 1911.  That year, St. Maxim also married Pelagia, a Russian Orthodox woman, and became a deacon then a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Then he returned to his homeland as a missionary and the parish priest at Grab (Hrab).

World War I was on the horizon.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian Empire were enemies; each one belonged to a different coalition.  St. Maxim became a casualty of international politics and “national security.”

St. Maxim settled in at Grab (Hrab) with his family.  He celebrated his first Divine Liturgy at the parish on December 2, 1911.  Immediately, imperial officials forbade any more Divine Liturgies.  Our saint violated that edict repeatedly; he conducted Divine Liturgies in homes.  Austro-Hungarian officials kept fining and arresting him.  St. Maxim kept breaking the law.  He, arrested shortly before Pascha (Easter) 1912, remained in prison without trial for nearly two years.  The trial, which began on March 9, 1914, ended in an acquittal.  Immediately, our saint resumed his priestly duties in Grab (Hrab).

One may think of Acts 4:1-31 and 5:12-42, in which religious authorities in Jerusalem arrested Apostles and commanded them to cease preaching.  One may also remember the Apostles’ disobedience to that order:

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council.  And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

–Acts 5:27-29, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Postconventional Morality is superior to Conventional Morality.  Obedience to unjust laws and orders is immoral.

Shortly after St. Maxim’s release, World War I started.  He became a political prison again on August 4, 1914.  His parents, brothers, and wife joined him, on a forced, shackled march about 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) to prison in Gorlice.  In prison, each member of the family, unable to see other members of the family, spent time in his or her own cell.  On August 6, 1914, a firing squad executed the 28-year-old priest.

Pelagia, our saint’s wife, gave birth to the couple’s son, Maxim, in prison, in Gorlice.  The younger Maxim (d. 1991) eventually became an Orthodox priest and ministered in Gorlice.

Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I lifted the mutual excommunications, in effect since 1054.  The official position of the Roman Catholic Church regarding Eastern Orthodox churches is that the Eastern Orthodox have valid Apostolic orders.  Theological differences between the two communions have not ceased, but they have ceased telling each other they will go to Hell, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONIO VALDIVIESO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LEON, AND MARTYR, 1495

THE FEAST OF ANDREW REED, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE, MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF JAKOB HUTTER, FOUNDER OF THE HUTTERITES, AND ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1536; AND HIS WIFE, KATHARINE HUTTER, ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1538

THE FEAST OF PAULA OF SAINT JOSEPH OF CALASANZ, FOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power, your holy martyr Saint Maxim Sandovich

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant 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.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 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 Blesseds Francisco Zanfredini and Michelina of Pesaro (August 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Pesaro, Italy

Image Source = Google Earth

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BLESSED FRANCISCO ZANFREDINI (1270-AUGUST 5, 1350)

Cofounder of the Confraternity of the Annunciation

His feast day = August 5

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BLESSED MICHELINA OF PESARO (1300-JUNE 19, 1356)

Cofounder of the Confraternity of the Annunciation

Her solo feast day = June 19

Blesseds Francisco Zanfredini and Michelina of Pesaro come to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church.  These two beati, having shared a feast day in the Diocese of Pesaro since 1393, share one here, too.

Blessed Francisco Zanfredini, born in Pesaro, on the Italian peninsula, in 1270, spent his life in service to Christ, present in “the least of these.”  Our saint, orphaned when quite young, entered into the religious life when he became an adult.  He gave away all his possessions, became a Franciscan tertiary, and embarked on life as a hermit.  Our saint built a convent near Pesaro.  He also built chapels in Montegranaro (about 115 kilometers–about 71.5 miles northwest of Pesaro–and Pesaro.  Zanfredini also collected alms for hospitals and for the restoration of churches.

Michelina Matelli came from a wealthy family–nobility, in fact.  At the age of 12 years, she entered into an arranged marriage to one Duke Malatesta, of Pesaro.  The couple had one child, a son.  The son died shortly after the the Duke did.  The widowed duchess gave away all her wealth and became a Franciscan tertiary.  Widows, orphans, and debt prisoners benefited from her generosity as she prepared to enter the religious life.  Blessed Michelina was certain she had chosen the proper path for her life.  Some of the relatives, however, were certain that she was out of her mind.  After a brief period of incarceration, our saint resumed the religious life.

In 1347, Blesses Francisco and Michelina founded the Confraternity of the Annunciation.  The mission of the Confraternity was to bury the dead, to help the poor, and to assist the sick–all Biblically-approved tasks.

Blessed Francisco, about 80 years old, died at his hermitage at Montegranaro, on August 5, 1350.  He had earned his reputation for wisdom, prayer, good works, and piety.

Pope Pius IX confirmed Blessed Francisco’s cultus in 1859.

Blessed Michelina lived a few more years than did Blessed Francisco.  She reported direct visions from Christ.  She also made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and received the stigmata.  Blessed Michelina died in Pesaro on June 19, 1356.  She was about 56 years old.

Pope Clement XII confirmed Blessed Michelina’s cultus in 1737.

Blessed Michelina’s patronage is for the Confraternity of the Annunciation, for Pesaro, for widows, for people with in-law problems, against the death of children, against mental illness, and for mentally-ill people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, SAINT NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX VARELA, CUBAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND PATRIOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

THE FEAST OF KARL FRIEDRICH LOCHNER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THEODOR FLIEDNER, RENEWER OF THE FEMALE DIACONATE; AND ELIZABETH FEDDE, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN DEACONESS

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O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:

Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world,

that we, inspired by the devotion of your servants

Blessed Francisco Zanfredini and Blessed Michelina of Pesaro,

may serve you with singleness of heart,

and attain to the riches of the age to come;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 12:33-37 or Luke 9:57-62

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 722

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Feast of Florence Spearing Randolph (August 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Florence Spearing Randolph

Image in the Public Domain

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FLORENCE SPEARING RANDOLPH (AUGUST 9, 1866-DECEMBER 28, 1951)

First Female Ordained Minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Florence Spearing Randolph 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).

We mere mortals frequently mistake societal norms and mores for divine standards.  How we define proper gender roles provides many examples of this pattern.  Hence the subordination of women, dressed up as the law of God, becomes and remains socially acceptable.  Many women internalize these unjust societal patterns and ascribe them to God.  Many of them eventually change their minds and fulfill their sacred vocations, fortunately.

Florence Spearing, born in Charleston, South Carolina, on August 9, 1866, came from a free African-American family.  She was a daughter of Anna Smith Spearing and cabinet maker John Spearing.  Our saint, educated at Avery Normal Institute, Charleston, trained as a dress maker.  She moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, and lived with her sister Lena, there.  Making dresses in Jersey City was substantially more lucrative in Jersey City than in Charleston.

Florence married Hugh Randolph of Richmond, Virginia, in 1884.  He was a cook on Pullman trains.  The couple had one child, Leah Viola, born in 1887.  Hugh died in 1913.

Our saint, raised a Methodist, joined the church at the age of 13 years.  She remained a life-long member.  In Jersey City, she joined the local African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A.M.E. Zion) church.  Randolph taught Sunday School and became a youth leader.  She also studied the Bible under the tutelage of A.M.E. Zion minister, George E. Biddle, a scholar of Greek and Hebrew, as well as a Yale graduate.  Biddle encouraged Randolph to violate a specific gender norm; he told her she should preach.

Our saint, initially reluctant, eventually agreed; she became an exhorter.  Randolph, starting in 1888, exhorted in both White and African-American congregations.  Yet, for a while, she remained reluctant for anyone to call her a “preaching woman.”  Our saint continued to oppose the ordination of women, for a time.  Yet, as time passed, Randolph accepted her vocation.  She asked God for a sign.  Our saint prayed that, if she were supposed to preach full-time, that her dress-making business would fail within a year, and that her exhorting would succeed.  She received that sign.

Randolph had accepted her vocation.  Many within the A.M.E. Zion Church had not, however.  After much debate in denominational officialdom, our saint received her license to preach in 1897, became an ordained deacon in 1900, and received ordination as an elder in 1903.  She also served as a delegate to the Third Methodist Ecumenical Conference, London, in 1901.

Randolph excelled as a pastor.  From 1903 to 1922, she rehabilitated a series of small, problematic congregations in New Jersey and New York.  After she had done her work in one church, she moved on to another one.  A “nice young man” always succeeded her.  During this time, our saint also found the time for social reform.  She, having joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) in 1892, lectured for them.  Randolph, organized the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1915.  She served as its president for 12 years.  Our saint also sat on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Suffrage Association, starting in 1917.  Furthermore, Randolph served as the President of the Missionary Society of New Jersey.  And she was the chaplain of the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1918 and 1919.

Our saint, a supporter of foreign missions, traveled in Liberia and Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1922-1924.  This work was consistent with her collection of and distribution of supplies for missionaries.

Randolph’s final pastorate was Wallace Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church, organized in 1923.  When she arrived at the congregation in Summit, New Jersey, in 1925, the church was small; it had 35 members.  The appointment, initially meant to be temporary, terminated with her retirement, in 1946.  Our saint built up the congregation and presided over the construction of its edifice in 1937.  During this pastorage, she made history by becoming the first African-American woman to matriculate at Drew University, in 1926.

Our saint, aged 85 years, died in Jersey City, on December 28, 1951.   Many of her sermons, now published, have survived; relatives salvaged them.

Drew University’s Theological School grants the Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph Prize.

I wonder how much human potential well-meaning, even devout, people have squandered and suppressed in others or in themselves because of allegiance to misplaced societal norms.  I also wonder how much better society would be without that squandering and suppression of human potential.  And I thank God for those who have challenged and continue to challenge such destructive societal norms, for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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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 Florence Spearing Randolph].

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 the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Sarah Platt Doremus (August 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sarah Platt Doremus

Image in the Public Domain

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SARAH PLATT HAINES DOREMUS (AUGUST 3, 1802-JANUARY 29, 1877)

Foundress of the Women’s Union Missionary Society

Sarah Platt Haines Doremus 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).

Sometimes God calls upon someone to perform a certain task, that person tries to perform that task, and other people stand in the way.  These human obstacles may mistake themselves for being something other than what they are.  They may imagine, for example, that they are upholding God-ordained standards of feminine propriety.  Consider the case of our saint, for example, O reader.

Sarah Platt Haines, born in New York, New York, on August 3, 1802, was the daughter of merchant Elias Haines and a granddaughter (on her mother’s side) of prominent attorney Robert Ogden, of New Jersey.  Our saint had a strong interest in foreign missionary work, starting at the age of 12 years.  In 1821, our saint married wealthy merchant Thomas C. Doremus (1796-1879).  He spent the rest of his life contributing financially to her causes.  Starting in 1828, one of these causes was a relief mission for Greek Christians.  Our saint and eight other women organized this effort.

In 1834, David Abeel (1804-1846), back in the United States for a time, spoke to an audience that included Sarah Platt Doremus.  He said that women in China were requesting female missionaries.  Doremus immediately attempted to start a female missionary agency in her denomination, the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church (now the Reformed Church in America).  This effort went nowhere quickly.  Prevailing gender norms considered single women serving as missionaries to be extremely inappropriate.

Our saint still had work to do, so she did it.  

  1. She raised the nine children to whom she gave birth.  She also raised adopted children.
  2. She painted and embrodered.
  3. In 1840, she started working with female prisoners.  She visited them in prison, established Sunday services, and, in 1840, helped (with friend and novelist Catherine Maria Sedgwick, 1789-1867) to found the Home for Women Discharged from Prison.  After Sedgwick died, Doremus became the Home’s president, in 1867.
  4. In 1850, she helped to found the House and School of Industry for Poor Women.  She began to serve as its president in 1867.
  5. In 1854, she became the vice president of the Nursery and Child’s Hospital, which she had helped to found.  
  6. In 1855, she helped to found the New York Woman’s Hospital.  She eventually served as its president, too.
  7. During the Civil War, she helped to distribute supplies to hospitals in New York City.

The Civil War created an opportunity for Doremus to do what God had called her to do in 1834.  With so many men participating the war, our saint seized the opportunity to found the Women’s Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands.  She did this in New York City in 1861.  Women from six denominations participated in this meeting.  For fifteen years, our saint operated the missionary agency from her home.  The first missionary, Harriet Britain, departed for India in 1862.  When Doremus died, in 1877, the agency had more than a thousand missionaries in the field.  The Women’s Union Missionary Society also provided a model that members of other denominations followed.

Doremus added more activities and responsibilities to her schedule.

  1. In 1866, she became a manager of the Presbyterian Home for Aged Women, which she had helped to organize.
  2. In 1869, she collected supplies for Irish potato famine victims.
  3. She found time for many years to manage municipal branches of the City Mission and Tract Society and of the Female Bible Society.
  4. In 1876, she joined a committee to found non-sectarian schools for newly-arrived Italian immigrants.

Our saint, aged 74 years, died in New York, New York, on January 29, 1877.  A contemporary newspaper account reported on the funeral procession and the overflow crowd at the old South Reformed Church, Brooklyn.

The Women’s Union Missionary Society merged with the Bible and Medical Missionary Society in 1974 to form International Service Fellowship (Interserve International).

May all we human beings with pulses overcome all obstacles to fulfilling the missions God has given us.  And may all of us refrain from erecting such obstacles in the paths of others.  If we will not or cannot help, may we stay out of the way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 107/115; SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 155/156; AND SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS, CIRCA 202 

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER AKIMETES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL WOLCOTT, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEFAN WINCENTY FRELICHOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MAINZ; AND SAINT BERNWARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HILDESHEIM

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Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints,

and who raised up your servant Sarah Platt Doremus to be a light in the world:

Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise,

who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 28:16-20

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 717

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Feast of Carroll O’Connor (August 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker 

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN CARROLL O’CONNER (AUGUST 2, 1924-JUNE 24, 2001)

U.S. Roman Catholic Actor and Screen Writer

Carroll O’Connor comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via my choice.  The Ecumenical Calendar is, after all, my hobby, by which I call attention to holy lives and legacies.

Edward Joseph O’Connor and Elise Patricia O’Connor, of Manhattan, New York, New York, had three sons.  The attorney and his wife had Hugh (who grew up to become a doctor), Robert (who grew up to become a psychiatrist), and (John) Carroll.  Our saint, born in The Bronx on August 2, 1924, grew up mostly in Queens.  After graduating from Newtown High School, Queens, he matriculated at Wake Forest University in 1941.  In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, our saint dropped out of Wake Forest University.  Rejected by the U.S. Navy, O’Connor served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II instead.

After the war, O’Connor resumed his higher education.  He matriculated at the University of Montana.  There he served on the editorial staff of the campus newspaper, the Montana Kaimin.  In 1949, our saint resigned from the newspaper staff to protest the destruction of one issue.  That issue had contained an editorial cartoon that criticized the state Board of Education.  At the University of Montana, O’Connor also acted in theater productions.  This was how he met his fiancée, Nancy Fields (1929-2014), then working as a makeup artist of campus theater productions.

O’Connor left Montana for Dublin, Ireland, to help his brother Hugh get into medical school at University College Dublin.  Our saint studied literature and Irish history at University College Dublin, and commenced his career as an actor.

Nancy, having graduated from the University of Montana with degrees in drama and English in 1951, joined her fiancé in Dublin, Ireland.  They married there on July 28, 1951.  She also continued her education at University College Dublin.  The couple returned to Montana in 1956.  Our saint pursued a master’s degree in speech.

O’Connor became a character actor.  He appeared in many movies and television series.  He became a leading man when he began to portray the bigoted Archie Bunker on All in the Family (1971-1979).  Our saint continued to play Bunker in Archie Bunker’s Place (1979-1983).

Archie Bunker was a seminal character.  He was a working-class, right-wing bigot who committed frequent malapropisms, such as

up the creek without a saddle.

Bunker was afraid of the world, which was changing around him.  Bunker was anti-Semitic.  He also despised Poles, Roman Catholics, Hispanics, African Americans, feminists, liberals, and peace activists.  President Richard Nixon, who appealed to his “Silent Majority,” complained that the series made the bigoted main character come across as a “horse’s ass.”  Yet Bunker, as O’Connor portrayed him, was no stereotypical character.  And Bunker mellowed over the years.  At the end, he had a Jewish business partner.

O’Connor’s next long-lasting series was In the Heat of the Night (1988-1995).  He portrayed Bill Gillespie, the Chief of Police (later Sheriff) of Sparta, Mississippi.  In the third season, when our saint became an executive producer, he transformed the series into a vehicle for addressing social issues.

Back in 1962, our saint had been in Rome, Italy, for the filming of Cleopatra.  While in the Eternal City, the O’Connors had adopted a six-day-old boy and named him Hugh O’Connor, after our saint’s late brother.  High, the brother, had died in a motorcycle accident the previous year.  The younger Hugh (born on April 7, 1962) struggled with drug addiction for the latter half of his life.  This addiction had started in adolescence, with pain killers.  Hugh worked on some of his father’s projects.  On In the Heat of the Night, he portrayed officer Lonnie Jamison.  Hugh, overwhelmed by his addiction, committed suicide on March 28, 1995.

Harry Perzigian was the drug dealer who sold the final dose of cocaine to Hugh.  Perzigian went to prison in 1996 for possessing cocaine and selling some to Hugh O’Connor.  Our saint publicly accused the drug dealer of being complicit in Hugh’s death.  The drug dealer sued the grieving father for defamation.  A jury sided with our saint in 1997.

In the wake of Hugh’s suicide, O’Connor also raised public awareness about drug addiction and lobbied for legal reform.  He filmed a public service announcement.  Our saint lobbied for California’s Drug Dealer Civil Liability Act, passed in 1997.  The law allowed anyone affected adversely by a drug dealer’s actions to sue for reimbursement for addiction-related expenses, as well as for damages.  Other states have passed similar laws.

O’Connor taught screenwriting at the University of Montana and continued to act until very late in life.  His final role was Marty O’Reilly, a kindly grandfather, in Return to Me (2000).

O’Connor, aged 76 years, died of a heart attack in Culver City, California, on June 21, 2001.

Our saint, a devout Roman Catholic, was considerably to the left of Archie Bunker.  O’Connor was also a loving husband and father.  His artistic legacy, much of it committed to film, has continued to enrich the lives of many people, fortunately.

Nancy Fields O’Connor, aged 84 years, died on November 10, 2014.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 107/115; SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 155/156; AND SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS, CIRCA 202 

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER AKIMETES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL WOLCOTT, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEFAN WINCENTY FRELICHOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MAINZ; AND SAINT BERNWARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HILDESHEIM

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O God, you have brought us near to an innumerable company of angels,

and to the spirits of just men made perfect:

Grant us during our earthly pilgrimage to abide in their fellowship,

and in our heavenly country to become partakers of their joy;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Psalm 34 or 34:15-22

Philippians 4:4-9

Luke 6:17-23

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 725

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Feast of G. Bromley Oxnam (August 13)   1 comment

Above:  The Cover of the Dust Jacket to A Testament of Faith (1958)

Image Source = archive.org

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GARFIELD BROMLEY OXNAM (AUGUST 14, 1891-MARCH 12, 1963)

U.S. Methodist Bishop

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INTRODUCTION

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Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam 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).

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, Revised Standard Version (1952)

Bishop Oxnam liked to quote that verse.  For him, Christian faith was not a doctrinal confession one signed at the bottom of the page.  No, Oxnam’s Christian faith was a love-infused lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed obeying Matthew 25:31-46.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

–Matthew 25:40b, Revised Standard Version (1952)

Oxnam was, in many ways, a counterpoint to his fellow bishop and contemporary, Gerald Kennedy (1907-1980).  Yet both men had much in common.  And both of them earned their places here, on my Ecumenical Calendar.  (I admit, though, that I feel more affinity for Bishop Oxnam than with Bishop Kennedy.)

Richard Brookhiser, writing derisively of Oxnam in the February 1992 issue of First Things, commented:

Theologically, Oxnam was a liberal by default, since he barely thought of theology at all.

Yet, as I have written repeatedly in lectionary-based devotions at some of my other weblogs, deeds reveal creeds.  As one thinks, one is.  And as one thinks, one acts.  In Hebrew theology, God is like what God has done and does.  Ergo, we are like what we have done and do.  And, as the Letter of James tells us:

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

–2:26, Revised Standard Version (1952)

Oxnam showed his faith by his works (James 2:26).

I could continue to paraphrase Oxnam, but his words are better than mine in expressing his faith.  So, without further ado:

I find it hard to understand men who “accept Christ” and then become sadistic as they deal with others who try to “love God with heart and mind and soul, and brother as self,” but who cannot in honesty accept the obscurantism that is presented as “the faith,” especially when the presentation is accompanied by the clanking of Inquisition chains and the fires at the stake.  The coercion by the bigoted is in itself a rejection of the spirit of Christ.  He relied on the compulsion of love.  If I were called upon to choose one word to describe Christianity, it would be love.  I believe nothing can separate us from the love of God.  I believe God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  I believe God sent Jesus because He “loved the world.”

A Testament of Faith (1958), viii-ix

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THE FIRST FORTY-THREE YEARS

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Oxnam, born in Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 1891, moved away from his family theological roots.  They were conservative.  Our saint’s father, a mining engineer and a mine owner, oversaw the construction of chapels for inhabitants of mining camps.  Oxnam’s mother was a charter member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).  At age 17, at a revival, our saint vowed to become a minister.

Oxnam left the conservative religion of his youth behind and embraced the Social Gospel.  He graduated from the University of Southern California (B.A., 1913) then Boston University (S.T.B., 1915).  Our saint, who married Ruth Fisher on August 19, 1914, had joined the Southern California Conference of the old Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) as a licensed preacher the previous year.  The Conference ordained him a deacon in 1915 then an elder in 1917.

After serving in Poplar, California, Oxnam became the pastor at the Church of All Nations, Los Angeles, California (1917-1926), in the Eastside.  The Church of All Nations was a multi-ethnic, immigrant, and impoverished flock.  Our saint presided over an extensive network of social services, openly identified with labor unions, opposed nativism and xenophobia, suggested that teachers’ informed opinions should influence educational policies, aroused suspicions that he was a communist, and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the school board.  He also taught social ethics at the University of Southern California.  In fact, Oxnam was neither a communist nor a Marxist; he was a Christian Socialist.

Then Oxnam turned to academia full-time.  He was a Professor of Social Ethics at Boston University (1927-1928).  Next, our saint made his mark as the President of DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana (1928-1936).  Oxnam, a pacifist, first made participation in the R.O.T.C. optional.  (It had been mandatory.)  Then, in 1934, he presided over the end of the R.O.T.C. at DePauw University.  He also helped students to find jobs in New Deal programs, expanded library holdings, and increased attendance at voluntary chapel services.  These were dignified services; Oxnam insisted on that.

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BISHOP OXNAM

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Oxnam became the then-youngest Methodist bishop in the United States in 1936; he was 45 years old.  (Gerald Kennedy broke that record, at age 40, in 1948.)  Our saint was based in, in order:

  1. Omaha, Nebraska (1936-1939);
  2. Boston, Massachusetts (1939-1944);
  3. New York, New York (1944-1952); and
  4. Washington, D.C. (1952-1960).

Our saint was active on the denominational level of the old Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) and the merged Methodist Church (1939-1968). 

  1. He chaired the Division of Educational Institutions, the General Board of Education (1939-1944).
  2. He chaired the Division of Foreign Missions, the General Board of Global Ministries (1944-1952).
  3. He led the Methodist Crusade for World Order (1944-1948).  The Methodist Crusade for World Order opposed a return to pre-World War II isolationism, favored an internationalist foreign policy, and supported the United Nations.
  4. He was active in the Methodist Federation for Social Service (later Social Action), which Frank Mason North (1850-1935) had helped to found in 1917.  The Federation, a target of conservative elements within the denomination, suffered a strong rebuke in 1952.  “Methodist” ceased to be in its name, and The Methodist Church established the new Board of Social and Economic Relations.

Oxnam was also an ecumenist.

  1. He served as the President of the old Federal Council of Churches (1946-1948).
  2. He helped to found the National Council of Churches (1950).
  3. He was one of the Presidents of the World Council of Churches (1948-1954).
  4. He sat on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.
  5. Oxnam’s ecumenism had its limits.  It did not extend to fundamentalists and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics, who thought he was going to Hell anyway.

Despite what Red-baiting conservatives claimed, Oxnam was a patriot. 

  1. He was a staunch man of the Christian Left.
  2. He was a member of the Civil Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Navy during World War II.
  3. After the war, he chaired the Commission to Study Postwar Relief Conditions in Germany.
  4. He opposed mandatory military training and service in peacetime.
  5. He argued that using atomic weapons was immoral.

In July 1953, Oxnam testified before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which was itself un-American.  He rebutted allegations that he was and ever had been a communist or a Marxist.  Our saint produced evidence to document that charges to the contrary from Representative Donald L. Jackson (1910-1981) were objectively false.  Oxnam also condemned McCarthyism and those who practiced it.

A new breed of self-appointed un-American vigilantes threatens our freedom.  Profaning our American traditions and desecrating our flag, masquerading as defenders of our country against the infiltration of communism and the aggression of Russia, they play the red game of setting American against American, of creating distrust and division, and of turning us from the problems that must be solved in order to become impregnable.  These vigilantes produce hysteria, prepare sucker lists, and live upon the generous contributions of the fearful.  They exploit the uninformed patriot.  They profiteer in patriotism.  These vigilantes do not carry the noosed rope, but they lynch by libel.  They prepare their lying spider-web charts.  They threaten educators and ministers, actors and broadcasters.  Unthinking boards and commissions bow to their tyranny, forgetting that to appease these forerunners of Hitler, of Mussolini, and of Stalin is to jeopardize freedom, and to prepare the wrists for the shackles and the mouth for the gag.  In the name of law, vigilantes break the law.

–Quoted in A Year with American Saints (2006), 281-282

Above:  Wesley Theological Seminary, American University, Washington, D.C,

Image Source = Google Earth

Bishop Oxnam, while based in Washington, D.C., helped to build up the denomination-affiliated American University.  In 1958, he supervised the relocation of Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster, Maryland (founded in 1882) to the campus of American University.  The relocated seminary became Wesley Theological Seminary.  That year, our saint also helped to found the School of International Service at American University.

Above:  The School of International Service, American University, Washington, D.C.

Image Source = Google Earth

Oxnam, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, retired in 1960.  He, aged 73 years, died in White Plains, New York, on March 12, 1963.

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EVALUATION

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When evaluating a historical figure, one ought to avoid two opposite errors:  relativizing everything or too much and relativizing nothing or too little.  Timeless standards exist, of course.  Yet context remains crucial.  Also, people change during a lifetime.  To be fair, one must consider that fact.

Oxnam was mostly correct.  He was correct to favor the rights of workers, for example.  He was correct to condemn the greed of those who exploited workers.  He was correct to oppose McCarthyism and to challenge practitioners of McCarthyism to their faces.  Like most Americans, traumatized by World War I, he overreacted in ways that seemed reasonable between the World Wars yet came across as naïve in retrospect after World War II.  

Just as I stand to the left of Bishop Gerald Kennedy, I stand slightly to the right of Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam.  I am a Neo-Orthodox, after all.  I stand with Reinhold, Ursula, and H. Richard Niebuhr in recognizing the limitations of the Social Gospel.  I do so while affirming what was positive about the Social Gospel.

Yet, as I have written in this post, I feel more affinity with Oxnam than with Kennedy.  And I count both of them as members of my family of faith.

I invite you, O reader, if you are so inclined, to read Oxnam’s writings available at archive.org:

  1. “The Mexican in Los Angeles from the Standpoint of the Religious Forces of the City” (1921),
  2. Contemporary Preaching:  A Study in Trends (1931),
  3. Personalities in Social Reform (1941),
  4. Preaching in a Revolutionary Age (1944), 
  5. I Protest (1954), and
  6. A Testament of Faith (1958).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 107/115; SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 155/156; AND SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS, CIRCA 202 

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER AKIMETES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL WOLCOTT, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEFAN WINCENTY FRELICHOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MAINZ; AND SAINT BERNWARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HILDESHEIM

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

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

Help us [like your servant G. Bromley Oxnam] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

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

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In Praise of God’s Gloriously Square Pegs   Leave a comment

FOR THE COMMON GOOD AND THE GLORY OF GOD, OF COURSE

I have been preparing new entries for A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES:  AN ECUMENICAL CALENDAR OF SAINTS’ DAYS AND HOLY DAYS.  Two of the three “new” saints for whom I have written rough-drafts of posts in longhand have been women who violated societal conventions of femininity and did much to serve God in the process.

I like outliers, odd balls, eccentrics, square pegs, and other unconventional people.  I am one, after all.  My life is one of being a default contrarian.  My interests and my sense of self lead me down a path less traveled.  When I merely pursue my interests, I most likely behave in a way contrary to most of the people around me.  So be it.  Therefore, take my word for it, O reader, that I consider “conform” and “conformity” the two most profane words in the English language.  

My spiritual task is to be the best version of myself possible.  My spiritual task is to be the person God created me to be.  My spiritual task is not to be the person anyone else wants me to be.  My spiritual task is to be God’s square peg, in a square hole.  Those who would try to make me fit into a round hole err.

This helps to explain why I add so many outliers, odd balls, eccentrics, and square pegs to my ECUMENICAL CALENDAR.  I call attention to such wonderful human beings with great pleasure.

God calls you, O reader, to be the best version of yourself possible.  I encourage you to answer that sacred call affirmatively.  Be a square peg.  Be one of God’s square pegs.  Be the square peg God wants you to be.  And help others be the square pegs God wants them to be.

So, here is to God’s gloriously square pegs!  They shine with the light of God and challenge comfortable, complacent conformity.  They expose the injustice of certain societal norms.  They renew society and work for the common good.  They glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, ENGLISH ROMANC CATHOLIC PRIEST-CARDINAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARNULF OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT GERMANUS OF GRANFEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 677

THE FEAST OF AUSTIN CARROLL (MARGARET ANNE CARROLL), IRISH-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, AUTHOR, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT SOUTHWELL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1595

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS PORMORT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1592

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Feast of Gerald Kennedy (August 30)   5 comments

Above:  The Logos of The Methodist Church (1939-1968) and The United Methodist Church (1968f), from Copies of The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), Pre-Merger and Post-Merger

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GERALD HAMILTON KENNEDY (AUGUST 30, 1907-FEBRUARY 17, 1980)

U.S. Methodist Bishop and Hymn Writer

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Any church that starts out to be a success in the world’s eyes is doomed to failure.

–Bishop Gerald Kennedy, 1960; quoted in TIME magazine, April 11, 1960

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Most of the so-called devotional material is shallow and meaningless tripe that makes me sick to my stomach.

–Bishop Gerald Kennedy, on religious publications

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INTRODUCTION

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Bishop Gerald Hamilton Kennedy comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Methodist Hymnal (1966).

As I looked for an image to place at the top of this post, I found pictures of Bishop Kennedy here and here. Given questions of copyright, I have chosen to provide links instead of risking invoking the wrath of the copyright enforcers. I have also trusted that using the camera on my smartphone to take a photograph of book spines from my library, transferring that image my computer, cropping that image, flipping it in my computer, and inserting that photograph at the top of this post has not angered the high gods and enforcers of copyright laws.

Kennedy was one of the most prominent preachers in the United States of America and one of the greatest bishops in The Methodist Church (1939-1968) and The United Methodist Church (1968f).  He, like anyone who has lived a long time, changed his mind as he aged.  Kennedy, for example, moved from the theological left to Neo-orthodoxy then out of it.  By 1961, our saint was also openly dismissive of Norman Vincent Peale‘s “Power of Positive Thinking.”  Kennedy called that message,

a spiritual aspirin tablet, a spiritual glass of Ovaltine.

Yet Kennedy was, according to Presbyterian arch-fundamentalist Carl McIntire (1906-2002), in 1963,

a liberal, leftist apostate

–redundant, given McIntire’s narrow, combative theology.

In other words, Kennedy was by the standards of his time, somewhere in the middle.

  1. He opposed communism vigorously.
  2. He opposed the “Death of God” movement.
  3. In 1963, he invited ostracized, pro-civil rights ministers in Mississippi into the California-Pacific Conference.
  4. He ridiculed supporters of the proposed Methodist-Episcopal-United Church of Christ-United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. merger (1960; the beginning of the Consultation on Church Union) as “ecumaniacs” in 1961.
  5. He endorsed the Anti-Defamation League’s protest against Soviet repression of Jewry, in 1964.
  6. He supported Billy Graham’s crusade in Los Angeles in 1963.
  7. He favored ecumenical cooperation yet opposed the creation of an allegedly unwieldy Protestant super-church.  As Kennedy said in 1967, he liked having guests yet did not want to have them move in.
  8. His critics came from both his right and his left.

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THE FIRST FORTY YEARS

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Gerald Hamilton Kennedy knew when he was a very young child that he had a vocation to ordained ministry.  He, born in Benzonia, Michigan, on August 30, 1907, was a son of Herbert Grant Kennedy and Marian Phelps Kennedy.  Our saint studied at the College of the Pacific (B.A., 1929).  Upon graduation, he had already married Mary Grace Leeper, on June 2, 1928.  The M.A. (1931) and the Ph.D. (1932) from the Pacific School of Religion followed.  Then Kennedy studied at Hartford Theological Seminary (S.T.M., 1933; Ph.D., 1934).

Kennedy, as an ordained minister, served in congregations in four denominations, three of them Methodist.  His first parish was the First Congregational Church (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States), Collinsville, Connecticut (1932-1936).  (This congregation has become the Christ Community Church of Collinsville, an affiliate of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.)  Kennedy, ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), had graduated from a Congregationalist theological seminary.  Starting in 1936, he ministered within the bounds of his tradition–in the Methodist Episcopal Church, The Methodist Church (1939-1968), and The United Methodist Church (1968f).  He served at Calvary Methodist Episcopal (Methodist, 1939-1940) Church, San Jose, California (1936-1940), now Calvary United Methodist Church.  Then he served at the First Methodist (now United Methodist) Church of Palo Alto, California (1940-1942).  Kennedy was also the Acting Professor of Homiletics at the Pacific School of Religion (1938-1942) and the Director of the Wesley Foundation at Stanford University (1940-1942).   Then Kennedy relocated to Nebraska.  He served at Saint Paul Methodist (now United Methodist) Church, Lincoln (1942-1948).  He was also Lecturer in Religion at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1942.  While in Lincoln, furthermore, Kennedy preached on the radio (1945-1948) and sat on the Executive Committee of the Community Chest (1945-1948).

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BISHOP KENNEDY

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In 1948, at the age of forty years, Kennedy became the youngest Methodist bishop in the United States.  Portland, Oregon, was his base of operations for four years.  Then, in 1952, our saint, reassigned to the California-Pacific Conference (Hawaii, Arizona, and Southern California), moved to Los Angeles.  He served as the bishop there for two decades.

Kennedy remained busy building up church and society.  He was a preacher, not an administrator.  He sat on various denominational boards and committees.  He served on the state Board of Education.  Our saint spent a year (1960-1961) as the President of the Council of Bishops.  He wrote most of his twenty-one books.  Kennedy served on the texts subcommittee for The Methodist Hymnal (1966).  And he lectured at universities and theological seminaries, as he had done since 1946.  Meanwhile, Kennedy tended conscientiously to to his flock and maintained a rigorous travel schedule.

By 1968, however, Kennedy needed to travel less frequently; his health had begun to fail.  Denominational law permitted early retirement at the age of 65 years–in August 1972, in our saint’s case.  In this context, Kennedy appointed himself the Senior Minister of the First United Methodist Church, Pasadena, California, effective December 8, 1968.  In laymen’s terms, the organic fertilizer hit the ecclesiastical fan.

An active bishop doubling as a parish minister was without precedent in the Methodist tradition, but not in other denominations.  In my adopted denomination, The Episcopal Church, for example, William White (1747-1836) served as the Rector of Christ Church and St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1779-1836); the Bishop of Pennsylvania (1787-1836); and the Presiding Bishop of the denomination (1789, 1795-1836).  In my home state, Stephen Elliott (1806-1866), the first Bishop of Georgia (1841-1866), served also as the Rector of Christ Church, Savannah (1852-1859, 1861-1866); as well as the Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America (1862-1866).

I also note that Mark A. Cowell, the Episcopal Bishop of Western Kansas (2018f), doubles as the Vicar of Holy Nativity, Kinsley; the Vicar of Saints Mary and Martha, Larned; the Municipal Prosecutor in Dodge; and the County Attorney in Hodgerman County.  In other words, an active bishop doubling as a parish minister can be a workable situation.

Kennedy’s self-appointment triggered a denominational bureaucratic-judicial series of events that resulted in a settlement.  He got to serve as the Senior Minister of the First United Methodist Church, Pasadena, without administrative responsibilities and a second salary, so long as he was an active bishop.  Kennedy also preached three Sundays a month.  This arrangement was mutually agreeable, and consistent with Kennedy’s intentions anyway.  

Kennedy retired twice.  He retired as an active bishop in August 1972, after his sixty-fifth birthday.  He had already suffered a mild stroke at the 1972 General Conference, in Atlanta, earlier in the year.  Then our saint retired from parish ministry in 1973.

Gerald and Mary Kennedy moved into an apartment in Laguna Hills, California, in September 1973.  The bishop’s health continued to deteriorate.  A series of strokes robbed the great orator of his voice.  Kennedy, aged 72 years, died at the hospital in Laguna Hills on February 17, 1980.

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EVALUATION

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Kennedy wrote a hymn, “God of Love and God of Power,” while at Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church, San Jose, California, in the late 1930s.  That hymn debuted in a hymnal when The Methodist Hymnal (1966) included it.  The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) has retained the hymn.

We are not the first to be

banished by our fears from thee;

give us courage, let us hear

heaven’s trumpets ringing clear.

God of love and God of power,

thou hast called us to this hour.

That stanza from Kennedy’s hymn speaks to the mission of the Church.  The bishop’s example, bound by time and other circumstances, contains a timeless principle–the need to have courage and to banish fears that separate us from God.

Kennedy certainly behaved courageously, according to the demands of the Gospel, as he understood it, upon his life.  He lived and worked in a different political climate and a different societal milieu.  The Cold War defined Kennedy’s time.  In the early 1960s, when our saint derided attempts to merge denominations from different Christian traditions, membership was increasing in the United States.

(Aside:  Frankly, I do not know how merging The Methodist Church, The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. would have been feasible or desirable.  Ecumenism works better via cooperation than organic union sometimes.  Reformed denominations merging can make sense.  So can uniting Wesleyan denominations.  Likewise, merging Lutheran denominations can be feasible and desirable.  Baptist denominations divide more often than they merge, but Baptist mergers can be workable, too.  This is not to say that breaking down lines separating traditions is never a good idea.  The Church of South India, formed in 1947, seems to work well, for example. And my denomination, The Episcopal Church, has joint congregations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  I do not know how well a merger of the denominations would work, though.  I am open to the idea, however.)

God of love and God of power,

thou hast called us for this hour.

The hour of 2021, when I write and publish this blog post, is unlike any of Bishop Kennedy’s hours.  Nevertheless, the refrain from his hymn joins his example in challenging us to ask ourselves what his hour requires of us in the Church.  We may disagree with Kennedy of certain points.  I do.  Yet we can still recognize the greatness of the faith that animated him and defined his life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF BEN SALMON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PACIFIST AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND MUSICOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant Gerald Hamilton Kennedy,

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

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

we may by your grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 38

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Literary Experience   Leave a comment

Above:  The New Novel, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

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Reading a novel in sufficient light is a literary experience.

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Posted February 14, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Puns--Art and Entertainment

Tagged with ,