Author Archive

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

Above:  Blessed Marin Shkurti

Image in the Public Domain

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

Albanian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1969

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

–Blessed Marin Shkurti, April 1, 1969

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

in the heart of your holy martyr Blessed Marin Shkurti:

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

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

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-5

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

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

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Feast of Emma Francis (December 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of the United States Virgin Islands

Image in the Public Domain

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

Lutheran Deaconess in the United States Virgin Islands and Harlem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom

the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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

Above:  St. Nicholas of Myra

Image in the Public Domain

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

Bishop of Myra

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 19:17, 20-23

Psalm 145:8-13

1 John 4:7-14

Mark 10:13-16

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

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

Above:  Stille Nacht

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

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

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

Austrian Roman Catholic Priest

collaborated with

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

Austrian Roman Catholic Teacher, Musician, and Composer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 19:9-10

Psalm 84

1 Corinthians 13

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

Image in the Public Domain

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

Russian Orthodox Priest and Martyr, 1937

Orthodox Church in America feast day = December 4

Russian Orthodox Church feast day = August 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

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

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

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

Sirach (Eccelesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

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

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Feast of Sophie Koulomzin (December 3)   2 comments

Above:  Russian Orthodox Cross

Image in the Public Domain

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SOPHIE SCHIDLOVSKY KOULOMZIN (DECEMBER 3, 1903-SEPTEMBER 29, 2000)

Russian-American Orthodox Christian Educator

Sophie Koulomzin served God most effectively in Christian education.

Our saint, born Sophie Schidlovsky in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, on December 3, 1903, knew the life of a Russian elite and the life of struggling émigré.  Her father, Sergei Schidlovsky, was the last vice president of the old Duma.  The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 forced the family to flee, ultimately to Paris.  Sophie studied (on scholarships) at the University of Berlin then at Columbia University, New York, New York, from which she earned her M.A. in Religious Education in 1926.  She became the first woman from the Eastern Orthodox tradition to earn that degree there.

Our saint, back in Paris, put her degree to work.  She taught émigré children and edited My First Book about the Orthodox Faith and My Second Book about the Orthodox Faith.  She also worked with St. Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945), a nun who sheltered Jews during the German occupation and died for doing so.

Sophie Schidlovsky became Sophie Koulomzin in 1932, when she married engineer Nikita Koulomzin.  The couple had three daughters and one nun.

The family resided in the United States, starting in 1949, when they settled in Nyack, New York.  Sophie taught in her parish and joined the Metropolitan Council Church School Committee.  She encouraged Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States to cooperate and to conduct Christian education of the young in English–to leave the Old World psychologically and emotionally.  In 1957 she helped to create the ecumenical Orthodox Christian Education Commission, in which she was prominent.

NOTE:  I have read histories of immigrant, minority denominations–Lutheran and Reformed, mainly–in the United States.  Regardless of the denomination, some patterns have been consistent.  The denominations have, most strongly at first, functioned as means of preserving a culture and handing it down from one generation to the next.  This has restricted the appeal of the denomination to a particular ethnicity for a long time.  Meanwhile, cultural and linguistic transitions have occurred as the first-generation immigrants have died and the generations born in the United States have begun to assimilate.  This transition has been psychologically difficult for many of those who left the Old World only physically.  During these long transitions these immigrant denominations have lost many younger, culturally-assimilated members.  As English has become the dominant or only language in a particular denomination, mergers have occurred.

I have a mixed opinion about this.  I do not consider myself ethnic; I descend mainly from Anglo-Saxons who moved to North America in the 1600s.  I have a sprinkling of other cultures–French (Huguenot, to be precise), German, and Cherokee, for example–in my family tree.  Furthermore, people stop me occasionally and ask if I am Greek or Italian.  As I was writing, I do not consider myself ethnic, especially in the United States.  However, I like many of the old Danish and Swedish Lutheran hymns that have fallen out of favor with Lutheran hymnal committees since cultural assimilation and denominational mergers.  Different cultures add to the collective life of the United States; variety is indeed the spice of life.  Members of different cultures can learn much from each other.

Koulomzin taught future priests and bishops at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, New York, form 1956 to 1970, when she retired.  The seminary awarded her an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree as she entered retirement.

In the 1990s our saint was active in efforts related to the Christian education of children in the former Soviet Union, as the Russian Orthodox Church emerged from decades of persecution.  Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II awarded her the Order of Saint Olga in 1999.

Koulomzin, a member of what became the Orthodox Church in America in 1970, lived to the age of 96 years.  She died on September 29, 2000.

Christian education is one of the elements of parish life that many adherents take lightly, unfortunately.  The life and work of Sophie Koulomzin should remind us of the importance of Christian education–certainly, for children, but also for adults.

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Loving God, in whom we find the path to salvation and shalom,

we thank you for the life and work of Sophie Koulomzin in Christian education.

May we take Christian education seriously, deepen our faith, and lead others on the right paths,

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

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Psalm 119:105-112

Acts 8:26-40

Matthew 13:1-17

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Feast of Maura Clarke and Her Companions (December 2)   4 comments

Above:  Flag of El Salvador

Image in the Public Domain

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MARY ELIZABETH CLARKE (JANUARY 3, 1931-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

ITA FORD (APRIL 23, 1940-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

DOROTHY LU KAZEL (JUNE 30, 1939-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

JEAN DONOVAN (APRIL 10, 1953-DECEMBER 2, 1980)

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U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

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What do you do when even to help the poor, to take care of the orphans, is considered an act of subversion by the government?

–Jean Donovan, December 1, 1980

One becomes a martyr.

These four women served God faithfully, especially among poor people, and followed Jesus to death.  Each one took up her cross and followed Christ.

The Cold War made for morally untenable compromises.  During U.S. presidential administrations of both major parties, the federal government supported brutal military dictatorships that targeted those who worked among the desperately poor.  The rationale for supporting such repressive regimes was that at least they were not communists.  One of these governments ran El Salvador.  Military death squads executed many, who in the name of Christ, worked with the poor, as well as many of those poor civilians, all in the name of fighting communism.

Dorothy Lu Kazel (1939-1980) had been Sister Laurentine of the Ursulline Sisters of Cleveland, Ohio, since 1960.  The native of Cleveland had taught at the Sacred Heart Academy in East Cleveland (starting in 1965) and taught catechism to deaf students at the St. Martin de Porres Center, Glennville, Ohio.  After serving as a missionary to the Papago tribe in Arizona in 1969, Kazel returned to Cleveland and earned her M.A. in counseling (1974).  That year she worked briefly at the Beaumont School for Girls, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  In 1974 she joined a mission of the Diocese of Cleveland to El Salvador.  In that country Kazel, workin with the poor in dangerous circumstances, became “Madre Dorthea.”

Jean Donovan was a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in El Salvador.  She, born in Westport, Connecticut, on April 10, 1953, had been a business consultant in Cleveland, Ohio.  Donovan, having earned her M.A. in Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University, had gone to work for the firm of Arthur Andersen.  She had also begun to  volunteer with poor people in Cleveland.  The call to serve God in the poor took precedence.  Donovan quit her job, joined the Maryknolls, and trained to become a missionary.  She arrived in El Salvador in July 1979.

Donovan and Kazel worked together in El Salvador.  They were some of those who kept vigil with the casket of St. Oscar Romero (1917-1980) in March 1980.  They witnesses the military attack on the large crowd at his funeral on March 30, 1980.  Hundreds suffered injuries and forty-four died.  Donovan and Kazel knew the risks they took daily, and that each day could be their last.

Donovan was no fool, especially about U.S. military helicopters.  Her father build them for a living.  One day in November 1980, Donovan, 27 years old, riding her motorbike, noticed a U.S. military helicopter following her.  She recognized its name and model.  When Donovan asked the U.S. Ambassador about the helicopter, he denied the presence of any such equipment in the country.

Maura Clarke and Ita Ford were Maryknoll Sisters.

Clarke, born in Queens, New York, New York, on January 13, 1931, was a daughter of Irish immigrants.  She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1950 and made her vows in 1953.  After graduating from the Maryknoll Teachers College in 1954, she taught at St. Antony’s Parish School, in the Bronx.  Then Clarke spent 1959-1977 working with poor people in Nicaragua.  She spent 1977-1980 in the United States as part of a Maryknoll Sisters World Awareness Team.  She worked mostly on the East Coast.  Our saint returned to Nicaragua in 1980.  There she remained consistently until August.

Ita Ford, born in Brooklyn, New York, New York, on April 23, 1940, joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1961, having graduated from Marymount College.  Failing health forced Ford out of the order in 1964, but she returned seven years later.  She worked as an editor at Sadlier publishers from 1964 to 1971.  She rejoined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1971.  The order sent Ford to Chile in 1973, shortly after the CIA-sponsored coup d’état that over threw the Allende government and installed Augusto Pinochet, who terrorized the civilian population for 18 years.  She left Chile for El Salvador in 1980, shortly after the assassination of Archbishop Romero.  In El Salvador Ford worked with Sister Carol Piette (September 29, 1939-August 23, 1980).  Piette and Ford were escorting a recently released prisoner to his home when they became caught up in a flood.  Piette gave her life to save those of Ford and the former prisoner.

Ford joined with Clarke in Nicaragua later that month.  Ford returned to Chalatango, El Salvador, with Clarke replacing Piette.  Later the women returned to Nicaragua briefly.  They returned to El Salvador on December 2, 1980.  Kazel and Donovan met them at the airport.

Soldiers abducted the women, beat all of them, raped Kazel and Donovan, and shot each woman in the back of her head.

The U.S. Government’s response was inconsistent.  The Carter Administration, set to expire in just over a month, suspended military aid to El Salvador.  Its policy toward brutal governments in El Salvador had been inconsistent, despite Carter’s pronouncements about the importance of human rights in foreign policy.  The Carter Administration had long been aware of the El Salvadoran death squads.  Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom in March 1980 had prompted international outrage.  The Reagan Administration, which did not link human rights to foreign policy in Latin America, restored military assistance and never pressured the government of El Salvador to respect the human rights of its citizens or those of the United States.  At least the government of El Salvador, with its death squads, was fighting communists, right?  The Carter Administration’s hypocrisy and the Reagan Administration’s indifference regarding human rights in Central America were both objectionable, but the former was preferable to the latter.

Clarke reflected,

One cries out, “Lord, how long?  And then too what creeps into my mind is the little fear or big, that when it touches me very personally, will I be faithful?”

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 526

All four women were faithful to the end.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of the world, and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

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

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 122

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 713

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