Archive for the ‘April 19’ Category

Feast of St. Emma of Lesum (April 19)   Leave a comment

Above:  Saxony, 919-1125 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain




Also known as St. Imma, St. Hemma, and St. Emma of Stiepel and of Bremen

Alternative feast days = April 17 and December 3

St. Emma of Lesum came from nobility.  Her mother was Countess Adela of Hamaland (952-1021), sovereign of Hamaland (now in The Netherlands) from 973 to 1021.  Our saint’s father was Imad IV of Renkum (died in 973).  St. Emma’s brother, St. Meinwark (circa 975-June 5, 1036; feast day = June 5) was the Bishop of Paderborn (now in Germany) from 1009 to 1036.  Her husband, Luidger (died in 1011), was also of Saxon noble origin; his father was Duke Hermann Billung.  St. Emma and Luidger had one child, Imad, who became the Bishop of Paderborn in 1051.

St. Emma, as a widow, retired to her estate (Lesum) near Bremen.  She had already begun to be a benefactor.  Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (reigned 996-1002) had given her land at Stiepel (now in Germany).  St. Emma had arranged for the construction of a church dedicated to St. Mary of Nazareth on the site in 1008.  St. Emma, as a widow, donated generously to the poor of Bremen and to St. Peter’s Cathedral in the city.

St. Emma died on December 3, 1038.  Her canonization seems to have been an informal process, consisting of public acclaim.





Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:

Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Saint Emma of Lesum,

may persevere in running the race that is set before us,

until at last we may with her attain to your eternal joy;

through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

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

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 15

Hebrews 12:1-2

Matthew 25:31-40

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724


Feast of St. Alphege (April 19)   1 comment

Above:  St. Alphege

Image in the Public Domain


SAINT ALPHEGE (953-1012)

Archbishop of Canterbury, and Martyr, 1012

The Feast of St. Alphege comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints and Holy Days via Roman Catholic and Anglican calendars.

St. Alphege, or Aelfheah, was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to wear the crown of martyrdom.  He, from a noble family, entered Deerfield Abbey, Gloucestershire.  During ensuing years our saint was a monk, an anchorite, and the abbot at Bath Abbey.  In 984 St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 t0 988, secured St. Alphege’s appointment as Bishop of Winchester.  Our saint, an effective bishop, supervised an effective system of caring for the poor.  He also negotiated a peace treaty with the recently baptized Norse King Olaf Tryggvason in 994.  Eleven years later St. Alphege succeeded to the See of Canterbury.  In 1011 Danish forces captured him.  Our saint refused to permit the collection of a large ransom from the over-burdened population.  So it came to pass that, after several months, his captors executed him in 1012.

Archbishop of Canterbury St. Anselm, whom St. Alphege had mentored, argued for the definition of our saint’s death as a form of martyrdom.  To die for the sake of justice, St. Anselm contended, is to die as a martyr.

Pope Gregory VII canonized St. Alphege in 1078.





O loving God, your martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death

when he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people:

Grant that all pastors of your flock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd,

who laid down this life for the sheep; and who with you and the

Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Samuel 24:7b-19

Psalm 49:1-9

Philemon 1-9a

Luke 23:1-9

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 333


Feast of Olavus and Laurentius Petri (April 19)   2 comments

Sweden 1550

Above:  Map of Sweden and Its Environs, 1550

Image in the Public Domain



Swedish Lutheran Theologian, Historian, Liturgist, Minister, Hymn Writer, Hymn Translator, Dramatist, Bible Translator, and “Father of Swedish Literature”

Also known as Olaus Petri, Olof Persson, and Olof Pettersson

brother of


Swedish Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala, Bible Translator, and “Father of Swedish Hymnody”

Also known as Lars Persson


The Great Man (and Woman) Theory is my favorite approach to history.  This Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is, in fact, an exercise in the study of great men and women, famous, obscure, and between those two poles.  The Petri brothers, whose lives and labors overlapped, belong on such a catalogue of holy people.  Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the service book-hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), lists the Petris as “renewers of the church.”  I agree with that assessment while concluding that the pithy label is inadequate.

Olof and Lars Persson were natives of Orebro, Sweden, and sons of a blacksmith.  Our saints learned to, among other things, read and write from Carmelite monks and became monks themselves.  The order sent young Olof, known in Latin as Olavus (or Olaus) Petri, to study at Wittenberg, Germany, in 1516.  There he lived in the home of Martin Luther, one of his professors.  Both Petri brothers studied in that city, where they learned from Luther as well as Philipp Melancthon.  The brothers returned to Sweden in 1518, with their heads full of Lutheran theology.

At the time Sweden was (A) officially Roman Catholic and (B) part of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway.  (Interdynastic marriages had led to the union of the three crowns in 1389.)  The union of Denmark and Norway proved to be durable, ending only in 1814, due to the politics of the Napoleonic Wars.  The political situation in Sweden, which included Finland at the time, was different, however.  Separation from Denmark and Norway was final in 1523, with the coronation of Gustav I Vasa (reigned 1523-1560) as the King of Sweden after a war of liberation.

Also active in the war of liberation was Laurentius Andreae, also known as Lars Andersson (circa 1470-1552), who aided Gustav Vasa during the war of liberation then crowned him in 1523.  Andreae had studied in Skara and Uppsala before pursuing a Master’s degree at Rostock, Germany, and studying canon law in Rome.  By 1520 he had become the archdeacon of the Diocese of Strangnas.  On November 8 of that year King Christian II of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (reigned 1513-1523) ordered the execution of about 100 people in Stockholm.  Among the victims of the Stockholm Bloodbath, as it went down in history, was Bishop Mattias, Andreae’s superior.  Andreae  administrator of the diocese after that event.  He, the political engineer of the Swedish Reformation, served as the Vasa’s secretary (chief advisor) and a member of the council of state.

Andreae and the Petri brothers were leaders of the Swedish Reformation.  The Petris preached that Reformation, converting most of the population.  Olavus, whom Bishop Mattias had ordained to the diaconate, served as the secretary of the Stockholm city council for a time.  From 1531 to 1539 he was the chancellor of the realm, until Vasa removed him from that post.  Olavus had a strong personality and a mind of his own.  These were hazardous characteristics in the presence of Vasa, who charged Olavus and Andreae with treason and sentenced them to death in 1540.  The monarch pardoned and fined them two years later, but their political careers were over.  These two men locked horns with Vasa, who had favored Lutheranism for years but got around to making it mandatory in 1540.  They also liked Lutheranism yet opposed the monarch’s methods of religious reform.

Olavus, a priest since 1539, was the foremost theologian in Sweden.  He spent his final years (1542-1552) as pastor of the Storkyrkan (Great Church) of Stockholm and the first Lutheran minister in the city.

Olavus was the main author of the Swedish Reformation, with some help from his brother Laurentius and from Laurentius Andreae.  The three men collaborated on the project to translate the Bible into Swedish (New Testament, 1526; Old Testament, 1541).  Olavus prepared and published the first Swedish hymnal, Swedish Hymns and Songs (1526), containing probably 8 to 12 hymns.  He revised and expanded the hymnal in 1530 and 1536, increasing its contents to 46 hymns and an appendix containing songs about the Antichrist, in 1536.  Olavus’s books of sermons (1528 and 1530) proved influential in the Lutheran evangelization of Sweden also.

Olavus was an influential liturgist.  He published the first Swedish service book in 1529.  His was a conservative revision, retaining many Roman Catholic customs yet dropping, for example, the blessing from salt at baptism and omitting the rites for blessing food and candles.  He revised the service book in 1533 and 1537.  His brother Laurentius revised it in 1541, 1548, and 1557.  In 1531 Olavus published the Swedish-language order of the Mass, creating a participatory service for the congregation (a break with tradition) and rewriting the Eucharistic canon to remove any reference to the Mass as a sacrifice (another break with tradition).  It was appropriate that Olavus worked on that project, for the day of his wedding (February 11, 1525) was probably the occasion of the first vernacular Mass in Sweden.

[Aside:  I found a detailed explanation of Olavus’s Eucharistic theology and the Petris’ liturgical revisions in Frank C. Senn, Christian Liturgy:  Catholic and Evangelical (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1997), pages 403-418 and 467-470.  I refer you, O reader, to that text.]

Olavus was the “Father of Swedish Literature.”  Prior to 1526 fewer than ten published titles in the Swedish language existed.  Aside from the books I have written of already, Olavus’s catalogue of Swedish-language publications included Tobiae comedia (the first drama in Swedish) and the influential Chronicle, a work of Swedish history.  He also composed and translated hymns.  I have found a few of his hymns in English translations and added most of those to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  There was one hymn I found online but not in any of my old hymnals, so I have provided a link to “Thou, Jesus Christ, Didst Man Become.”

Laurentius Petri was able to maintain a better relationship with Vasa than his brother Olavus did, and for a longer period of time.  Laurentius, formerly professor of theology at the University of Uppsala, became the first Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala in 1531.  He died in office on October 27, 1573.  Laurentius proved crucial in maintaining Apostolic Succession in Sweden, for Vasa preferred to govern The Church of Sweden via superintendents while leaving bishoprics vacant.  Laurentius was able, eventually, via the church order of 1571, to help separate the Church from royal control.

Although Olavus edited the first three Swedish hymnals (1526, 1530, 1536), Laurentius became the “Father of Swedish Hymnody.”  He composed hymns, none of which I have found in English translations.  Laurentius also edited four editions (1543, 1549, 1567, and 1572) of The Swedish Psalm Book.

The Petri brothers were giants in The Church of Sweden.  Their influence has never ceased to be evident in Swedish Lutheranism, from hymns to living legacies in theological thought and liturgical practice.  They were indeed great men.








Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Olavus Petri and Laurentius Petri)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26






Saints’ Days and Holy Days for April   Leave a comment


Image Source = WiZZiK

1 (Frederick Denison Maurice, Anglican Priest and Theologian)

  • Giuseppe Girotti, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1945
  • John Gray, Scottish Presbyterian Minister, Mythologist, Biblical Scholar, and Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages
  • Ludovico Pavoni, Roman Catholic Priest and Educator
  • Syragius of Autun and Anarcharius of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Bishops; and Valery of Leucone and Eustace of Luxeuit, Roman Catholic Abbots

2 (James Lloyd Breck, “The Apostle of the Wilderness”)

  • Carlo Carretto, Spiritual Writer
  • John Payne and Cuthbert Mayne, Roman Catholic Priests and Martyrs, 1582 and 1577
  • Joseph Bernardin, Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago
  • Sidonius Apollinaris, Eustace of Lyon, and His Descendants, Roman Catholic Bishops

3 (Luther D. Reed, U.S. Lutheran Minister and Liturgist)

  • Burgendofara and Sadalberga, Roman Catholic Abbesses, and Their Relatives
  • Marc Sangnier, Founder of the Sillon Movement
  • Mary of Egypt, Hermit and Penitent
  • Reginald Heber, Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, and Hymn Writer
  • Sidney Lovett, U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Chaplain of Yale University

4 (Benedict the African, Franciscan Friar and Hermit)

  • Alfred C. Marble, Jr., Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi then Assisting Bishop of North Carolina
  • Ernest W. Shurtleff, U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. Civil Rights Leader, and Martyr, 1968 (also January 15)

5 (Emily Ayckbowm, Founder of the Community of the Sisters of the Church)

  • Mariano de la Mata Aparicio, Roman Catholic Missionary and Educator in Brazil
  • Pauline Sperry, Mathematician, Philanthropist, and Activist; and her brother, Willard Learoyd Sperry, Congregationalist Minister, Ethicist, Theologian, and Dean of Harvard Law School
  • William Derham, Anglican Priest and Scientist

6 (Marcellinus of Carthage, Roman Catholic Martyr, 413)

  • Benjamin Hall Kennedy, Greek and Latin Scholar, Bible Translator, and Anglican Priest
  • Daniel G. C. Wu, Chinese-American Episcopal Priest and Missionary
  • Emil Brunner, Swiss Reformed Theologian
  • Milner Ball, Presbyterian Minister, Law Professor, Witness for Civil Rights, Humanitarian
  • Nokter Balbulus, Roman Catholic Monk

7 (Tikhon of Moscow, Russian Orthodox Patriach)

  • André Trocmé, Magda Trocmé, and Daniel Trocmé, Righteous Gentiles
  • George the Younger, Greek Orthodox Bishop of Mitylene
  • Jay Thomas Stocking, U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Montford Scott, Edmund Gennings, Henry Walpole, and Their Fellow Martyrs, 1591 and 1595
  • Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury

8 (Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Patriarch of American Lutheranism; his great-grandson, William Augustus Muhlenberg, Episcopal Priest, Hymn Writer, and Liturgical Pioneer; and his colleague, Anne Ayres, Founder of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion)

  • Dionysius of Corinth, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Godfrey Diekmann, U.S. Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, Ecumenist, Theologian, and Liturgical Scholar
  • Hugh of Rouen, Roman Catholic Bishop, Abbot, and Monk
  • Julie Billiart, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame
  • Timothy Lull, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Scholar, Theologian, and Ecumenist

9 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran Martyr, 1945

  • Johann Cruger, German Lutheran Organist, Composer, and Hymnal Editor
  • John Samuel Bewley Monsell, Anglican Priest and Poet; and Richard Mant, Anglican Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore
  • Lydia Emilie Gruchy, First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada
  • Mikael Agricola, Finnish Lutheran Liturgist, Bishop of Turku, and “Father of Finnish Literary Language”
  • William Law, Anglican Priest, Mystic, and Spiritual Writer

10 (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Roman Catholic Priest, Scientist, and Theologian)

  • Fulbert of Chartres, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Henry Van Dyke, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Liturgist
  • Howard Thurman, Protestant Theologian

11 (Heinrich Theobald Schenck, German Lutheran Pastor and Hymn Writer)

  • Charles Stedman Newhall, U.S. Naturalist, Hymn Writer, and Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister
  • George Augustus Selwyn, Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, Primate of New Zealand, and Bishop of Lichfield; Missionary
  • George Zabelka, U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Military Chaplain, and Advocate for Christian Nonviolence
  • Henry Hallam Tweedy, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer

12 (Henry Sloane Coffin, U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Translator; and his nephew, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Social Activist)

  • David Uribe-Velasco, Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1927
  • Julius I, Bishop of Rome
  • Zeno of Verona, Bishop

13 (Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Bishop of Durham)

  • Henri Perrin, French Roman Catholic Worker Priest
  • John Gloucester, First African-American Presbyterian Minister
  • Lucy Craft Laney, African-American Presbyterian Educator and Civil Rights Activist
  • Martin I, Bishop of Rome, and Martyr, 655; and Maximus the Confessor, Eastern Orthodox Monk, Abbot, and Martyr, 662
  • Rolando Rivi, Roman Catholic Seminarian and Martyr, 1945

14 (Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, Episcopal Suffragan Bishops for Colored Work)

  • Anthony, John, and Eustathius of Vilnius, Martyrs in Lithuania, 1347
  • George Frederick Handel, Composer
  • Wandregisilus of Normandy, Roman Catholic Abbot; and Lambert of Lyons, Roman Catholic Abbot and Bishop
  • Zenaida of Tarsus and her sister, Philonella of Tarsus; and Hermione of Ephesus; Unmercenary Physicians

15 (Olga of Kiev, Regent of Kievan Russia; Adalbert of Magdeburg, Roman Catholic Bishop; Adalbert of Prague, Roman Catholic Bishop and Martyr, 997; and Benedict and Gaudentius of Pomerania, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 997)

  • Damien and Marianne of Molokai, Workers Among Lepers
  • Flavia Domitilla, Roman Christian Noblewoman; and Maro, Eutyches, and Victorinus of Rome, Priests and Martyrs, Circa 99
  • Hunna of Alsace, the “Holy Washerwoman”

16 (Bernadette of Lourdes, Roman Catholic Visionary)

  • Calvin Weiss Laufer, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Hymnodist
  • Isabella Gilmore, Anglican Deaconess
  • Mikel Suma, Albanian Roman Catholic Priest, Friar, and Martyr, 1950
  • Peter Williams Cassey, African-American Episcopal Deacon; and his wife, Annie Besant Cassey, African-American Episcopal Educator

17 (Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church)

  • Emily Cooper, Episcopal Deaconess
  • Lucy Larcom, U.S. Academic, Journalist, Poet, Editor, and Hymn Writer
  • Max Josef Metzger, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1944
  • Wilbur Kenneth Howard, Moderator of The United Church of Canada

18 (Roger Williams, Founder of Rhode Island; and Anne Hutchinson, Rebellious Puritan)

  • Cornelia Connelly, Founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus
  • Maria Anna Blondin, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne
  • Mary C. Collins, U.S. Congregationalist Missionary and Minister
  • Murin of Fahan, Laserian of Leighlin, Goban of Picardie, Foillan of Fosses, and Ultan of Peronne, Abbots; Fursey of Peronne and Blitharius of Seganne, Monks
  • Roman Archutowski, Polish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1943

19 (Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Martyr, 1012)

  • Emma of Lesum, Benefactor
  • Olavus Petri, Swedish Lutheran Theologian, Historian, Liturgist, Minister, Hymn Writer, Hymn Translator, and “Father of Swedish Literature;” and his brother, Laurentius Petri, Swedish Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala, Bible Translator, and “Father of Swedish Hymnody”

20 (Johannes Bugenhagen, German Lutheran Theologian, Minister, Liturgist, and “Pastor of the Reformation”)

  • Amator of Auxerre and Germanus of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Bishops; Mamertinus of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Abbot; and Marcian of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Monk
  • Christian X, King of Denmark and Iceland; and his brother, Haakon VII, King of Norway
  • Marion MacDonald Kelleran, Episcopal Seminary Professor and Lay Leader
  • Robert Seymour Bridges, Anglican Hymn Writer and Hymn Translator

21 (Roman Adame Rosales, Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1927)

  • Conrad of Parzham, Capuchin Friar
  • David Brainerd, American Congregationalist then Presbyterian Missionary and Minister
  • George B. Caird, English Congregationalist then United Reformed Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Hymn Writer and Translator
  • Georgia Harkness, U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, Ethicist, and Hymn Writer
  • Simeon Barsabae, Bishop; and His Companions, Martyrs, 341

22 (Gene Britton, Episcopal Priest)

  • Donald S. Armentrout, U.S. Lutheran Minister and Scholar
  • Hadewijch of Brabert, Roman Catholic Mystic
  • Kathe Kollwitz, German Lutheran Artist and Pacifist
  • Vitalis of Gaza, Monk, Hermit, and Martyr, Circa 625

23 (Toyohiko Kagawa, Renewer of Society and Prophetic Witness in Japan)

  • Martin Rinckart, German Lutheran Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Teresa Maria of the Cross, Founder of the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa of Florence
  • Walter Russell Bowie, Episcopal Priest, Seminary Professor, and Hymn Writer

24 (Genocide Remembrance)

  • Egbert of Lindisfarne, Roman Catholic Monk; and Adalbert of Egmont, Roman Catholic Missionary
  • Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Capuchin Friar and Martyr, 1622
  • Jakob Böhme, German Lutheran Mystic
  • Johann Walter, “First Cantor of the Lutheran Church”
  • Mellitus, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury


26 (William Cowper, Anglican Hymn Writer)

  • Adelard of Corbie, Frankish Roman Catholic Monk and Abbot; and his protégé, Paschasius Radbertus, Frankish Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, and Theologian
  • Robert Hunt, First Anglican Chaplain at Jamestown, Virginia
  • Ruth Byllesby, Episcopal Deaconess in Georgia
  • Stanislaw Kubista, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1940; and Wladyslaw Goral, Polish Roman Catholic Bishop and Martyr, 1945
  • William Stringfellow, Episcopal Attorney, Theologian, and Social Activist

27 (George Washington Doane, Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey; and his son, William Croswell Doane, Episcopal Bishop of Albany; Hymn Writers)

  • Antony and Theodosius of Kiev, Founders of Russian Orthodox Monasticism; Barlaam of Kiev, Russian Orthodox Abbot; and Stephen of Kiev, Russian Orthodox Abbot and Bishop
  • Christina Rossetti, Poet and Religious Writer
  • Remaclus of Maastricht, Theodore of Maastricht, Lambert of Maastricht, Hubert of Maastricht and Liege, and Floribert of Liege, Roman Catholic Bishops; Landrada of Munsterbilsen, Roman Catholic Abbess; and Otger of Utrecht, Plechelm of Guelderland, and Wiro, Roman Catholic Missionaries
  • Zita of Tuscany, Worker of Charity

28 (Jaroslav Vajda, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer)

  • Jozef Cebula, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1941
  • Pamphilius of Sulmona, Roman Catholic Bishop and Almsgiver
  • Peter Chanel, Protomartyr of Oceania, 1841

29 (Catherine of Siena, Roman Catholic Mystic and Religious)

  • Bosa of York, John of Beverley, Wilfrid the Younger, and Acca of Hexham, Roman Catholic Bishops
  • James Edward Walsh, Roman Catholic Missionary Bishop and Political Prisoner in China
  • Simon B. Parker, United Methodist Biblical Scholar
  • Timothy Rees, Welsh Anglican Hymn Writer and Bishop of Llandaff

30 (James Montgomery, Anglican and Moravian Hymn Writer)

  • Diet Eman; her fiancé, Hein Sietsma, Martyr, 1945; and his brother, Hendrik “Henk” Sietsma; Righteous Among the Nations
  • James Russell Woodford, Anglican Bishop of Ely, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer
  • John Ross MacDuff and George Matheson, Scottish Presbyterian Ministers and Authors
  • Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Poet, Author, Editor, and Prophetic Witness



  • The Confession of Saint Martha of Bethany (the Sunday immediately prior to Palm Sunday; March 8-April 11)


Lowercase boldface on a date with two or more commemorations indicates a primary feast.

Second Sunday of Easter, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  Exterior Statue of St. Thomas the Apostle from St. Thomas Catholic Church, Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois

Defending “Doubting Thomas”

APRIL 19, 2020


Acts 2:14a, 23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them…”You that are Israelites, listen to what I say:  Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know–this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.  For David says concerning him,

‘I saw the Lord always before me,

for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;

therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

moreover my flesh will live in hope.

For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One experience corruption.

You have made known to me the ways of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.  Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

‘He was not abandoned to Hades,

nor did his flesh see corruption.’

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good apart from you.”

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,

in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;

their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out

or take their names upon my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;

my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol,

or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith– being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


My father served as pastor of Cooks Union United Methodist Church, about eight miles outside Colquitt, Georgia, in Miller County, from June 1985 to June 1986.  One Sunday morning during that year, a laywoman whose name I forget delivered a children’s sermon about St. Thomas.  She held a small book about the Apostles.  You, O reader, might have seen this book or even own a copy.  It features color paintings of each of the main Apostles with a brief profile on the facing page.  The book is thin, with a two-tone hard cover.  The church member explained that Thomas had doubted the resurrection of Jesus and that he had later taken the Gospel to India, where he died for the Christian faith.  So, she said, Thomas was not all bad.

But Thomas not all bad, anyway.  The presumption behind her concluding statement was that the Apostle’s doubt constituted a great stain on his character.  This was a great misunderstanding.

Let us back up for a few moments, though.

St. Thomas was a twin, hence the Greek designation Didymus, which means “twin.”  The canonical Gospels contain few details about him, and he did not write the Gnostic, non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.  (I have read the Gospel of Thomas in three translations, and think that its non-canonical status is proper.)  St. Thomas traveled through Persia all the way to India, where he introduced Christianity to the subcontinent by the 50s C.E.  The modern-day Mar Thoma Church is the heir of this efforts.  In India the Apostle met his martyrdom by spearing at Madras; Mylapore is his burial site.  Today one can visit his tomb at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas at Mylapore.

St. Thomas was a healthy skeptic.  The resurrection was hardly a frequent event, so doubting it was natural.  The Apostle was not the only follower of Jesus at the time to harbor doubts.  The canonical Gospels indicate that St. Peter was initially skeptical, too.  Yet I hear about Doubting Thomases, not Doubting Peters.  Anyway, St. Thomas, the healthy skeptic, believed the evidence when he saw it, and dedicated the rest of his life to telling people about Jesus.

I am sufficiently a product of the Enlightenment to accept the premise that doubt is a legitimate path to knowledge.  I ask questions when I harbor doubts, and I seek answers when I ask questions.  Thus I increase the probability of finding answers when I experience and embrace doubt.  Thomas admitted his doubt, received his answer, accepted it, and lived accordingly.

So, let us treat the label “Doubting Thomas” as a great compliment.

Finally, a personal note:  St. Thomas is my favorite Biblical figure.  He was an honest doubter and seeker, a good skeptic.  So am I.  If I were a Biblical character, I would be St. Thomas the Apostle.