Archive for the ‘Coronavirus/COVID-19’ Category

The Moral Dimension of Vaccine Mandates   3 comments

When I was a wee lad, my parents had to prove my status regarding certain vaccines before they could enroll me in public schools.

When I was applying to colleges and universities for my undergraduate and graduate degree programs, I had to do the same before I could enroll.  If I needed a booster, I got one.  If I had not received a given vaccine, I got one.

When I was a freshman at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, I told the germane officials that I tested a false positive for tuberculosis.  I told the truth.  Said officials, not convinced, sent me to the Tift County Health Department for a chest x-ray.  They the college sent me to my county health department once a month for a few months.  A nurse drew a sample of my blood and gave me a bottle of pills.  I finally proved that I was not going to give anyone tuberculosis.

These were well-reasoned and proper policies.

I, as a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, cannot escape mutuality, a principle encoded into the Law of Moses, the messages of the Hebrew prophets, and the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  We are all, in the eyes of God, dependent upon, responsible for, and responsible to each other.  We belong to God and each other.  Whatever one does or does not do, affects others.

Without romanticizing the United States homefront during World War II, I note that sharing sacrifices and hardships was the consensus position.  That is not the consensus during this COVID-19 pandemic, sadly.  When I read stories about delusional and/or selfish people who refuse to get vaccinated, I read stories about public menaces.  When I read stories about unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in hospitals harassing doctors and nurses, I shake my head.  When I read stories about the families of such patients threatening the lives of medical professionals, I wonder what the hell is wrong with these people.  When I read stories of people with conditions other than COVID-19 who have died because they had to wait for room in overwhelmed hospitals, I wonder what will convince some people to get vaccinated.  The stubbornly unvaccinated and those who enable them have blood on their hands.

So, yes, I support vaccine mandates in the public and private sectors.  Yes, I favor making the unvaccinated pay higher insurance premiums.

The current economic problems are tied to the ongoing pandemic.  Do not blame any politicians, except those who enable the stubbornly unvaccinated.  Mainly, blame the stubbornly unvaccinated.

Strictly enforced vaccine mandates are morally defensible.  They are consistent with mutuality.  Nobody has the moral right to be a modern-day counterpart of Typhoid Mary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Reusable Bags   2 comments

I like to use reusable bags when shopping.  I keep them behind the driver’s seat in my truck.  I do, on rare occasions, forget to take reusable bags into a store (such as a grocery store), however.  Most of my reusable bags are big and blue.  They bear the name and logo of my former parish in Athens, Georgia.  A few others are from Dollar General.

Yesterday, I went to Dollar General in Americus, Georgia, where I live.  First, I put my mask on, due to the pandemic.  Then I carried two reusable Dollar General bags to the store, placed them in a shopping cart outdoors, and entered the store.  After I had selected the items I wanted to purchase, I went to check out.  I placed the reusable bags on the counter first.  The cashier was confused.  She asked if I wanted to purchase the bags.  I explained that I wanted to use the reusable bags.  Then she understood.

I live in a disposable society.  This is not a healthy way for a society to be.  Using reusable bags habitually constitutes a modest effort in living responsibly.  It also seems to be relatively rare in my culture, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

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My Third Dose   4 comments

Today I received my third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.

I thank God that this vaccine and other vaccines for COVID-19 exist and are available in many places.  I also know that parts of the world have no access to any such vaccine.

My civil libertarian ways have their limits.  Those limits stand somewhere before personal choice in whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in this pandemic.  Nobody has a moral right to choose to be a contemporary counterpart to Typhoid Mary.  Nobody should have the legal right to do so either.  When my choice endangers you, O reader–or your choice endangers me–the one making the unwise choice also makes an immoral choice.  I embrace mutuality, not individualism and personal choice taken to a dangerous extreme.   When I read about certain European governments fining unvaccinated adults severely for leaving their homes, I think that some governments have good sense during a pandemic.

I have no sympathy for those who refuse to behave responsibly, i.e, wear a mask properly, practice social distancing, and get vaccinated (if eligible and the vaccines are available) during this pandemic.  I have no sympathy for those who spread deadly disinformation that costs lives, prolongs this pandemic, and compound social and economic damage from it.  I support vaccine mandates–the stricter the enforcement, the better.  I also favor keeping those will insist on acting irresponsibly away from the rest of us, for the common good.  If certain people will not behave responsibly, this last step is reasonable and morally defensible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

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“Stuff”   3 comments

In one of his less profane monologues, George Carlin discussed “stuff.”  Our houses are where we keep our stuff, he said.  The manner in which Carlin said “stuff” indicated the low importance of what he referred to as “stuff.”

I have become less materialistic as I have aged.  Even if an object is lovely and I may consider owning it pleasant, I consider a counter-argument:  It will occupy space and collect dust.  And, when I move from Dwelling A to Dwelling B, I will have to decide whether to take it with me.  Also, given that I helped to clean out the apartments of my deceased grandmother and my dead girlfriend three months apart, I know viscerally the truth of Luke 12:15:

…for life does not consist in abundance of possessions.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

“Stuff” is on my mind as I make final preparations to move to the opposite corner of the state in less than a week.

I have been thinking in practical terms.  I have pared my library down to about 600 volumes, small, by my standards.  Given that I will not have my own kitchen again for a few years, I have decided to part with almost all of my kitchen supplies.  I gave some away to a family yesterday.  (They needed these items immediately.)  I have decided to put nearly all of the rest in the back of my pickup truck and haul them to my favorite thrift store on the next non-rainy day.  I have reserved a U-Haul trailer; I have granted myself that much space, plus the cab and bed of the truck.

What which matters most is intangible.  “Stuff” is merely “stuff.”  Hair is hair, and ought not to function as a statement of vanity.  That hair takes a while to grow out after each self-administered pandemic buzz cut, but so be it.  And how much of x does one person really need?  I own two sets of sheets, so I can change the bed covers without having to wait for the laundry to finish.  This number of sets of sheets makes sense to me.  Practical matters aside, relationships matter more than “stuff” ever will.  Trust me, O reader; I wish I could still spend time with my beloved Bonny, watch old movies with her, and dine with her.

As I prepare to leave Athens, Georgia, and drive to my new home in Americus, Georgia, I know that (a) I am leaving much “stuff” in good places and (b) leaving places where I have forged relationships that have altered my being for the better.  I also know that this is the time to go.  Therefore, I have mixed feelings about moving.  I am simultaneously emotionally ready to move and sad to do so.  I will miss my parish of about sixteen years yet will remain connected to it via my lectionary class via Zoom, due to the pandemic.  And I will join a parish I have visited for about fifteen years.

“Stuff” is…”stuff.”  The abundance of life resides elsewhere.  We all need some “stuff.”  So be it.  We all retain some items for sentimental reasons.  Given that this practice does not become excessive and burdensome, especially to those who will have to clean out our abodes after we die, that is harmless.  We need to be careful to possess items, not to become their possessions.  How much of our lives ought we to spend in the service of inanimate objects?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

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The Irresponsibility of the Georgia Board of Regents   Leave a comment

The Georgia Board of Regents, which controls the University System of Georgia, mandates neither masks nor COVID-19 vaccinations during this pandemic.

This is irresponsible.  I read news stories about K-12 teachers and students in the state dying of COVID-19.  I also live within walking distance of the main campus of The University of Georgia.  I drive through campus and see crowds of students walking.  I see relatively few of them wearing masks.

By the way, I work, albeit remotely, for The University of Georgia, so I may be biting the hand that feeds me by writing and publishing this post.  So be it.  “I gotta be me,” as the saying goes.  I insist on taking a stand.

The Fall Semester began last week.  Already, to my knowledge, four faculty members at three institutions of the University System of Georgia have resigned abruptly.  They have (a) had the financial ability to quit their jobs, and (b) have valued their health.  Perhaps the most famous case was that of an 88-year-old part-time psychology.  He had come out of retirement to share his talents with the university community.  Dr. Bernstein had a justifiable rule:  No masks, no class.  One young woman refused to wear a mask properly.  When Dr. Bernstein realized she would not wear the mask properly in class, he abruptly resumed his retirement.  He cut that class session short and left.  He was correct.  The combination of age and an underlying health condition made Dr. Bernstein more susceptible than some to COVID-19.

Mark my words:  If the Board of Regents does not alter its policy soon, it will have to contend with more professors choosing their lives over their courses.  I pity those faculty members for whom the choice is between financial ruin and potentially contracting COVID-19.

I also wish Dr. Bernstein a longer and healthy life.

Furthermore, I remember when I was applying for admission to institutions of the University System of Georgia.  I recall having to document that I had received certain vaccinations.  I also remember having to get certain vaccinations.

That made sense.

The University System of Georgia should add COVID-19 to the list of diseases against which to be vaccinated.  It should also mandate wearing masks in classrooms.  It should do so immediately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Allegedly Pro-Life Politicians During a Pandemic   Leave a comment

I count myself among the “cautiously pro-choice.”  I understand that medical conditions can complicate the decision whether or not to have an abortion.  Life is not all black-and-white.  Many shades of gray exist, too.  Sometimes there are no good answers; somebody will die.  I affirm that, in these circumstances, the people closest to the situation are generally the individuals who should make the difficult decisions.  As much as I respect the inherent dignity of every human being, I also grasp that life is messy.  Therefore, I harbor certain sympathies in the pro-life direction, but settle on the pro-choice side.  I have a strong bias toward the pragmatic.

Sometimes, however, the decisions are easy–or should be.  During a pandemic, for example, governors who forbid mask mandates that can save lives act in a morally irresponsible manner.  Many or most of these governors boast of their pro-life credentials regarding abortion.  Yet they are pro-death regarding saving lives, especially the lives of those too young to get vaccinated against COVID-19, during a surge of the Delta Variant.

The hypocrisy galls me.  Concern for life should extend from womb to tomb.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Posted August 20, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Coronavirus/COVID-19, Political Statements 2021

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Mutuality and Freedom   2 comments

BALANCE IS ESSENTIAL.

I recall telling my university students that many bastards exist, but that the marital status of the parents has nothing to do with one’s status as a bastard.  Being a bastard is solely a matter of bad character.

By the way, I reject the notion that anyone is illegitimate; my Christian ethics dictate that position.  Now that I have addressed that matter, I return to my topic.

Biblical Ethics 101:  Mutuality is part of the infrastructure of the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, the theology of Jesus of Nazareth, the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle, and those attributed to that great evangelist.  Biblical Mutuality teaches that, in community, human beings stand together, completely dependent upon God.  It also holds that we are all responsible to and for each other.  Whatever we do, we affect others.  Nobody has the moral right to exploit or otherwise victimize anyone else.  The community has no moral right to oppress individuals who are harming nobody, and no individual has the moral right to endanger the community.  In other words, we are all in it together.

No freedom is absolute.  I have no constitutional or legal right, for example, to commit libel, slander anyone, or incite violence.  If I were to do so, I would engage in illegal speech.  Given my dedication to objective reality, I will never commit libel or slander, of course.  Given my aversion to violence, I will never incite violence, either.  I do have a moral obligation to resist calls to violence, though.  Unfortunately, that can be illegal, depending on the time and the place.  When governments incite violence, pacifists and conscientious objectors may become enemies of the state.  Ask the Quakers and the Anabaptists, O reader.  This weblog’s Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days includes pacifists and conscientious objectors who died as martyrs, sometimes in the United States of America.  “I will not kill,” is a morally defensible position.

As I wrote, the state has no moral right to target, detain, or prosecute individuals who are harming nobody.

However, the state has the moral right to protect the common good.  This frequently entails making the lives of individuals who are harming others rather uncomfortable.  This official process may, according to some, infringe upon freedoms.  But which freedoms may these be?  May these be the alleged freedoms to be irresponsible.

Nobody has the moral right to be a contemporary Typhoid Mary.  Universities and other institutions have the moral right in mandate certain vaccinations, for the common good.  If I could trust human nature, I would oppose vaccination mandates, especially during this pandemic.  I distrust human nature, though.  Official compulsion is necessary much of the time, for the common good, sadly.

I read that certain people refuse to wear masks and get vaccinated against COVID-19.  Many of these bastards cite their freedom.  Which freedom is this?  Is it the freedom to be a latter-day Typhoid Mary?  Is it the freedom to die horribly and leave a large medical debt?

Will Campbell (1924-2013), a renegade Southern Baptist minister, said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

We may all be bastards, to one extent or another, but each one of us can, by the combination of divine grace and human free will, be a bastard to a lesser extent.  In the context of COVID-19, each of us can wear a mask when that is appropriate, get fully-vaccinated (if that is possible and medically advisable, given factors such as age), and maintain proper distances.  Each of us can behave in a morally responsible manner, within circumstances.  We can look out for each other and save lives.  The lives one saves may even include one’s own.

Some people are relentlessly selfish, of course.  They look out for themselves, not others.  This is unfortunate yet true.  Selfishness should lead even these individuals to behave responsibly.  Do they want to die or suffer horribly?

May we look out for each other.  Assuming that we are bastards, may we avoid using that status as an excuse.  May we strive instead to be better people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Sixteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   1 comment

Above:  16

Image in the Public Domain

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On Tuesday, August 9, 2005–sixteen years ago, today–I moved from East Dublin, Georgia, to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.

I have spent the last sixteen years putting down roots.  Growing up in a series of rural United Methodist parsonages in southern Georgia, I moved with my family every two years, on average.  That pattern has allowed me to date many memories approximately, based on where the remembered event occurred.  In contrast, I lived at one address all but three of these sixteen most recent years.  Placing certain memories on the timeline has proven more difficult, given that fact.

As I age, I become more aware of my mortality.  I no longer mistake myself for being invincible and immortal.  I talk to graves.  I understand that I do not know what will happen twelve seconds from now, so what I may expect twelve months from now is anyone’s guess.  I am certain mainly of uncertainty.  I, as a Christian, understand that God calls me to faithfulness, not to certainty.  I do not pretend that living faithfully is easier that living with certainty, even false certainty.  Knowing and doing are distinct from each other.

I hope and pray that the reality, as of August 9, 2022, is much better than the reality of today–for everybody’s sake.  I hope and pray that, by August 9, 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic will be over for everybody on the planet, for example.  The most discouraging factor germane to that wish is that how quickly this pandemic will end depends on human decision-making.  Nevertheless, may this pandemic be over within a year, despite human nature.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF FLORENCE SPEARING RANDOLPH, FIRST FEMALE ORDAINED MINISTER IN THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMMER, FOUNDER OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Feast of Thomas Merton (December 9)   7 comments

Above:  Abbey of Gethsemani

Image Source = Google Earth

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THOMAS MERTON (JANUARY 31, 1915-DECEMBER 10, 1968)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Monk, and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Father Louis Merton

His feast transferred from December 10

Thomas Merton comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via three sources:  Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997); G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year With American Saints (2006); and The Episcopal Church.

Instead of composing a brief biography of Merton, I refer you, O reader, to the biography available at the website of the Merton Center at Bellarmine University.  I choose to spend most of this post pondering one defining principle in our saint’s life.

One day, Merton, a monk, stood on the corner of South Fourth Street and East Walnut Street in Louisville, Kentucky.  He had an epiphany there.  Later, our saint wrote:

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.  It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness.

How much better would the world be if more people loved as Merton did?  He grasped mutuality, a principle embedded in the Law of Moses and the New Testament.  Our saint understood that all people bore the image of God, as he did.  So, he loved them.  This love compelled him to follow a radical path, one that entailed embracing interfaith dialogue and opposing the Vietnam War.

I do not pretend to be a spiritual giant.  Compared to Merton, I am a spiritual dust mite, actually.  I grasp certain high spiritual principles more in the intellectual sense than in the visceral sense.  I accept, for example, that all people bear the image of God.  I do not, however, love all people.  I know that I should love all people.  I struggle to approach Merton’s spiritual peak.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people–some of them professing Christians–reject responsible, morally defensible measures (such as wearing face masks and getting fully vaccinated), in violation of mutuality and love of neighbors.  They need a dose of Mertonian ethics.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIM SANDOVICH, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1914

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Gracious God, you called your monk Thomas Merton to proclaim your justice out of silence,

and moved him in his contemplative writings

to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others:

Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ,

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

Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 62

Colossians 2:2-10

John 12:27-36

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 113

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Feast of Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha (December 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha

Image in the Public Domain

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VENERABLE JAN FRANCISZEK MACHA (JANUARY 18, 1914-DECEMBER 3, 1942)

Polish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1942

Alternative feast day = June 12 (Polish Martyrs of World War II)

Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church.

Macha, born a Russian subject, grew up in independent Poland.  He debuted in what is now Chozrów, Poland, on January 18, 1914.  Our saint was one of four children of Pawel Macha and Anna Cofalka.  Young Jan grew up in a devout household.  He, having perceived his vocation to the priesthood, applied to the Silesian Theological College in 1933.  That application failed, so our saint briefly studied law.  However, the second application, in 1934, succeeded.  Macha joined the Sacred Order of Deacons on May 1, 1938, then became a priest on June 25, 1939.

Europe was descending into World War II, and Macha understood that his life and priesthood would be brief.  They were holy, however.  Our saint, assigned to St. Josef Parish, Ruda Slaska, in the summer of 1939, ministered to his flock faithfully under wartime conditions.  German forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  Merely being a Roman Catholic priest was sufficient to receive a death sentence from Nazi officials.  Macha tended to his congregation spiritually and raised funds to help the poor.  He did this until his arrest by agents of the Gestapo, at Katowice, on September 5, 1941.

Macha spent the rest of his short life as a prisoner of the Third Reich.  Nazi officials interrogated, abused, and humiliated him.  They moved Macha from prison to prison.  Our saint prayed for God to forgive them.  Macha, sentenced to death on July 17, 1942, went to the guillotine, at Katowice, shortly after Midnight on December 3, 1942.  He was 28 years old.  Prison authorities refused requests for a proper burial.

Holy Mother Church has formally recognized Macha.  Pope Francis declared him a Venerable in 2019.  The Vatican has approved our saint for advancement to the status of beatus.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed that ceremony.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORG WEISSEL, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA BERNADINE DOROTHY HOPPE, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GOTTFRIED GEBHARD, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSIC EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FOSTER, ENGLISH MORAVIAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF PETER JULIAN EYMARD, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, THE SERVANTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, AND THE PRIESTS’ EUCHARISTIC LEAGUE; AND ORGANIZER OF THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

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Almighty and everlasting God,

who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr,

Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha;

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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