Archive for the ‘Doctors of the Church’ Category

Feast of St. John of the Cross (December 14)   3 comments

Above:  St. John of the Cross

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS (JUNE 24, 1542-DECEMBER 14, 1591)

Spanish Roman Catholic Mystic and Carmelite Friar

Born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez

Also known as John of Saint Matthias

St. John of the Cross was a mystic, a Carmelite friar, a controversial reformer. and, for eight months, a prisoner of some of his fellow friars.

Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, born in Fontineros, Spain, on June 24, 1542, grew up in a poor family.  His father, Gonzago (d. 1545), was an accountant for wealthy relatives.  Our saint’s mother, Catalina, came from an impoverished family.  One of our saint’s brothers, Luis, died of malnutrition related to poverty.  Another brother, Francisco, survived, though.  Our saint attended a school for poor children in Medina (now Medina-Sidonia) then studied at a Jesuit school (1559-1563).

St. John was a friar for most of his life.  He became a Carmelite friar, John of Saint Matthias, in 1563.  The following year, he made his first profession and began theological studies at the University of Salamanca.  Our saint joined the ranks of priests in 1567.

Monastic rigor appealed to St. John.  He pondered joining the Carthusians, a strict order.  St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) dissuaded him, though.  He became enamored of her reforms among Carmelite nuns.  With her support he introduced similar reforms into the lives of Carmelite friars.  St. John founded his first monastery in 1568, at Duruelo, and became St. John of the Cross.  These strict reforms caused controversy within the Carmelite friar order in 1575-1578.  Ecclesiastical and imperial protection of St. John expired in 1577, so our saint spent December 2, 1577-August 15, 1578 as a prisoner at the Carmelite monastery in Toledo.  After St. John escaped, he spent months recovering from the negative health effects of the poor conditions.  While in captivity, he wrote The Spiritual Canticle.

The Church recognized a new Carmelite order–a discaled one–in 1580.  St. John spent the rest of this life founding monasteries and building up the order.  Nevertheless, controversy followed him into the Discaled Carmelite order of friars.  He died in 1591, after losing his job as prior at Segovia.

St. John was a mystical poet.  His works included the Dark Night of the Soul, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, and Living Flame of Love.

The Church recognized St. John.  Pope Clement X beatified him in 1675.  Pope Benedict XIII canonized our saint in 1726.  Pope Pius XI declared St. John a Doctor of the Church in 1926.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2019 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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Judge eternal, throned in splendor, you gave Juan de la Cruz

strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul:

Shed your light on all who love you, in unity with Jesus our Savior;

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

Song of Solomon 3:1-4

Psalm 121

Colossians 4:2-6

John 16:12-15, 25-28

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 117

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Feast of St. Teresa of Avila (October 15)   10 comments

Above:  St. Teresa of Avila, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT TERESA OF AVILA (MARCH 28, 1515-OCTOBER 4, 1582)

Spanish Roman Catholic Nun, Mystic, and Reformer

Born Teresa de Cepeda

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Let nothing disturb you, nothing dismay you.  All things are passing, God never changes.  Patient endurance attains all things….God alone suffices.

–St. Teresa of Avila, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 448

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St. Teresa of Avila had many reasons to become dismayed, had she decided to permit them to dismay and disturb her.

Teresa de Cepeda, born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, came from a wealthy, well-educated family.  Her father was a merchant.  Her mother died when our saint was 14 years old.  St. Teresa became a Carmelite novice at the age of 21 years.  Her father objected, but she persisted.

Carmelite spiritual practice in that convent was quite lax; it was more like a boarding house than a nunnery.  Our saint, in her early twenties, was an invalid for several years.  During that time she read deeply in spiritual classics and became enamored of mental prayer, which she described as

friendly conversation with Him who we know loves us.

However, St. Teresa, having recovered her health, spent the next fifteen years neglecting her spiritual life.

St. Teresa, having renewed her spiritual life in 1555, had St. Francis Borgia (1510-1572) as a spiritual director.  In 1562, with the support of her bishop and the Pope, opened St. Joseph’s Abbey, the first of her new, rigorous convents.  More followed, starting in 1567; she founded 17 convents in all.  A friend, St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), whom she met in 1567, founded rigorous Carmelite monasteries.

St. Teresa had to contend with opposition from ecclesiastical officialdom–bishops and the Spanish Inquisition–as well as from within her order.  Inquisitors were suspicious of her reported visions; mysticism alarmed the theological enforcers.  More opposition came from within our saint’s Discaled Carmelite order.  For a number of years St. Teresa was in internal exile, forbidden to found new convents.  That internal exile ended, though.

For years St. Teresa traveled through Spain on official business.  During one such journey, from Avila to Burges, she suffered her fatal cerebral hemorrhage and heart attack.  She, aged 67 years, died at the Alba de Tormes Convent on October 4, 1582.

St. Teresa’s writings have continued to enrich seekers of God.  The Way of Perfection, The Interior Castle, the Life, Spiritual Relations, Exclamations of the Soul to God, and Conceptions on the Love of God have joined the ranks of spiritual classics.

The Church has honored St. Teresa.  Pope Gregory XV canonized her in 1622.  Pope Paul VI declared our saint the first female Doctor of the Church in 1970.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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O God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection:

Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching,

and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness;

through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit

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

Song of Songs 4:12-16

Psalm 42:1-7

Romans 8:22-27

Matthew 5:13-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 639

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This is post #1650 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (October 1)   5 comments

Above:  St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX (JANUARY 2, 1873-SEPTEMBER 30, 1897)

Roman Catholic Nun and Mystic

Also known as Françoise-Marie Thérèse Martin, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, and the Little Flower of the Child Jesus

Alternative feast day = September 20

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, born Françoise-Marie Thérèse Martin at Alençon, Normandy, France, on January 2, 1873, came from a devout family.  Her parents were saints–literally.  Louis Martin (1823-1894), a watchmaker, and his wife, Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin (1831-1877), had nine children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  The Roman Catholic Church declared them Venerables in 1994, beatified them in 2008, canonized them in 2015, and set July 12, their wedding day, as their feast day.

St. Thérèse led a brief and pious life.  Her mother, known informally as Zelie, died when St. Thérèse was just four years old.  The widower father raised his five daughters.  St. Thérèse, the youngest of the children, was the baby of the family; her father and sisters were very attentive to her, to the point of spoiling her.

St. Thérèse had a conversion experience at the age of 14 years and became Carmelite novice at the age of 15 years.  On Christmas Eve 1886 the 14-year-old saint, who had played a nun as a girl, had a vision of the infant Jesus.  Her vocation, she realized, was to pray for priests.  Our saint, seeking to give her whole life to God, gained the necessary special permission to enter the Carmelite convent (the same one where two of her sisters were nuns) in Lisieux.  She became Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

In the convent St. Thérèse obeyed the order’s rule to the letter, felt intimacy with God, and suffered failing health and spiritual difficulties with outward good cheer.  Our saint was, by nature and conditioning, neurotic.  St. Thérèse’s determination to be love and

to make Love loved

compelled her as she offered to God her devotion and suffering in the hope that God would credit them to souls in greater name than she.  The author of The Story of a Soul understood herself to be a

little flower of Jesus

who glorified God in her metaphysical garden.

St. Thérèse, aged 24 years, died of tuberculosis at the convent on September 30, 1897.  She had, for a time, felt abandoned by God as she struggled with despairs.  She had lost all certainty.  At the end, however, faith remained.  Her last words were,

Oh, I love Him!…My God,…I love you.

The Church recognized St. Thérèse.  Pope Benedict XV declared her a Venerable in 1921.  Pope Pius XI beatified her in 1923 and canonized her in 1925.  Pope John Paul II declared St. Thérèse a Doctor of the Church in 1997.

At the end of her life St. Thérèse had faith, not certainty.

Faith, when it is what it should be, is never about objective, historical-scientific certainty, in the style of Enlightenment Modernism.  Much knowledge of that variety exists and is valid; intellectually honest people should embrace it.  Enlightenment Modernism does have limits, though.  At that point faith takes over; a different form of certainty is present.

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY ASHLEY COOPER, LORD SHAFTESBURY, BRITISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH AUBERT, FOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF COMPASSION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMANUS THE MELODIST, DEACON AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MYSTIC

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Gracious Father, who called your servant Thérèse to a life of fervent prayer,

give to us the spirit of prayer and zeal for the ministry of the Gospel,

that the love of Christ may be known throughout the world;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Judith 8:1-8

Psalm 119:1-8

Luke 21:1-4

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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Feast of Blessed Jutta of Disibodenberg and Saint Hildegard of Bingen (September 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Hildegard of Bingen

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG (CIRCA 1084-DECEMBER 22, 1136)

Roman Catholic Abbess

Her feast transferred from December 22

mentor of

SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN (1098-SEPTEMBER 17, 1179)

Roman Catholic Abbess, Mystic, Theologian, Poet, Playwright, and Composer

One of my goals in renovating this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, as I keep repeating, is to emphasize relationships and influences.  Therefore, I merge the feasts of St. Hildegard of Bingen (September 17) and her mentor, Blessed Jutta of Disibodenberg (December 22).

Blessed Jutta, born circa 1084 in Spanheim, was a German noblewoman.  Her brother was Meganhard, the Count of Spanheim.  She became a hermitess on November 1, 1106.  Blessed Jutta lived near the Abbey of Saint Disibod, Disibodenberg.  She taught children and became the center of a female community before beginning to serve as the first abbess of the new convent at Disibodenberg in 1116.  One member of that community then convent was St. Hildegard, born in Böckelheim, near Spanheim, in 1098, and also of German nobility.  She, raised and educated at Disibodenberg, succeeded Blessed Jutta as abbess in 1136.  St. Hildegard held that post until 1147.  That year she and eighteen nuns founded a new, independent convent near Bingen.  She served as the abbess there for the rest of her life.

St. Hildegard was a mystic; she had been one since childhood.  From 1141 to 1150 she published accounts of 26 of her visions in Scivas (Know the Ways).  Our saint’s visions were consistent with theological orthodoxy, according to the Archbishop of Mainz, a group of theologians, and Pope Eugenius III.  After 1150 St. Hildegard continued to report and write about her visions.

St. Hildegard was a remarkable person, especially by the standards of her time and place.  In 1152-1162 she made preaching tours in the Rhineland.  She corresponded with monarchs and popes, wrote at least one drama, composed religious texts and music, and wrote treatises on science and medicine.  She was, by the standards of her time and place, unusually scientifically astute.  St. Hildegard, as a theologian, belonged to the school of Creation Spirituality.  The Church has recognized her as a Doctor of the Church, a title it bestows on few saints.  The only other women so honored were St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), and St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897).

Despite St. Hildegard’s respected status in the Church during her lifetime, she ran afoul of ecclesiastical authorities toward the end of her life.  She permitted the burial of an excommunicated man in the convent’s cemetery.  Then our saint disobeyed an order to disinter the corpse; the deceased had reconciled with God before he died, she said in her defense.  St. Hildegard’s defiance led to the Archbishop of Mainz placing the convent under an interdict, a penalty she protested.  Eventually the archbishop lifted the interdict.

St. Hildegard died a few months later, on September 17, 1179.

Pope John XXII beatified St. Hildegard in 1326.  She was informally “St. Hildegard” for centuries until Pope Benedict XVI made it official in 2012.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 15:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS III, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF BLAISE PASCAL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCIENTIST, MATHEMATICIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAGNUS AND AGRICOLA OF AVIGNON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF AVIGNON

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HAMMOND, ENGLISH MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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God of all times and seasons:

Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, a student of Jutta,

may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation,

and show forth your glory not only with our lips but in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with

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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 43:1-2, 6-7, 9-12, 27-28

Psalm 104:25-34

Colossians 3:14-17

John 3:16-21

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 589

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Feast of St. Peter Chrysologus (July 30)   2 comments

Above:  The Roman Empire in 450 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS (406-DECEMBER 2, 450)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Ravenna and Defender of Orthodoxy

Alternative feast day = July 31

Former feast day = December 4

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Anyone who wishes to dance with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ.

–St. Peter Chrysologus

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St. Peter Chrysologus, or the “Golden-Worded,” was a renowned preacher and an opponent of the Arian and Monophysite heresies.  He, born in Imola, Italy, in 406, was a protégé of Cornelius, Bishop of Imola, who baptized, educated, and ordained him.  St. Peter became the Bishop of Ravenna in 433.  (Ravenna was the capital of the Roman Empire at the time.)  Immediately he won the favor and patronage of the Empress Aelia Galla Placidia (c. 390-450), half-sister of Emperor Honorius (reigned 395-423), wife of the Emperor Constantius III (reigned 421), and the mother of the Emperor Valentinian III (reigned 425-455), and the Regent from 425 to 437.  The Empress Regent financed the construction of several beautiful churches in Ravenna.  St. Peter, known for his piety, defended the doctrine of the Incarnation against Arians and Monophysites.  He died on December 2, 450.

Many of the homilies bearing our saint’s name came from other people.

Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter a Doctor of the Church in 1729.  Thus our saint joined the elite club among Roman Catholic saints, receiving recognition as a great theologian defined by sanctity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Saint Peter Chrysologus,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge

of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus,

our Savior and Lord, who lies and reigns with you and

the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of St. Bonaventure (July 15)   4 comments

Above:  St. Bonaventure

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BONAVENTURE (1217-JULY 15, 1274)

Second Founder of the Order of Friars Minor

Born Giovanni di Fidanza

St. Bonaventure was one of the most influential Medieval Roman Catholic theologians.

The traditional birth year given for St. Bonaventure has been 1221.  However, Dr. Ewert Cousins, Professor of Theology at Fordham University, as well as translator and editor of the St. Bonaventure volume (1978) for the Paulist Press’s Classics of Western Spirituality series, cited scholars who insisted on 1217 instead.

Giovanni di Fidanza, a native of Bagnoregio (near Viterbo), Italy, was a son of Giovanni di Fidanza (Sr.), a wealthy physician, and Maria di Ritello.  Circa 1234 the 17-year old saint matriculated at the University of Paris, where he studied under the great Franciscan scholar Alexander of Hales.  Our saint joined the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) in 1243 and became Bonaventure.  His theological teachers until their deaths in 1245 were Alexander of Hales and John of La Rochelle.  Afterward St. Bonaventure’s theological teachers were Eudes Rigaud and William of Middleton.

St. Bonaventure embodied intellectual rigor, Roman Catholic piety, and Franciscan simplicity.  He, a Bachelor of Scripture in 1248 and a Master of Theology in 1253/1254, lectured on the Bible in 1248-1250 and led the Franciscan school in Paris from 1253/1254 to 1257.  Then our saint became the Minister General of the Order of Franciscans Minor, after Pope Alexander IV had ordered John of Parma, suspected of heterodoxy, to resign.  As the Minister General for 17 years St. Bonaventure became the “Second Founder” of the order, balancing foundational principles with the necessity of adaptation to changing circumstances.  Our saint never wanted to be a bishop, so he rejected offers until 1273, when Pope Gregory X ordered him to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano.  St. Bonaventure, a famously humble man, kept a papal representative bearing news of the appointment waiting; the Minister General was washing dishes.

St. Bonaventure also liked to think and write profoundly.  He wrote prolifically.  Works included biographies of St. Francis of Assisi, theological treatises. lectures, and Biblical commentaries.  Titles included The Soul’s Journey into God and The Tree of Life.  (Jesus was the Tree of Life.)  Elevation into the episcopate and the College of Cardinals greatly reduced the time St. Bonaventure had to write.

St. Bonaventure died on July 15, 1274, while attending the Second Council of Lyons, which dealt with the unification of the Eastern and Western Churches.  Prelates from across the Christian world mourned him.

The Roman Catholic Church has honored St. Bonaventure.  Pope Sixtus IV canonized him in 1482.  Pope Sixtus V declared our saint a Doctor of the Church in 1588.

The legacy of St. Bonaventure has continued to enrich the Church and the world.  One vehicle has been the Order of Friars Minor.  Furthermore, his writings have continued to be available, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Almighty God, you gave to hour servant Saint Bonaventure

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

Grant that by this teaching we may know you,

the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent;

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

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 721

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Feast of Sts. James of Nisibis and Ephrem of Edessa (June 10)   3 comments

Above:  Edessa and Nisibis, Fourth and Fifth Centuries C.E.

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  The Publishers Agency, Inc., 1957), H-7

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SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS (DIED CIRCA 338)

Bishop of Nisibis and “Moses of Mesopotamia”

Also known as Saint Jacob of Nisibis

His feast transferred from July 15

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SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA (306/307-373)

Deacon, Hymn Writer, Exegete, and “Harp of the Holy Spirit”

Also known as St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. Ephraem Syrus

Episcopal feast day = June 10

Roman Catholic and Church of England feast day = June 9

Scottish Episcopal feast day = June 8

Maronite feast day = June 18

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No one has seen or shall see the things which you have seen.  The Lord himself has become the altar, priest, and brad, and the chalice of salvation.  He alone suffices for all, yet none suffices for him.  He is Altar and Lamb, victim and sacrifice, priest as well as food.

–St. Ephrem of Edessa, on the Passion of Jesus

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Much of the available information about these two saints is of uncertain veracity.  Some of it is even mutually exclusive.  With that caveat I proceed with due caution, aware of the limitations of my sources.

St. James (Jacob) of Nisibis (now Nusaybin, Turkey), was the first Bishop of Nisibis, from 309 until his death, circa 338.  He, renowned for his sanctity, learning, and ability, defended orthodoxy against the Arian heresy.  St. James/Jacob also participated in the First Council of Nicaea (325), to which he might have taken St. Ephrem of Edessa, whom he might have baptized but certainly ordained to the diaconate.

Ephrem of Edessa

Above:  St. Ephrem of Edessa

Image in the Public Domain

St. Ephrem of Edessa was a native of Nisibis.  Traditionally accounts of his life have indicated that his family was pagan and that St. James/Jacob baptized him at the age of 18 years.  More recent scholarship has suggested, however, that St. Ephrem’s family was Christian, however.  Certainly St. James/Jacob, the bishop, was a mentor.  Furthermore, the bishop ordained St. Ephrem a deacon.

In 363 Nisibis came under Persian jurisdiction; persecution of Christians and an exodus of Christians ensued.  St. Ephrem settled at Edessa.  There he founded a theological school, wrote prolifically, and lived in a cave above the city, ate simple foods, and drank only water.  St. Ephrem, who frequently preached in Edessa, composed hymns, 72 of which have survived.  Our saint, who had a devotion to Mary and wrote solely in Syriac, wrote hymns for feasts of the Church, against heresies, and about the Last Judgment, among other topics.  St. Ephrem was an influential figure in the development of Syriac and Greek hymnography and a pioneer in the use of hymns in public worship.  Furthermore, our saint wrote sermons and Biblical commentaries, some of which have survived.

St. Ephrem died of exhaustion in 373, after helping the poor and ill of Edessa during a famine (372-373).  He organized an ambulance service and distributed money and food to the poor, to his detriment.

The Roman Catholic Church declared St. Ephrem a Doctor of the Church in 1920.  It was a wise decision.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT ST. GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Pour out on us, O Lord, that same Spirit by which your bishop James proclaimed your divinity

and your deacon Ephrem rejoiced to proclaim in sacred song the mysteries of faith;

and so gladden our hearts that we, like them, may be devoted to you alone;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 98:5-10

Ephesians 3:8-12

John 16:12-15

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 419

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Feast of St. Bede of Jarrow (May 25)   2 comments

Above:  St. Bede of Jarrow

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BEDE OF JARROW (672/673-MAY 25, 735)

Roman Catholic Abbot of Jarrow and Father of English History

Also known as Beada, Beda, St. Bede the Venerable, and the Venerable Bede

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My chief delight has always been in study, teaching, and writing.

–St. Bede of Jarrow

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St. Bede of Jarrow, who built on the work of others, laid the foundations upon which successors based their great works.  He, known as “the venerable” since the 800s, left a brief biography of himself.  His surviving writings have revealed much about him, fortunately.

Our saint was, from the age of seven years, a monastic.  He, born in Wearmouth, England, in 672 or 673, became a resident of the Monastery of St. Peter, Wearmouth, when his parents left him there.  The abbot was St. Benedict Biscop (628-689), who became one of St. Bede’s spiritual and educational mentors and guides.  In 682, when Biscop established a second monastery, that of St. Paul, Jarrow, with Coelfrid serving as the abbot, our saint transferred to that abbey and acquired another mentor and guide.  St. Bede remained at Jarrow for the rest of his life and eventually rose to the rank of abbot.  Along the way St. John of Beverley (died in 721) ordained him to the diaconate (at the age of 19 years) then to the priesthood (at the age of 30 years).  Since St. Bede became a deacon six years before the minimum age for the diaconate, according to canons, Coelfrid and St. John of Beverly must have recognized at least one remarkable quality about him.

St. Bede was a life-long scholar.  Invaluable to his work was the great library (almost 300 volumes) of the monastery at Jarrow, gathered by St. Benedict Biscop over time.  St. Bede wrote poetry (lost, unfortunately); treatises (on subjects including mathematics, rhetoric, grammar, astronomy, philosophy, and music); an English-translation (lost, unfortunately) of the Gospel of John; Lives of the Abbots; and the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731), his historical masterpiece.  His final work, completed immediately prior to his death, was the translation of the Gospel of John.

Just as Coelfrid and St. John of Beverley influenced St. Bede, he mentored others, who made their marks directly and indirectly.  For example, our saint taught one Egbert (died in 766), from 735 the Archbishop of York.  Egbert taught St. Alcuin of York (circa 735-804), the influential liturgist, educator in the Frankish Kingdom, and Abbot of Tours.

Pope Leo XIII canonized St. Bede and declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1899.

St. Bede is the patron saint of lectors.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty God, who has enriched your Church

with the learning and holiness of your servant Bede:

Grant us to find in Scripture and disciplined prayer

the image of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and to fashion our lives according to his likeness,

to the glory of your great Name and benefit of your holy Church;

through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child,

to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship:

Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation,

so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Wisdom of Solomon 7:15-22

Psalm 78:1-4

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Matthew 13:47-52

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 387

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Feast of Sts. Alexander and Athanasius of Alexandria (May 2)   7 comments

Above:  The Council of Nicaea (325)

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALEXANDER I OF ALEXANDRIA (CIRCA 250-328)

Patriarch of Alexandria

His feast transferred from February 26

mentor of

SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF ALEXANDRIA (295/298-MAY 2, 373)

Patriarch of Alexandria and “Father of Orthodoxy”

Also known as Saint Athanasius the Great

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We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a bend of creative and created being.  It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved.  Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things.  God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

–Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, First Letter to Serapion; quoted in Christian Prayer:  The Liturgy of the Hours (New York, NY:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1976), page 2011

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We believe in one God,

the Father Almighty,

maker of all things, visible and invisible,

and in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten of the Father,

that is, of the substance of the Father,

God from God,

light from light,

true God from true God,

begotten not made,

of one substance with the Father,

through whom all things were made,

those things that are on earth,

who for us men and for our salvation,

came down and was made man,

suffered,

rose again on the third day,

ascended into the heavens

and will come

to judge the living and the dead.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit.

–Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, 381; quoted in Karen Armstrong, A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York, NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page 111

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One of my goals during the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize influences and relationships.  This post replaces two former posts, thereby telling the stories of Sts. Alexander and Athanasius better.

Certain points of Trinitarian theology seem rather abstract.  Although that statement is accurate, abstractions are not necessarily trivial.  Many of them are of the utmost importance, actually.

Arianism is a heresy.  It (very much alive among the Jehovah’s Witnesses) that the Second Person of the Trinity is a created being.  The name of the heresy comes from Arius of Alexandria (died in 336), a priest whom Patriarch St. Alexander (I) of Alexandria (in office from 313 to 328) excommunicated in 321.

Meletius of Lycopolis, bishop of that city in Upper Egypt, became a schismatic leader.  In 306, after the death of Emperor Diocletian, Patriarch St. Peter I of Alexandria (in office 300-311; feast day = November 26) established guidelines for readmitting lapsed church members who had renounced their faith during the Diocletian persecution.  Meletius, objecting strenuously, made so much trouble that St. Peter I excommunicated him.  Renewed persecution led to the martyrdom of the Patriarch in 311 and the sentencing of Meletius to mines.  After Meletius returned to Egypt he founded a rigorous sect in opposition to the allegedly lax ways of St. Alexander (I) of Alexandria.  The Council of Nicaea (325) forbade Meletius to ordain and restricted him to Lycopolis.

St. Alexander (I), mentor to St. Athanasius (I), was an important member in the development of Trinitarian theology.  St. Alexander (I) and his protégé helped to lay the foundations of the Nicene Creed (technically the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed), finalized at the Council of Constantinople (381).

St. Athanasius, born at Alexandria, Egypt, in 295/298, outshone his great mentor.  St. Alexander also opposed the Arian heresy vigorously and contributed to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but St. Athanasius became known as the “Father of Orthodoxy.”  He studied at the catechetical school at Alexandria.  St. Athanasius, a deacon in 318 and a priest the following year, composed theological treatises as early as his twenties.  In the 320s he served as the private secretary to St. Alexander.  In that capacity St. Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea (325) and played a prominent role in making the creed nearly unanimous.  It seemed natural, then, that, upon the death of St. Alexander in 328, St. Athanasius succeeded him while in his early thirties.

Meletius disagreed.  In 328 he became a schismatic leader again.  His movement survived until the 700s.

Arius and some of his followers also disagreed.  Political machinations led to our saint’s first exile, to Treves, in Germany, from 335 to 337, at the end of the reign of Emperor Constantine I (reigned 306-337).  The offense of St. Athanasius, according to the Emperor, had been to disobey imperial orders to reconcile with Arians.  That which was political convenience for Constantine I was an intolerable compromise for St. Athanasius.

Four more exiles ensued.  Our saint was back in Alexandria from 337 to 339.  Then he had to leave again.  St. Athanasius avoided arrest and escaped the city in 339.  While the usurper Gregory of Cappadocia occupied the Patriarch’s position, St. Athanasius fled for Rome, where Pope Julius I supported him.  Our saint returned to Alexandria in 346, after the violent death of Gregory.  St. Athanasius was back on the job of building up his diocese and its dependent dioceses, of encouraging monasticism, and opposing heresies for about a decade before his third exile began.  Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361) arranged for the deposition of our saint, who spent 356-361 away from Alexandria.  After the death of Constantius II the reign of Julian the Apostate began.  Julian allowed orthodox bishops to return from exile.  However, he also presided over another phase of persecution, hence the fourth exile of St. Athanasius in 362-363.  Imperial politics also led to our saint’s fifth exile, from October 365 to February 366.  St. Athanasius lived in Alexandria for the rest of his life, dying on May 2, 373.  His handpicked successor was St. Peter II (in office 373-381; feast day = February 27), who also opposed Arianism vigorously.

St. Athanasius was one of those men who preserved the Christian faith for his and subsequent generations.  He, a Christian Platonist who drew from Johannine and Pauline theology, championed sound Trinitarian theology.  For St. Athanasius this matter was related to the Atonement; the Logos of God could not be a vulnerable creature and created being (as a person was), for human participation in God, via the Logos, was the only way for people to avoid annihilation due to sin, our saint argued.  St. Athanasius affirmed the transformational power of the Incarnation in human lives.

The Son of God became man so that we might become God.

–St. Athanasius

St. Athanasius, being a brilliant theologian, frequently couched his thoughts in terms that prove confusing to twenty-first century laypeople accustomed to sound bites and not trained in Platonism.  His preferred wisdom has proven timeless, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servants Alexander and Athanasius,

to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition,

trusting solely in the grace of your divine Word,

who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity;

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

Ezekiel 3:1-14a

Psalm 71:1-8

1 John 5:1-5

Matthew 10:22-32

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 357

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Feast of St. Catherine of Siena (April 29)   4 comments

Above:  St. Catherine of Siena

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA (MARCH 25, 1347-APRIL 29, 1380)

Roman Catholic Mystic and Religious

Born Catalina Benincasa

Former feast day = April 30

St. Catherine of Siena, some who knew her claimed, was a lunatic.  She did report having received many visions, after all.  And why had she cut off most of her beautiful hair and claimed to be a bride of Christ, unless she was crazy?  Others who knew her regarded her as a living saint, however.  Catalina Benincara, they insisted, was not out of her gourd; no, she was touched by God.  Both camps agreed that she was out of the ordinary.

If one ponders prophetic figures from the Hebrew Bible, one should be able to recall stories of God commanding prophets to behave in bizarre ways–from eating scrolls to walking around naked.  The biography of St. Catherine of Siena contains nothing so extreme, but does include not leaving her bedroom for three years, starting at the age of 16.

St. Catherine, born in Siena, Tuscany, on March 25, 1347, was one of the youngest of 25 children of a wealthy dyer.  At the age of 16 years she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic.  For the next three years our saint lived as a contemplative and reported receiving many visions, both demonic and godly.  Sometimes Satan visited, St. Catherine said, but Jesus and St. Mary Magdalene also dropped by.  Regardless of the veracity of our saint’s visions, the godly voices she reported hearing instructed her to re-enter the world after years of isolation.  So St. Catherine worked as a nurse to the poor and the sick, including cancer patients and lepers.  She also began to attract a following, due to her holiness.

St. Catherine  served as a peacemaker during turbulent times.  She started on a small scale, by reconciling feuding families in Siena.  Then, in 1370, she began to correspond with potentates.  In 1376 our saint traveled to Avignon, France, the site of the residence of the Bishop of Rome during the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy.  St. Catherine helped to persuade Pope Gregory XI to return the Papacy to Rome.  He did so in 1377.  After Gregory XI died the following year, the College of Cardinals, responding to public pressure, elected an Italian Pope.  Unfortunately, Urban VI was unstable.  The combination of his instability and the politics germane to his election led to the election of a rival pontiff, Clement (VII), headquartered at Avignon.  The Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417) had begun.  Clement was more of a politician than a spiritual leader.  Urban was unfit for the Papacy, but he was the duly consecrated Bishop of Rome at Rome.  As European potentates and cardinals decided which Pope to support, St. Catherine wrote many of them and encouraged them to support Urban VI, even though she had no illusions regarding his character.  There was a higher principle–ecclesiastical unity–at work.

St. Catherine, distressed by the scandal of the Great Schism of the Papacy, reported one final vision in 1380.  She saw herself with the Church, like a great ship, upon her back.  Our saint collapsed, paralyzed.  Several weeks later she died, aged 33 years.

St. Catherine, who received the stigmata in 1375, wrote nearly 400 letters, many prayers, the Dialogue (with Jesus), and a Treatise on Divine Providence, a masterpiece of mysticism in the Italian language.  The Church canonized her in 1461 and declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

The proof is in the pudding, an old saying goes.  The evidence regarding St. Catherine of Siena indicates that she was a holy woman, not a lunatic.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC, MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Everlasting God, you so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena,

as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior,

that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church:

Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death,

and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; who lives and reigns

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

Lamentations 3:31-33

Psalm 119:73-80

1 John 1:5-2:2

Luke 12:22-24, 29-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 351

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