Archive for the ‘March 31’ Category

Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany (March 8-April 11)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Raising of Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain


A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is one of my hobbies, not a calendar of observances with any force or a popular following.  It does, however, constitute a forum to which to propose proper additions to church calendars.

Much of the Western Church observes January 18 as the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, the rock upon which Christ built the Church.  (Just think, O reader; I used to be a Protestant boy!  My Catholic tendencies must be inherent.)  The celebration of that feast is appropriate.  The Church does not neglect St. Martha of Bethany, either.  In The Episcopal Church, for example, she shares a feast with her sister (St. Mary) and her brother (St. Lazarus) on July 29.

There is no Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany, corresponding to the Petrine feast, however.  That constitutes an omission.  I correct that omission somewhat here at my Ecumenical Calendar as of today.  I hereby define the Sunday immediately prior to Palm/Passion Sunday as the Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany.  The reason for the temporal definition is the chronology inside the Gospel of John.

This post rests primarily on John 11:20-27, St. Martha’s confession of faith in her friend, Jesus, as

the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.

The combination of grief, confidence, and faith is striking.  It is one with which many people identify.  It is one that has become increasingly relevant in my life during the last few months, as I have dealt with two deaths.

Faith frequently shines brightly in the spiritual darkness and exists alongside grief.  Faith enables people to cope with their grief and helps them to see the path through the darkness.  We need to grieve, but we also need to move forward.  We will not move forward alone, for God is with us.  If we are fortunate, so are other people, as well as at least one pet.


Loving God, who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth

and enjoyed the friendship of Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany:

We thank you for the faith of St. Martha, who understood that

you were the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was coming into the world.

May we confess with our lips and our lives our faith in you,

the Incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Son of God, and draw others to you;

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

Jeremiah 8:18-23

Psalm 142

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

John 11:1-44





Feast of John Donne (March 31)   4 comments


Above:  John Donne

Image in the Public Domain


JOHN DONNE (JANUARY 21, 1572-MARCH 31, 1631)

Anglican Priest and Poet

John Donne–Anglican priest, popular preacher, and metaphysical poet–was a complicated character who sought after God and struggled with ambition.

Our saint, born in London, England, on January 21, 1572, was a son of John Donne and Elizabeth Heywood.  (Aside:  The English tradition of naming sons after fathers without using suffixes can prove quite confusing.)  John Donne the Elder, a wealthy merchant, died in 1576.  Elizabeth Heywood Donne was a daughter of John Heywood, a playwright.  John Heywood’s wife was a daughter of the sister of St. Thomas More.  Both of our saint’s parents were devout Roman Catholics.  Furthermore, two of his maternal uncles were Jesuits who died in exile and Henry, his younger brother, died of fever in prison at the age of 19 years in 1593.  Henry’s crime was to shelter a Roman Catholic priest.

Our saint, young “Jack” Donne, was also a Roman Catholic.  In 1584 he began his studies at Hart Hall, Oxford.  He never formally graduated because a requirement for doing so was to take the oath of supremacy.  Donne, as a Roman Catholic, could not do that.  Next he studied at Cambridge.  In 1591-1592 he was a law student at Thavies Inn, L0ndon.  From 1592 too 1596 he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, London.  By the 1590s Donne had begun to compose poetry.  He was also undecided about whether to remain a Roman Catholic or to convert to The Church of England.

Donne nurtured political connections.  In 1596 and 1597 he participated in the Earl of Essex’s expeditions to Cadiz and to the Azore Islands.  By 1597, when our saint had become an Anglican, he was the secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, soon to become Lord Chancellor Ellesmere.  Love interfered with Donne’s career, though.  In December 1601 he married Ann More, the niece of Egerton, without her guardians’ consent.  This led to a term of incarceration, the loss of employment, and the denial of Ann’s dowry.  This reality led Donne to become more spiritual.

The couple struggled for years.  From 1602 to 1615 they had twelve children, seven of whom survived their mother.  Eventually Donne found work writing criticisms of Roman Catholicism; he worked with Thomas Morton (later the Bishop of Durham) in this regard.  In 1607 Morton, the new Dean of Gloucester, encouraged Donne to take Holy Orders.  Our saint declined, citing a sense of worthiness.  Or perhaps he still had secular ambitions.  Eventually Sir George More, his father-in-law, paid Ann’s dowry.  Next Donne became the lawyer of Lucy, Countess of Bedford, through whom he came into contact with influential people.

Donne’s fortunes improved in 1610.  That year he published Pseudo-Martyr, a work designed to persuade Roman Catholics to take the oath of allegiance.  For this work he received an honorary M.A. from Oxford as well as favorable notice from King James VI/I.  Additional works in the field of religious controversy flowed from his pen during the next few years.  Also in 1610, Donne found a new patron, Sir Robert Drury, with whom he traveled from November 1611 to August 1612.  Afterward Donne courted Viscount Rochester (later the Earl of Somerset), a favorite of King James.  Our saint won election to the House of Commons in 1614.  The following year royal pressure ended his refusal to take Holy Orders.  His ordination occurred on January 23; he was 43 years old.

Donne became, according to reputation, the greatest preacher in England.  Like other prominent clergymen of the time, he frequently received income from two livings and was resident in only one of them.  In 1621 he became the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.  Four years later Donne preached the first sermon of the reign of King Charles I.  Our saint would have become a bishop in 1630, except for reasons of health.  He died, aged 59 years, on March 31, 1631.

Donne earned his place in the canon of literature with his metaphysical poetry, which remains in print.  Many of his sermons have also remained in print, for people to read.  His published works expressed, among other things, am awareness of his sins and of God’s mercy.

1.  Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begun

which is my sin, though it were done before?

Wilt thou forgive those sins through which I run,

and do run still, though still I do deplore?

When thou hast done, thou hast not done, for I have more.

2.  Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I won

others to sin, and made my sin their door?

Wilt thou forgive that sin I did shun

a year or two, but wallowed in a score?

When thou hast done, thou hast not done, for I have more.

3.  I have a sin of fear that when I’ve spun

my last thread, I shall perish on the shore;

swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son

shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore.

And having done that, thou hast done, I fear no more.

That is a theme worth pondering, is it not?








Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being:

Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne,

that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you;

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 7:24-8:1

Psalm 27:5-11

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

John 5:19-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 299


Feast of Franz Joseph Haydn and Michael Haydn (March 31)   2 comments


Above:  Model of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Image in the Public Domain


FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN (MARCH 31, 1732-MAY 31, 1809)

brother of





The Haydn brothers (Franz Joseph and Johann Michael, often billed as “Michael Haydn”) were great composers.  They were two of twelve children of Mathias Haydn (a wheelwright and an amateur harpist) and Anna Marie Koller, of Rohrau, Austria.  The family was of German and Austrian peasant origin.


Above:  Franz Joseph Haydn

Image in the Public Domain

The two brothers sang in the choir at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna; their tenures overlapped for three years.  Franz Joseph joined the choir at the age of seven years; he studied singing, learned to play the harpsichord and the violin, and was a soprano soloist.  Then, in 1749, his voice changed and he left the choir.  Johann Michael succeeded him as soloist and remained in the choir until 1755, having spent a decade there.


Above:  (Johann) Michael Haydn

Image in the Public Domain

From 1749 to 1757 Franz Joseph engaged in a series of youthful escapades and began to compose.  Among his influences were Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788).  Franz Joseph’s early compositions, some of which have not survived (at least not to our knowledge) included two Masses.

1757 was an important year in the lives of the brothers Haydn.  Franz Joseph spent the summer composing at Wenzinel Castle (near Melk), the property of Count Carl Joseph von Furnberg, of Austria.  Johann Michael became the kappelmeister at the cathedral at Grosswardein, serving for five years.

From 1759 to 1761 Franz Joseph worked as the music director to Count Ferdinand Maximilian Morzun, who had a summer castle at Lukavec, Bohemia.  On November 26 Franz Joseph married Maria Anna Keller.  The union was an unhappy and childless one.

Franz Joseph worked under the patronage of Esterhazys from 1761 to 1790.  In 1761 he became the assistant kappelmeister of the court orchestra of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy.  The following year the Prince died.  Prince Nicolaus Joseph “the Magnificent” Esterhazy, a great patron of the arts, supported Haydn.  After Nicolaus Joseph died in 1790, Franz Joseph received a pension.  Among the composer’s students was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, starting in 1781.

Johann Michael lived and worked in Salzburg from 1762 until 1806, when he died.  At first he was the orchestral conductor to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg.  Later the composer added organist responsibilities at St. Peter’s Church to his duties.  In time Johann Michael traded organist responsibilities at St. Paul’s Church for those duties at St. Rupert’s Cathedral, Salzburg.  He married Maria Magdalena Lipp (1745-1827).  The couple had one child, a daughter who died in infancy.

Franz Joseph spent most of the remaining 19 years (1790-1809) of his life living in Vienna; he also traveled, as he did to London more than once.  Among his pupils was Ludwig von Beethoven, starting in 1790.

In the 1700s and early 1800s conventional wisdom held that Johann Michael was the better composer of the two.  Franz Joseph agreed, at least with regard to sacred works.  Franz Joseph was no slouch musically; he composed operas, symphonies, sacred works, songs, cantatas, concertos, and various instrumental works.  He also perfected the early symphonic form and invented the modern string quartet.  Among his sacred works were the Mass in Time of War (1796) and The Creation (1798), the latter work containing the great chorus “The Heavens are Telling.”  He died at Vienna on May 31, 1809, aged 77 years.

Johann Michael, composer of the Requiem (1771) and the Missa a due cori (1786), influenced Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Carl Maria von Weber.

Johann Michael’s reputation has had its ups and downs since his death.  His reputation as a composer has declined overall since 1806, just as his elder brother’s reputation as a composer has improved.  Johann Michael’s drinking problem has affected his personal reputation negatively.  The author of the article about him in the old Catholic Encyclopedia wrote in a judgmental tone, for example.  On the other hand, the scientific understanding of addiction has challenged old moralistic notions based on inaccurate assumptions regarding willpower.

Even church musicians and composers of sacred works have personal problems with which they wrestle.








Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Michael Haydn,

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

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

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728


Feast of John Marriott (March 31)   Leave a comment

Flag of England

Above:  Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer

John Marriott, educated at Oxford, joined the ranks of Anglican priests in 1804.  For four years he tutored Lord George Scott, brother of the Duke of Buccleuch. Then Marriott served churches at Exeter and Broadhurst from 1808 until the end of his life.  Unfortunately for the saint, at the end of his life, he suffered from what James Moffatt, author of the 1927 companion volume to the Scottish Presbyterian Church Hymnary, called

ossification of the brain.

–page 422

Marriott wrote hymns yet was too humble to publish them or to allow publication of them during his lifetime.  Among these hymns was  “Thou, Whose Almighty Word” (1813), which debuted in print in the June 1825 issue of The Evangelical Magazine, the first public singing having occurred at the May 12, 1825, meeting of the London Missionary Society, just six weeks after his death.

Thou, whose almighty word

Chaos and darkness heard,

And took their flight;

Hear us, we humbly pray,

And, where the Gospel day

Sheds not its glorious ray,

Let there be light!


Thou, who didst come to bring

On thy redeeming wing

Healing and sight,

Health to the sick in mind,

Sight to the inly blind,

O now, to all mankind,

Let there be light!


Spirit of truth and love,

Life-giving, holy Dove,

Speed forth thy flight!

Move on the water’s face,

Bearing the gifts of grace,

And, in earth’s darkest place,

Let there be light!


Holy and blessed Three,

Glorious Trinity,

Wisdom, love, might;

Boundless as ocean’s tide,

Rolling in fullest pride,

Through the world, far and wide,

Let there be light!

Marriott may have been humble regarding his gifts, but they were impressive.








Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant John Marriott.

Teach us to drive from this world all chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61


Revised on December 24, 2016


Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass

Before and After

MARCH 16, 2016

MARCH 31, 2019


Joshua 5:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Joshua,

Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.

And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying,

This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.

So Jesus told them this parable:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands’”‘ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:



These are readings about new beginnings in God.  Happy and blessed are the forgiven, Psalm 32 says.  In Joshua 5 the Israelites celebrate the first Passover in the Promised Land.  Jesus, in Luke 15, tells a story about a wastrel son, his resentful brother, and a loving father.  I choose to focus on the parable in Luke.

Sometimes familiarity breeds reading on autopilot.  So let us read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Let us really read it.  A rebellious younger brother insults his father and wastes his share of the inheritance.  Then he comes to his senses after he hits bottom.  So he returns home and throws himself on his father’s mercy.  The father, who has been looking for his son’s return, welcomes him home and throws a great party for the occasion.  All is forgiven.  Yet the dutiful older brother  wonders why he never got a party.  And this brother imagines what his younger sibling might have done with all that money.

Before the younger brother was a fool; now he is sensible.  Before the older brother was resentful.  But is still that way after his father pleads with him at the end?  The story ends without resolving that question.  Now the younger brother can be what he is supposed to be, but what about the older brother?

How does this story relate to you, O reader?






Saints’ Days and Holy Days for March   Leave a comment


Image Source = Bertil Videt

1 (Anna of Oxenhall and Her Faithful Descendants, Wenna the Queen, Non, Samson of Dol, Cybi, and David of Wales)

  • Edward Dearle, Anglican Organist and Composer
  • Edwin Hodder, English Biographer, Devotional Writer, and Hymn Writer
  • George Wishart, Scottish Calvinist Reformer and Martyr, 1546; and Walter Milne, Scottish Protestant Martyr, 1558
  • Richard Redhead, Anglican Composer, Organist, and Liturgist
  • Roger Lefort, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bourges

2 (Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World)

  • Aidan of Lindisfarne, Celtic Missionary Bishop; Caelin, Celtic Priest; Cedd of Lastingham, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Bishop of Essex, and Abbot of Lastingham; Cynibil of Lastingham, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest and Monk; Chad of Mercia, Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of York/the Northumbrians and of Lichfield/the Mercians and the Lindsey People; Vitalian, Bishop of Rome; Adrian of Canterbury, Roman Catholic Abbot of Saints Peter and Paul, Canterbury; Theodore of Tarsus, Roman Catholic Monk and Archbishop of Canterbury; and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Celtic and Roman Catholic Monk, Hermit, Priest, and Bishop of Lindisfarne
  • Daniel March, Sr., U.S. Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister, Poet, Hymn Writer, and Liturgist
  • Engelmar Unzeitig, German Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1945
  • John Stuart Blackie, Scottish Presbyterian Scholar, Linguist, Poet, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Ludmilla of Bohemia, Duchess of Bohemia, and Martyr, 921; her grandson, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, and Martyr, 929; Agnes of Prague, Bohemian Princess and Nun; her pen pal, Clare of Assisi, Founder of the Poor Clares; her sister, Agnes of Assisi, Abbess at Monticelli; and her mother, Hortulana of Assisi, Poor Clare Nun

3 (Katharine Drexel, Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)

  • Antonio Francesco Marzorati, Johannes Laurentius Weiss, and Michele Pro Fasoli, Franscican Missionary Priests and Martyrs in Ethiopia, 1716
  • Gervinus, Roman Catholic Abbot and Scholar
  • Henry Elias Fries, U.S. Moravian Industrialist; and his wife, Rosa Elvira Fries, U.S. Moravian Musician
  • Teresa Eustochio Verzeri, Founder of the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

4 (Charles Simeon, Anglican Priest and Promoter of Missions; Henry Martyn, Anglican Priest, Linguist, Translator, and Missionary; and Abdul Masih, Indian Convert and Missionary)

  • Christoph E. F. Weyse, Danish Lutheran Organist and Composer
  • Henry Suso, German Roman Catholic Mystic, Preacher, and Spiritual Writer
  • John Edgar Park, U.S. Presbyterian then Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Marie-Louise-Élisabeth de Lamoignon de Molé de Champlâtreux, Founder of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Louis
  • Thomas Hornblower Gill, English Unitarian then Anglican Hymn Writer

5 (Karl Rahner, Jesuit Priest and Theologian)

  • Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, English Roman Catholic Convert, Spiritual Writer, and Translator of Spiritual Writings; Founder of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey
  • Christopher Macassoli of Vigevano, Franciscan Priest
  • Eusebius of Cremona, Roman Catholic Abbot and Humanitarian
  • Ion Costist, Franciscan Lay Brother
  • John S. Stamm, Bishop of The Evangelical Church then the Evangelical United Brethren Church

6 (Martin Niemoller, German Lutheran Minister and Peace Activist)

  • Chrodegang of Metz, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Fred B. Craddock, U.S. Disciples of Christ Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Renowned Preacher
  • Jean-Pierre de Caussade, French Roman Catholic Priest and Spiritual Director
  • Jordan of Pisa, Dominican Evangelist
  • William Bright, Anglican Canon, Scholar, and Hymn Writer

7 (James Hewitt McGown, U.S. Presbyterian Humanitarian)

  • Drausinus and Ansericus, Roman Catholic Bishops of Soissons; Vindician, Roman Catholic Bishop of Cambrai; and Leodegarius, Roman Catholic Bishop of Autun
  • Edward Osler, English Doctor, Editor, and Poet
  • Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, Founder of the Daughters of the Divine Savior
  • Paul Cuffee, U.S. Presbyterian Missionary to the Shinnecock Nation
  • Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 203

8 (Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln)

  • Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • John Hampden Gurney, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • John of God, Founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God
  • William Henry Sheppard, Lucy Gantt Sheppard, and Samuel N. Lapsley, Southern Presbyterian Missionaries in the Congo

9 (Harriet Tubman, U.S. Abolitionist)

  • Emanuel Cronenwett, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator
  • Frances of Rome, Founder of the Collatines
  • Johann Pachelbel, German Lutheran Organist and Composer
  • Pacian of Barcelona, Roman Catholic Bishop of Barcelona
  • Sophronius of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem

10 (Marie-Joseph Lagrange, Roman Catholic Priest and Biblical Scholar)

  • Agripinnus of Autun, Roman Catholic Bishop; Germanus of Paris, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Droctoveus of Autun, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • Alexander Clark, U.S. Methodist Protestant Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymnal Editor
  • Folliot Sandford Pierpoint, Anglican Educator, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • John Oglivie, Scottish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1615
  • Macarius of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Bishop

11 (John Swertner, Dutch-German Moravian Minister, Hymn Writer, Hymn Translator, and Hymnal Editor; and his collaborator, John Mueller, German-English Moravian Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymnal Editor)

  • Aengus the Culdee, Hermit and Monk; and Maelruan, Abbot
  • Eulogius of Spain, Roman Catholic Bishop of Toledo, Cordoba; and Leocrita; Roman Catholic Martyrs, 859
  • Francis Wayland, U.S. Baptist Minister, Educator, and Social Reformer
  • Mary Ann Thomson, Episcopal Hymn Writer
  • Pal Prennushi, Albanian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1948

12 (Trasilla and Emiliana; their sister-in-law, Sylvia of Rome; and her son, Gregory I “the Great,” Bishop of Rome)

  • Henry Walford Davies, Anglican Organist and Composer
  • John H. Caldwell, U.S. Methodist Minister and Social Reformer
  • Maximillian of Treveste, Roman Conscientious Objector and Martyr, 295
  • Rutilio Grande, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1977
  • Theophanes the Chroncler, Defender of Icons

13 (Yves Congar, Roman Catholic Priest and Theologian)

  • Heldrad, Roman Catholic Abbot
  • James Theodore Holly, Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, and the Dominican Republic; First African-American Bishop in The Episcopal Church
  • Plato of Symboleon and Theodore Studites, Eastern Orthodox Abbots; and Nicephorus of Constantinople, Patriarch
  • Roderic of Cabra and Solomon of Cordoba, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 857

14 (Fannie Lou Hamer, Prophet of Freedom)

  • Albert Lister Peace, Organist in England and Scotland
  • Harriet King Osgood Munger, U.S. Congregationalist Hymn Writer
  • Nehemiah Goreh, Indian Anglican Priest and Theologian
  • Vincenzina Cusmano, Superior of the Sisters Servants of the Poor; and her brother, Giacomo Cusmano, Founder of the Sisters Servants of the Poor and the Missionary Servants of the Poor
  • William Leddra, British Quaker Martyr in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1661

15 (Zachary of Rome, Bishop of Rome)

  • Jan Adalbert Balicki and Ladislaus Findysz, Roman Catholic Priests in Poland
  • Jean Baptiste Calkin, Anglican Organist and Composer
  • Ozora Stearns Davis, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Vethappan Solomon, Apostle to the Nicobar Islands

16 (Adalbald of Ostevant, Rictrudis of Marchiennes, and Their Relations)

  • Abraham Kidunaia, Roman Catholic Hermit; and Mary of Edessa, Roman Catholic Anchoress
  • John Cacciafronte, Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, Bishop, and Martyr, 1183
  • Megingaud of Wurzburg, Roman Catholic Monk and Bishop
  • Thomas Wyatt Turner, U.S. Roman Catholic Scientist, Educator, and Civil Rights Activist; Founder of Federated Colored Catholics
  • William Henry Monk, Anglican Organist, Hymn Tune Composer, and Music Educator

17 (Patrick, Apostle of Ireland)

  • Ebenezer Elliott, “The Corn Law Rhymer”
  • Henry Scott Holland, Anglican Hymn Writer and Priest
  • Jan Sarkander, Silesian Roman Catholic Priest and “Martyr of the Confessional,” 1620
  • Josef Rheinberger, Germanic Roman Catholic Composer
  • Maria Barbara Maix, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

18 (Leonides of Alexandria, Roman Catholic Martyr, 202; Origen, Roman Catholic Theologian; Demetrius of Alexandria, Roman Catholic Bishop; and Alexander of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Bishop)

  • Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop, Theologian, and Liturgist
  • Eliza Sibbald Alderson, Poet and Hymn Writer; and John Bacchus Dykes, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer
  • Paul of Cyprus, Eastern Orthodox Martyr, 760
  • Robert Walmsley, English Congregationalist Hymn Writer


20 (Sebastian Castellio, Prophet of Religious Liberty)

  • Christopher Wordsworth, Hymn Writer and Anglican Bishop of Lincoln
  • Ellen Gates Starr, U.S. Episcopalian then Roman Catholic Social Activist and Reformer
  • Maria Josefa Sancho de Guerra, Founder of the Congregation of the Servants of Jesus
  • Samuel Rodigast, German Lutheran Academic and Hymn Writer
  • Simon William Gabriel Bruté de Rémur, Roman Catholic Bishop of Vincennes

21 (Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach, Composers)

  • Lucia of Verona, Italian Roman Catholic Tertiary and Martyr, 1574
  • Mark Gjani, Albanian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1947
  • Nicholas of Flüe and his grandson, Conrad Scheuber, Swiss Hermits
  • Serapion of Thmuis, Roman Catholic Bishop

22 (Deogratias, Roman Catholic Bishop of Carthage)

  • Emmanuel Mournier, French Personalist Philosopher
  • James De Koven, Episcopal Priest
  • Thomas Hughes, British Social Reformer and Member of Parliament
  • William Edward Hickson, English Music Educator and Social Reformer

23 (Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great, Patriarchs of Armenia)

  • Meister Eckhart, Roman Catholic Theologian and Mystic
  • Metodej Dominik Trčka, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1959
  • Umphrey Lee, U.S. Methodist Minister and President of Southern Methodist University
  • Victorian of Hadrumetum, Martyr at Carthage, 484
  • Walter of Pontoise, French Roman Catholic Abbot and Ecclesiastical Reformer

24 (Oscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador; and the Martyrs of El Salvador, 1980-1992)

  • Didacus Joseph of Cadiz, Capuchin Friar
  • George Rawson, English Congregationalist Hymn Writer
  • George Rundle Prynne, Anglican Priest, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • Paul Couturier, Apostle of Christian Unity
  • Thomas Attwood, “Father of Modern Church Music”


  • Dismas, Penitent Bandit

26 (Margaret Clitherow, English Roman Catholic Martyr, 1586)

  • Austin C. Lovelace, United Methodist Organist, Composer, Hymn Writer, and Liturgist
  • Flannery O’Connor, U.S. Roman Catholic Writer
  • James Rendel Harris, Anglo-American Congregationalist then Quaker Biblical Scholar and Orientalist; Robert Lubbock Bensly, English Biblical Translator and Orientalist; Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Smith Gibson, English Biblical Scholars and Linguists; Samuel Savage Lewis, Anglican Priest and Librarian of Corpus Christi College; and James Young Gibson, Scottish United Presbyterian Minister and Literary Translator
  • Ludger, Roman Catholic Bishop of Munster
  • Rudolph A. John, German-American Evangelical Minister, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator

27 (Charles Henry Brent, Episcopal Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, Bishop of Western New York, and Ecumenist)

  • Nicholas Owen, Thomas Garnet, Mark Barkworth, Edward Oldcorne, and Ralph Ashley, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 1601-1608
  • Peter Lutkin, Episcopal Composer, Liturgist, and Music Educator
  • Robert Hall Baynes, Anglican Bishop of Madagascar
  • Rupert of Salzburg, Apostle of Bavaria and Austria
  • Stanley Rother, U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Missionary, and Martyr in Guatemala, 1981

28 (James Solomon Russell, Episcopal Priest, Educator, and Advocate for Racial Equality)

  • Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Anglican Writer, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer
  • Guntram of Burgundy, King
  • Katharine Lee Bates, U.S. Educator, Poet, and Hymn Writer
  • Richard Chevenix Trench, Anglican Archbishop of Dublin
  • Tutilo, Roman Catholic Monk and Composer

29 (Charles Villiers Stanford, Composer, Organist, and Conductor)

  • Dora Greenwell, Poet and Devotional Writer
  • John Keble, Anglican Priest and Poet
  • Jonas and Barachisius, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 327
  • Julius Ewald Kockritz, German-American Evangelical Minister, Hymn Writer, and Christian Educator

30 (Innocent of Alaska, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of North America)

  • Cordelia Cox, U.S. Lutheran Social Worker, Educator, and Resettler of Refugees
  • John Wright Buckham, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Writer
  • Julio Alvarez Mendoza, Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1927
  • Maria Restituta Kafka, Austrian Roman Catholic Nun and Martyr, 1943

31 (Maria Skobtsova, Russian Orthodox Martyr, 1945)

  • Ernest Trice Thompson, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Renewer of the Church
  • Franz Joseph Haydn and his brother, Michael Haydn, Composers
  • Joan of Toulouse, Carmelite Nun; and Simon Stock, Carmelite Friar
  • John Donne, Anglican Priest and Poet
  • John Marriott, Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer



  • 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.

Feast of Joan of Toulouse and Simon Stock (March 31)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Simon Stock (Kneeling on the Left)

Image Source = Giovanni Dall’Orto



Carmelite Nun



Carmelite Friar

His Feast Day Transferred from May 16

The English-born St. Simon Stock was a Carmelite friar, who, according to certain accounts, lived for a time in a hollow tree trunk.  Becoming the Carmelite General in 1247, he spent the rest of his life expanding the order throughout Europe, including the British Isles.  He did this despite opposition from within the Roman Catholic Church, although a Papal bull (issued by Innocent IV in 1252) helped greatly.

St. Simon Stock was devoted to Mary, Dei Mater, who, according to accounts, appeared to him on July 16, 1251 and revealed the brown scapular to him.  There is much doubt in many contemporary Roman Catholic quarters with regard to the veracity of this vision, but the brown scapular has long been a sacramentary of great significance among the Carmelites.

The saint died in 1265.

He crossed paths with Blessed Joan of Toulouse in 1265, when visiting that city, the site of a Carmelite monastery.  Joan approached the saint and asked to become a Carmelite.  St. Simon Stock, as head of the order, had the authority to consent to this request, which he did.  She made her vows in his presence, thereby becoming the first Third Order Carmelite.  Blessed Joan, not having a convent, continued to live in her home.  She devoted her life to God and good works, including daily Mass and devotions, running errands and performing other tasks for the elderly and the ill, visiting the poor, the sick, and the lonely, being cheerful, and training boys to help others.

The meaning of life is to love God with one’s entire essence, to love oneself as a bearer of the image of God, and to love one’s fellow human beings in the same way.  The ultimate guides for this are the Golden Rule and the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  St. Simon Stock and Blessed Joan of Toulouse devoted most of their lives to this purpose.  How ought this goal to play out in your life?





A Collect and the Associated Readings for a Monastic from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), of The Episcopal Church:

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich:  Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servants Blessed Joan of Toulouse and Saint Simon Stock, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34 or 34:1-8

Philippians 3:7-15

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


Revised on December 24, 2016


Feast of St. Maria Skobtsova (March 31)   2 comments

Above:  Icon of St. Maria Skobtsova

Image in the Public Domain



Orthodox Poet, Nun, Martyr, and Resister of the Nazis

Also known as Saint Maria of Paris

Elizabeta Pilenko came from an aristocratic family in Latvia, Russian Empire, in 1891.  Raised Christian, she declared her atheism during adolescence, after her father died.  In 1906 Elizabeta moved with mother to St. Petersburg, where the young woman entered radical intellectual circles and married her first husband.  The marriage was brief, ending in divorce.  Elizabeta returned to Christianity after the end of this union.

In 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution, Elizabeta became Deputy Mayor of Anapa, in south Russia.  When the White Russian Army occupied the town, prompting the mayor to flee, Elizabeta became Mayor.  Almost immediately she faced charges of being a Bolshevik.  The trial resulted in an acquittal, and the judge, Daniel Skobtsova, became her second husband.    The Skobtsovas (including a young daughter, Gaiana) fled Russia a few years later and arrived in Paris in 1923.  By that time new additions to the family included a son, Yuri, and a second daughter, Anastasia.  Elizabeta began to study theology and to devote herself to social work.  Three years later Anastasia died of influenza, Gaiana was studying at a Belgian boarding school, and the marriage crumbled.  Daniel kept custody of Yuri, and Elizabeta worked with the needy people of Paris.

In 1932, after the Orthodox Church granted an ecclesiastical divorce, Elizabeta became a nun, took the name Maria, lived in a rented house open for public service and intellectual and theological discussion, and continued her work among the poor.  In 1940, after the Nazis occupied France, Mother Maria helped shelter Jews and aided the flight of others to safety.  Her conspirators in these righteous deeds included Sophia (her mother), Yuri (her son), and Father Dimitri Klepinin (the chaplain of her house).  Eventually Gestapo agents arrested them.  Yuri and Father Dmitri died at the Dora concentration camp.  Mother Maria died on March 31, 1945, when she volunteered to take the place of a Jewish woman bound for a gas chamber at the Ravesnbruck concentration camp.

Sometimes the demands of faith require one to die for another human being.  I think also of St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14), a Roman Catholic priest who sheltered Jews and took the place of an otherwise doomed Jew, too.  And I ponder the example of Jonathan Myrick Daniels (also August 14), an Episcopal seminarian who placed his body in the path of a bullet meant for an African-American girl in 1965 Alabama.  St. Maria Skobtsova understood the relationship between theology and life.  Her theology demanded that she care for those who needed what she had to offer.  At the end she offered her life.  There is no greater love than that.

Maria, her chaplain, and her son are now saints in the Orthodox Church.



Taking Up the Cross, by St. Maria:

We must seek authentic and profound religious bases in order to understand and justify our yearning for man, our love of man, our path among our brothers, among people.

And warnings sound from two different sides. On one side, the humanistic world, even as it accepts the foundations of Christian morality in inter-human relations, simply does not need any further deepening, any justification that does not come from itself. This world keeps within three dimensions, and with those three dimensions it exhausts the whole of existence. On the other side, the world connected with the Church also warns us: often the very theme of man seems something secondary to it, something that removes us from the one primary thing, from an authentic communion with God. For this world, Christianity is this relation to God. The rest is christianizing or christianification.

We must be deaf to these two warnings. We must not only suppose, we must know that the first of them, coming from a world deprived of God, destroys the very idea of man, who is nothing if he is not the image of God, while the second destroys the idea of the Church, which is nothing if it does not imply the individual human being within it, as well as the whole of mankind.

We must not only be deaf to these warnings, we must be convinced that the question of an authentic and profound religious attitude toward man is precisely the meeting point of all questions of the Christian and the godless world, and that even this godless world is waiting for a word from Christianity, the only word capable of healing and restoring all, and perhaps sometimes even of raising what is dead.

But at the same time, perhaps for centuries now, the Christian soul has been suffering from a sort of mystical Protestantism. Only the combination of two words carries full weight for it: God and I, God and my soul, and my path, and my salvation. For the modern Christian soul it is easier and more natural to say “My Father” than “Our Father,” “deliver me from the evil one,” “give me this day my daily bread,” and so on.

And on these paths of the solitary soul striving toward God, it seems that everything has been gone through, all roads have been measured, all possible dangers have been accounted for, the depths of all abysses are known. It is easy to find a guide here, be it the ancient authors of ascetic books, or the modern followers of ancient ascetic traditions, who are imbued with their teachings.

But there is also a path that seeks a genuinely religious relation to people, that does not want either a humanistic simplification of human relations or an ascetic disdain of them.

Before speaking of this path, we must understand what that part of man’s religious life which is exhausted by the words “God and my soul” is based on in its mystical depths.

If we decide responsibly and seriously to make the Gospel truth the standard for our human souls, we will have no doubts about how to act in any particular case of our lives: we should renounce everything we have, take up our cross, and follow Him. The only thing Christ leaves us is the path that leads after Him, and the cross which we bear on our shoulders, imitating His bearing of the cross to Golgotha.

It can be generally affirmed that Christ calls us to imitate Him. That is the exhaustive meaning of all Christian morality. And however differently various peoples in various ages understand the meaning of this imitation, all ascetic teachings in Christianity finally boil down to it. Desert dwellers imitate Christ’s forty-day sojourn in the desert. Fasters fast because He fasted. Following His example, the prayerful pray, virgins observe purity, and so on. It is not by chance that Thomas à Kempis entitled his book The Imitation of Christ; it is a universal precept of Christian morality, the common title, as it were, of all Christian asceticism.

I will not try to characterize here the different directions this imitation has taken, and its occasional deviations, perhaps, from what determines the path of the Son of Man in the Gospel. There are as many different interpretations as there are people, and deviations are inevitable, because the human soul is sick with sin and deathly weakness.

What matters is something else. What matters is that in all these various paths Christ Himself made legitimate this solitary standing of the human soul before God, this rejection of all the rest – that is, of the whole world: father and mother, as the Gospel precisely puts it, and not only the living who are close to us, but also the recently dead – everything, in short. Naked, solitary, freed of everything, the soul sees only His image before it, takes the cross on its shoulders, following His example, and goes after him to accept its own dawnless night of Gethsemane, its own terrible Golgotha, and through it to bear its faith in the Resurrection into the undeclining joy of Easter.

Here it indeed seems that everything is exhausted by the words “God and my soul.” All the rest is what He called me to renounce, and so there is nothing else: God – and my soul – and nothing.

No, not quite nothing. The human soul does not stand empty-handed before God. The fullness is this: God – and my soul – and the cross that it takes up. There is also the cross.

The meaning and significance of the cross are inexhaustible. The cross of Christ is the eternal tree of life, the invincible force, the union of heaven and earth, the instrument of a shameful death. But what is the cross in our path of the imitation of Christ; how should our crosses resemble the one cross of the Son of Man? For even on Golgotha there stood not one but three crosses: the cross of the God-man and the crosses of the two thieves. Are these two crosses not symbols, as it were, of all human crosses, and does it not depend on us which one we choose? For us the way of the cross is unavoidable in any case, we can only choose to freely follow either the way of the blaspheming thief and perish, or the way of the one who called upon Christ and be with Him today in paradise. For a certain length of time, the thief who chose perdition shared the destiny of the Son of Man. He was condemned and nailed to a cross in the same way; he suffered torment in the same way. But that does not mean that his cross was the imitation of Christ’s cross, that his path led him in the footsteps of Christ.

What is most essential, most determining in the image of the cross is the necessity of freely and voluntarily accepting it and taking it up. Christ freely, voluntarily took upon Himself the sins of the world, and raised them up on the cross, and thereby redeemed them and defeated hell and death. To accept the endeavor and the responsibility voluntarily, to freely crucify your sins – that is the meaning of the cross, when we speak of bearing it on our human paths. Freedom is the inseparable sister of responsibility. The cross is this freely accepted responsibility, clear-sighted and sober.

In taking the cross on his shoulders, man renounces everything – and that means that he ceases to be part of this whole natural world. He ceases to submit to its natural laws, which free the human soul from responsibility. Natural laws not only free one from responsibility, they also deprive one of freedom. Indeed, what sort of responsibility is it, if I act as the invincible laws of my nature dictate, and where is the freedom, if I am entirely under the law?

And so the Son of Man showed his brothers in the flesh a supra-natural – and in this sense not a human but a God-manly – path of freedom and responsibility. He told them that the image of God in them also makes them into God-men and calls them to be deified, to indeed become Sons of God, freely and responsibly taking their crosses on their shoulders.
The free path to Golgotha – that is the true imitation of Christ.

This would seem to exhaust all the possibilities of the Christian soul, and thus the formula “God and my soul” indeed embraces the whole world. All the rest that was renounced on the way appears only as a sort of obstacle adding weight to my cross. And heavy as it may be, whatever human sufferings it may place on my shoulders, it is all the same my cross, which determines my personal way to God, my personal following in the footsteps of Christ. My illness, my grief, my loss of dear ones, my relations to people, to my vocation, to my work – these are details of my path, not ends in themselves, but a sort of grindstone on which my soul is sharpened, certain – perhaps sometimes burdensome – exercises for my soul, the particularities of my personal path.

If that is so, it certainly settles the question. It can only be endlessly varied, depending on the individual particularities of epochs, cultures, and separate persons. But essentially everything is clear. God and my soul, bearing its cross. In this an enormous spiritual freedom, activity, and responsibility are confirmed. And that is all.

I think it is Protestant mysticism that should follow such a path most consistently. Moreover, in so far as the world now lives the mystical life, it is for the most part infected by this isolating and individualistic Protestant mysticism. In it there is, of course, no place for the Church, for the principle of sobornost’, for the God-manly perception of the whole Christian process. There are simply millions of people born into the world, some of whom hear Christ’s call to renounce everything, take up their cross, and follow Him, and, as far as their strength, their faith, their personal endeavor allow, they answer that call. They are saved by it, they meet Christ, as if merging their life with His. All the rest is a sort of humanistic afterthought, a sort of adjusting of these basic Christian principles to those areas of life that lie outside them. In short, some sort of christianification, not bad in essence, but deprived of all true mystical roots, and therefore not inevitably necessary.

The cross of Golgotha is the cross of the Son of Man, the crosses of the thieves and our personal crosses are precisely personal, and as an immense forest of these personal crosses we are moving along the paths to the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is all.


A poem by St. Maria, concerning persecution of the Jews:

Two triangles, a star,
The shield of King David, our forefather.
This is election, not offense.
The great path and not an evil.
Once more in a term fulfilled,
Once more roars the trumpet of the end;
And the fate of a great people
Once more is by the prophet proclaimed.
Thou art persecuted again, O Israel,
But what can human malice mean to thee,
who have heard the thunder from Sinai?


Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.  Inspire us with the memory of St. Maria Skobtsova, whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.   Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38


Revised on December 24, 2016


Feast of Ernest Trice Thompson (March 31)   4 comments

The Seal of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1861-1983)

“Lux Lucet in Tenebris” = “The light shines in the darkness.”

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Renewer of the Church

Ernest Trice Thompson was one of the most important Southern Presbyterian clergymen of the Twentieth Century.  A seminary professor for 42 years, he helped transform the Presbyterian Church in the United States, once the Southern Presbyterian Church mired in racism and the cult of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, into a moderate body which addressed racism and merged with The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Thompson entered the world in Texarcana, Texas, in 1895.  A prominent role in the Southern Presbyterian denomination came naturally, for his father was a Moderator of the General Assembly.    Thompson graduated from Hampden-Sydney College, Union Theological Seminary of Virginia, and Columbia University.  He entered the Presbyterian ordained ministry and served as a chaplain during World War I.

Thompson spent most of his career at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, where he taught for 42 years as Professor of the Bible then of Church History.  While at UTS served as moderator of his presbytery (in 1931), synod (the Synod of Virginia, in 1940), and President of the Virginia Council of Churches (1944-1946).  During his tenure Thompson faced also a heresy trial in the 1930s, for he favored higher biblical criticism.  The trial resulted in acquittal, as you might have guessed, O perceptive reader.

In 1944 Thompson founded The Presbyterian Outlook, a magazine devoted to civil rights, higher biblical criticism, and and advocacy for ecumenism.  All these causes were controversial in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS) during much of the Twentieth Century.  The PCUS joined the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor of the National Council of Churches) then withdrew then debated whether to rejoin it.  (The denomination wound up a longterm member of the National Council.)   Also, the PCUS, founded as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, spent its early years using the Bible to defend slavery and treating its African-American members paternalistically; it was a white man’s denomination.  The Spirituality of the Church, a doctrine which stated that social and political matters were not concerns of the church, provided convenient cover for justifying slavery, Jim Crow laws, and racism–or for evading these questions of social injustice.

Yet the church began to change in the 1930s.  The 1934 General Assembly created a Committee on Social and Moral Reform, which issued its first report the following year.  Thompson served on this committee, which defined social and moral concerns more broadly than the usual suspects:  drinking, gambling, fornicating, and violating the Sabbath day.  They added political, racial, and economic issues.  The 1935 report said in part:

In other words, the Church cannot rest its efforts until all men, in all nations, are seeking to follow Christ, not only in their individual lives, but also in their corporate lives, and to build their economic life, their political life and their international life, as well as their individual lives on the teachings of Jesus.  It cannot rest until Jesus is Lord of all men, and until He is also Lord of all life.

In 1936 the committee issued its second report.  It condemned–no surprise here–gambling and violating the Sabbath day–and “the Threat of War,” “the Need of Economic Justice,” and “the Race Problem.”  The committee stated that since Church should condemn economic injustice because the Bible does.  (And it does–many times in both Testaments.)  Regarding war, the committee called for peace, human brotherhood, and mutual understanding.  And the committee condemned lynchings, supported human brotherhood, and encouraged local improvement of race relations.

One D. P. McGeachy, a Special Correspondent for The Christian Century, wrote of the 1936 General Assembly for that magazine.  He noted that the section on race and racism omitted a clause declaring the relationship between discrimination and certain crimes.  McGeachy wrote:

We are not ready to admit that the whites are in control.  One wonders whether we would insist that we are the helpless slaves of the blacks!  Nevertheless this was and is a great paper.  Its adoption, or even its consideration, would have been impossible a few years ago.  Slowly we are coming to realize that a man’s religion has to do with his actual life, and that it is not some unrelated theory with no ethical content.

By the early 1940s the changes in the denomination had caused such alarm in certain quarters that The Presbyterian Journal (the opposite number of the The Presbyterian Outlook) began publication.  The Journal midwifed the birth of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973.  For more details consult Religion & Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983, by Joel L. Alvis, Jr.  (Aside:  I was planning to write my doctoral dissertation on the Journal‘s role from 1942 to 1973, but my program and proposed dissertation met an unpleasant fate at The University of Georgia’s Department of History.)

Thompson became more prominent in the denomination as time passed.  He served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1959-1960, for example.  His prominence marked the liberalization of the Southern Presbyterian Church.  And Thompson left his mark in many places.  He edited The Presbyterian Outlook for many years, wrote weekly Sunday School lessons, and authored much of the Book of Church Order.

The Southern Presbyterian denomination began to address issues of civil rights seriously during World War II.  It became the first church body to support the 1954 Brown decision, which declared forced segregation in public schools unconstitutional and inherently unequal.  Thompson was on the vanguard of this movement in the PCUS.  At the Outlook he contradicted segregationist interpretations of the Bible.  (The Presbyterian Journal published such segregationist interpretations.)  In 1965 Thompson marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, Alabama.  Keep these facts in mind as you read the following paragraph from Thompson’s 1950 book, The Changing South and the Presbyterian Church in the United States:

The movement of the Negroes in our Southern cities may furnish us the opportunity which we seek.  The author knows one Southern city where the Negroes who have been more fortunate economically are moving in rather large numbers into an area formerly occupied by the whites.  There is no Negro church in this large residential neighborhood and none that can conveniently minister unto it.  Many of the leaders of this community, it has been ascertained, would welcome and support a Presbyterian church.  It has not yet become clear whether the white Presbyterians are ready to support such a venture.

Thompson thought the Spirituality of the Church too narrow a doctrine.  An excerpt from Through the Ages: A History of the Christian Church (1965) follows:

For a generation now the Presbyterian Church in the United States has officially accepted the idea that the gospel does have implications for the whole of life.  The task of the present generation will be able to find ways in which this concept can be accepted by the church membership as a whole, particularly our lay people, the People of God, who alone can translate the principle into practical reality.  Only so can we be true to our Calvinistic, and also our Christian, heritage.  And so can we hope, in a measure, to fulfill our true spiritual mission.

One gauge of the extent of that change in official priorities is A Brief Statement of Belief (1962), which superceded a 1913 document.  The sin-related section of the 1913 statement dealt solely with individual sins.  Contrast that with the 1962 paragraph on Total Depravity:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more andmore with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

Thompson wrote over 20 books.  A partial list follows:

  1. Presbyterian Missions in the Southern United States (1934);
  2. Changing Emphases in American Preaching (1943);
  3. One World, One Lord: Studies from The Gospel of Matthew (1947);
  4. The Changing South and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1950);
  5. You Shall Be My Witnesses: Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (1953);
  6. The Gospel According to Mark and its Meaning for Today (1954);
  7. Jesus and Citizenship (1956);
  8. Meeting God Through the Beatitudes (1958);
  9. Tomorrow’s Church, Tomorrow’s World (1960);
  10. The Spirituality of the Church: A Distinctive Doctrine of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1961);
  11. Presbyterians in the South (3 volumes, 1963-1972), an essential work in the field of Southern Presbyterian history;
  12. The Sermon on the Mount and Its Meaning for Today (1964);
  13. Through the Ages: A History of the Christian Church (1965);
  14. Plenty and Want: The Responsibility of the Church (1966);
  15. The Board of National Ministries: Its History (1973); and
  16. The Greatness of of Jesus: Words of Hope for Happy, Healthy Living (1973)

Thompson supported the ordination of women also.  The Southern Presbyterian General Assembly approved this in 1964.

Thompson died on March 29, 1985, at 90 years of age.

Every year The Presbyterian Outlook announces the winner of the Ernest Trice Thompson Award for excellence in education, church history, journalism, or social justice.



Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Ernest Trice Thompson, through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.  Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Revised on December 31, 2016