Archive for the ‘Saints of 1400-1499’ Category

Feast of St. Angela Merici (January 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Angela Merici

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ANGELA MERICI (MARCH 21, 1474-JANUARY 24, 1540)

Foundress of the Company of Saint Ursula

Former feast days = May 31 and June 1

St. Angela Merici, a mystic, met needs of people, for their benefit and the glory of God.  She, born in Desenzamo, Lombardy, on March 21, 1474, grew up in a devout family.  St. Angela and her sisters became orphans when St. Angela was 10 years old.  The sudden death of her sister sent our saint into a spiritual crisis.  St. Angela channeled much of her spiritual energy into making pilgrimages.  According to standard hagiographies of St. Angela, she, en route to the Holy Land in 1524, went blind in Crete.  After completing her pilgrimage and returning to Crete a few months later, she regained her sight.

St. Angela also channeled much of her spiritual energy into good works.  In her early twenties, our saint discerned her vocation to educate young girls in the faith.  She began this work in Desenzamo, where she opened her first school.  Later, St. Angela opened a second school in Brescia.  There were the origins of the Company of Saint Ursula, founded in 1535.  St. Angela served as the first superior of the order.

St. Angela died in Brescia on January 24, 1540.

The Church recognized our saint.  Pope Clement XIII beatified St. Angela in 1768.  Pope Pius VII canonized her in 1807.

The Ursuline Sisters provide a range of social services, from education to care of the elderly to shelters for homeless people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS EXIGUUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND REFORMER OF THE CALENDAR

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, CHEYENNE WARRIOR, CHIEF, AND HOLY MAN, AND EPISCOPAL DEACON AND MISSIONARY IN OKLAHOMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS MAURIAC, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST, CHRISTIAN HUMANIST, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Margery Kempe (November 9)   3 comments

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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MARGERY BRUNHAM KEMPE (CIRCA 1373-CIRCA 1440)

English Roman Catholic Mystic and Pilgrim

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Well-behaved women seldom make history.

–Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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The General Convention of The Episcopal Church added Margery Kempe to the side calendar of saints in 2009.  Her feast day, shared with Richard Rolle and Walter Hilton, became September 28.  That feast day from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), carried over into the successor volume, A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016).  The General Convention of 2018 kept the composite feast yet moved it to January 19, per Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, actually the official calendar of saints for the denomination, and successor to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (2007).  I have, however, been breaking up the composite feast while renovating this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  That process has brought me to this post, in which I have assigned Kempe’s feast to November 9, her feast day in The Church of England.

Margery Kempe, born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, circa 1373, was devout.  She also proved perplexing to certain ecclesiastical leaders.

Kempe, born Margery Brunham, came from a wealthy family.  Her father, John Brunham, was, at different times, the mayor, a Member of Parliament, a coroner, a justice of the peace, and a chamberlain.

Circa 1393, at the age of 20 years, Margery married John Kempe (d. 1431).  For two decades she bore fourteen children, wore fine clothing, and, for a time, operated a brewery.  Our saint also desired a celibate life and reported visions.  She finally took a vow of chastity at the age of 40 years; her husband was not enthusiastic about her decision.

Kempe, eccentric and devout, violated gender norms.  She sobbed frequently, reported visions of the Passion of Jesus, pondered Heaven nearly continuously, and made pilgrimages.  Our saint confessed her sins going back to childhood.  She also visited various places–Assisi, the Holy Land, Santiago de Compostela, Rome, et cetera.  Most ecclesiastical figures Kempe consulted thought she was out of her mind, but orthodox, at least.  Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich offered encouragement and support to our saint.

Kempe endured official opposition from elements of the Church.  She even received threats of violence sometimes.  Certain bishops questioned her orthodoxy; they accused her of being a Lollard, until clearing her of that alleged offense.  Lollards, who also criticized Kempe, did not mistake her for being one of their tribe.

Kempe died circa 1440.  She was about 67 years old.

Kempe, able neither to read nor write, dictated The Book of Margery Kempe, long at the Carthusian Mount Grace Priory, near Northallerton, Yorkshire.  Later, the book became the possession of the Butler-Bowden family.  Since the book’s rediscovery in 1934, many people have read translations of it.

I remember one particular commentary on the Song of Songs.  The exegete emphasized the presence of God in the details of human lives, especially those details we do not consider holy, but perhaps merely mundane.

We spend our lives in the presence of God, made manifest in ways both mundane and extraordinary.  Much of the time we are oblivious to the presence of God in our lives.

Margery Kempe nourished the awareness of the presence of God in her life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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Gracious God, we give you thanks for the life and work of Margery Kempe,

a mystic, who, passing through the cloud of unknowing, beheld your glory.

Help us, after her example, to see you more clearly and love you more dearly,

in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the

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

Job 26:1-14

Psalm 63:1-8

Romans 11:33-12:12

Matthew 5:43-48

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 611

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Feast of Gaspar Contarini (October 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Cardinal Contarini

Image in the Public Domain

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GASPAR CONTARINI (OCTOBER 16, 1483-AUGUST 24, 1542)

Italian Roman Catholic Cardinal and Agent of Reconciliation

Also known as Gasparo Contarini

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If we wish to put an end to the Lutheran errors and troubles, we need not muster orations, or subtle arguments:  let us rely on the probity of our lives and a humble spirit, desiring nothing but the good of Christ and our neighbors.

–Gaspar Contarini, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 450

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Cardinal Gaspar(o) Contarini comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg’s book.

Contarini, born in Venice on October 16, 1483, sought to be a reconciler during a time of extremes.  He, from nobility, studied philosophy at the University of Padua.  Our saint became a diplomat in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain), and served as Ambassador to the Papal States.  Prior to and during the Protestant Reformation Contarini opposed ecclesiastical corruption and advocated for reform.  In 1510, for example, our saint published his criticism of worldly bishops.  When the Protestant Reformation had started, Contarini reviewed Protestant teachings and found in them much both to praise and criticize.

Contarini was not afraid to speak truth to power.  In 1529, in person, he urged Pope Clement VII (in office November 19, 1523-September 25, 1534) to focus on ecclesiastical reconciliation, not on temporal power.  Clement VII, born Guilio de Medici, did not accept the counsel.  He, a hardliner, as well as a cousin of the late Pope Leo X (in office 1513-1521), was a Supreme Pontiff of his time, unfortunately.

The next Pope was Paul III (in office October 13, 1534-November 10, 1549), born Alessandro Farnese.  His sister was Guilia, mistress of Pope Alexander VI (in office 1492-1503), born Rodrigo Borgia.  Pope Paul III appointed Contarini, a layman, to the College of Cardinals and assigned him to lead a reform commission.  The commission’s report condemned abuses, including simony and the sale of indulgences.

Contarini’s final effort at ecclesiastical reconciliation was the Regensburg conference (1541), between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church.  He helped to develop agreement on many points, including justification by faith.  This attempt at finding common ground was so controversial on both sides that it failed.  Paul III replaced Contarini with Cardinal Carlo Carafa, a hardliner who established an inquisition instead.

Contarini died of a fever on August 24, 1542.  He was 58 years old.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

–Matthew 5:9, The New American Bible (2011)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Gaspar(o) Contarini,

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, one God, 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), 60

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Feast of Albrecht Durer, Matthias Grunewald, and Lucas Cranach the Elder (August 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Part of the Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grünewald

Image in the Public Domain

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ALBRECHT DÜRER (MAY 21, 1471-APRIL 6, 1528)

German Painter, Engraver, and Woodcut Illustrator

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MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD (CIRCA 1460-1528)

German Painter

Born Mathis Gothardt Nithardt

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LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER (OCTOBER 4, 1472-OCTOBER 16, 1553)

German Painter and Woodcut Illustrator

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RENAISSANCE ARTISTS

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Feast day in The Episcopal Church (since 2009) = August 5

Feast day in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (since 2006) = April 6

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INTRODUCTION

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A tendency evident in the calendars of saints, expanding in Anglican and Lutheran denominations during the last few decades, has been composite feasts commemorating several people who did similar work–composing music, resisting chattel slavery, advocating for the rights of women, et cetera.  Frequently these are composite feasts of people who were contemporaries of each other.  To some extent I follow the same practice here, at my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, but sometimes I break up composite feasts when adding those individuals to this calendar.  If I were to break up this composite feast, I would keep Dürer and Grünewald on the same feast (because the former taught the latter) and assign Cranach a feast day in October, as well as consider adding at least one son to Cranach’s feast.  As it is, the Episcopal-Lutheran composite feast works fine.

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ALBRECHT DÜRER

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Above:  Self-Portrait of Albrecht Dürer, 1500

Image in the Public Domain

Albrecht Dürer (the Younger) was the greatest German artist in his fields during his time.  He, born in Nuremberg, was a son of Albrecht Dürer the Elder (1427-1502), who was a goldsmith, and Barbara Holper.  Our saint studied first under his father.  Then, from 1486 to 1490, he studied (at Nuremberg) under Michael Wolgemut, a painter and woodcut illustrator.

Dürer spent much of his life traveling in Europe.  In the 1490s he went to Alsace, where he arrived shortly after the death of Martin Schongauer, the most prominent German graphic artist at the time.  So our saint studied Schogauer’s works.  Dürer also traveled to Basel that year; there he taught Matthias Grünewald.

Dürer, who married Agnes Frey (d. December 28, 1539) on July 7, 1494, was a Roman Catholic who harbored Lutheran sympathies toward the end of his life.  He created many sacred works, including altarpiece, for both Catholic and Lutheran churches.  His famous Praying Hands was part of a plan for a portion of an altarpiece (subsequently destroyed in wartime), completed in 1509.  Dürer also created scientific drawings and engravings, and wrote theoretical treatises on topics such as fortification and proportions.

Above:  Praying Hands

Image in the Public Domain

Dürer, from 1512 to 1519 an employee of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, reunited briefly with Grünewald at Aachen, for the coronation of Charles V, in 1521.  The two masters, who had different styles, exchanged art.

Dürer died at Nuremberg on April 6, 1528.  He was 46 years old.

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MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD

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The real name of this artist was Mathis Gothardt NithardtMatthias Grünewald was the name by which Joachim von Sandrart referred to him in Teutschen Academie (1675).

Few details of the life of Nithardt/Grünewald have survived.  He, born in Warzburg circa 1460, was in Strasburg in 1479.  He studied under Dürer in Basel in 1490, was back in Wurzberg in 1501, and worked as court painter to the Archbishop of Mainz from 1509 to 1526, until the Archbishop fired him.  Nithardt/Grünewald died in Halle in 1528.  The reasons for Nithardt/Grünewald’s termination have remained vague to historians, but many have proposed the artist’s Lutheran sympathies.  Nithardt/Grünewald had to be diplomatic regarding organized religion as the Protestant Reformation got underway.

Nithardt/Grünewald created much sacred art, most of which, unfortunately, has not survived to the present day.  He painted the crucifixion of Jesus frequently and created many altarpieces.  His masterpiece was the altarpiece for the church at the Monastery of St. Anthony, Isenheim.

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LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER

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Above:  Lucas Cranach the Elder (1550), by Lucas Cranach the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Lucas Cranach the Elder, unlike Dürer and Nithardt/Grünewald, converted to Lutheranism.  Our saint, born in Kronach, Franconia, on October 4, 1472, was a son of Hans Cranach, a painter.  Hans taught his son painting.  Lucas, in Vienna in 1503, arrived in Wittenberg (as the court painter to the Electors of Saxony) two years later.  Cranach, husband of Barbara Brengbier (d. 1540), created both Catholic and Protestant art, as well as depictions from pagan mythology.  He, a friend and confidante of Martin Luther, enjoyed the protection of Frederick the Wise, as did the Luther family.  Cranach also created woodcut illustrations for an edition of Luther’s German Bible.  He died at Wittenberg on October 16, 1553.  He was 81 years old.

Cranach’s most famous child was Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586), also a painter.

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CONCLUSION

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These three great artists channeled their faith into their art.  They used their God-given talents to glorify God.  Fortunately, one can still enjoy pieces they created.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the vision and skill of

Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, and Lucas Cranach the Elder,

whose artistic depictions helped the peoples of their age understand

the full suffering and glory of your incarnate Son;

and we pray that their work may strengthen our faith in

Jesus Christ and the mystery of the Holy Trinity;

for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 35:21-29

Psalm 96:7-13

Romans 8:1-11

John 19:31-37

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 507

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Feast of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus (July 6)   1 comment

Above:  Dawn with Mountain Landscape

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN WYCLIFFE (CIRCA 1320-DECEMBER 31, 1384)

English Theologian and Church Reformer

“Morning Star of the Reformation”

Also known as John Wiclif, John Wickliffe, and John Wyclif

Episcopal feast day = October 30

Church of England feast day = December 31

influenced

JAN HUS (1371-JULY 6, 1415)

Czech Theologian, Church Reformer, and Martyr

Also known as John Huss and John Hus

Moravian, Episcopal, and Lutheran feast day = July 6

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It is better to die well than to live wickedly.  One should not sin in order to avoid the punishment of death.  Truth conquers all things.

–Jan Hus, 1415, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 292

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INTRODUCTION

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One of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.  Therefore I, citing the latter, merge the Feasts of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus.

The Moravian Church, founded by Hussites, has long commemorated Hus, who has been a saint in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and their predecessors since the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).  The Episcopal Church added Hus and Wycliffe to its calendar in 2009.  Meanwhile, Wycliffe, with separate feast days in The Church of England and The Episcopal Church, has remained absent from all Lutheran calendars I have consulted.

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THE “MORNING STAR OF THE REFORMATION”

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Above:  John Wycliffe

Image in the Public Domain

The fourteenth century was a difficult time for much of Europe.  During five years in the late 1340s and early 1350s the Black Death killed no less than two-fifths (and probably more) of the population of Western Europe, upending civilization there and helping to give rise to the modern world.  The tumult of that time called authorities and institutions into question as, for example, many peasants revolted, many urban workers asserted their rights, and the Church restaffed with substandard personnel.  The devastating death toll called the legitimacy of the Church into doubt in the minds of many people, some of whom favored apocalyptic understandings of recent events.

Meanwhile, the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (1309-1377) at Avignon, France, a great scandal, was a self-inflicted wound for Holy Mother Church.  Another great scandal and self-inflicted wound, the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), ensued promptly.

John Wycliffe lived during those times.  He, born near Richmond, Yorkshire, England, circa 1320, was a priest.  Wycliffe was also an academic at Oxford University.  He matriculated at Baillol College in 1344, became master of that college by 1360, and resigned in 1361.  He held overlapping portfolios:

  1. Rector of Fillingham (1361-1368);
  2. Prebend of Aust, Bristol (1362-1384);
  3. Warden of Canterbury Hall, Oxford (1365-1367); and
  4. Rector of Lutterworth (1374-1384).

Meanwhile, Wycliffe was also a lecturer at Oxford until his forced retirement in 1381.

Wycliffe, a popular lecturer and preacher, became a radical.  He, interested in science, theology, local history, canon law, and philosophy, earned various degrees, culminating in his Doctor of Theology degree in 1372.  His move away from affirming the status quo began in 1374, at the start of the last decade of his life.  (Not everyone grows more conservative with age.)  Wycliffe served as a royal envoy to a conference with papal representative at Bruges.  The topic was provisions, or papal appointments to posts not yet vacant.

By 1376 Wycliffe became a committed reformer of the Church.  He criticized papal taxation, fees, and appointments, perhaps more out of political considerations than theological ones.  Our saint, who affirmed the Divine Right of Kings, became convinced that in terms of both doctrine and life the Church had strayed from its apostolic roots.  He argued that the clergy should not hold secular power, so no Pope should exercise power over the English Church.  Furthermore, Wycliffe wrote, Christ is the sole Head of the Universal Church, the Bible is the Law of God, and the true Church consists solely of the predestined Elect.  Wycliffe also affirmed the priesthood of all believers, questioned the theology of purgatory and transubstantiation, opposed the veneration of relics and statues, inveighed against the invocation of saints, criticized the celibacy of the clergy, and insisted that the state (with the monarch as the head of the state church) had an obligation to seize church lands for the benefit of the poor.  Certainly the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), a time of competing Supreme Pontiffs, influenced and reinforced Wycliffe’s criticism of the Papacy.

Wycliffe alarmed Popes, bishops, and leaders of religious orders, but had protectors in the royal family and among the nobility.  Nevertheless, after he became a scapegoat for a peasant revolt and Oxford authorities declared him a heretic in 1381, forced retirement became his fate.

Wycliffe was fortunate; he got to live and to retain his church positions.  He died three days after a stroke at Lutterworth on December 31, 1384.  Wycliffe was about 64 years old.

Wycliffe’s legacy continued, however.  The translation of the Bible into English was a project in which he was deeply involved, with help from others.  Wycliffe’s theology influenced Jan Hus, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.  The man had died, but his ideas lived.

Nevertheless, the Council of Constance condemned Wycliffe as a heretic posthumously in 1415.  Thirteen years later Richard Fleming, the Bishop of Lincoln, ordered the exhumation and burning of the old priest’s remains.

Some of Wycliffe’s followers were more radical than he was.  The Lollard movement began in 1380 and continued into the 1500s, influencing the English Reformation.  “Lollard” came from the Middle Dutch word for “mumbler” or “mutterer.”  The term, already applied to Flemish heretics prior to Wycliffe’s time, stuck to his followers by 1382.  It was a persecuted minority movement, some of whose members dared to plot to overthrow the government and disendow the English Church in 1431.

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THE CZECH REFORMER

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Above:  Jan Hus

Image in the Public Domain

Lord Jesus Christ, it is for the sake of the gospel and the preaching of the word that I undergo, with patience and humility, this terrifying, ignominious, cruel death.

–Jan Hus, July 6, 1415; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 291

Jan Hus, born in Husinec, Bohemia, in 1371, was 17 years old when Wycliffe died.  Hus, influenced by Wycliffe’s writings, became a reformer in Bohemia and walked the road to martyrdom.

Hus, educated at the University of Prague (starting in 1390) was a Roman Catholic priest, as Wycliffe had been.  Hus, based in Prague, was, from 1392, chaplain of the Bethlehem Chapel, where he preached in the Czech language.  Our saint, the dean of the philosophical faculty of the University of Prague from 1401, served also as the Rector of the university in 1403 and 1409.  The following year, however, Archbishop Zbynek Zajic of Hasenberg excommunicated Hus.

Hus had been reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting writings of Wycliffe, as well as translating some of them into Czech.  Wycliffe’s ideas had already begun to influence politics in Bohemia, where the Church owned about half of the land, and many people, including a large number of priests, were poor.  Many peasants resented the Church, for obvious reasons.  Also, simony was rife.

Although Hus was radical in his setting, he was less radical than Wycliffe.  Hus, for example, affirmed transubstantiation consistently.  Yet, like Wycliffe, Hus condemned ecclesiastical abuses and defined the true Church as the assembly of the predestined Elect.

Hus managed to survive as long as he did because of protectors.  In 1410  King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia attained a bull from (Antipope) Alexander V (in office 1409-1410) ordering the burning of Wycliffe’s works, forbidding the preaching of their contents at Bethlehem Chapel, and allowing no appeal.  Archbishop Zajic burned those writings that year.  The following year (Antipope) John XXIII, one of three competing Popes, placed an interdict on Prague, but Wenceslaus IV ignored it and ordered others to do the same.  Meanwhile, (Antipope) John XXIII was waging a war against King Ladislaus of Naples and selling indulgences to finance that war.  After Hus, technically excommunicated yet living as though there were no excommunication order, condemned the sale of those indulgences and accused (Antipope) John XXIII of being the Antichrist.  Wenceslaus IV had been protecting Hus, but ceased to do that in 1412, after (Antipope) John XXIII threatened the Bohemian monarch with a crusade on the charge of protecting heretics and heresy.  So, from 1412 to 1414, Hus lived, wrote, and preached in southern Bohemia for two years.

Hus died as a heretic at Constance, Baden, on July 6, 1415.  He had traveled there under a promise of safe conduct, for the Council of Constance, in 1414, but found himself a prisoner instead.  Hus, after having refused to recant, burned at the stake as a heretic.  He was 43 or 44 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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Much of the history of ecclesiastical reactions (as opposed to responses) to heresies, alleged and actual, is an account of behavior contrary to the spirit of Christ.  What in the Gospels might give one the idea that Jesus would approve of burning accused heretics?

One might disagree with Wycliffe and Hus on certain political and/or theological points, but one should recognize and respect their courage in risking their lives by resisting authority nonviolently in the knowledge that the authorities they objected to had the power to torture and execute them.

The Church has silenced and killed prophets, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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O God, your justice continually challenges your Church to live according to its calling:

Grant us who now remember the work of John Wyclif

contrition for the wounds which our sins inflict on your Church,

and such love for Christ that we may seek to heal the divisions which afflict his Body;

through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 43:26-33

Psalm 33:4-11

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 4:13-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 659

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Faithful God, you gave John Hus the courage to confess your truth

and recall your Church to the image of Christ.

Enable us, inspired by his example, to bear witness against corruption

and never cease to pray for our enemies,

that we may prove faithful followers of our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Job 22:21-30

Psalm 119:113-120

Revelation 3:1-6

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 455

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Feast of Desiderius Erasmus, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More (June 22)   3 comments

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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DESIDERIUS ERASMUS ROTERDAMUS (OCTOBER 1466-JULY 12, 1536)

Dutch Roman Catholic Priest, Biblical and Classical Scholar, and Controversialist

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SAINT JOHN FISHER (1469-JUNE 22, 1535)

English Roman Catholic Classical Scholar, Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal, and Martyr

Alternative feast day = July 6 (The Church of England)

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SAINT THOMAS MORE (FEBRUARY 7, 1487-JULY 6, 1535)

English Roman Catholic Classical Scholar, Jurist, Theologian, Controversialist, and Martyr

Alternative feast day = December 1 (as one of the Martyrs of Oxford University)

Alternative feast day = July 6 (The Church of England)

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A TRIPLE BIOGRAPHY OF THREE GREAT MEN

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On the Roman Catholic calendar the feasts of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More fall on June 22.  They also share a feast day (July 6) in The Church of England.  To their commemoration at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I add their friend and colleague, Desiderius Erasmus.

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THE EARLY LIFE OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS

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Above:  Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam with Renaissance Pilaster, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Desiderius Erasmus, a great scholar and historically influential man, was a native of Rotterdam, The Netherlands.  He, born in 1466, was a son of a priest and the brother of Peter.  After Gerard, the father, died, guardians directed the educations of Desiderius and Peter.  After Peter became a monk at a monastery near Delft our saint joined the Augustinian order.  Erasmus, ordained to the priesthood on April 25, 1492, left the monastery in 1494 and pursued his scholarly work in the world.

Erasmus was a Christian Humanist in the style of the Northern Renaissance.  As such he objected to the dogmatic theology he encountered at the University of Paris.  In Paris our saint became a teacher and began writing.  Apparently Erasmus had a distinctive speaking style, for William Tyndale (1494-1536) described our saint as one

whose tongue maketh of little gnats great elephants, and laudeth up above the skies, whosoever giveth him a little exhibition.

Erasmus, whose English patrons included St. John Fisher and disciples included St. Thomas More (whom he met in 1497), visited England periodically, starting in 1499-1500.  Erasmus thought, despite the cumulative time he spent in England, that the weather and beer there were bad, and that More was the only genius in the realm.

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THE EARLY LIFE OF SAINT THOMAS MORE

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Above:  Sir Thomas More, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

St. Thomas More was a jurist and a classical scholar.  He, born in London on February 7, 1487, was a son of Sir John More, a judge.  Our saint, educated at St. Anthony’s School, Threadneedle Street, London, then in the household of Archbishop of Canterbury John Morton, continued his studies at Oxford University before studying law at New Inn (1494-1496) then Lincoln’s Inn (1496f).  More was a reader at Furnival’s Inn then butler at Lincoln’s Inn (as his father had been) in 1507.  Our saint was also reader at Lincoln’s Inn in 1511 and 1515.

Meanwhile More was studying theology and Latin and Greek literature.  He met Erasmus, his longtime friend, in 1497.  More also translated classical works into English and composed English poetry.

More was a devout man.  For about four years he had lived at the London Charterhouse.  Although he never took monastic vows, he learned certain lifelong austere habits.  More did make wedding vows, however.  In 1505 he married Jane Colt (d. 1511).  The couple had four children.  His second wife was Alice Middleton, a widow.  Her daughter became part of the blended family.  More was a pioneer in the education of women in England, for his daughters were well-educated people.

More was a longtime Member of Parliament and a negotiator.  He, the Undersheriff of London (1510-1518), was also an officer in various companies.  In various capacities he settled disputes in England and France through 1529.

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THE EARLY LIFE OF SAINT JOHN FISHER

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Above:  John Fisher, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Fisher was a scholar and a priest.  He, born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, in 1469, graduated from Cambridge University in 1487 and 1491.  He, ordained a priest in 1491, served as a parish priest in Northallerton from 1491 to 1494.  Fisher, a tutor to the young Henry VIII (born in 1491; reigned from 1509 to 1547), was, from 1497, the confessor to Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), mother of King Henry VII (reigned 1485-1509).  At Fisher’s urging she founded readerships in divinity at Oxford and Cambridge (1503) then at Christ’s College, Cambridge (1505).  Fisher, the Vice-Chancellor (1501-1504) then Chancellor (1504-1534) of Cambridge University and Bishop of Rochester (1504-1534), for all intents and purposes founded St. John’s College, Cambridge, for which he hired Erasmus as Lecturer in Greek in 1511.  As a bishop Fisher was also devoted to his diocese–unusually so, by the standards of the period.

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ERASMUS THE BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Erasmus was a classical scholar and a man of letters. His volumes (1516-1536) on various Church Fathers were masterpieces of scholarship.  Or saint spent much time on St. Jerome (347-419) and his works in particular.  In 1504 Erasmus commenced his work on the Greek New Testament.  The influential volume, published in 1516, was epoch-making.  Our saint, who prioritized Patristic sources and the best Greek texts available to him, was more reliable than St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.  Erasmus dedicated the work to Pope Leo X.  The Holy Father accepted the dedication, but some powerful factions in the Church opposed the scholarly work.  Martin Luther, however, admired it.

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SAINT THOMAS MORE, 1514-1532

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St. Thomas More, a devout man and a gentle father, was also an influential writer, a statesman, and a controversialist.  The author of Utopia (1515-1516) produced many other works, including The History of Richard III (1514), which influenced William Shakespeare’s treatment of the monarch.  More held a series of positions in the 1520s.  He was, for example, the Speaker of the House of Commons and a Justice of the Peace from 1523.  The following year he became a High Steward of Oxford University.  In 1525 he became a High Steward of Cambridge University and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.  Then, from 1529 to 1532, he served as the Lord Chancellor.

The position of Lord Chancellor, although of high rank, was still one of a royal servant.  The position increased More’s wealth.  He gave more to charity.  The duties of the job also required More to present the royal position to the House of Lords, even when this left him with an uneasy conscience, as in the “King’s great matter” involving Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.  Our saint, citing health concerns, resigned in 1532.

More was a devout Roman Catholic who considered Protestantism heretical.  In 1525 and 1526 he wrote German Lutheran theologian Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558) in defense of papal authority.  More abhorred both Protestantism and violence.  As much as More argued with and prayed for the conversion of his Lutheran son-in-law, William Roper, Roper recalled never seeing his father-in-law “in a fume.”

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SAINT JOHN FISHER, 1511-1533

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St. John Fisher, a devout Roman Catholic, honored God in various ways.  A devout and simple life was a moral imperative, he preached, to the consternation of some powerful men.  Fisher also honored God with his intellect.  The great man, who undertook the study of Greek at the age of 50 years, encouraged the study of Hebrew at Cambridge University.  Like More, Fisher considered Protestantism heretical, and argued vigorously against it and for Roman Catholicism.

Fisher also opposed the interference of the state in ecclesiastical affairs.  He, a consistent defender of Queen Catherine of Aragon, starting in 1527, opposed the annulment of that marriage as well as the granting to Henry VIII the title of Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England.

Fisher’s conscience was about to lead him to his martyrdom.

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THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINTS JOHN FISHER AND THOMAS MORE

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More and Fisher opposed the Act of Supremacy (1534).  Thus, on April 13, 1534, when summoned, both men refused to swear an oath accepting the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, recognizing the succession of their issue, and repudiating papal authority.  Their refusal was officially treasonous.  From April 17, 1534, to the end of their lives they were prisoners in the Tower of London.  The circumstances of their incarceration were inhumane.

Pope Paul III created Fisher a Cardinal on May 20, 1535.  The infuriated Henry VIII, referring to a Cardinal’s red hat, said,

Mother of God!  He shall wear it on his shoulders, for I will leave him never ahead to set it on.

Fisher, tried and sentenced to death on June 17, 1535, died via beheading at Tower Hill, London, five days later.

More wrote in prison.  He began and completed A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulacyon (1534), in which he also argued against the idea that any head of state can dictate religious belief.  More also began a treatise on the Passion of Jesus, but his jailers did not permit him to famish it.  Our saint, tried on July 1, 1535, died via beheading at Tower Hill five days later.

The Roman Catholic Church has recognized these saints.  Pope Leo XIII beatified them in 1886.  Pope Pius XI canonized them in 1935.

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ERASMUS AND THE CHURCH

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Erasmus was a devout Roman Catholic from his cradle to his grave.  Nevertheless, he had both admirers and detractors in Protestant and Roman Catholic circles.  Furthermore, Erasmus was openly critical of some aspects of an powerful people in Holy Mother Church.  For example, he wrote anonymously then denied having written Julius Exclusus (1514), a satire about the late Pope Julius II (in office 1503-1513) attempting to gain entry into Heaven.  Julius II deserved strong criticism, for he was, in the words of scholar J. N. D. Kelly,

a forceful ruler, ruthless and violent.

The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), page 255

Erasmus criticized certain Popes, but not the Papacy.  He condemned abuses in the Church, but not the Church itself.  He avoided committing schism, although some especially defensive Catholics accused him of being worse than Martin Luther, who did commit schism, albeit only after the Church forced the matter.  In fact, Luther and Erasmus, who never met, carried on a literary debate.  Furthermore, Erasmus was critical of more than one Protestant Reformer.

Erasmus, more at home at Basel, Switzerland, than anywhere else, lived there in 1514-1517, 1521-1529, and 1536.  At the end of his life Erasmus really became a Cardinal, but he died at Basel on July 12, 1536, instead.  His heir, Boniface Amerbach, wrote of the great man’s passing:

As was his life, so was the death of this most upright of men.  Most holy was his living, most holy was his dying.

The last words of Erasmus, in Dutch, were:

Dear God.

After his death the Church added his writings to the Index of Forbidden Books.

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CONCLUSION

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These three saints of God were scholars, friends, and colleagues.  They left the world better than they found it and entrusted it with their intellects and piety.  Two of these men died rather than betray their consciences and, they believed, God.  Erasmus also remained faithful to God, as he understood God.  All of these men did this nonviolently.

As I have prepared this post, I have arrived at another conclusion:  I like Erasmus most of all.  The punchiness of his personality has appealed to part of my personality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of Desiderius Erasmus, Saint John Fisher, and Saint Thomas More,

and all others who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

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

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Feast of St. Joan of Arc (May 30)   1 comment

Above:  St. Joan of Arc

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOAN OF ARC (JANUARY 6, 1412-MAY 30, 1431)

Roman Catholic Mystic, Visionary, and Martyr

Also known as Saint Jeanne d’Arc

The Roman Catholic Church lists St. Joan of Arc as a virgin, not a martyr.  That is because Holy Mother Church martyred her.  The Episcopal Church, which added her feast in 2009, lists her as a mystic and a soldier.  The Church of England lists St. Joan as a visionary.

St. Joan was pious throughout her brief life.  She, born in Greux-Domremy, Lorraine, France, was an illiterate child of Jacques d’Arc, a peasant farmer.  At the age of 13 years, in the summer of 1425, she reported receiving her first vision, a voice accompanied by a blaze of light.  Over the next few years Sts. Margaret of Antioch, Catherine of Alexandria, Michael the Archangel, and other holy figures seem to have appeared and spoken to St. Joan.

Above:  France in 1422

Image scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

By May 1428 St. Joan had become convinced that God wanted her to help king and country, then suffering during the Hundred Years’ War (1437-1453).  Since 1422 the claimant to the French throne had been Charles (VII).  Our saint, after much persistence, finally reached the Dauphin at Chinon in March 1429.  She proved to be a capable military commander until May 1430, when Burgundians captured her at Compiègne.  In the meantime, St. Joan ad made the coronation of the Dauphin as King Charles VII possible. The ungrateful and probably embarrassed Charles VII did not help our saint after she became a prisoner of the English.  The verdict of the trial on the charges of being a witch and a heretic was a fait accompli as long as St. Joan refused to enter a false plea.  Our saint, convicted, burned alive at the stake at Rouen on May 30, 1431.

The Church cleared her name in 1456, beatified her in 1905, and canonized her in 1920.

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

An illiterate peasant girl, a shepherd, a “nobody,” she heeded a religious call to save her country when all the “somebodies” of her time proved unable or unwilling to meet the challenge.  She stood up before princes of the church and state and the most learned authorities of her world and refused to compromise her conscience or deny her special vocation.  She paid the ultimate price for her stand.  And in doing so she won a prize far more valuable than the gratitude of the Dauphin or the keys of Orleans.

–Page 238

Organized religion has long had a difficult relationship with mysticism, which bypasses official channels, much to the consternation of people invested in those channels.  This was one of the points of controversy relative to St. Joan of Arc.  Another was gender; she dressed like a man.  Both of these points obsessed her dubious inquisitors, who acted in the name of God and the Church yet glorified only themselves, and only in the short term.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness:

we honor you for the calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young,

rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country,

and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat;

and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness

to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike,

and, encouraged by the companionship of your saints,

give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time;

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

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

Judith 8:32-9:11

Psalm 144:1-12

2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Matthew 12:25-30

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 395

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