Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1300s’ Category

Feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh (September 25)   2 comments

Above:  Icon of St. Sergius of Radonezh 

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SERGIUS OF RADONEZH (CIRCA 1314-SEPTEMBER 25, 1392)

Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Sergiyev Posad, Russia

Born Varfolomei Kirillovich

St. Sergius of Radonezh was, by reputation, the greatest of the Russian saints.  He, revered during his lifetime, retained his illustrious name after he died.  Our saint was, however, an unassuming man.

The times during which St. Sergius of Radonezh lived shaped him, and he shaped them.  The Mongol Empire, at its height in the 1200s, spanned the distance from Ukraine to China.  The Mongol conquest of Russia (1237-1240) began a period of Mongol (Tatar) dominance under what, in Russia, was the Khanate of the Golden Horde, which fell in 1480.  The Tatars were, over all, fairly hands-off overlords.  They collected taxes and drafted soldiers, mainly.  The Tatars officially respected cultural institutions, such as the Russian Orthodox Church.  Nevertheless, the life of the Church suffered under Tatar domination, for Tatars played competing princes off against each other.  It was a time of civil wars and related economic upheavals.

Varfolomei Kirillovich, born into nobility in Rostov, near Moscow, circa 1314, came from a family impoverished by these circumstances.  He and his brother, Stephen, raised in the village of Radonezh, also near Moscow, moved into the nearby forest when our saint was 20 years old, after the brothers’ parents had died.  The brothers lived as holy hermits.  Yet, as was the case with many of other holy hermits in Christian history, a community grew up around them.  In 1337 Varfolomei took monastic orders, became a priest, assumed his duties as the first abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, and became Sergius.  The town of Sergiyev Posad (later renamed Sergiyev then Zagorsk then back to Sergiyev Posad) developed around the monastery, the center of the revival of Russian Orthodox monastic life.  Our saint, the founder of 40 monasteries, was a hard-working abbot until he died, except for a time when, in humility, he retired because Stephen opposed his monastic reforms.

St. Sergius was so respected that St. Alexius (in office 1354-1378), the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, with residence in Moscow, asked our saint to succeed him.  St. Sergius was so entrenched in his ascetic lifestyle, however, that he declined the offer.

Dimitri Donskoi, the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1359 to 1389, sought and received help from St. Sergius before fighting Tatar forces in 1380.  Dimitri consulted the abbot, who blessed him and sent a message to the Muscovite soldiers.  The result of the Battle of Kulikovo, fought on the Kulikovo Plain, at the confluence of the Don and Nepravda Rivers, on September 8, 1380, was a great and historic victory for the Muscovite army.  The Tatars remained a threat, but Dimitri, elevated to the status of the Russian national leader among the competing princes, had proven that the Tatars were not invincible.

St. Sergius died at his monastery on September 25, 1392.  The Russian Orthodox Church canonized him in 1452.

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN STAINER AND WALTER GALPIN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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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 servant Sergius of Moscow,

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, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 4:1-9

Psalm 87

1 John 2:15-17

Luke 8:16-21

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 601

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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 St. Elizabeth of Portugal (July 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY (1271-JULY 4, 1336)

Peacemaker and Queen

Also known as Saint Elizabeth of Aragon

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Do not forget that when sovereigns are at war they can no longer busy themselves with their administration; justice is not distributed; no care is take of the people; and this alone is your sovereign charge, this is the main point of your duty as kings.

–Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Compay, 1997), 293

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St. Elizabeth of Portugal, born into the royal family of Aragon, had a fine pedigree.  Her great-aunt was St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231).  Our saint’s grandfather was Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (reigned 1220-1250), also the King of Sicily (1198-1250), the King of Germany (1212-1250), and the King of Jerusalem (1229-1250).  St. Elizabeth’s parents were Constantia (Constance) of Sicily and Pedro (Peter) III “the Great” of Aragon (reigned 1276-1285).

Our saint, raised a pious Roman Catholic, led a holy life.  In 1282 she entered into an arranged marriage to King Diniz (Denis) of Portugal (reigned 1279-1325), a man known for interest in and patronage of the arts, for hard work, and for immorality.  Diniz cheated on and abused St. Elizabeth, fathering children out-of-wedlock.  She and Diniz had two children–Constantia and the future King Alfonso IV “the Brave” (reigned 1325-1357).  Diniz’s favorite child, though, was Alfonso Sanches, not in line to succeed to the throne.  For many years St. Elizabeth prayed for Diniz’s conversion.  He reformed his life toward the end of it.  St. Elizabeth also founded convents, orphanages, monasteries, hospitals, and halfway houses for former prostitutes.

During her lifetime St. Elizabeth had a reputation as a peacemaker.  In 1323 she rushed to the battlefield, where she ended the civil war between King Diniz and his heir, the future Alfonso IV.  After Diniz died in 1325, our saint became a Franciscan tertiary and retired to the Poor Clares convent (which she had founded) at Coimbra.  At the end of St. Elizabeth’s life she went to another battlefield–this time at Estremoz, Portugal–to reconcile her son, Alfonso IV, and his son-in-law, King Alfonso IX of Castille (reigned 1313-1350).  The two were locked in combat in 1336, for Alfonso IX, husband of Alfonso IV’s daughter, Maria, had cheated on her and imprisoned her in a castle.  At Estremoz St. Elizabeth made peace once more.  There she died of a fever on July 4, 1336.

Pope Urban VIII canonized her in 1625.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR

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God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ, who is our peace:

Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity.

Grant us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided,

that forgiven and forgiving, we may be one in Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.

Genesis 8:12-17, 20-22

Psalm 51:1-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Luke 23:32-43

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 737

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Feast of St. Ivo of Kermartin (May 19)   Leave a comment

Above:  Triptych of St. Ivo of Kermartin

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN (OCTOBER 17, 1253-MAY 19, 1303)

Roman Catholic Attorney, Priest, and Advocate for the Poor

Also known as Saint Ives, Yves, and Yvo of Kermartin

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Saint Ivo was a Breton and a lawyer,

But not dishonest–

An astonishing thing in people’s eyes.

–A description of St. Ivo from the 1300s

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St. Ivo of Kermartin was an honest, decent, and devout man.  He, born in Kermartin (near Treguier, Brittany) on October 17, 1253, came from nobility.  He, educated in civil law, canon law, theology, and philosophy, studied law in Paris and Orleans.  St. Ivo practiced law in both civil and ecclesiastical courts, doing much of his work pro bono, for many of his clients were poor.  He was also a Franciscan tertiary and an ascetic, as well as a priest from 1284.  Our saint, who ministered to prisoners awaiting trial, was an incorruptible diocesan judge who broke with common practice by refusing to accept bribes.  In 1287 St. Ivo resigned his legal position to focus on his priestly duties at Tredez and Lovannec, Brittany.

St. Ivo earned his reputation for being kind to the poor.  Aside from doing what I have described in the previous paragraph, he also financed the construction of a hospital, ministered to the sick in it, and donated harvests from his land to feed the impoverished.  He was also allegedly a miracle worker, for he supposedly fed hundreds of people with one loaf of bread.

St. Ivo died of natural causes on May 19, 1303 (the Eve of the Feast of the Ascension of Christ), after delivering a sermon at Lovannec.  He was 49 years old.  Pope Clement VI canonized him in 1347.

St. Ivo is the patron saint of orphans, notaries, attorneys, judges, canon lawyers, bailiffs, Brittany, and abandoned people.

…”Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

–Matthew 25:40, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

St. Ivo of Kermartin internalized that lesson and acted on it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HUGH O’FLAHERTY, “SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF THE VATICAN”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLUS THE CENTURION, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL SHINJI SASAKI, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF TOKYO; AND PHILIP LENDEL TSEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF HONAN

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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 trouble,

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), page 60

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Feast of St. John Nepomucene (May 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of St. John Nepomucene, Prague, Between 1860 and 1890

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-109000

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SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE (CIRCA 1340-MARCH 20, 1393)

Bohemian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

Also known as Saint John of Nepomuk and Saint John of Pomuk

Alternative feast day = March 20

St. John Nepomucene, who exercised the responsibilities of his ministry during the Great Schism of the Papacy, had to contend with the brutal and frequently intoxicated Wenceslaus IV (King of Bohemia, 1363-1419; Holy Roman Emperor, 1378-1400).  Our saint, son of Wolflin, a burger of Nepomuk/Pomuk, a town in the district of Pilsen, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), pursued a religious vocation.  St. John studied theology and canon law at the University of Prague.  He took holy orders and became a notary public in the Archdiocese of Prague in 1373.  The following year our saint became the first secretary to John of Jenzenstein, the Archbishop of Prague.  From 1379 to 1390 St. John served at the parish of St. Gallus, Prague.  During that time our saint earned his doctorate in canon law from the University of Prague (1387) and became a cathedral canon.  In 1390 he became the Archdeacon of Sasz.  Later, after serving as the president of the ecclesiastical court, St. John became the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Prague.

Our saint’s tenure as the Vicar-General was brief, for he ran afoul of Wenceslaus IV.  Our saint, confessor to Queen Sophia of Bavaria, wife of the monarch, maintained the confidentiality of the confessional despite Wenceslaus IV’s wishes to the contrary.  Furthermore, Wenceslaus IV, wishing to create a new diocese and to appoint the bishop thereof, forbade the election of a new abbot of Kladrau after the abbot died.  In 1393 Abbot Rarek died.  St. John confirmed the election of Odelenus, the new abbot, without consulting the monarch.  This action angered Wenceslaus IV, who had plans to transform the abbey church into the cathedral of the planned new diocese.  He had certain ecclesiastical authorities, including St. John, arrested and tortured.  Our saint, in chains and with a block of wood in his mouth, died of drowning in the Moldau River on March 20, 1393.  He was about 53 years old.

In 1400 Wenceslaus IV lost his title of Holy Roman Empire on the grounds of drunkenness and incompetence.

The Church recognized St. John formally.  Pope Innocent XIII beatified our saint in 1721.  Pope Benedict XIII canonized him eight years later.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY CLAY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL C. ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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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 Saint John Nepomucene,

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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Posted October 24, 2017 by neatnik2009 in May 11-20, Saints of the 1300s

Tagged with ,

Feast of Blessed Gemma of Goriano Sicoli (May 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed Gemma of Goriano Sicoli

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI (CIRCA 1375-MAY 13, 1439)

Italian Roman Catholic Anchoress

In Goriano Sicoli, Italy, is the Church of Santa Gemma, the destination of a pilgrimage from San Sebastiano dei Marsi every May 11-13.  The church is a place in a story from World War II.  That story tells us that, when a soldier was preparing to store ammunition in the building, he changed his mind after a young woman (the apparition of Blessed Gemma) appeared to him and said,

Go away; this is my house.

Regardless of the truth or fiction of that story, Blessed Gemma, born circa 1375, in San Sebastiano dei Marsi, was devout.  She raised Roman Catholic, came from an impoverished family on a farm.  That family eventually sought improved financial circumstances in the village of Goriano Sicoli, in the Diocese of Sulmona.  When Blessed Gemma was young her parents died during an epidemic.  Subsequently relatives raised our saint, who worked as a shepherdess and spent much time in prayer in the fields.

Blessed Gemma, a beauty, understood that she had a vocation to the religious life.  She attracted the attention of Count Ruggero of Celano, who eventually abandoned his pursuit of her and financed the construction of her cell next to the Church of San Giovanni, Goriano Sicoli.  The arrangement was such that our saint could see the high altar.  She, an anchoress for the remaining 42 years of her life, provided spiritual counseling to all who sought it from her.  Blessed Gemma died, aged about 64 years, died of natural causes on May 13, 1439.

Devotion to the memory of Blessed Gemma (beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1890) grew over time.  The space beneath the high altar of the Church of Santa Gemma, built on the site of the former Church of San Giovanni, became her tomb in 1613.  A similar reburial occurred in 1818, on the occasion of the construction of the second Church of Santa Gemma.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY CLAY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL C. ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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O God, by whose grace your servant Blessed Gemma of Goriano Sicoli,

kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church:

Grant that we may also be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline,

and walk before you as children of light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you,

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

Acts 2:42-47a

Psalm 133 or 34:1-8 or 119:161-168

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 6:24-33

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 723

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Feast of Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich (May 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich and Her Cat

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED JULIAN OF NORWICH (LATE 1342-CIRCA 1417/1423)

Mystic and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Blessed Juliana of Norwich

Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran feast day = May 8

Roman Catholic feast day = May 13

We know little about Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich.  We do not even know her name.  Much of what we do know about her, however, comes from her book, Revelations of Divine Love (1393), based on twenty-year-old “showings” from God and available as a paperback book in 2017.

Blessed Julian(a) devoted much of her life to God as a recluse.  In May 1373 our saint, thirty and a half years old, was near death at her mother’s house.  A priest even administered the last rites.  Yet our saint recovered and, on May 8, received sixteen revelations–“showings,” which affected her deeply and which she pondered for two decades.  At some point she became a recluse at St. Julian’s Church, Conisford, Norwich, England; she was there by 1400.  Blessed Julian(a) lived with a cat (certainly a fine companion) in a suite at the church, part of the Benedictine Community at Carrow.  Two servants, Sarah and Alice, moved in the outside world on her behalf.  Meanwhile, people sought Blessed Julian(a) out for spiritual counsel.  Among these was the mystic Margery Kempe (d. 1440).  Our saint lived into her seventies–at least into 1416, when she became a beneficiary of a will.

Revelations of Divine Love reveals much about the character and theology of Blessed Julian(a), informally beatified in the Roman Catholic Church.  The book shows her humility, for, despite the evidence of her education and keen intellect in that text, she describes herself as

a simple and uneducated creature

in the second chapter.  The book also reveals Blessed Julian(s) focus on divine kindness and on the Passion of Jesus,

our courteous Lord.

The Holy Trinity is another major topic in the Revelations of Divine Love, as in Chapter 54:

We are to rejoice that God and the soul mutually indwell each other; there is nothing between God and our soul; it is, so to speak, all God; through the work of the Holy Spirit, faith is the foundation of all the soul’s virtues.

And because of his great and everlasting love for mankind, God makes no distinction in the love he has for the blessed soul of Christ and that which he has for the lowliest soul to be saved.  It is easy enough to believe and trust that the blessed soul of Christ is pre-eminent in the glorious Godhead, and indeed, if I understand our Lord aright, where his blessed soul there is too, in substance, are all the souls which will be saved by him.

How greatly should we rejoice that God indwells our soul!  Even more that our soul dwells in God!  Our created soul is to be God’s dwelling place:  and the soul’s dwelling place is to be God, who is uncreated.  It is a great thing to know in our heart that God, our Maker, indwells our soul.  Even greater is to know that our soul, our created soul, dwells in the substance of God.  Of that substance, God, are we what we are!

I could see no difference between God and our substance:  it was all God, so to speak.  Yet my mind understood that our substance was in God.  In other words, God is God, and our substance his creation.  For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father:  he makes us and preserves us in himself; the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enfolded; the great goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and we are enfolded by him too, and he by us.  We are enfolded alike in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.  And the Father is enfolded in us, the Son too, and the Holy Spirit as well:  all mightiness, all wisdom, all goodness–one God, one Lord.

The virtue that our faith springs from our basic nature and comes into our soul through the Holy Spirit.  Through this virtue all virtues come into our soul through the Holy Spirit.  Through this virtue all virtues come to us, and without it no one can be virtuous.  Our faith is nothing, else but a right understanding, and true belief, and sure trust, that with regard to our essential being we are in God, and God in us, though we do not see him.  This virtue, and all others which spring from it, through the ordering of God, works great things in us.  For Christ in his mercy works within us, and we graciously co-operate with him through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit.  This makes us Christ’s children, and Christian in our living.

Revelations of Divine Love, translated by Clifton Wolters (1966)

We know little about Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich, but that fact might not matter very much.  We can still read her book, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian

many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love:

Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things,

for in giving us yourself you give us all;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Isaiah 46:3-5

Psalm 27:5-11

Hebrews 10:19-24

John 4:23-26

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 363

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