Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1400s’ Category

Feast of Desiderius Erasmus, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More (June 22)   Leave a comment

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)   Leave a 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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Feast of Blesseds John Forest and Thomas Abel (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED JOHN FOREST (1471-MAY 22, 1538)

English Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

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

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BLESSED THOMAS ABEL (CIRCA 1497-JULY 30, 1540)

English Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

His feast transferred from July 30

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These two saints died because they refused to recognize the supremacy of the Crown over the English Church.

Blessed John Forest, born in Oxford, England, in 1471, was a member of the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance, or the Observants.  He joined that Franciscan order at Greenwich when he was 20 years old.  Forest went on to study theology at Oxford University then to become the confessor of Queen Catherine of Aragon.  In 1525 our saint began to serve as the Observant Provincial in England.  Six years later King Henry VIII suppressed the order.  In 1532-1534 Forest preached against Henry VIII and the government.  This activity led to government surveillance then to his arrest in 1534.  Incarceration in Newgate Prison followed.  In prison Forest corresponded with Catherine of Aragon and Blessed Thomas Abel, a prisoner in the Tower of London.

Abel, born in England circa 1497, also became a chaplain to Queen Catherine of Aragon.  First, however, he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree at Oxford University and served as a priest.  In 1532 he publicly opposed the annulment of the marriage between King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon.  This led to a brief period of incarceration in the Tower of London.  Abel’s alleged involvement in the Holy Maid of Kent Affair led to a second period of imprisonment, starting the following year.  Sister Elizabeth Barton, a Benedictine nun at Kent, apparently taught in favor of the Mass in particular and the Roman Catholic Church in general whenever she saw an image of St. Mary of Nazareth.  That was sufficient to lead to Barton’s execution in 1534.  Abel got off relatively lightly; he spent 1533-1539 in the Tower of London.  The warden released him in 1539.  Our saint’s freedom was brief, however.  Authorities rearrested him and turned the warden into an inmate.

Forest, sentenced to death for refusing to recognize the supremacy of King Henry VIII over the English Church on April 8, 1538, died by hanging and burning at Smithfield on July 22 of that year.  He was 66 or 67 years old.

Abel, guilty of the same offense, died by handing, drawing, and quartering at Smithfield on July 30, 1540.  He was about 43 years old.

Pope Leo XIII declared moth men Blessed on December 29, 1886.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TALLIS AND HIS STUDENT AND COLLEAGUE, WILLIAM BYRD, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND JOHN MERBECKE, ENGLISH COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DITLEF GEORGSON RISTAD, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, LITURGIST, AND EDUCATOR

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Almighty God, who gave your servants Blesseds John Forest and Thomas Abel

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of their world,

and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the faith that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

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

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 121

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 713

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Feast of Blesseds Columba of Rieti and Osanna Andreasi (May 20)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Italian Renaissance

Image scanned from Rand McNally World Atlas (1968)

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BLESSED COLUMBA OF RIETI (FEBRUARY 2, 1467-MAY 20, 1501)

Also known as Angelella Guardagnoli

friend of

BLESSED OSANNA ANDREASI (JANUARY 17, 1449-1505)

Also known as Blessed Hosanna Andreasi, Blessed Hosanna of Mantua, and Blessed Osanna of Mantua

Her feast transferred from June 18

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DOMINICAN MYSTICS

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The lives of Blesseds Columba of Rieti and Osanna Andreasi overlapped as they encouraged each other in the religious life.

Blessed Columba of Rieti, born Angelella (“little angel”) Guardagnoli at Rieti, Umbria, on February 2, 1467, learned holiness at a young age.  At her baptism a dove flew down to a font, hence her nickname, Columba, or “dove.”  Our saint grew up in an impoverished and pious family in which the parents gave sacrificially to help those worse off than they were.  Young Angelella and her mother spun cloth and sewed.  They repaired the local Dominican nuns’ clothing.

Angelella, educated by those nuns, became one.  She joined the order at the age of 19 years.  She did this after reporting a vision of Christ surrounded by saints, which prompted her to take a vow of chastity, devote much time to prayer, and reject an arranged marriage.  The nun earned her reputation for holiness and wisdom; many sought her out as a spiritual counselor and a miracle worker.  Our saint, answering God’s call, left Rieti with no destination in mind.  Her Abrahamic journey ended in Perugia, Umbria, where she founded a Dominican tertiary community on January 1, 1490.  Blessed Columba was a spiritual counselor there, of course.  During an epidemic she also went beyond praying for the victims; she risked becoming one by working among the afflicted.  She became ill yet recovered, reportedly via the intercession of St. Catherine of Siena, to whom she had a devotion.  Although Blessed Columba had many admirers, the notorious Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) was not one of them.  Borgia persecuted our saint for allegedly practicing magic.

One of Blessed Columba’s friends was Blessed Osanna Andreasi, born in Mantua on January 17, 1449.  Blessed Osanna, unlike her friend, came from Italian nobility.  When just five years old she reportedly received a vision of the Holy Trinity, paradise, and angels.  Her course set, Blessed Osanna pursued the religious life.  She rejected an arranged marriage and became a Dominican tertiary at the age of 17 years.  She completed her vows 37 years later, after caring for her siblings after parents Nicolaus and Agnes died.  Our saint, who used her family’s fortune to care for poor people, served as a spiritual counselor to many people.  She also received the stigmata, but without pain, and reported receiving a vision of Christ bearing his cross.  Furthermore, Blessed Osanna condemned the decadence and immorality of elites in her society.

Blessed Osanna was present at the death (by natural causes) of Blessed Columba of Rieti at Perugia on May 20, 1501.  Blessed Osanna reported seeing the soul of her 34-year-old friend rise to Heaven.

Blessed Osanna died of natural causes in 1505.  She was about 51 years old.

Pope Urban VIII canonized Blessed Columba in 1625.

Blessed Osanna, beatified by Pope Innocent XII in 1694, became the patron saint of school girls.

Blesseds Columba and Osanna reflected the light of God to others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CASPAR MATTES, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

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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 servants Blessed Columba of Rieti and Osanna Andreasi,

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,

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

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 34

Philippians 3:7-15

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

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 722

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This is post #1400 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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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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Feast of Johannes Bugenhagen (April 20)   2 comments

Above:  Johannes Bugenhagen

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN (JUNE 24, 1485-APRIL 20, 1558)

German Lutheran Theologian, Minister, Liturgist, and “Pastor of the Reformation”

Also known as Johannes Pomeranus

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If you know Christ well, it is enough, though you know nothing else; if you know not Christ, what else you learn does not matter.

–Motto of Johannes Bugenhagen

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Johannes Bugenhagen, whose Latinized surname was Pomeranus, was a foundational figure for the Lutheran Church.

His feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days from the calendar of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Bugenhagen, born at Wollin, Pomerania (now Wolin, Poland) on June 24, 1485, converted from Roman Catholicism.  He, educated at the University of Greifswald from 1502 to 1504, joined the Premonstratensian Canons, also known as the Norbertines and the White Canons.  Our saint, rector of the school at Treptow, Pomerania (now Trzebiatow, Poland), from 1504, became a priest in 1509 then began to serve as vicar of the church.  In 1520 Bugenhagen converted under the direct influence of Martin Luther.  Our saint arrived in Wittenberg the following year and lectured on the Psalms.  The following year he married Walpurga (original surname unknown).  The couple had three children–Johannes the Younger, Martha, and Sara.  That year Bugenhagen, through Luther’s influence, became the pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg, a post he held for the rest of his life.  In 1523 our saint became Luther’s confessor.  Two years later Bugenhagen acquired another portfolio–professor of theology.  Our saint and Luther also collaborated on the Low German translation of the Bible.

Bugenhagen was a liturgist and organizer of the Lutheran Church.  He and Luther prepared the simplified German Mass (1526), intended for the benefit of uneducated lay people, not to replace the Latin order permanently.  Our saint was crucial in the organization of Lutheranism in Denmark, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lubeck, and Pomerania.  Early Lutheranism had a variety of liturgical forms; Bugenhagen’s influential Brunswick Order (1528), more informal than the Brandenburg-Nuremburg type of service, provided for Matins, Vespers, and a Sunday Mass.  The Brunswick Order was still relatively conservative; it approved of traditional vestments (not deeming them mandatory, though), required the retention of traditional elements of the old Latin Mass, and forbade unnecessary novelties.  Bugenhagen, a superintendent (functionally a bishop) since 1533, accepted the invitation of King Christian III (reigned 1534-1559) in 1537 to reorganize the Danish church along Lutheran lines.  Our saint did so, consecrating seven superintendents, establishing the liturgy, and crowning the King and the Queen.

Bugenhagen, who preached Luther’s funeral (1546) then took care of the reformer’s wife and children, wrote Biblical commentaries, became a figure of controversy within Lutheranism during his final years.  In 1548 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V issued the Augsburg Interim, which would have reimposed Roman Catholicism on the Lutherans of Saxony.  Bugenhagen and Philipp Melancthon made a counter-offer.  They proposed the Leipzig Interim, according to which, the affected Lutherans would maintain their core beliefs while following many Medieval Roman Catholic practices.  Charles V approved.  Gnesio-Lutherans (literally, Genuine Lutherans), for whom any compromise was excessive, objected strenuously.

Bugenhagen died at Wittenberg on April 20, 1558.  He was 72 years old.

His liturgies have been influential for centuries.  They have, however, proven to be less influential in North America since the introduction of the Common Service in 1888.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSECKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Johannes Bugenhagen,

through whom you have called the church to its task 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), page 60

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