Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1500s’ Category

Feast of St. Nicholas of Flue and Blessed Conrad Scheuber (March 21)   Leave a comment

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Above:  St. Nicholas of Flue

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLUE (MARCH 21, 1417-MARCH 21, 1487)

Swiss Hermit and Statesman

Also known as Brother Klaus and Saint Nicholas von Flue

His feast day = March 21

Alternative feast day = September 25

grandfather of 

BLESSED CONRAD SCHEUBER (1481-MARCH 5, 1559)

Swiss Hermit

His feast transferred from March 5

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My Lord and my God,

remove from me

whatever keeps me from you.

My Lord and my God,

confer upon me

whatever enables me to reach you.

My Lord and my God,

free me from self

and make me wholly yours.

–St. Nicholas of Flue

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The vocation to be a hermit is a legitimate one–one which many people do not have yet which certain ones do.  May no person whom God has chosen not to grant that calling ridicule or underestimate it in those whom God has called to become hermits.

St. Nicholas of Flue lived for 70 years to the day.  He, born on March 21, 1417, in Sachsen, Switzerland, came from a relatively wealthy peasant family.  He was a farmer and a councilor and a judge in the canon of Unterwalden.  He also rejected an opportunity to become the governor.  During a war against the secessionist canon of Zurich our saint commanded soldiers.  He also condemned wars of aggression and the slaughter of non-combatants as immoral.

At the age of 30 St. Nicholas married Dorothy Wiss.  The couple had 10 children in 20 years.  Shortly after the birth of his youngest child our saint discerned a vocation to become a hermit.  He reported a vision of a harnessed draft horse (representing his life as a farmer) eating a lily (representing his spiritual life).  With his family’s consent he became a hermit.  St. Nicholas spent most of his time as a hermit in the Ranft Valley.  Each day he assisted with the Mass and spent most of his time in prayer.  The hermit, renowned for his piety, attracted many spiritual students.  In 1481 he left his hermitage long enough to mediate a dispute that threatened to lead to a civil war.  Once our saint had ensured national unity, he resumed his routine as a hermit.  St. Nicholas died, surrounded by his family, in 1487.

Pope Innocent X beatified St. Nicholas in 1649.  Pope Pius XII canonized him in 1947.

St. Nicholas is the patron of Switzerland, councilmen, separated spouses, difficult marriages, Swiss Guards, large families, parents of large families, and magistrates.

One of the descendants of St. Nicholas was a grandson, Blessed Conrad Scheuber, born at Altfallen, Switzerland, in 1481.  He was a hermit first at the hermitage of St. Nicholas then at Wolfenschiessen.  He died at Bettelrutti, Switzerland, on March 5, 1559.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GASPAR DEL BUFALO, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA

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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 Saints Nicholas of Flue and Blessed Conrad Scheuber,

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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Feast of Antonio Valdivieso (February 26)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Map of the New World (1596), by Theodor de Bry

Image in the Public Domain

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ANTONIO VALDIVIESO (1495-FEBRUARY 26, 1550)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Leon and Martyr

Antonio Valdivieso, born at Burgos, Spain, in 1495, was a Spanish Dominican priest and a disciple of Bartolome de Las Casas (1474/1484-1566), who also defended the rights of indigenous people.  Valdevieso arrived in Nicarague in 1544.  He confronted the governor and other colonial officials who oppressed the native people.  Our saint went so far as to return to Spain and express his concerns to King Charles I/Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1516-1556) in person.  The monarch made our saint the Bishop of Leon and sent him back to Nicaragua in 1545.  Valdivieso suspected that this was effectively a death sentence.  He was correct.  Our saint continued to oppose the governor and his administration in person.  Valdivieso, based at the cathedral in Leon, made himself a thorn in the side of officialdom.  On Ash Wednesday (February 26),  1550, the governor and some henchmen killed our saint and two other Dominicans.  Valdivieso became the first bishop in the Americas to die for the rights of indigenous people.

He was one of many Roman Catholic clerics to lay down their lives for that just cause.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Ever-loving God, by your grace and power your holy martyr

Antonio Valdivieso triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death;

strengthen us with your grace that we may faithfully witness to Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-21

Psalm 3 or 116

Hebrews 11:32-40

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), pages 680-681

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Feast of Philipp Melanchthon (February 16)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

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PHILIPP MELANCHTHON (FEBRUARY 16, 1497-APRIL 19, 1560)

German Lutheran Theologian and Scribe of the Reformation

Philipp Melanchthon was a leader of the Protestant Reformation.  Our saint, born Philipp Schwarzerd at Bretton, Baden, on February 16, 1497, was a son of Georg Schwarzerd (an armorer) and Barbara Reuter (niece of classical and humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin).  Reuchlin supervised our saint’s classical and humanist education, transforming him into a classical and humanist scholar whom other classical and humanist scholars respected.  Reuchlin gave our saint the surname “Melanchthon,” Greek for “Schwarzerd.”  Melanchthon, who earned his B.A. degree at Heiderberg (1512), M.A. degree at Tubingern (1514), and B.D. degree at Wittenberg (1519), translated certain classical Greek works into German.

Melanchthon’s move to Wittengerg in 1518 was crucial.  In August of that year our saint arrived to teach Greek at the university there.  On August 29, 1518, he delivered an influential address, The Improvement of Studies, in which he proposed to renew society and education by bypassing certain secondary sources and returning to primary sources.  The scholarship of Melanchthon influenced the work of Martin Luther, whose ally he became the following year.  In 1520 Melanchthon married Katharine Krapp of Wittenberg.  The couple had four children:  Anna (1522), Philipp (1525), Georg (1527), and Magdalen (1533).  Melanchthon influenced education in Germany.  His educational theories led to the founding of Protestant public schools and the reorganization of universities in much of Germany.  Thus he became the “Preceptor of Germany.”

Melanchthon, the scribe of the Reformation, wrote Biblical commentaries and composed the Augsburg Confession (1530) and a defense of it.  Despite these facts, some Lutherans considered our saint to be insufficiently Lutheran.  Melanchthon was a Lutheran diplomat and spokesman in discussions with representatives of the Reformed and the Roman Catholic Churches.  For him justification by faith was essential; any point not contradicting it was nonessential.  Melanchthon was even willing, for the sake of Christian unity, to accept papal government yet not supremacy.

Our saint, anguished by ecclesiastical schisms, maintained his ecumenical dialogues until he died, aged 63 years, on April 19, 1560.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Philipp Melanchthon,

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) page 60

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Feast of St. Jerome Emiliani (February 8)   Leave a comment

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Above:  St. Jerome Emiliani

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JEROME EMILIANI (1481-FEBRUARY 8, 1537)

Founder of the Company of the Servants of the Poor

St. Jerome Emiliani, like Blessed Josephina Gabriella Bonino, whose feast day is also February 8, cared for the ill, the poor, and the orphaned.

Emiliani arrived at this vocation by a circuitous route.  The native of Venice came from a wealthy family.  His father, Angelo, died when our saint was 15 years old.  Young Jerome ran away from home and led a dissolute life.  In 1506 he became a solider.  Five years later, during the War of the League of Cambrai (1508-1516), Emiliani became a prisoner of war chained in a dungeon.  He broke his chains after praying to Our Lady for help.  Our saint gave her credit for his freedom.  Eventually Emiliani decided to study for the priesthood.  Along the way to that vocation our saint supervised the education of his nephews and served as the Mayor of Treviso.

Emiliani, ordained in 1518, spent much of the rest of his life helping people affected by one pestilence or another.  The parts of Italy where Emiliani resided were prone to a series of plagues in the 1500s.  He cared for the sick, took orphans into his home, and buried those who had died unattended on the streets.  Our saint founded six orphanages, a hospital, and a shelter for former prostitutes in northern Italy.  At the city of Somasca Emiliani founded the Company of the Servants of the Poor, also known as the Order of Somaschi, the Somascan Fathers, and the Regular Clergy of Somasca, to care for orphans, in 1532.  Papal approval of the order followed eight years later.  Another accomplishment of Emiliani was pioneering the question-and-answer technique of catechesis.

Emiliani died at Somasca, Italy, on February 8, 1537.  He had contracted an illness while ministering to the sick.  Pope Benedict XIV beatified our saint in 1747.  Pope Clement XIII canonized him 20 years later.

Emiliani is the patron saint of orphans and abandoned people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DAWSON, ENGLISH BAPTIST AND UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA, 1970

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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O God, by whose grace your servant St. Jerome Emiliani,

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

Grant that we also may 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 Menno Simons (January 31)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Menno Simons

Image in the Public Domain

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MENNO SIMONS (1496-JANUARY 31, 1561)

Mennonite Leader

Konrad Grebel (circa 1498-1526), an erstwhile disciple of Ulrich Zwingli, founded the Swiss Brethren and the Anabaptist movement on January 21, 1525.  Swiss authorities persecuted and all but eradicated the Swiss Brethren; Zwingli was among the persecutors.  Felix Manz became the first Anabaptist martyr on January 5, 1527, when his punishment for rebaptizing people was drowning.  The Anabaptist movement spread into The Netherlands.  The movement also fragmented into four major sects and lacked coherent theological and ethical standards.  It was coming apart at the seams.

Menno Simons provided the standards and stability the Anabaptist movement needed to survive and thrive.  He had been a Dutch Roman Catholic priest in the village of Pingium, starting in 1524.  He began to experience major theological doubts, though.  Was Transubstantiation true?  And was infant baptism valid?  So the priest studied the Bible and the writings of Martin Luther for answers.  (Luther defended the validity of infant baptism.  If it were invalid, he argued, there had not been any Christians in Europe for about 1000 years.  I find that argument convincing.)  Simons became an Anabaptist in January 1536 and a preacher the following year.  His writings became foundational for the Anabaptist movement.  He was so vital to the movement that many Anabaptists adopted the label “Mennonite.”

Simons, an active missioner, moved around much, starting in 1541.  He died at Wustenfield, Holstein, on January 31, 1561.  He was 64 or 65 years old.

I disagree with our saint on many theological points.  I am, in fact, an Episcopalian with strong Lutheran and Roman Catholic tendencies.  Both Transubstantiation and infant baptism make sense to me.  Furthermore, I recognize no need to rebaptize anyone baptized in the Trinitarian formula.  None of these facts prevents me from honoring Menno Simons, however.  He was, I conclude, a servant of God who had a vital witness to Jesus Christ in the world.  That witness continues via the Anabaptist movement, which he stabilized.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Menno Simons,

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 (2016), page 60

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Feast of Paul Speratus (December 13)   1 comment

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Above:  Paul Speratus

Image in the Public Domain

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FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS (DECEMBER 13, 1484-AUGUST 12, 1551)

German Lutheran Bishop, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer

Also known as Paul Hoffer, Paul Offer, and Paulus Speratus

Paul Speratus was an influential German Lutheran minister and liturgist.

Our saint’s name at birth (at Rothlen Castle, Ellswangen, Swabia, now in the Federal Republic of Germany) was Paul Hoffer or Paul Offer; Paulus Speratus was the Latinized version of his name.  In 1502 Hoffer/Offer matriculated at the University of Freiburg (now in the Federal Republic of Germany).  He studied subsequently at Paris and at various universities in Italy.

Hoffer/Offer/Speratus was a Roman Catholic priest who converted to Lutheranism.  He, ordained a priest prior to 1518, became a preacher at Dinkelsbuhl, Bavaria (now the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1518.  There he began to read early theological works by Martin Luther.  Our saint served at Wurzburg (now in the Federal Republic of Germany) in 1519 and at Salzburg (in Austria) in 1520, but had to leave each place because of his increasingly Lutheran theology and his outspokenness about it.  Speratus left for Vienna in Autumn 1520, to work on a Doctor of Divinity degree.  In 1522 he had become one of the first Roman Catholic priests to marry in the sixteenth century.  His wife was Anna.  On January 15, 1522, our saint preached a sermon in favor of marriage and of justification by faith.  The theological faculty of the University of Vienna forced him to leave and the Church excommunicated him.

Speratus, newly and fully Protestant, began the next phase of his life.  He moved to Ofen (now in Hungary) briefly before relocating to Iglau, Moravia (now Jihlava, Czech Republic), where he preached at the cloister church.  In 1523 King Ludwig II of Bohemia (reigned 1516-1526) incarcerated him for 12 weeks and condemned him to death.  Our saint got to live, however; all he had to do was leave Moravia and never return.  In 1523 Speratus went to Wittenberg (now in the Federal Republic of Germany).  There he helped Luther prepare Etlich Christlich Lider (1524), the first Lutheran hymnal.  Among the hymns was our saint’s text (translated into English in more recent hymnals as “Salvation Unto Us Is Come“), which Speratus wrote either in prison or shortly after his release.  Our saint also translated Luther’s Formula Missae (1523) into German.

Speratus became an important figure beyond Wittenberg.  In May 1525, with Luther’s help, he became the court preacher for Duke Albrecht at Konigsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).  Our saint drew up the liturgy and canons of the Prussian Church in 1526, the same year he became the clerical commissioner, charged with ensuring adherence to them in local congregations.  Then, in 1531, Speratus became the bishop of Pomerania, with his headquarters at Marienwerder (now Kwidzyn, Poland).  He served in that capacity for the rest of his life.

Speratus died at Marienwerder on August 12, 1551.  He was 66 years old.

Those of us who enjoy religious freedom should (A) give thanks to God for that fact and (B) refrain from trivializing the circumstances of those who lack it by confusing our minor frustrations for infringements on religious freedom.  We ought to do more, of course, but we should definitely do those two things.  We have the account of Paul Speratus, incarcerated, nearly executed, and ultimately exiled for being a Protestant in Moravia when the monarch was a Roman Catholic.  Certainly nothing any government with jurisdiction over me does anything like that or threatens to do so, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Paul Speratus)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

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

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Feast of Bartolome de Las Casas (July 18)   1 comment

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Above:  Portrait of Bartolome de Las Casas

Image in the Public Domain

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BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS (1474/1484-JULY 18, 1566)

“Apostle to the Indians”

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INTRODUCTION

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My background reading for this post included sources with diametrically opposed understandings of Bartolome de Las Casas.  He was imperfect, to be sure, but he was hardly the bete noir some have depicted him as being or the increasingly intolerant man of conscience of whom I read at the New Advent website.  (He was increasingly intolerant of slavery.  How is that a vice?)  I have concluded that The Church of England was correct to decide to celebrate his life, with a feast day of July 20.  Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the Ninth (Episcopal) Bishop of Georgia, said in my presence while he was still the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, in the early 1990s that one can find a reason not to think of any given saint as a saint, and that such nitpicking was not a helpful endeavor.  What really mattered, Louttit argued, was whether one considered a saint was a person of God, especially at the end.  (That is also the point of view of Thomas J. Craughwell, author of Saints Behaving Badly:  The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers Who Became Saints, 2006.)  The Episcopal Church, which maintains a calendar of saints without canonizing anyone formally, has established a set of standards by which to evaluate proposed saints.  Among them are significance, memorability, perspective, and Christian discipleship.  That denomination has decided to celebrate the life of Las Casas on July 18.  Likewise, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have decided to remember him on July 17.

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BIOGRAPHY

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Bartolome de Las Casas changed much during his lifetime.  He, a native of Seville, Castille and Leon, came from nobility.  His father, Francisco Casas, returned from the second voyage (1493-1496) of Christopher Columbus with an Indian boy, who became our saint’s servant.  Las Casas studied law and theology at the University of Salamanca then practiced law.  In 1502 he sailed to the Spanish Antilles to begin work as an advisor to the government there.  Eight years later, at Santo Domingo, Las Casas became the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the Americas.  Then the direction of his life changed.

Our saint came under the influence of Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar and the first Spaniard to preach against Spanish cruelty to indigenous people in the Americas.  Las Casas accompanied Diego Velasquez’s expedition to Cuba in 1511-1512 and tried in vain to prevent the massacre of natives at Caonas.  The Spanish Empire employed a system called repartimiento, the allotment of encomiendas, or slaves to Spanish landowners for forced labor.  Defenders of this arrangement cited economic necessity and public safety as justifications for it.  In 1514 Las Casas, having concluded that this system was evil, renounced his rights within it and encouraged others to follow his example.  Then he commenced his decades-long effort devoted to the abolition of repartimiento.

This work began in Spain in 1515, when Las Casas spoke to King Ferdinand V of Castille and Leon (reigned 1474-1516)/Ferdinand II of Castille (reigned 1506-1516), “Ferdinand the Catholic.”  The monarch was a power-hungry and unscrupulous figure, so that stage in the great work failed.  In 1516, however, Cardinal Jimenes de Cisneros, the regent, appointed Las Casas to lead a commission to inquire as to the best way to alleviate the injustices inflicted upon the native peoples by Spanish settlers and conquistadors.  Our saint returned to Hispaniola,  While there he found the zeal of his fellow commissioners lacking.  In 1517 he returned to Spain.  King Charles I (reigned 1518-1556)/Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519-1556) was struggling to gain recognition for his claim to the throne.  There was a regency in place, however, and our saint spoke to people in power to make decisions.  He proposed an end to slavery for native peoples.  (That was good.)  To replace that slave labor force Las Casas proposed African slaves.  He disavowed that recommendation shortly thereafter and spent the rest of his life making apologies for it.  No part of this proposal bore fruit.  Our saint was able, however, to obtain royal approval for the founding of a model colony (without slave labor) at Cumana, on the coast of Venezuela.  That colony failed in 1521, due to the violence of conquistadors.  Powerful economic and military interests defended the enslavement of indigenous peoples tenaciously.

The effort continued.  In 1522 Las Casas entered the Dominican Order and the monastery at Santo Domingo.  There he wrote History of the Indies (published in 1875-1876), an account of early Spanish colonies in the Americas.  Our saint returned to Spain in 1530 and obtained a royal decree forbidding the enforcement of slavery in Peru.  He delivered it to Peru in person.  Circa 1535 Las Casas wrote The Only True Method of Attracting All People to the True Religion, in which he argued that preaching and good example, not enslavement, should be the first step in the process of converting Indians.  Next, in 1537-1538, our saint converted the fierce Tuzutlan tribe of Guatemala to Roman Catholicism.  He also changed the name of their territory from Tierra de Guerra (“Land of War”) to Vera Pax (“True Peace”).  The Dominican Order sent Las Casas to Spain to gather recruits in 1539.  At that time he wrote A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (published in 1552).

On November 20, 1542, the New Laws took effect.  They were not all that Las Casas wanted, but they were more than many settlers considered wise.  The New Laws, prior to amendments which made them useless, were supposed to be the beginning of the end of the repartimeinto system.  Our saint, having declined to become the Bishop of Cuzco, in Peru, in 1542, became the Bishop of Chiapas, in Mexico, in 1544.  His tenure (1544-1547) was difficult, for he had to contend with constant opposition (related to the New Laws) from clergy, laymen, and authorities.  Our saint even refused absolution of sins to anyone who refused to free his Indian slaves.

Las Casas left the Americas for the last time in 1547.  He returned to Spain, where he spent most of the rest of his life living in monasteries.  In 1550 and 1551 our saint debated famed scholar and theologian Gines de Sepulveda in public on the topic of the enslavement and destruction of indigenous peoples.  Four years later, in 1555, Las Casas followed Prince Philip, soon to become King Philip II (reigned 1556-1598), to England, to prevent colonists from winning royal approval of the perpetual slavery of Indians.  Our saint died at Atocha Monastery, Madrid, on July 18, 1566.  The struggle against slavery in the Spanish Empire continued.

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CONCLUSION

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The designated collect from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) emphasizes modern slavery.  That is appropriate, for Las Casas opposed slavery in his day.  One might think of religious-based slavery in Africa.  That practice is evil, I agree, but stopping there might lead one far away from Africa to think,

What can I do about that?

and do nothing else.  I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, on the outskirts of the Metropolitan Atlanta Region.  (To be precise, I live just a few miles from part of the eastern border of that region.)   Southeast of my location is Atlanta, a hub of human trafficking.  Even closer to home, human trafficking is a problem in Athens-Clarke County.  The life of Las Casas challenges me to ask myself what I might do to resist slavery just a few miles from my front door.  As for religious-based slavery in Africa, certain organizations fight that evil.  They need support.

Evil, supported by powerful economic, political, and military interests and frequently dressed up in the attire of morality, surrounds us.  We cannot fight all of it successfully or partially so, but we can do our part.  God, I suppose, does not really need we mere mortals.  God is omnipotent, correct?  Yet we, I have heard, are God’s hands and feet.  Will I–will you, O reader, in the words of the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979),

…seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

and

…strive for for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

–Page 305

One of the great difficulties of timeless principles is that many people who agree to them differ when the question becomes how best to apply them.  If, for example, one accepts the proposition that one person’s rights end at the edge of the other person’s nose, how does one resolve the conflict of these two sets of rights?  May each of us, by grace, succeed in bringing honor to God and in respecting the dignity of every human being as we navigate and shape the circumstances of life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH THEOBALD SCHENCK, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM FIRMATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Eternal God, we give you thanks for the witness of Bartolome de las Casas,

whose deep love for your people caused him to refuse absolution to those who would not free their Indian slaves.

Help us, inspired by his example, to work and pray for the freeing of all enslaved people of our world,

for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you

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

Isaiah 59:14-20

Psalm 52

Philemon 8-16

Matthew 10:26-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 469

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