Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1540s’ Category

Feast of St. Jose de Anchieta (June 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. José de Anchieta

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOSÉ DE ANCHIETA Y DIAZ DE CHAVIGO (MARCH 19, 1534-JUNE 9, 1597)

Apostle of Brazil and Father of Brazilian National Literature

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You must come with a bag-full of virtues.

–St. José de Anchieta’s advice to missionary priests

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I like the Great Man (and Woman) School of History, for people who did not do anything noteworthy do not interest me.  Those who made a mark, however, deserve attention.

St. José de Anchieta was such a man.  He, born in San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, on March 19, 1534, came from a prominent and wealthy family.  He, educated in Portugal, joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 17 years, in 1551.  The order dispatched our saint to Brazil; he arrived on July 13, 1553.  In that Portuguese colony our saint made many marks.

St. José’s legacy in Brazil has survived.  He cofounded the city of São Paulo as a mission on the Feast of St. Paul the Apostle in 1554.  Eleven years later he helped to found Rio de Janeiro, in full, São Sebastiãno de Rio de Janeiro, named in honor of St. Sebastian.  The Apostle of Brazil, a man in constant pain for 44 years due to a dislocated Spain, mastered the language of the Tupi people, who lived near São Paulo, and spent 20 years writing a grammar and a dictionary of that tongue.  He became the Father of Brazilian National Literature due to his plays, which he wrote in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Tupi; these were the first Brazilian plays.

Our saint had a fine memory.  For five months he was a hostage of the Tamoyo people.  He, with plenty of time on his hands yet lacking writing tools, wrote a Latin poem in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the sand and memorized all 4,172 lines of the text.  After his captivity ended Anchieta wrote the poem on paper.

Anchieta, from 1577 the Jesuit provincial, was a man of zeal, intellect, and many virtues.  He applied all of these in Brazil from 1553 to 1597, when he died, aged 63 years, in Reritgba, now renamed Anchieta.

The Roman Catholic Church has recognized our saint.  Pope Pius VI declared Anchieta a Venerable in 1786.  Pope John Paul II made him a Blessed in 1980.  Finally, in 2014, Pope Francis canonized our saint.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Saint José de Anchieta,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Brazil.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 716

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Feast of St. Philip Neri (May 26)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Philip Neri

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PHILIP ROMOLO NERI (JULY 22, 1515-MAY 27, 1595)

The Apostle of Rome and the Founder of the Congregation of the Oratory

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No bond but the bond of love.

–St. Philip Neri

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St. Philip Neri was a humble man given to self-deprecating humor and practical jokes.  He came from Italian nobility who had fallen on hard times; Francesco Neri, the father, was a notary at Florence who barely earned a living.  St. Philip was a pious young man who learned the humanities under the tutelage of Dominicans at Florence.  At the age of 16 years our saint went to San Germano, near Monte Cassino, to assist his father’s cousin, a businessman.  St. Philip, who frequently prayed in a Benedictine chapel, was on track to become the cousin’s heir when he left his family behind and went, penniless, to Rome, to pursue a religious calling.

For 17 years St. Philip lived as a layman in the Eternal City.  During much of that time he worked as the tutor to the sons of Galeotto Caccia, late of Florence.  In charge for those services our saint lived in a room and received an allowance of flour.  He also wrote poetry.  Furthermore, St. Philip studied philosophy at the Sapienza and theology with the Augustinians.  Eventually he sold his books and gave the money to the poor.  In 1544 or so St. Philip befriended St. Ignatius Loyola (1491/1495-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus.  In the middle and late 1540s our saint lived as a hermit and an ascetic.  He reported occasional visions, which affected him profoundly.  One vision, from 1544, was of a globe of fire entering his heart.  This meant to our saint that God had enlarged his heart.  One piece of evidence of that compassion was the founding of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity, to care for convalescents and pilgrims, by St. Philip and his confessor, Persiano Rosa, in 1548.

Then, in 1551, at the urging of Rosa, St. Philip became a priest.  He took an interest in the lives of others, for their benefit.  In the mornings our saint heard confessions at the Church of San Girolamo.  On some mornings he heard 40 confessions before dawn.  In the afternoons St. Philip met informally with men and boys, engaging in leisure with them.  Our saint became the center of a religious community.  At meetings of this community, which consisted mostly of laymen, lay people spoke at length.  This fact led to false allegations of heresy–Protestantism, to be precise–against St. Philip.  Ecclesiastical authorities cleared him of charges.  In 1575 Pope Gregory XIII recognized this community as the Congregation of the Oratory.  Priests of the Congregation devoted themselves to preaching and teaching.

Along the way, while in Rome, other spiritual developments occurred in the life of St. Philip.  In the 1550s he pondered leaving the Eternal City for India.  With help he concluded that God was not calling him to serve as a missionary in the subcontinent.  Also, in 1562-1564 our saint struggled with an invitation to become the Rector of the Church of San Giovanni, Rome, the parish of Florentines there.  A papal compromise in 1564 led to St. Philip finally accepting that invitation while remaining at the Church of San Girolamo and sending five priests to represent him.

Meanwhile, the Church of San Maria, Vallicella, had been part of the holdings of the Congregation of the Oratory since 1575.  St. Philip, obeying a papal command, left the Church of San Girolamo, Rome, for Vallicella in 1583.  Pope Gregory XIV offered St. Philip the status of Cardinal in 1590; our saint politely declined.  St. Philip, aged 79 years, died of natural causes in Vallicella in 1595.

Pope Paul V beatified St. Philip in 1615.  Pope Gregory XV canonized him seven years later.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP AND DANIEL BERRIGAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Saint Philip Neri,

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 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 Johann Walter (April 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Luther Rose

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHANN WALTER (1496-MARCH 25, 1570)

“First Cantor of the Lutheran Church”

Also known as Johann Walther and Johannes Walter

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod celebrates the life and legacy of Johann Walter on April 24.  On my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however, his feast day is April 23.

Walter was a native of Kahla, Thuringia.  He, born in 1496, studied in Kahla and Rochlitz before matriculating at the University of Leipzig in 1521.  He, who had experience as a chorister, sang bass in the court of Frederick III “the Wise,” Elector of Saxony (reigned 1486-1525).  In 1524 and 1525 Walter collaborated with Martin Luther.  He edited the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (1524), a collection of polyphonic motets.  Our saint also adapted music for use in the reformer’s German Mass.  In 1526 Walter started a new job–cantor at Torgau, with duties to teach music to boys and to direct music in the parish church.  He did that until 1548, when he became the kappelmeister to Maurice, Elector of Saxony (reigned 1547-1553).  Walter’s last job ended in 1554, when he, aged 60 years, became a pensioner.  Then he returned to Torgau, where he died on March 25, 1570.

Walter’s main contribution to Lutheran hymnody was musical.  He did, however, compose some texts, such as the one translated into English as “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us,” originally 33 stanzas in German.  English translations, however, have been much briefer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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

thank you for those (especially Johann Walter)

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 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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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 Sebastian Castellio (March 20)   1 comment

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Above:  Sebastian Castellio 

Image in the Public Domain

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SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO (1515-DECEMBER 29, 1563)

Prophet of Religious Liberty

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To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man.

–Sebastian Castellio, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 126

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Certain officially recognized saints of the Reformation era trouble me.  For example, I consult Anglican calendars and read about prominent churchmen who denied the existence of the right to dissent theologically.  Some of these churchmen went so far as to order the execution of dissenters or at least to consent to these judicial killings.  (It is not technically murder if it is legal.)  And that is what I find within my faith tradition, now one so tolerant that some accuse it of having become too liberal.  Better too liberal than likely to persecute dissenters, I say!  I also ponder the Roman Catholic calendar of saints and find the names of similarly troubling people there.  Overall, I have generally negative opinions of Thomas Cranmer, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and the Popes at the time–all of whom cover much theological ground collectively.  I have generally low opinions of them because they proceeded from the ubiquitous assumption that

error has no rights,

so they persecuted those who disagreed with them or consented to the persecution of those who held other beliefs.  This did not glorify God.

I can, however, respect Sebastian Castellio without any reservations.

Castellio, born at Saint-Martin-du-Frene, France, in 1515, was a scholar and a man ahead of his time.  He, educated at the University of Lyons, was a master of six languages:  French, Italian, German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.  In January 1540 our saint, then in his mid-twenties, witnesses the execution of three Lutherans as heretics at Lyons.  This “act of faith” had such an effect on him that he left France for Switzerland and the Roman Catholic Church for the Reformed Church.  In 1542 John Calvin, the theocrat of Geneva, appointed Castellio the Rector of the College of Geneva.  The following year, during an outbreak of plague, our saint did what many clergymen refused to do–minister to the sick and the dying.  Despite his lived piety, Castellio’s request for ordination met with rejection.  Perhaps jealousy among clergymen he had embarrassed by ministering to victims of plague was among the reasons for this result.  Officially Castellio was heterodox and too liberal.  In layman’s terms, he rejected the doctrine of Double Predestination, which he considered abhorrent.  Our saint had to leave Geneva.  He moved to Basel, Switzerland.  After years of grinding poverty Castellio finally became a professor of Greek in that city, where he spent the rest of his life.

In 1553, at Geneva, John Calvin ordered theologian Michael Servetus, who had denied the Holy Trinity, burned at the stake on the charge of heresy.  The reformer and theocrat reasoned that one function of the magistrate was to defend true doctrine and therefore to glorify God.  This execution troubled many, including Castellio.  He expressed his objections in On Heretics:  Whether They Should Be Punished by the Magistrate, which he published under a pseudonym.  He argued that to kill a person in the name of God is a blasphemous act.  A Christian’s first duty is to love his neighbor as he loves himself, our saint wrote; to execute heretics (alleged or actual) violates this principle.  Furthermore, Castellio wrote, the competing sects of Christianity not only disagreed with each other, but each of them operated from the assumption that it was obeying the Word of God.  Everyone was a heretic, according to others:

I can discover no more than this, that we regard those as heretics with whom we disagree.

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), page 127

The pseudonym did not hide Castellio’s identity for long.  When he died on December 29, 1563, legal proceedings against him were underway.  The Religious Wars had begun.  Many people would have lived longer had religious toleration been the rule.  Furthermore, slaughtering people in the name of Jesus did not glorify God.

In this post I describe Castellio as a “Prophet of Religious Liberty.”  In so doing I quote Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1997).  I understand that there is no such thing as absolute religious liberty, even in a pluralistic society with a (properly) secular state; we all must, for the common good, sacrifice some rights without trampling individual rights either.  As long as one does not endanger public health and safety or the most basic civil rights and liberties in the name of religious liberty, I have no objection.  Certainly the statement that one should not execute or incarcerate heretics (alleged or actual) should receive widespread support.

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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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Sebastian Castellio,

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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