Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1790s’ Category

Feast of Reginald Heber (April 3)   1 comment

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Above:  Reginald Heber

Image in the Public Domain

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REGINALD HEBER (APRIL 21, 1783-APRIL 3, 1826)

Anglican Bishop of Calcutta and Hymn Writer

The feast day of Reginald Heber in the Church of North India is April 3.  The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995) lists his citation as “Reginald Heber (1826):  Bishop, Evangelist.”

Reginald Heber came from an old and prominent Yorkshire family and became a great poet.  He, born at Malpas, Cheshire, England, on April 21, 1783, was a son of Reginald Heber (Sr., I guess), the Anglican Rector of Hodnet.  (Aside:  Would using suffixes, such as “Sr.,” “Jr.,” and “III” have been so difficult?)  Young Reginald Heber received a fine education, which he used.  At the age of seven years he translated Phaedrus, a Socratic dialogue, into English.  Later, at Brasenose College, Oxford, our saint won the prize for the best Latin poem and won the Newdigate Prize for the poem Palestine.  Heber, a Fellow of All Souls College, toured Europe with a friend in 1806.

Then Heber became an Anglican priest.  In 1807 he took Holy Orders.  From 1807 to 1823 served as the Rector of Hodnet.  Along the way he did the following:

  1. He married Amelia Shipley (in 1809) and had to children with her.
  2. He began to publish hymns keyed to the church year in the Christian Observer (in 1811 forward) and worked on Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year, completed by Amelia and published in 1827.  Heber contributed 57 of the 98 hymns.
  3. He became the Prebendary of St. Asaph (1812).
  4. He delivered the Bampton Lectures in 1815.  His topic was The Personality and Office of the Comforter.
  5. He became the Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn, London (1822).

Heber was a liturgical pioneer.  At the time proper Anglicans sang metrical Psalms and dissenters from the Established Church sang hymns.  Our saint, however, embraced the singing of hymns and set out to write texts that would stand the test of time.  Three ideas guided him as he composed hymn texts:

  1. The hymn must be part of the liturgy of the Church and must therefore adapt itself to the Church calendar.
  2. The hymn should come after the Nicene Creed and complement the message of the sermon.
  3. It should be a literary masterpiece.

–Quoted in Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1952), page 713

I have added 12 of Heber’s texts addressed to God at my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  One might already know “Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty!,” a hymn for Trinity Sunday, but one might not be familiar with the splendid “When Spring Unlocks the Flowers.”  Unfortunately, many of Heber’s hymns have fallen out of use; I had to find most of those 12 hymns in old hymnals, some of them about a century old.

Heber’s final title was Bishop of Calcutta (1823-1826).  He had a challenging task, for he was the missionary bishop of all of British India.  Our saint worked hard until he died of apoplexy on April 3, 1826, 18 days short of his forty-third birthday.

Heber has not failed to attract criticism post-mortem.  Many of those negative words have been due to a particular hymn, dated 1819:

From Greenland’s icy mountains,

From India’s coral strand,

Where Afric’s sunny fountains

Roll down their golden sand,

From many an ancient river,

From many a palmy plain,

They call us to deliver

Their land from error’s chain.

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What though the spicy breezes

Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;

Though every prospect pleases,

And only man is vile:

In vain with lavish kindness

The gifts of God are strown;

The heathen in his blindness

Bows down to wood and stone.

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Can we, whose souls are lighted

With wisdom from on high,

Can we to men benighted

The lamp of life deny?

Salvation! O salvation!

The joyful sound proclaim,

Till each remotest nation

Has learned Messiah’s Name.

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Waft, waft, ye winds, his story,

And you, ye waters, roll,

Till like a sea of glory

It spreads from pole to pole;

Till o’er our ransomed nature

The Lamb for sinners slain,

Redeemer, King, Creator,

In bliss returns to reign.

This hymn has long been a lightning rod for a variety of constituencies.  “And only man is vile” (from the second stanza), a reference to Original Sin, has offended non-Christians and some Christians alike.  Also, the end of the second stanza, with its imagery of heathens bowing down to wood and stone has offended many.  These criticisms have really been about allegations of imperialism and ethnocentrism.  As I learned in Anthropology 101 many moons ago, both cultural relativism and ethnocentrism are fallacies.  I would be surprised if Heber were free of any degree of ethnocentrism, but I have also detected cultural relativism in criticisms of the hymn.

This hymn has fallen out of favor in modern hymnody.  It has, of course, fallen into disuse in mainline churches, as measured by denominational hymnals.  The hymn has also fallen out of favor in more conservative denominations, as measured by their hymnals.  I, as a collector of hymnals, have consulted my library and found that, in the current generation of conservative Protestant denominational hymnals, the following volumes, successors to volumes that included this hymn, “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” is absent:

  1. Baptist Hymnal (2008),
  2. The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (1996),
  3. Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996),
  4. Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (2013),
  5. Lutheran Service Book (2006), and
  6. Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (1990).

Furthermore, the official list of hymns for the Trinity Psalter Hymnal (scheduled for publication in late 2017), successor to the Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (1990), does not include “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.”  Nevertheless, the Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (1994) does.

More people should lighten up.

Heber could have led a life of relative ease at Hodnet, but he accepted the challenge to become a missionary bishop.  He spent his life glorifying God and left a legacy in souls and in theologically dense and well-composed hymn texts.  He was certainly worthy of recognition as a saint.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Reginald Heber and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of St. Ludovico Pavoni (April 1)   Leave a comment

ludovico-pavoni

Above:  St. Ludovico Pavoni

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT LUDOVICO PAVONI (SEPTEMBER 11, 1784-APRIL 1, 1849)

Roman Catholic Priest and Educator

Also known as Saint Lodovico Pavoni

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Rigorism keeps Heaven empty.

–St. Ludovico Pavoni

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St. Ludovico Pavoni mentored thousands of boys and young men over a period of time measured in decades.  The native of Brescia, in the Duchy of Milan, entered the world on September 11, 1784.  During the Napoleonic period in Italy (1799-1814) the seminaries in at least part of the peninsula were closed, so our saint studied for the priesthood under the tutelage of Father Carlo Domenico Ferrari, who went on to serve as the Bishop of Brescia from 1834 to 1846.  Pavoni, ordained to the priesthood in 1807, opened an oratory for street boys the same year.  The purpose of this work was to help them make good decisions.  In 1812 our saint became the secretary to Bishop Gabrio Nava.  Six years later Pavoni became the pastor of the Church of St. Barnabas, and oratory transformed into a greater project.

In 1818 Pavoni founded an orphanage and an associated vocational school.  Three years later the school became the Institute of St. Barnabas.  He expanded the number of trades taught at the Institute over the years.  These trades included typography and book binding (via the publishing house), carpentry, blacksmithing, silversmithing, shoe making, dye making, and tool making.  He also added agricultural skills (via the farm  attached to the Institute).  In 1823 Pavoni expanded the student body to include deaf mutes.  Two years later he founded a religious institute of priests and brothers and brothers to continue the work of the Institute of St. Barnabas in Brescia.  Pope Gregory XVI granted papal approval for this religious institute in 1843.  Four years later Pavoni became one of the first members of the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Immaculate (the Pavoniani), dedicated to working in Brescia and beyond.

Pavoni died in 1849.  He had already ministered to residents of Brescia during an outbreak of cholera.  His final selfless deed was to lead his boys to safety away from Brescia, which was burning during a rebellion against Austria, on March 24.  They found shelter at the novitiate on the hill of Saviano, about 12 kilometers outside of town.  He died at Saviano on Palm Sunday, April 1, 1849.  Pavoni was 64 years old.

Pavoni is the patron saint of the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Immaculate, members of which work in six countries.

Pope Pius XII declared Pavoni a Venerable in 1947.  Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2002.  Pope Francis canonized our saint in 2016.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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

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

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Franz Joseph Haydn and Michael Haydn (March 30)   Leave a comment

model-of-st-stephens-cathedral-vienna

Above:  Model of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Image in the Public Domain

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FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN (MARCH 31, 1732-MAY 31, 1809)

brother of

JOHANN MICHAEL HAYDN (SEPTEMBER 14, 1737-AUGUST 10, 1806)

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Composers

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The Haydn brothers (Franz Joseph and Johann Michael, often billed as “Michael Haydn”) were great composers.  They were two of twelve children of Mathias Haydn (a wheelwright and an amateur harpist) and Anna Marie Koller, of Rohrau, Austria.  The family was of German and Austrian peasant origin.

franz-joseph-haydn

Above:  Franz Joseph Haydn

Image in the Public Domain

The two brothers sang in the choir at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna; their tenures overlapped for three years.  Franz Joseph joined the choir at the age of seven years; he studied singing, learned to play the harpsichord and the violin, and was a soprano soloist.  Then, in 1749, his voice changed and he left the choir.  Johann Michael succeeded him as soloist and remained in the choir until 1755, having spent a decade there.

johann-michael-haydn

Above:  (Johann) Michael Haydn

Image in the Public Domain

From 1749 to 1757 Franz Joseph engaged in a series of youthful escapades and began to compose.  Among his influences were Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788).  Franz Joseph’s early compositions, some of which have not survived (at least not to our knowledge) included two Masses.

1757 was an important year in the lives of the brothers Haydn.  Franz Joseph spent the summer composing at Wenzinel Castle (near Melk), the property of Count Carl Joseph von Furnberg, of Austria.  Johann Michael became the kappelmeister at the cathedral at Grosswardein, serving for five years.

From 1759 to 1761 Franz Joseph worked as the music director to Count Ferdinand Maximilian Morzun, who had a summer castle at Lukavec, Bohemia.  On November 26 Franz Joseph married Maria Anna Keller.  The union was an unhappy and childless one.

Franz Joseph worked under the patronage of Esterhazys from 1761 to 1790.  In 1761 he became the assistant kappelmeister of the court orchestra of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy.  The following year the Prince died.  Prince Nicolaus Joseph “the Magnificent” Esterhazy, a great patron of the arts, supported Haydn.  After Nicolaus Joseph died in 1790, Franz Joseph received a pension.  Among the composer’s students was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, starting in 1781.

Johann Michael lived and worked in Salzburg from 1762 until 1806, when he died.  At first he was the orchestral conductor to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg.  Later the composer added organist responsibilities at St. Peter’s Church to his duties.  In time Johann Michael traded organist responsibilities at St. Paul’s Church for those duties at St. Rupert’s Cathedral, Salzburg.  He married Maria Magdalena Lipp (1745-1827).  The couple had one child, a daughter who died in infancy.

Franz Joseph spent most of the remaining 19 years (1790-1809) of his life living in Vienna; he also traveled, as he did to London more than once.  Among his pupils was Ludwig von Beethoven, starting in 1790.

In the 1700s and early 1800s conventional wisdom held that Johann Michael was the better composer of the two.  Franz Joseph agreed, at least with regard to sacred works.  Franz Joseph was no slouch musically; he composed operas, symphonies, sacred works, songs, cantatas, concertos, and various instrumental works.  He also perfected the early symphonic form and invented the modern string quartet.  Among his sacred works were the Mass in Time of War (1796) and The Creation (1798), the latter work containing the great chorus “The Heavens are Telling.”  He died at Vienna on May 31, 1809, aged 77 years.

Johann Michael, composer of the Requiem (1771) and the Missa a due cori (1786), influenced Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Carl Maria von Weber.

Johann Michael’s reputation has had its ups and downs since his death.  His reputation as a composer has declined overall since 1806, just as his elder brother’s reputation as a composer has improved.  Johann Michael’s drinking problem has affected his personal reputation negatively.  The author of the article about him in the old Catholic Encyclopedia wrote in a judgmental tone, for example.  On the other hand, the scientific understanding of addiction has challenged old moralistic notions based on inaccurate assumptions regarding willpower.

Even church musicians and composers of sacred works have personal problems with which they wrestle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HELDER CAMARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF OLINDA AND RECIFE

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADALBERT NIERYCHLEWSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MITCHELL J. DAHOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES, APOSTLE TO THE SARACENS

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Michael Haydn,

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

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

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

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

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Feast of Charles Simeon, Henry Martyn, and Abdul Masih (March 4)   Leave a comment

church-missionary-society-logo

Above:  Logo of the Church Missionary Society

Image in the Public Domain

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CHARLES SIMEON (SEPTEMBER 24, 1759-NOVEMBER 13, 1836)

Anglican Priest and Promoter of Missions

His feast transferred from November 12

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HENRY MARTYN (FEBRUARY 18, 1781-OCTOBER 16, 1812)

Anglican Priest, Linguist, Translator, and Missionary

His feast transferred from October 19

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ABDUL MASIH (1776-MARCH 4, 1827)

Indian Convert and Missionary

His feast = March 4

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Among my purposes for the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize influences and relationships.  Hence I transfer two saints from their established feast days (according to The Episcopal Church) to the designated feast day of Abdul Masih (according to The Church of North India), who might not have become a Christian without their efforts.

charles-simeon

Above:  Charles Simeon

Image in the Public Domain

Charles Simeon entered the world at Reading, England, on September 24, 1759.  He grew up in a prominent family and in The Church of England.  Our saint, educated at Eton and at King’s College, Cambridge, had a conversion experience while a student at Cambridge.  He had previously thought of taking the Holy Communion in negative terms, for he had thought of worthiness to partake in the sacrament as a matter of obedience to divine commandments.  After his conversion experience, however, Simeon realized the merits of Christ made one worthy to partake of the Holy Eucharist.  In 1782 our saint graduated from King’s College, became a fellow thereof, and became the Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge.  At first he had to contend with much opposition, due to his membership in the evangelical wing of The Church of England.  Nevertheless, he won widespread acceptance over time.

henry-martyn

Above:  Henry Martyn

Image in the Public Domain

Henry Martyn was among the people whom Simeon influenced.  Martyn entered the world at Truro, Cornwall, England, on February 18, 1781.  He, educated at Truro then at St. John’s College, Cambridge, from 1797 to 1801, intended originally to pursue a career in the law.  Simeon, however, persuaded him to follow a different path.  Martyn, who became a fellow at St. John’s College in 1802, became a deacon in 1803 before joining the ranks of priests.  After a brief tenure as the Curate of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, under Simeon, Martyn became a missionary.

Simeon had helped to found the Church Missionary Society (originally the Society for Missions to Africa and East and currently the Church Mission Society) in 1799.  He also advised the East India Company on the selection of chaplains.  In 1806 Martyn arrived in Calcutta as a chaplain of the East India Company.  He spent five years in India.  During that time he founded schools and churches, translated the New Testament and The Book of Common Prayer into Hindi, studied Farsi, and translated the New Testament into that language.

abdul-masih

Above:  Abdul Masih

Image in the Public Domain

Among the people Martyn brought to Christian faith was Sheikh Salih, a Muslim scholar aged 38 years. Salih, born at Delhi in 1776, learned Arabic and Persian at an early age.  He became a scholar and a teacher at Lucknow.  Salih met and befriended Martyn, the chaplain at Cawnpore.  On Pentecost Sunday 1811 Salih, due to Martyn’s influence, became not only a Christian but Abdul Masih, literally “Servant of the Messiah.”

Masih was a Christian for about twelve years—the rest of his life.  For eight years he was a catechist for the Church Missionary Society.  Then he spent a time as a Lutheran minister before returning to The Church of England in 1825.  That year Reginald Heber (1783-1826), the Bishop of Calcutta from 1823 to 1826, ordained him.  Masih, a medical missionary (because he operated a dispensary), pursued a respectful strategy of converting Muslims.  He, being the intellectual he was, engaged them in scholarly conversations.  He converted and baptized Muslims for the rest of his life.  Masih died of natural causes at Lucknow on March 4, 1827.  He was either 50 or 51 years old.

Martyn left India for Persia in 1811.  There he became the first English clergyman in the city of Shirmas.  Martyn also engaged Muslim scholars in theological discussions and corrected his earlier translations into Farsi.  While in Persia Martyn developed the desire to visit Arabia and to translate the New Testament into Arabic.  In 1812, while en route to Constantinople, Martyn stopped at the Armenian city of Tokat in the Ottoman Empire.  There he died, aged 31 years.  Local Armenian Christians buried him with the honors they usually reserved for a bishop.

Martyn was among the founders of modern Christianity in Iran and India.

One wonders what else Martyn would have done had he lived longer.

Simeon, who served as the Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, for 54 years, published many sermons and became one of the leading members of the evangelical wing of The Church of England.  He died at Cambridge on November 13, 1836.  He was 77 years old.

The influences of all three men have survived them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Lord God, you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the example of your servants

Charles Simeon, Henry Martyn, and Addul Masih,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and,

at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

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

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

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 9:1-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Luke 6:20-23

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

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Feast of Venerable Felix Varela (February 25)   Leave a comment

felix-varela

Above:  Felix Varela

Image in the Public Domain

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VENERABLE FELIX VARELA (NOVEMBER 20, 1788-FEBRUARY 27, 1853)

Cuban Roman Catholic Priest and Patriot

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I have always concluded that Christianity and liberty are inseparable.

–Felix Varela, 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 91

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Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) agreed with that perspective.

The Venerable Felix Varela was an important figure in Cuban history.  He, born in Havana on November 20, 1788, grew up in St. Augustine, Florida, with his maternal grandfather.  Our saint, ordained to the priesthood in 1811, taught philosophy, physics, music, theology, and chemistry at San Carlos College, Havana.  In 1821 Varela became a delegate to the Cortes in Madrid.  He introduced two crucial bills–one to abolish slavery in Cuba and another to grant Cuban independence.  For this alleged sedition Varela had to go into exile in 1823.

Our saint spent the rest of his life in exile.  In New York City he served as a priest.  In 1827 he founded the Church of Immigrants, later renamed the Church of the Transfiguration.  He also lobbied for Cuban independence via the Spanish-language newspaper he founded.  This activism concerned the Spanish government sufficiently to send an assassin, but Varela talked him out of committing the act.  Our saint, who became the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York in 1837, received his doctorate in theology from St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore.  The defender of the rights of immigrants also considered the lack of religiosity to be a threat to the moral fabric of society and antecedent of tyranny.  He also criticized Roman Catholics who opposed liberty and constitutional government, for he argued that the suppression of liberty leads to fanaticism and dogmatism.

Varela retired to St. Augustine, Florida, where he died on February 27, 1853.  He was 64 years old.

The Roman Catholic Church declared Varela a Venerable in 2012.

The cause for his beatification and canonization is in progress.

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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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Venerable Felix Varela,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, and Jarena Lee (February 12)   Leave a comment

st-georges-church

Above:  St. George’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Image Scanned from Matthew Simpson, Editor, Cyclopedia of Methodism; Embracing Sketches of Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices and Numerous Illustrations–Fifth Revised Edition (1882)

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ABSALOM JONES (NOVEMBER 6, 1746-FEBRUARY 13, 1818)

First African-American Priest in The Episcopal Church

His feast transferred from February 13

friend and colleague of

RICHARD ALLEN (FEBRUARY 14, 1760-MARCH 26, 1831)

First Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

His feast transferred from March 26

licensed

JARENA LEE (FEBRUARY 11, 1783-1855 OR 1857)

African Methodist Episcopal Evangelist

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In The Episcopal Church February 13 and March 26 are the Feasts of Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, respectively.

Among my goals during this renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however long the process will take, is to emphasize relationships and influences.  Thus, with this post, which replaces two older posts, I emphasize the joint efforts of Absalom Jones and Richard Allen as I add a third saint, Jarena Lee.  I also locate the composite feast on February 12.  The Ecumenical Calendar, in its current state of ongoing renovation, has just one feast (that of Sts. Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos), imported from the calendar of saints of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, on February 13.  With few exceptions, I prefer to reserve a date with a feast of a Biblical character or characters for that person or those individuals.

absalom-jones

Above:  Portrait of Absalom Jones, by Charles Wilson Peale

Image in the Public Domain

Absalom Jones, born on November 6, 1746, was a native of Sussex County, Delaware.  He, born a slave, taught himself to read via a variety of books, including the New Testament.  His first master sold the 16-year-old Jones to a store owner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In the City of Brotherly Love our saint attended a Quaker-run night school for African Americans.  In 1770 Jones, aged 23 years, married Mary, a slave.  He purchased her freedom in 1778 and his own six years later.

richard-allen

Above:  Richard Allen

Image in the Public Domain

Richard Allen, born Negro Richard, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1760, came from a family of slaves also.  When our saint was a child the family’s master, Benjamin Chew (attorney and Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, 1774-1777), sold them to Stokely Sturgis, a planter from Delaware.  Sturgis was a relatively humane slave owner, but he did break up the family when, to settle debts, he sold the mother and three of the siblings.  Richard converted to Christianity and joined the Methodist society at the age of 17 years.  He evangelized his friends and neighbors, with the approval of Sturgis, who thought that religion made a slave better, not worse.  Meanwhile, Sturgis, who became convinced that slavery was immoral, facilitated the process by which his slaves purchased their freedom.  Richard bought his freedom in 1780 and assumed the surname “Allen.”  For six years he was a traveling evangelist in South Carolina, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, supporting himself via trades; he was a woodcutter, a bricklayer, a cobbler, and a salt-wagon driver.  Allen was present at the Christmas Conference (at which the Methodist Episcopal Church formed, thereby separating from The Church of England), Lovely Lane Chapel, Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784.  He also became a licensed preacher in the new denomination that year.

Jones and Allen were lay ministers for African Americans at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal (now United Methodist) Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  They were so successful at increasing the African-American contingent of the congregation that they bothered the white leaders of the parish, who attempted (without notice) to segregate the African Americans into an upstairs gallery.  When, during a Sunday service in November 1786, ushers tried to remove the African-American members from where they were sitting, those parishioners walked out of the building together.

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Above:  The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1829

Image in the Public Domain

In 1787 Jones and Allen helped to found the Free African Society, for mutual aid.  The Society founded The African Church, Philadelphia, in 1792.  The congregation applied for admission to the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and accomplished that goal in late 1794.  The African Church became African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, with Jones as its lay reader (1794), deacon (1795), and priest (1804).  Jones became the first African-American priest in The Episcopal Church.  Allen led faction of the The African Church that preferred Methodism.  He founded and led the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, in 1794.  Eventually this congregation became Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

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Above:  (Mother) Bethel African Methodist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1829

Image in the Public Domain

Jones and Allen worked together over the decades.  In 1793, for example, they mobilized the African-American community of the city to serve during an epidemic of yellow fever.  They also wrote and published a refutation of false allegations that African Americans had looted and engaged in profiteering during the outbreak.  Jones and Allen also helped to found the African Masonic Lodge in Philadelphia in 1798, petitioned the state legislature to abolish slavery the following year, petitioned the U.S. Congress to do the same in 1800, founded the Society for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality in 1809, and condemned the new American Colonization Society in 1817.

Jones and Allen made ecclesiastical history.  Jones became the first African American ordained by a hierarchical denomination.  The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas became the second largest congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania by 1815, operated a school, and had one of the nation’s oldest African-American women’s groups and one of the U.S.A.’s oldest African-American men’s groups.  Bishop Francis Asbury ordained Allen, making him the first African-American deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1799.  Allen’s first wife, Flora, to whom he was wed from 1790 until her death in 1801, had helped to found The African Church and Mother Bethel Church.  His second wife, Sarah Bass Allen, a former slave, became the Founding Mother of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, the same year her husband became the first bishop of the new denomination.

Husband and wife were also conductors of the Underground Railroad.

Jones died at Philadelphia on February 13, 1818.

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Above:  Jarena Lee

Image in the Public Domain

Jarena Lee (original surname unknown) also made ecclesiastical history.  She, a native of Cape May, New Jersey, entered the world on February 11, 1783.  She was never a slave.  Her family, however, was impoverished.  Jarena became a live-in domestic servant living in the home of the Sharps, a white family, at the age of seven years.  As a teenager Jarena relocated to Philadelphia and continued to work as a domestic servant.  She attended Allen’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, heard him preach, and converted to Christianity.  In 1807 Jarena perceived her vocation to preach.  Allen initially refused to permit her to preach, for reasons of gender.  Four years later she married the Reverend Joseph Lee.  The couple, married for seven years (ending in Joseph’s death), had two children.  The widow renewed her determination to pursue gender equality in ministry.  One Sunday in 1819, at Mother Bethel Church, a visiting minister could not complete his sermon; Jarena completed it for him.  Allen was impressed, not angry, so he changed his mind and licensed her to preach.  Jarena, active in the abolitionist movement, eventually became a traveling evangelist.  She died in 1855 or 1857.

Allen died at Philadelphia on March 26, 1831.

These three saints, inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaimed that Gospel and struggled for social justice.  They were simultaneously of their time and ahead of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear;

that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servants Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, and Jarena Lee,

we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God,

which you have given us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Genesis 8:12-17, 20-22

Psalm 51:1-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Luke 23:32-43

–Adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 4)   Leave a comment

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Above:  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Image in the Public Domain

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ELIZABETH ANN BAYLEY SETON (AUGUST 28, 1774-JANUARY 4, 1821)

Foundress of the American Sisters of Charity

In 2009 the General Convention of The Episcopal Church added St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to the denominational calendar of saints, expanded from Lesser Feasts and Fasts into Holy Women, Holy Men (2010), and now, in 2016, into A Great Cloud of Witnesses.  Adding her to the list of commemorations might have surprised some, for she was a convert from The Episcopal Church to the Roman Catholic Church.  On the other hand, The Episcopal Church has never commemorated just Episcopalians.

Our saint was a cradle Episcopalian and a granddaughter (via her mother) of an Anglican priest.  Her mother, Catherine Charlton Bayley, died when she was three years old.  Elizabeth’s father was Dr. Richard Bayley, professor of anatomy at Columbia University and health officer at the Port of New York.  Richard eventually remarried; he and his second wife raised their blended family devoutly. Our saint married Merchant William Magee Seton at St. Paul’s Church, New York City, on January 25, 1794.  They had five children, two of whom she buried in time.  Elizabeth founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children. Then, when the fortunes of the family firm failed, the Setons found themselves struggling financially.  In 1803, when the family was in Italy, William died of tuberculosis at Pisa.  Elizabeth and her children remained in the country for a while, living with Roman Catholics, who befriended and supported her and her children.  This made her amenable to Roman Catholicism.  On Ash Wednesday 1805, in New York City, she crossed the Tiber River.  Much ostracism followed, but Elizabeth and her family had the financial and spiritual support of certain Roman Catholics.

In time Elizabeth found her vocation.  In 1809 she took vows and became the leader of seven sisters; they were the charter members of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph.  The following year, on donated land in Emmitsburg, Maryland, they opened a school for impoverished girls.  This was the first Roman Catholic parochial school in the United States of America.  The work of the order expanded under our saint’s leadership.  For example, sisters went to work in orphanages in Philadelphia and New York City.  Elizabeth would have been happy for another woman to serve as the Superior of the order, but she performed her duties faithfully until her death–of tuberculosis, like that of her husband–at Emmitsburg, on January 4, 1821.

The order continues to perform its many good works.

On a related note, our saint’s half-brother, James Roosevelt Bayley (1814-1877) was another convert to Roman Catholicism.  He had been an Episcopal priest.  Then he converted to Roman Catholicism.  In 1844 he became a Roman Catholic priest.  Seven years later he became the first Bishop of Newark.  Then, in 1872, he became the eighth Archbishop of Baltimore.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Holy God, you blessed Elizabeth Seton with your grace as wife, mother, educator, and founder,

that she might spend her life in service to your people:

Help us, by her example, to express our love for you in love of others;

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

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

2 Esdras 2:15-24

Psalm 119:105-112

Romans 16:19-20

Luke 14:15-23

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 157

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