Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1900s’ Category

Feast of Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Malla (May 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Malla

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA (AUGUST 26, 1861-AUGUST 9, 1936)

Spanish Romani Martyr

Alternative feast day = August 2

Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Malla, also known as El Pele, or “the Strong One,” became the first venerated Gypsy in 1996 then the first beatified Romani the following year.

Our saint, born into a poor family at Fraga, Spain, on August 26, 1861, remained illiterate throughout his life yet became a prosperous businessman at Barbastro, Spain.  He, baptized as an adult, was a devout Roman Catholic.  He, a city councilman, a eucharistic minister, and a leader of rosary prayers, inspired (by his won piousness, such as efforts to improve relations between Romani and non-Gypsies) others to be on their best behavior around him.  Jimenez Malla married Teresa Jimenez Castro in 1912.  The couple had no children, but he adopted his niece, Pepita.  Teresa died in 1922.  Our saint, an advisor to his bishop, never remarried; he became a Dominican tertiary in 1926 instead.

Jimenez Malla, who favored reconciliation among diverse groups of people, refused to make peace with injustice.  In July 1936 the 74-year-old saint attempted to protect a local priest from anti-clerical Republican forces.  For this effort our saint became a prisoner at a converted Capuchin monastery.  His captors offered him an opportunity to go free; all he had to do was throw away his rosary and renounce his faith.  Jimenez Malla refused.  On August 9, 1936, a firing squad executed our saint, a bishop, and 11 others at the town cemetery.  Jimenez Malla’s first grave was an unmarked one.  Subsequently people exhumed his corpse and buried him next to his wife.

The life of the Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Malla speaks for itself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS JOHNSON, JOHN DAVY, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, who gave to your servant Blessed Ceferino Jimenez Malla boldness to confess

the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope 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 136 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 Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis (May 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sherbrooke, Quebec, 1889

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS (MAY 12, 1840-MAY 3, 1912)

Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family

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Our mission in the Church is to help the priest on the temporal and spiritual planes.  But what it really demands as a supreme witness is for us to love one another and to love all people, not with just any love, but with the love that God wants to give them.  We must therefore repeat without tiring that our principal work is to give love.

–Blessed Marie-Léonie Paradis

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Alodie-Virginie Paradis, also known informally as Élodie, came from a devout Roman Catholic family.  He, born at L’Acadie, Quebec, on May 12, 1840, was the only daughter and the third of six children, four of whom survived to adulthood.  Her parents, Joseph Paradis and Émilie Grégoire Paradis, were two of the rural working poor.

The Church educated our saint, who became an educator.  At the age of nine years she entered a boarding school (at Laprairie) of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame.  Five years later Paradis became a novice in the Congregation of the Holy Cross.  The renamed Sister Marie of Sainte Léonie taught in Varennes, Ville Saint-Laurent, and Saint-Martin de Laval.  Then, in 1862, the order transferred her to New York City, where it had recently accepted responsibility for an orphanage.  Eight years later the order sent Paradis to its novitiate in Indiana.  There she taught French and needlework.  After a brief stay in Lake Linder, Michigan, our saint transferred to Memramcook College in New Brunswick in 1874.  The director of the college was Father Camille Lefebvre, an old family friend who had become a Holy Cross priest.  Our saint’s job was to direct novices and postulants.

On May 31, 1880, the Holy Cross Fathers recognized the new Little Sisters of the Holy Family, focused on the education and spiritual formation of impoverished and illiterate girls.  Paradis led the new order, which Paul LaRocque, Bishop of Sherbrooke, Quebec, approved as an autonomous religious community in 1896.  When Paradis died, not quite 72 years old, at Sherbrooke, on May 3, 1912, the order had 38 foundations in Canada and the United States.

Paradis was a warm-hearted woman who recognized God in everyone she met.  She helped the poor, visited the sick, and emphasized the importance of helping priests.

Pope John Paul II declared our saint a Venerable in 1981 then a Blessed in 1984.

Paradis is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke.

To affirm the dignity of every human being as a bearer of the image of God verbally is easy.  To do so as fully as possible via deeds is challenging, however.  One complicating factor is the reality of disagreements about how best to live that principle; tactics are perhaps the most controversial matter once people have agreed on the purpose.  Sometimes one’s tactics defeat one’s noble intentions.  May we, by grace, have the proper words and deeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS JOHNSON, JOHN DAVY, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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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 James E. Walsh (April 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  Father Walsh, 1918

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES EDWARD WALSH (APRIL 30, 1891-JULY 29, 1981)

Roman Catholic Missionary Bishop in China, and Political Prisoner

Also known as Wha Lee Son, Chinese for “Pillar of Truth”

Bishop James Edward Walsh spent about twelve years of a twenty-year sentence in a Chinese prison for Christ.  After a year and a half of daily interrogations, Chinese officials got Walsh to confess to being what he was not–a spy.  He was, however, guilty of being a Western missionary; that was his actual offense, in the eyes of Chinese Communist officialdom.

Walsh, born in Cumberland, Maryland, on April 30, 1891, came from a devout Roman Catholic family.  He, the second of nine children of William E. Walsh and Mary Concannon Walsh, was a mischievous parochial school student who grew up to become a missionary priest.  Our saint, after spending two years working as a timekeeper in a steel mill, found spiritual fulfillment at age 21 by accepting his vocation to the priesthood.  The family supported his decision enthusiastically.

Walsh’s vocation was to be a missionary priest.  In 1912 he joined the new Maryknoll Fathers, properly the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, and began to prepare for the priesthood.  On December 7, 1915, our saint became the second Maryknoll priest.  Not quite three years later, on September 8, 1918, Walsh and a few other priests sailed for Kwong Tung, China.  There he remained until 1936.  After about a year our saint became the Maryknoll Superior in China.  On May 22, 1927, Walsh, or as many Chinese Roman Catholics called him, Wha Lee Son (“Pillar of Truth”), became a bishop, assigned to the Vicariate of Kongmoon.  He told his missioners:

I am the least among you.  Look upon me as your servant.  I am made bishop chiefly to help you.  If my help takes the form of direction, I hope you will realize it is intended to help you just the same.  But I think we understand each other; we are a happy family.

From 1936 to 1946 Walsh served as the second Superior General of the Maryknoll order.  During those years our saint, back at Maryknoll headquarters at Ossining, New York, supervised the beginning of Maryknoll missions in Africa and Latin America.

Then Walsh returned to China, where he remained until 1970.  Until 1951, when the People’s Republic (an oxymoron) closed it, he led the Catholic Central Bureau (in Shanghai), which coordinated all Roman Catholic missions in the nation-state.  Life became more complicated for all Western missionaries in China after the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949.  Communist hostility to missionaries was one issue; official Chinese hostility to Westerners (especially considering the history of China during the build up to 1949) was another factor.  The central government harassed Western missionaries and pressured them to leave.  Walsh became the last one to go, at the age of 79.  For years he refused to go, despite the harassment, including surveillance.  Before his arrest and incarceration he said:

To put up with a little inconvenience at my age is nothing.  Besides, I am a little sick and tired of being pushed around on account of my religion.

Authorities arrested Walsh on October 18, 1958.  The verdict was never is doubt.  The sentence was 20 years.  He served about 12 of those, studying a Chinese dictionary and praying the rosary.  This, our saint understood, was as much of a witness to Christ as he could make at that time.  Walsh, who was fond of the Chinese people, managed to survive his incarceration without nursing resentment; he was actually quite forgiving.  During those years his only non-Chinese visitor was a brother, William C. Walsh, the Attorney General of Maryland from 1938 to 1945.  In a diplomatic gesture building up President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, the People’s Republic freed Walsh on July 10, 1970.  On that day he walked into freedom and Hong Kong.

After an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican, Walsh returned to Maryknoll headquarters at Ossining, New York.  There he was a revered figure and a humble and prayerful man who insisted that he had done nothing worthy of any special recognition.  Walsh stated that he had simply been a servant of Christ and a missionary priest who had done his job faithfully.  Missionaries, he said, should remain with the people to whom God had sent them as long as that is possible.  He was not the first missionary to suffer for following that ethic.  Indeed, others, including some whom Walsh knew, had died doing so.  And Walsh was not the last Christian missionary to suffer for remaining with the people to whom God had sent him.

Walsh died, aged 90 years, of natural causes on July 29, 1981.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant James Edward Walsh,

who made the good news known in China, and who spent time in prison for doing so.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

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

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Feast of Timothy Rees (April 29)   1 comment

Above:  Timothy Rees

Image in the Public Domain

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TIMOTHY REES (AUGUST 15, 1874-APRIL 29, 1939)

Welsh Anglican Hymn Writer and Bishop of Llandaff

Bishop Timothy Rees comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via hymnals.  One of my occasional projects is reading about the lives of authors and translators of hymns, for hymnody matters that much to me.  I know of seven hymns Rees wrote, for those are the ones hymnary.org lists.  Unfortunately, the dreaded notation “alt.” follows our saint’s credit on his hymns in most hymnals that contain any of his texts, and I cannot find the original versions of four of those seven hymns.  I want to know what Rees wrote, not what hymnal editors and committees wish he had written.

Consider, this text, O reader:

God is Love:  let heav’n adore him;

God is Love:  let earth rejoice;

Let creation sing before him,

And exalt him with one voice.

He who laid the earth’s foundation,

He who spread the heav’ns above,

He who breathes through all creation,

He is Love, eternal Love.

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God is Love:  and he enfoldeth

All the world in one embrace;

With unfailing grasp he holdeth

Every child of every race.

And when human hearts are breaking

Under sorrow’s iron rod,

Then they find that selfsame aching

Deep withing the heart of God.

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God is Love:  and though with blindness

Sin afflicts the souls of men,

God’s eternal loving-kindness

Holds and guides them even then.

Sin and death and hell shall never

O’er us final triumph gain;

God is Love, so Love for ever

O’er the universe must reign.

–Quoted in The New English Hymnal (1986)

Typical of the alteration of this text in other contemporary hymnals is this portion of the second stanza, from The Hymnal 1982 (1985), of The Episcopal Church:

God is Love:  and love enfolds us,

all the world in one embrace;

with unfailing grasp God holds us,

every child child of every race.

Really, is -eth really so incomprehensible?  And is masculine language so bad?  In the final stanza, in that altered version of the hymn, sin afficts

all human life,

not

the souls of men,

as in the original text.  Lest one imagine inaccurately that I am picking on one theological orientation, I offer another example.  The Lutheran Service Book (2006), of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, offers an altered version of “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling.”  The end of the first stanza, in the original version, reads,

Holy Spirit, ever raising

Sons of earth to thrones on high;

Living, life-imparting Spirit,

Thee we praise and magnify.

That text, as the Lutheran Service Book presents it, however, is different:

Holy Spirit, ever raising

Those of earth to thrones on high;

Living, life-imparting Spirit,

You we praise and magnify.

In the English language the masculine gender remains the default gender, inclusive of more than boys and men.  This does not bother me.  It is certainly better than the singular they, which leads one to use “are” when one should use “is.”

Timothy Rees, son of David and Catherine Rees, entered the world in Llain, Llanon, Wales, on August 15, 1874, and went on to become a prominent Anglican clergyman.  He studied at Ardwyn School, Aberystwyth, before matriculating at St. David’s College, Lampeter (B.A., 1896), then attending seminary at St. Michael’s College, Abendare.  Our saint, ordained to the diaconate in 1897 and to the priesthood the following year, served as the Curate of Ash Mountain, Glamorganshire, from 1897 to 1901.  Then, from 1901 to 1906, Rees was a lecturer and the chaplain at St. Michael’s College.  He joined the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, Yorkshire.  For the Community he went on missions to New Zealand (1910 and 1913), Canada (1914), and Ceylon (1929).  From 1915 to 1919 Rees served as a military chaplain; he received the Military Cross for his wartime service.  In 1922 our saint became the Principal of the College of the Resurrection.  Our saint doubled as the Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Bangor from 1925 to 1928.  In 1931 he left he College of the Resurrection to become the Bishop of Llandaff.  Rees died at Llandaff on April 29, 1939.  He was 64 years old.

Our saint’s hymns live on fortunately, if if primarily in altered forms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Timothy Rees 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 George Washington Doane and William Croswell Doane (April 27)   4 comments

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE (MAY 27, 1799-APRIL 27, 1859)

Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey

father of

WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE (MARCH 2, 1832-MAY 17, 1913)

Episcopal Bishop of Albany

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Above:  George Washington Doane 

Image in the Public Domain

George Washington Doane was a bishop.  He entered the world on May 27, 1799, at Trenton, New Jersey.  Bishop John Henry Hobart of New York ordained him deacon then priest in 1823.  Father Doane founded St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York.  He also taught at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, from 1824 to 1828, and served Christ Episcopal Church, Boston, Massachusetts from 1828 to 1832, as Assistant Rector then Rector.  In 1832 Doane became Bishop of New Jersey, a position he held for the remainder of his life.  Much of his episcopal legacy rests on the founding of parochial schools.  Also, Doane was a High Churchman at a time when chanting, bowing to altars, and lighting candles could lead to major theological altercations.

Doane’s son, William Croswell Doane, became the Bishop of Albany, in the state of New York.

Bishop George Washington Doane wrote the hymns, “Thou Art the Way” and “Softly Now the Light of Day.

He died on April 27, 1859.

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Above:  William Croswell Doane

Image in the Public Domain

William Croswell Doane was also a bishop.  He entered the world on March 2, 1832, in Boston, Massachusetts.  His father, George Washington Doane, ordained Doane, Jr., to the diaconate in 1853 and the priesthood three years later.  In the 1850s and 1860s Doane, Jr., served churches in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut; Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, was a parishioner in Hartford, Connecticut.  Doane Jr., like his father, was a High Churchman when that was controversial.  These ritualistic tendencies prompted evangelical (low church) opposition to his 1868 election as Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Albany, in the state of New York.  Bishop Doane of Albany oversaw the construction of the Cathedral of All Saints, Albany.  (J. P. Morgan contributed to the financing of the cathedral.)  Cathedrals were not commonplace in Episcopal dioceses at the time, unlike today.

William Croswell Doane died in office on May 17,  1913.

His main legacy for church members today is the hymn, “Ancient of Days.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Almighty God, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church, including your servants

George Washington Doane and William Croswell Doane.

May the memory of their lives be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,

so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,

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

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3;14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

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

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Feast of Walter Russell Bowie (April 23)   1 comment

Above:  The Bowies’ Gravestone

Image Source = Find a Grave

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WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE (OCTOBER 8, 1882-APRIL 23, 1969)

Episcopal Priest, Seminary Professor, and Hymn Writer

Walter Russell Bowie was a Virginian.  He, born in Richmond, Virginia, on October 8, 1882, studied at The Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, before matriculating at Harvard University.  At Harvard he and Franklin Delano Roosevelt edited The Crimson.  Our saint graduated with his B.A. in 1904 and his M.A. the following year.   Next Bowie attended Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia (B.D., 1908).  He, ordained to the diaconate in 1908 and to the priesthood the following year, married Jean Laverack (1881-1963) in 1909.  The couple went on to raise four children.

Bowie, a proponent of the Social Gospel, served on the parish level and beyond.  He was Rector of Emmanuel Church, Greenwood, Connecticut (1908-1911); St. Paul’s Church, Richmond, Virginia (1911-1923); and Grace Church, New York, New York (1923-1939), doubling as a hospital chaplain in France during World War I.  His social conscience compelled him to join the anti-xenophobic American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born in the 1920s.  Bowie lectured at Yale Divinity School (1935) and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (1939).  In 1939 our saint became Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Students at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.  Then, in 1950, he departed for Alexandria, Virginia, to become Professor of Homiletics at Virginia Theological Seminary.  While at Alexandria, our saint edited The Southern Churchman.  He retired from the seminary in 1955.  During Bowie’s years as an academic he also served on the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and helped to translate the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.  He was also the Associate Editor of Exposition for The Interpreter’s Bible (12 volumes, 1951-1957).

Bowie was a prolific author.  He published many sermons as well as books.  Audiences ranged from children to adults and genres included biographies, current events, church dramas, and the Bible.  (One can find many of these works at archive.org and Worldcat.)  Bowie also wrote hymn texts, which manifested his social conscience.  Those hymns included the following:

  1. Lord Christ, When First Thou Cam’st to Men;”
  2. Lord, Through Changing Days, Unchanging;”
  3. O Holy City Seen of John;”
  4. God of the Nations, Who, from Dawn of Days;” and
  5. Lovely to the Outward Eye.”

I also found the following text from 1914 and set to the tune ELLACOMBE (“The Day of Resurrection!  Earth Tell It Out Abroad”):

O ye who dare go forth with God,

Behold the flag unfurled

And hear His trumpet’s challenge ring

Across the answering world:

For His great war with sin and shame,

Though coward hearts refuse–

Go draw the sword that in His name

You shall find strength to use.

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The citadels He bids you storm

Are walled with ancient wrong;

The foes He bids you shock against

Are insolent and strong;

Where fleshly lusts and greed for gain

Make dens for souls to die–

For rescue from that poisoned pain

The bitter voices cry:

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The bitter voice goes up to God

From the dark house of shame;

‘Mid iron wheels of driving toil

And from the men they maim;

From ev’ry stricken child who lies

In some foul room and drear;

From those who walk with sodden eyes,

To whom no hopes walk with sodden eyes,

To whom no hopes come near.

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Where sordidness and pain and sin

Cry for th’avenging sword,

Where selfish ease and indolence

Call for the blazing sword,

There God’s clear trumpet summons those

Who dare to face the wrong

And launch against His Spirit’s foes

The strength which He makes strong.

Bowie died in Alexandria, Virginia, on April 23, 1969.  He was 86 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF COMPEIGNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Walter Russell Bowie,

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 Toyohiko Kagawa (April 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  Toyohiko Kagawa

Image in the Public Domain

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TOYOHIKO KAGAWA (JULY 10, 1888-APRIL 23, 1960)

Renewer of Society and Prophetic Witness in Japan

The Episcopal Church celebrates the life of Toyohiko Kagawa on April 23 and describes him as a “Prophetic Witness in Japan.”  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada also observe this feast on the same day, but list him as a “Renewer of Society.”  Both labels are accurate.

Christ alone can make all things new.  The spirit of Christ must be the soul of all social reconstruction.

–Toyohiko Kagawa

Toyohiko Kagawa–Christian minister, labor activist, political dissident and prisoner, civil servant, pacifist, advocate for slum dwellers and the working poor, and Christian Socialist–grew up a Buddhist.  He, born in Kobe, Japan, on July 10, 1888, was the second child of businessman-politician Denjiro Kagawa and concubine Kame.  They died two months apart, before our saint was five years old.  For six years young Toyohiko lived on the Kagawa family farm in Awa provivince.  There he studied the Confucian classics.  At the age of 11, after a false accusation of harming a girl, he went to the middle school at Tokushima, on the island of Shikiku.  This was an educational institution he wanted to attend.  Young Toyohiko was a serious student who desired to master the English language.  That interest, combined with his location, led to the next step in our saint’s spiritual journey.

Kagawa learned English and came to Christ under the tutelage of Drs. Harry Myers and Charles Logan, Presbyterian ministers.  In 1903, at the age of fifteen years, our saint converted to Christianity.  His first prayer was

Oh God, make me like Christ!

Young Toyohiko, baptized and determined to study for the ordained ministry, had found a new family.  He also lost his old one; the Kagawas disowned him.

Kagawa had two main social concerns–pacifism and poverty.  These existed in the context of his promise to God to dedicate his life to telling the story of the cross of Christ.  The church, our saint insisted, must identify with the poor and the downtrodden and serve God in them.  The church, he concluded, was not doing as well by this standard as it should.  Pacifism was a matter of following the Golden Rule, one of Christ’s commands.

Dr. Myers arranged for the 17-year-old Kagawa to study at Presbyterian College, Tokyo, starting in 1905.  There our saint remained until tuberculosis forced him to leave in 1908.  He had developed interests in and studied theology, philosophy, sociology, and economics.  His studies had not ended, however.

Katawa returned to Kobe, where he continued his theological studies.  Academics were important in preparation for ordained ministry, he affirmed, but he needed to serve the poor also.  Therefore our saint lived not in a residence hall but under a bridge then in a slum.  In 1909 he decided not to seek ordination but to serve the poor full-time.  From 1910 to 1924, with some gaps, Kagawa lived in a tiny hut in a slum in Kobe.  In May 1914, when he married Haru, a factory worker, he and his wife lived in a tiny hut.  She also cooked for sixteen people daily.  Husband and wife were a team.

In August 1914 Kagawa sailed for the United States, to study at Princeton University.  He cobbled together the fare with help from his in-laws, Drs. Myers and Logan, his church, and the seminary at Kobe.  For eighteen months our saint investigated urban poverty, social services, and living conditions.  He also began to formulate strategies that might prove effective in Japanese cities.  Kagawa decided to stop being a social worker and to be come a social reformer.  He thought about how to change institutions and society, to alter conditions that contribute to poverty.  How to create more jobs, increase wages, improve education, make health care more accessible, et cetera became concerns for him.  This had a theological grounding–the affirmation of inherent human dignity.

Kagawa, back in Japan, became a social reformer.  He also decided to seek ordination after all.  Our saint, ordained in 1917, worked in the slums.  Kagawa, the national secretary of the Japanese Federation of Labor, published The Adoration of the Laborer in 1919.  This prompted his arrest that year.  Two years alter he was back in prison for leading a strike and arguing for the right to workers to organize.  (Labor unions were illegal in Japan until 1925.)  Between arrests he wrote an influential novel, Across the Death-line, about conditions in slums.

Japanese officialdom, which kept Kagawa under surveillance much of the time, wavered between labeling him a criminal and questioning his patriotism on one hand and hiring him on the other hand.  In 1923 an earthquake devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, killing 100,000 people and rendering five million people homeless.  Kagawa organized the relief projects so ably that he went on to serve on the Imperial Economic Commission.  He used his influence to help pass laws to end slums in Asaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Yokohama.  On the other hand, Kagawa’s pacifism angered militarist elements of society and government .  In 1927 he was the only Japanese person to sign an international anti-military conscription manifesto presented to the League of Nations.  Other signers included Mohandas Gandhi and Albert Einstein.  Our saint was allegedly a

traitor in the pay of American imperialists

and a

tool of the Russian Communists.

He certainly made no friends among militarists by organizing the National Anti-War League the following year.  In 1940 Kagawa’s public apology to the people of China for the Japanese invasion led to more time in prison.

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

–Voltaire

In August 1941 Kagawa and seven other Japanese men traveled to the United States.  There they engaged in dialogue in the vain search for ways to avoid war between the U.S.A. and the Japanese Empire.  Our saint, recalling hearing news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, wrote:

I felt that all the lights of the world had gone out.  My heart was broken.

During World War II the Imperial Japanese government continued to vacillate regarding how to treat Kagawa.  In 1943 they arrested him for being a pacifist then released him without filing charges.  Then, in March 1945, toward the end of the war, they appointed him the Chairman of the Wartime Relief Committee.

After World War II Kagawa became the civil servant in charge of social services programs.  Prime Minister Naruhiko Higaskikuni (in office August 16-October 8, 1945) told our saint:

Dr. Kagawa, Japan has been destroyed, not because we had not a sufficient, but because we had suffered the loss of a good standard of morality and engaged in war.  We need a new standard of ethics, like that of Jesus Christ.  Buddhism can never teach us to forgive our enemies; nor can Shintoism.  Only Jesus Christ was able to love his enemies.  Therefore, Dr. Kagawa, if Japan is to be revived, we need Jesus Christ as the basis of our national life.  I want you to help me put the love of Jesus Christ into the hearts of our people.

–Quoted in Orlo Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (Nashville, TN:  Graded Press, 1968), page 26

Kagawa eventually retired from that work.  His health failing, he spent his final year of life bedridden.  Our saint died in Tokyo on April 23, 1960.  He was 71 years old.

Kagawa was a patriot–one frequently at odds with his government, which kept him under surveillance, arrested him occasionally, and hired him from time to time.  He was a pacifist.  During much of his life the government was under the control of militarists who ordered atrocities–violations of human rights.  Kagawa was a labor activist.  During some of his years labor unions were illegal.  If he had never been at odds with his government, he would have been a hypocrite.

Kagawa was indeed a renewer of society and a prophetic witness.

I offer you, O reader, the germane propers from Episcopal and Lutheran sources.  All three collects apply well to Kagawa’s life and legacy.

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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We bless your Name, O God, for the witness of Toyohiko Kagawa, reformer and teacher,

who was persecuted for his pacifist principles and went on to lead a movement for democracy in Japan;

and we pray that you would strengthen and protect all who suffer for their fidelity to Jesus Christ;

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

Job 13:13-22

Psalm 140

Philippians 1:12-20

Luke 22:47-53

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 341

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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 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,

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.

or 

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

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

Help us, like your servant Toyohiko Kagawa, 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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