Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1920s’ Category

Feast of Marc Sangnier (April 3)   Leave a comment

marc-sangnier

Above:  Stamp Featuring the Image of Marc Sangnier

Image in the Public Domain

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MARC SANGNIER (APRIL 3, 1873-MAY 28, 1950)

Founder of the Sillon Movement

Sangnier, born at Paris, France, on April 3, 1873, came from a wealthy family.  Our saint learned the lesson that God expects much of he who has received much.  Sangnier, from an early age, had a deep concern for social justice in the light of Roman Catholic social teaching.  Of particular concern to him were the conditions of members of the working class.  Sangnier, as a student, organized a small group of like-minded people to study and ponder these moral concerns.  Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891), regarding capital and labor, provided encouragement.

Sangnier became a force in public life in his twenties and continued his activism afterward.  In 1894 he founded Le Sillon (The Furrow), a newspaper devoted to the effort to reconcile Roman Catholicism, social justice, and democracy.  The newspaper led to the Sillon Movement, which attracted many idealistic youth and established study centers for workers in French cities in the 1890s.  Pope St. Pius X was initially supportive of the movement.  In 1905 Sangnier founded a second publication, L’Esprit democratique, devoted to promoting democracy.  The Sillon Movement had become more political than it had been.  St. Pius X changed his opinion of the movement.  Did democracy threaten divine authority?  Was possibly seeking to introduce democracy into the Roman Catholic Church heretical?  Therefore the Supreme Pontiff condemned the Sillon Movement in a letter dated August 25, 1910.

Sangnier, a loyal Roman Catholic, disbanded the Sillon Movement rather than leave the Church or oppose the Vatican.  The movement did, however, have a number of alumni who continued to promote social activism in the Church.  Sangnier chose to channel his activism in the arena of politics.  In 1912 he founded the Young Republic League, a socialist political party.

He died, aged 77 years, in Paris on May 28, 1950.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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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 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 Carlo Carretto (April 2)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Carlo Carretto

Image in the Public Domain

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CARLO CARRETTO (APRIL 2, 1910-OCTOBER 4, 1988)

Spiritual Writer

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I feel immersed in God like a drop in the ocean, like a star in the immensity of night, like a lark in the summer sun or a fish in the sea.

–Carlo Carretto

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Carlo Carretto, born into a peasant family in northern Italy on April 2, 1910, eventually became a spiritual writer.  Initially he prepared to become a teacher, but politics prevented that; he was a member of the Fascist Party.  Our saint became involved in the youth wing of the Catholic Action movement instead.  That movement was consistent with his desire to advance the Catholic Church’s social and religious message.  This work occupied Carretto’s time for nearly 20 years.

In 1954 our saint answered God’s call (“Love everything and come with me into the desert.  It is not your acts and deeds that I want; I want your prayer, your love.”) to join the Little Brothers of Jesus, founded by Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) in 1933.  Carretto arrived at El Abiodh, in Algeria, in December 1954.  There he remained for about a decade.  Time in the desert prepared Carretto to return to Europe in 1964.  He settled at Spello, Italy, the following year.  There he built an experimental faith community that involved lay people in prayer and reflection.

Carretto became a respected spiritual writer, especially for Love is for Living, Letters from the Desert, and I, Francis.  He was not, however, without ecclesiastical critics, due to his criticism of certain aspects (such as triumphalism and clericalism) of Roman Catholicism.  The challenge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our saint insisted, was to create an oasis of love in the desert in which one finds oneself.

Who knows what creating such an oasis of love might require to one to do?

Carretto died on October 4, 1988, aged 78 years.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, POLYCARP OF SMYRNA, AND IRENAEUS OF LYONS, BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER AKIMETES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEFAN WINCENTY FRELICHOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MAINZ; AND SAINT BERNWARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HILDESHEIM

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Carlo Carretto,

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 Blessed Giuseppe Girotti (April 1)   Leave a comment

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Above:  U.S. Soldiers at Dachau Concentration Camp, April 29, 1945

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED GIUSEPPE GIROTTI (JULY 19, 1905-APRIL 1, 1945)

Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

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Everything I do is for charity.

–Blessed Giuseppe Girotti, explaining why he helped Jews illegally

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Here slept Saint Giuseppe Girotti.

–Carved into the empty bed of Girotti at Dachau Concentration Camp after his execution

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Giuseppe Girotti was one of the Righteous Gentiles.  He, born at Alba, Cuneo, Italy, on July 19, 1905, joined the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) in 1923.  He, ordained a priest in 1930, studied under Marie-Joseph Lagrange at the Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem.  Girotti, a professor of theology at the Dominican theological seminary at Turin, Italy, wrote an analysis of the Book of Isaiah.  Of particular interest to him was the Suffering Servant.  Girotti, who respected the Jewish people, referred to them as “elder brothers” and “carriers of the word.”  In 1943, when Italian Jews became vulnerable to the Holocaust, our saint began to hide some of them and to help others escape to safety.  For this he became a suffering servant.  Nazi authorities arrested him on August 19, 1944.  He died at Dachau on April 1, 1945, shortly before the liberation of that concentration camp.  Our saint was 39 years old.

Pope Francis declared Girotti a Venerable in 2013 and a Blessed the following year.

Girotti took up his cross and followed Christ until he received the crown of martyrdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF ABSALOM JONES, RICHARD ALLEN, AND JARENA LEE, EVANGELISTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREER ANDREWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL WEISSE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR; AND JAN ROH, BOHEMIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP 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 to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Blessed Giuseppe Girotti,

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 James Solomon Russell (March 27)   Leave a comment

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Above:  James Solomon Russell

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES SOLOMON RUSSELL (DECEMBER 20, 1857-MARCH 28, 1935)

Episcopal Priest, Educator, and Advocate for Racial Equality

The feast day of James Solomon Russell in The Episcopal Church is March 28.  However, as the rules of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days stand, the maximum number of commemorations per day is four, and I have four of them on March 28 already.  Therefore I transfer this feast to March 27.

Russell, born a slave near Palmer Springs, Virginia, on December 20, 1857, attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Virginia, when family finances permitted him to do so.  Sometimes our saint had to work as a teacher between periods of being a student.  He also taught after completing his studies at Hampton.  In the 1870s Russell attended annual conferences of the Zion Union Apostolic Church (an 1869 offshoot of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), called the Reformed Zion Union Apostolic Church since 1882.  In 1878 he served as the recording secretary of the annual conference.  Later that year, after receiving a copy of The Book of Common Prayer (1789), he decided to become an Episcopalian.

Russell studied for ordained ministry.  He was the first student at St. Stephen’s Normal and Theological Institute (later the Bishop Payne Divinity School), Petersburg, Virginia.  In 1882, after four years of study, he became a deacon.

Russell served at Lawrenceville, Virginia.  There, in 1882, he founded a congregation, which became St. Paul’s Church the following year.  Also in 1882 (on December 20, to be precise), he married Virginia Michigan Morgan, his wife until she died on July 2, 1920.  They couple had two sons and four daughters.  In 1883 the Russells founded the parish school.  Four years later our saint became a priest.  In 1888 he founded St. Paul’s Normal School, which expanded its programs and changed its names over time, ultimately becoming St. Paul’s College, which closed in 2013.  Russell served as the principal and chaplain of the school until he retired in 1929.  He also supported efforts to help African-American farmers improve their economic status, as in the St. Paul’s Farmers’ Conference (1905).

Russell recruited African-American priests.  Due to his efforts as the first Archdeacon for Colored Work in the Diocese of Southern Virginia (from 1893), that diocese had the largest African-American population of any diocese in The Episcopal Church.

Russell received two offers to become a Suffragan Bishop and rejected all of them.  The first came from the Diocese of Arkansas in 1917; the second came from the Diocese of North Carolina the following year.  Our saint cited the importance of his work in Lawrenceville when he rejected those offers.  He also objected to the fact that African-American bishops were subordinate to their white counterparts.  The position in Arkansas went to Edward Thomas Demby, V (1869-1957).  Henry Beard Delany, Sr. (1858-1928), accepted the position in North Carolina.  Russell’s objection eventually led The Episcopal Church to correct that injustice.  [Aside:  I did detect the typographical error–1927 for 1917–in Russell’s biography in A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).]

Russell, citing his age, retired at the end of 1929.  His son, James Alvin Russell, Sr., succeeded him in the leadership role at the school immediately; he retired in 1950.  James Alvin Russell, Jr., served as the President of St. Paul’s College from 1971 to 1981.

Russell asked the Diocese of Virginia to allow full representation of the clergy, regardless of race, at its convention in 1933.  His request met with rejection.

Russell died at Lawrenceville on March 28, 1935.  He was 77 years old.  His autobiography, Adventure in Faith, debuted in print the following year.

The Episcopal Church, which has been honest about its institutional sins of racism, has made much progress since Russell’s time.  Michael Curry, an African American, became the Bishop of North Carolina, in 2000.  Fifteen years later he resigned that position to become the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

The Diocese of Southern Virginia designated Russell a local saint in 1996.  The General Convention of The Episcopal Church included him on the denominational calendar of saints in 2015, as evident in his inclusion in A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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God, font of the resurrected life, we bless you for the courageous witness

of your deacon James Solomon Russell, whose mosaic ministry vaulted over adversity;

allure us into the wilderness and speak tenderly to us there

so that we might love and worship you as he did,

sure of our legacy of saving grace through Jesus Christ,

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

Exodus 22:21-27

Psalm 78:1-7

1 John 4:13-21

Matthew 21:12-16

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Feast of Charles Henry Brent (March 27)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Charles Henry Brent 

Image in the Public Domain

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CHARLES HENRY BRENT (APRIL 9, 1862-MARCH 27, 1929)

Episcopal Bishop and Ecumenist

The Feast of Charles Henry Brent falls on March 27 in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Brent was a native of New Castle, Ontario.  He, born on April 9, 1862, studied at Trinity College, Toronto.  Our saint, ordained an Anglican priest in Canada in 1887, served first as the assistant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Buffalo, New York.  From 1888 to 1901 he lived and worked in Boston, Massachusetts.  There, as the Assistant Rector of St. John the Evangelist Church, with the responsibility for the African-American congregation of St. Stephen’s Church, our saint worked in the slums and came under the influence of the Social Gospel movement.

In 1901 the Episcopal House of Bishops selected Brent to become the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, a position he held from 1902 to 1919.  There he built up The Episcopal Church, not by “stealing sheep,” but by focusing on evangelism.  He famously refused to compete with the Roman Catholic Church; he would not, in his words, “set up one altar against another.”  Brent did, however, seek to convert people to Christianity.  He also established ecumenical relations with the new Philippine Independent Church, founded by a former Roman Catholic priest.  In the Philippines Brent also became involved in the movement to oppose opium trafficking.  He served as the President of the Opium Conference at Shanghai in 1909 and represented the United States on the Narcotics Committee of the League of Nations in 1923.

From 1917 to 1919 Brent doubled as the Senior Chaplain of the American Expeditionary Forces.  At the request of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, he organized and supervised the chaplaincy.

In 1918 Brent accepted election as the Bishop of Western New York, with Buffalo as his see city.  He began his duties the following year and remained the bishop of that diocese for the rest of his life.

Brent was an ecumenical leader in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the modern ecumenical movement.  In 1910 he attended the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, Scotland.  The pioneering ecumenical conference increased cooperation among missionary societies.  Our saint, a convinced ecumenist, became a leader of the cause in his denomination.  Later that year the General Convention of The Episcopal Church proposed what became the First World Conference on Faith and Order (1927) at Lausanne, Switzerland.  At that gathering, over which Brent presided, representatives of about 90 denominations–from the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox to Quakers and some Baptists–discussed doctrine.  The purpose of the conference was to promote doctrinal unity.  Nevertheless, doctrinal differences became apparent quickly, but the gathering did encourage subsequent ecumenism.

Brent died at Lausanne on March 27, 1929, while traveling in Europe.  He was 66 years old.

In 1907 Brent published a certain prayer, one included in his original language in Daily Morning Prayer, Rite One, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of thy saving embrace:  So clothe us in thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.  Amen.

–Page 58

Morning Prayer, Rite Two, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a modern-language version of that prayer.  So does Daily Morning Prayer in Texts for Common Prayer (2013), of the Donatist (in the broad definition of that term) Anglican Church in North America.  Any form of the prayer is absent from the corresponding ritual in The Book of Common Prayer (1928).

Brent’s legacy includes not only a meaningful prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) but the World Council of Churches (founded in 1948) and The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion since 1988).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one:

Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance,

that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent,

we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ;

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

Isaiah 56:6-8

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Matthew 9:35-38

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 293

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Feast of Blessed Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador (March 24)   1 comment

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Above:  The Scene Immediately After the Assassination of Archbishop Romero

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO ARNULFO Y GALDEMEZ (AUGUST 15, 1917-MARCH 24, 1980)

Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador

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I have frequently been threatened with death.  I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection.  If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.

Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned.  But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life then may my blood be the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality….A bishop will die, but the church of God–the people–will never die.

–Archbishop Romero, quoted in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 133

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This feast exists in various denominations.  From Roman Catholic websites I know of the beatification of Romero on May 23, 2015, and of the fact of decades of official suspicion that he was a Marxist.  And, based on my library, I know the following statements to be accurate:

  1. The Episcopal Church observes the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980,  and the Martyrs of El Salvador.”
  2. The Church of England keeps the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr, 1980.”
  3. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada observe the feast of “Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, 1980.”

Furthermore, Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1979), places Romero’s feast on March 24, the same date of the saint’s feast on the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Church of England calendars.

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Archbishop Oscar Romero became a martyr for challenging the repressive government of El Salvador which had death squads that targeted civilians.  The U.S. Government, for reasons of Cold War politics, provided military aid to this regime during the Carter and Reagan Administrations.  The Cold War provided cover for a multitude of murders, apparently.

Romero, born at Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador, on August 15, 1917, became an apprentice to a carpenter at the age of 13 years.  The following year our saint discerned a vocation to the priesthood; he began to prepare for it.  Romero studied in El Salvador at in Rome.  Our saint, ordained a priest on April 4, 1942, became a parish priest in his homeland.  He also served as the diocesan secretary at San Miguel.

The episcopate summoned.  On April 25, 1970, Romero became the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador.  He left that post on October 15, 1974, to become the Bishop of Santiago de Maria.  There he began to liberalize.  Romero had been suspicious of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and of the call (from 1968) of Archbishop Helder Camara for the Church to advocate for social justice for the poor and the oppressed, not to identify with those who oppress them.  Despite Romero’s gradual shift to the left (in progress), he remained relatively conservative when he became the Archbishop of San Salvador on February 3, 1977.

Romero’s move to the left accelerated soon after he became archbishop.  On March 12, 1977, government gunmen assassinated Father Rutilio Grande, a priest committed to social justice for campesinos.  The following Sunday the archbishop suspended Masses in the capital city and demanded the punishment of the guilty.  Romero became a vocal opponent of the regime, which killed civilians as a matter of policy; he was the “Voice of the Voiceless.”  The junta that seized power in 1979 did not cease the repression.  Early in 1980 our saint wrote President Jimmy Carter and requested that the U.S. Government halt military aid to the government of El Salvador.  This did not endear the archbishop to the Salvadoran regime, of course.

On Sunday, March 23, 1980, in a homily, Romero effectively signed his death warrant.  He said in part:

I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the Police, and the garrisons.  Brothers, you belong to our own people.  You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail that says:  Do not kill!  No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God.  No one has to comply with an immoral law.  It is time ow that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.  The Church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of the dignity of the human person, cannot remain silent before so much abomination.

We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood.  Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of the longsuffering people, whose laments rise to heaven everyday more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God:  stop the repression!

–Translated by Nena Terrell and Sally Hanlon; quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, editors, Cloud of Witnesses (2005), pages 278-279

The following day, Monday, March 24, 1980, Romero preached his final homily at a hospital chapel in San Salvador.  He said in part:

“God’s reign is already present on earth in mystery.  When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.”

That is the hope that inspires Christians.  We know that every effort to better society, especially when so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.

–Translated by James R. Brockman, S.J. and quoted in The Violence of Love:  The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero (San Francisco, CA:  Harper & Row, 1988), page 242

A government gunman assassinated Romero after the completed that homily.

Civil War began later that year and continued until 1992.  The government of El Salvador (the one receiving military aid from the United States Government) killed more than 75,000 civilians as a matter of policy.  Among those murdered by death squads were Roman Catholic priests, members of Roman Catholic orders, and lay people associated with them.

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Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,

If thou wouldst my disciple be;

Deny thyself, the world forsake,

And humbly follow after me.

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Take up thy cross; let not its weight

Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

My strength shall bear thy spirit up,

And brace thine heart and nerve thine arm.

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Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

Nor let thy foolish heart rebel;

The Lord for thee the cross endured,

To save thy soul from death and hell.

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Take up thy cross then in his strength;

And calmly every danger brave;

‘Twill guide thee to a better home,

And lead to victory o’er the grave.

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Take up thy cross and follow him,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

Charles William Everest (1814-1877), 1833

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Oscar Romero took up his cross and followed Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION, WITNESS TO THE CRUCIFIXION

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Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor,

and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope:

Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador,

we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life,

even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,

be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

–Isaiah 2:5-7

Psalm 31:15-24

Revelation 7:13-17

John 12:23-32

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 287

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Feast of Paul Couturier (March 24)   Leave a comment

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Above:  Paul Couturier

Image in the Public Domain

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PAUL IRENEE COUTURIER (JULY 29, 1881-MARCH 24, 1953)

Apostle of Christian Unity

Paul Couturier is one of three saints assigned to March 24 in Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005; Fourth Impression, 2010).  In my copy of Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000), however, his feast is absent.

Couturier, born in Lyon, France, on July 29, 1881, grew up as one of the pieds-noirs in Algeria.  In 1906 he became a Roman Catholic priest as a member of the Society of St. Irenaeus.  Next our saint studied physical science for several years before beginning to teach at the Institut des Chartreux, a parochial school in Lyon.  For most of the rest of his life Couturier taught at that school; he retired in 1951.  Couturier, as a teacher, influenced the lives of many students directly and therefore the lives of many other people indirectly.

His other work–that of ecumenism–has brought him to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, however.  That ecumenical work had its roots in the early 1920s, when Couturier worked with Russian refugees.  They broadened his horizons by introducing him to Russian Orthodoxy.  By the early 1930s our saint had become a committed ecumenist.  In 1933 he founded the Triduum for Christian Unity.  The following year he renamed it the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25), an extension of the Octave for Church Unity, dating to 1908 and with Anglican origins.  In 1939 Couturier’s Octave became the Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Couturier developed a network of international contacts as he pursued ecumenical efforts.  In 1936 he organized the first Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue at Erlenbach, Switzerland.  The following to years he spent time in England as he studied Anglicanism.  His international contacts alarmed the Gestapo, which incarcerated our saint during World War II.  The prison experience damaged Couturier’s health; it was his cross to bear, he concluded.  Couturier witnessed the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and stayed in contact with that organization’s leaders for the rest of his life.  In 1952 Maximus IV, the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, declared Couturier an honorary archimandrite, or monastic priest.

Couturier died at Lyon on March 24, 1953.  He was 71 years old.

predictably Couturier’s legacy has received mixed reviews.  Both traditional Catholic groups (who oppose dialogue with other Christians) and non-Roman Catholic groups who oppose dialogue with Holy Mother Church have not embraced ecumenism.  After all, if one thinks that Catholicism is the repository of truth, why should one affirm dialogue with heretics?  Likewise, if one thinks that the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, why should one support dialogue with it?  Couturier, however, presaged the declaration of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) that non-Roman Catholic Christians are “separated brethren.”

Denominational identities and structures are frequently stubborn; inertia does much to maintain them, even long after the reason or reasons for the founding have become obsolete.  I wonder when the changing demographics of organized religion in the United States (where the fastest grown religious label is “none”) will begin to lead to the consolidation of denominations.  After all, what proportion of the devout Christian population in the United States really cares about minor theological differences?  One might point to the mergers that created the United Church of Canada (1925), the Church of South India (1947), the Church of North India (1970), the Church of Pakistan (1970), and the Uniting Church of Australia (1977).  Why not, for example, consolidate certain Reformed denominations in the United States?  [The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) + the United Church of Christ = a feasible denomination, does it not?  Portions of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church of North America might even what to participate in a merger also.  (Parts of the CRCNA are to the left of parts of the RCA.  I wonder if segments of the RCA and the CRCNA would be comfortable merging with some conservative Reformed bodies.)]  Why not lay aside minor theological differences and merge certain Anglican and Lutheran bodies in North America? [The Episcopal Church + the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America = The Anglican Lutheran Church; the Anglican Church of Canada + the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada = the Anglican Lutheran Church in Canada.]   The Lutheran and Anglican traditions have cross-fertilized each other since the 1500s, after all.  I could continue to offer examples of possible merger partners, but I think I have made my point sufficiently.  The churches, consolidated more and working together more closely when not merged, would have a more effective witness this way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Heavenly Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ said to his apostles,

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:

regard not our sins but the faith of your Church,

and grant it that peace and unity which is agreeable to your will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 33:6-9a

Psalm 133 or 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:11b-23

The Alternative Service Book 1980, pages 904 and 905

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