Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1930s’ Category

Feast of Frederick Hermann Knubel (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the United Lutheran Church in America

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



President of The United Lutheran Church in America

This post depends almost entirely upon The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962, begun by E. Theodore Bachmann, who died before he completed the process of writing the volume.  His wife, Mercia Brenne Bachmann, finished the book, which Paul Rorem edited.  The Fortress Press, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, published the volume in 1997.

Lutheran history interests me.  I find that learning about various strands of that tradition enriches my life.  I am glad to know about Frederick Hermann Knubel and to write about him.

One strand of Lutheranism in the United States dates to the colonial era, predating the founding of the Ministerium of North America (later renamed the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States) in 1748.  Subsequent Lutheran history reveals the formation of offshoot synods and other synods, most of them defined by state lines or by regions.  One can also read of the formation of the federation (as opposed to denomination) called The Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of America in 1820 and of the continuing formation of synods, not all of which affiliated with the General Synod.  Lutheran history also tells of the defection of the synods comprising The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America in 1863, known as The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from 1866 to 1886, when the addition of the Holston and Tennessee Synods created The United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South.  Furthermore, one can read of the split of the synods comprising the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from the General Synod (1820) in 1867.

Frederick Hermann Knubel hailed from the Synod of New York and New Jersey, affiliated with the General Synod (1820).  Our saint, born in Greenwich Village, New York, New York, on May 22, 1870, grew up in a devout German Lutheran family.  He was the fourth child and first son of Frederick Knubel (a successful businessman) and Anna Knubel (Knubel), each of whom came from a different branch of the same family in Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany.  Frederick the elder, a pillar of the church, was a trustee of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, just two blocks away from the family’s home.  Young Frederick, a second-generation American, grew up in a bilingual home.

Our saint planned originally to follow in his father’s footsteps, but changed his mind at the age of 19 years.  The vocation to ordained ministry led young Knubel away from the City College of New York and Packard’s Business College to Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) then to the seminary, both in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He spent six years in Gettysburg, starting in 1889.  The theological position of the seminary was a mild confessionalism that emphasized the catholic, not the exclusive, nature of Lutheranism.  That stance, which defined the General Synod, also marked Knubel’s theology subsequently.

The seminary graduate married in 1895 then spent a year with his wife in Leipzig, Germany.  Knubel married Christine Ritscher, of Jersey City, New Jersey, in June.  Our saint’s parents helped generously with finances as our saint studied theology at Leipzig University.  Decades later Knubel recalled,

When I left Gettysburg, I felt I had the answers.  But after a year at Leipzig I had a far deeper appreciation of the questions.

Back in the United States Knubel built up a new congregation.  He, ordained in New York City on October 17, 1896, became a mission developer for the Synod of New York and New Jersey.  From 1897 to 1918 he was pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, a mission of St. John’s, Greenwich Village.  (Since 1927 the congregation has been Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church, due to a merger with the Church of Our Saviour.)  Atonement was Knubel’s only pastorate.  In 1907 it had about 1,000 baptized members, ranging from the rich to the poor.  A decade later that number had increased to about 3,500.  At Atonement Knubel demonstrated his support for the deaconess movement.  Deaconess Jennie Christ, who became our saint’s second wife decades later, arrived in the parish in 1903.

The Knubels had two children, both of whom spent their lives in Christian service.  Frederick Knubel Ritscher (1897-1957), a minister, served as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Rochester, New York, from 1921 to 1944 then as the President of the Synod of New York and New England (in The United Lutheran Church in America) from 1945 to 1957.  Helen Knubel (1901-1992), who contracted polio at the age of 16 years and spent the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair, became the greatest Lutheran archivist in North America.

Our saint was an ecumenist.  He belonged to Koinonia, a group of Lutheran clergymen in New York City founded in 1896.  The members hailed from various synods–Missouri, Joint Ohio, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and affiliates of the General Synod (1820) and the General Council (1867).  At each meeting a member presented a paper, which the group discussed.  Sometimes the ministers took communion, despite the policy of closed communion in some of the synods.  In January 1916 Knubel was a General Synod delegate to an American regional missionary conference related to the Faith and Order movement, a precursor of the World Council of Churches.  Some other U.S. Lutheran bodies, distrustful of unionism, boycotted the gathering, however.

1917 and 1918 were eventful years in U.S. Lutheranism.  1917 was the four hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  It was also the year the United States entered World War I.  That conflict stirred up intolerance domestically.  German Americans and other groups of foreign origin became suspect to many.  Danish, Swedish, German, and Norwegian Americans, among others, became targets of state laws that banned church services in foreign languages.  Vigilantes attacked churches of Christian Reformed, ethnic Lutheran, and other affiliations.  This period expedited the transition to the English language in more than one denomination.

The member synods of the General Synod were among the oldest of the U.S. Lutheran bodies, and were therefore more culturally assimilated than the two Danish-American synods, for example.  Nevertheless, even the General Synod Lutherans had to defend their American patriotism in 1917 and 1918.  Outside pressure on Lutherans from nativists, combined with the anniversary of the Reformation, spurred on inter-Lutheran ecumenism.  The National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Welfare formed on October 19, 1917; Knubel became its president.  Also, the Lutheran Brotherhood of America formed on November 6, 1917, and the National Lutheran Council came into being in September 1918.  In 1917 three Norwegian-American synods, which had already produced The Lutheran Hymnary (1913), reunited to constitute the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, later renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Meanwhile, the reunion of the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South, which had produced the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), was proceeding according to schedule.

The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), a denomination, although not a relatively decentralized one, formed in New York City on November 14, 1918.  Knubel, who had served on the Deaconess Board and the Inner Mission Board of the General Synod (1820), became the first president of the new body.  He served a consecutive series of two-year terms until December 31, 1944.  Knubel presided over the consolidation of ULCA, formed with overlapping magazines, agencies, and synods.  He also shepherded ULCA through good times and bad times, from the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression, and into World War II.

Knubel was an advocate of ecumenism.  He favored the Federal Council of Churches, a predecessor of the National Council of Churches.  He, a mildly Confessional Lutheran, laid the foundation for greater Lutheran unity as he led his denomination into dialogues with more conservative bodies, including the Missouri Synod and the 1930-1960 iteration of The American Lutheran Church.  They objected to, among other facts, ULCA’s rejection of Biblical inerrancy.  ULCA’s position was that the Bible is authoritative because it communicates the Word of God, defined as the saving message of God.  During World War II U.S. Lutheran denominations cooperated in providing pastoral care to German prisoners of war and increased their collaboration in domestic missions.  Knubel approved of this ecumenical activity.

On the personal front, Christine Ritscher Knubel, our saint’s wife since 1895, died in December 1923.  He married Deaconess Jennie Christ in 1925.  In 1944 Knubel, whose health was failing, did not seek another term as president.  The convention elected Franklin Clark Fry (1900-1968), to succeed him.  Knubel’s retirement was brief; he died on October 16, 1945.  His children and second wife survived him.

From the beginning of Knubel’s tenure to the end thereof, membership in ULCA had increased from 1.1 million to 1.7 million.

At Knubel’s funeral, held at Our Saviour’s Atonement Church, New York City, Fry said of his predecessor,

God gave our father a marvelous degree of wisdom….By his gracious Christian churchmanship, loving and shepherding men of various views, many a breach was prevented and many a wound never occurred.  This was what made our Church strong.  Indeed, it has gone far to make it possible….There need be no turning back for the United Lutheran Church, there can be a steady going forward into the future.  It will be a natural outgrowth of our late president’s judgment and his vision.

Frederick Hermann Knubel served God faithfully during his 75 years.





Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Frederick Hermann Knubel,

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



Feast of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter (May 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Poster of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Image in the Public Domain



Austrian Roman Catholic Conscientious Objector and Martyr


I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian; it is more like vegetating than living.

–Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, writing to a god-child


Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a man of lowly social origin, became a martyr because he insisted on obeying his principles.  His parents were Franz Bachmeier and Rosalia Huber, servants who did not marry because they could not afford to do so.  Our saint, born in Sankt Radegund, Austria, on May 20, 1907, lost his father at the age of ten years, during World War I.  Then Rosalia married farmer Heinrich Jägerstätter, who adopted young Franz.  Our saint’s stepfather and step-grandfather took great interest in him.  Franz, educated in a one-room school, learned much from these men.

Franz sowed some wild oats during his early twenties.  During that phase of his life he worked in the iron ore industry.  At the age of 23 years, however, he became serious about faith, married, and became a peasant farmer.  In 1936 Franz married Franziska, with whom he had three daughters.  He also worked as the sexton in his parish, to take the Holy Eucharist daily, to assist at funerals, and to minister to the grieving.

Everyone tells me, of course, that I should not do what I am doing because of the danger of death. I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying.

–Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, on resisting the military draft

The intersection of Nazism and Franz’s conscience led to his martyrdom.  In 1938 he openly opposed the Anschluss with Germany.  Our saint also answered “Heil Hitler” with “Pfui Hitler,” thereby becoming an outlier in his town.  Then military conscription became a problem.  Franz, drafted on June 17, 1940, served briefly before his mayor intervened.  Our saint returned to the farm.  Yet Franz was back in active service from October 1940 to June 1941.  The mayor intervened again, and our saint returned to the farm again.  Franz, who had once considered non-combatant service morally acceptable, changed his mind.  Any service in the cause of the Third Reich was immoral, he concluded.  When the Nazi regime called him to service again in February 1943, our saint refused to obey.  This led to incarceration and to a death sentence.

In prison our saint wrote:

Just as the man who thinks only of this world does everything possible to make life here easier and better, so must we, too, who believe in the eternal Kingdom, risk everything in order to receive a great reward there. Just as those who believe in National Socialism tell themselves that their struggle is for survival, so must we, too, convince ourselves that our struggle is for the eternal Kingdom. But with this difference: we need no rifles or pistols for our battle, but instead, spiritual weapons – and the foremost among these is prayer. Through prayer, we continually implore new grace from God, since without God’s help and grace it would be impossible for us to preserve the Faith and be true to His commandments. Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for Those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity. And happy are they who live and die in God’s love.

Franz, sentenced to die on July 6, 1943, went to the guillotine at Brandenburg on August 9 that year.  He was 36 years old.

Pope Benedict XVI declared our saint a Venerable then a Blessed in 2007.






Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adopted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 714


Feast of Jacques Ellul (May 19)   Leave a comment

Above:  Bordeaux Harbor, Bordeaux, France, 1890

Publisher and Copyright Holder = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-04951


JACQUES ELLUL (JANUARY 6, 1912-MAY 19, 1994)

French Reformed Theologian and Sociologist

Jacques Ellul offered a nuanced critique of modern society.  The central theme of his theology was that

The world is in perpetual contadiction with the will of God.

Ellul also argued that God has never abandoned the world.

Ellul, who was French, was of a mixed ethnic background.  He, born at Bordeaux on January 6, 1912, was the son of Joseph and Martha Ellul.  Joseph, frequently unemployed, came from an Eastern Orthodox background, which he had abandoned in favor of Deism.  He, born in Malta, was an Austrian citizen and a British subject of Serbian and Italian ethnicity.  Martha, a French Protestant, was of French and Portuguese descent.  She taught art at a private school.  Religion was a subject of little discussion in the home.  Our saint did not become a Christian until his early twenties.

At his father’s behest Ellul studied law at the University of Bordeaux.  At the university our saint read Das Kapital.  Thus Karl Marx became an influence on his thought.  The Marxian (separate from Marxist) idea of Conflict Theory, or of historical change via clashing social forces, remained a part of Ellul’s philosophy for the rest of his life.

Ellul offered a social critique prior to World War II.  He and friend Bernard Charbonneau (1910-1996) developed a variation on the Personalism of Emmanuel Mournier (1905-1950).  They published their libertarian-anarchist critique in Mournier’s journal, L’Esprit.  Our saint sought to start a cultural revolution opposed to nationalism and political centralism.  He stood in opposition in particular to modern technological structures.

In 1937, the same year Ellul married his wife Yvette, he became a professor of law.  He taught at Montpelier then at Strasbourg.  The government of the French State, or Vichy France, removed our saint from his position at the University of Strasbourg on the grounds that his father was Maltese.  (The Vichy slogan was “Work, Family, Country.”  Ellul was allegedly a foreigner because of his father.)  During World War II our saint supported himself and his family via farming.  He, active in the Maquis, also helped Jews escape from the Nazis.  For this work he received posthumous recognition as one of the Yad Vashem, or the Righteous Among the Nations.

Partisan politics disagreed with Ellul, but social causes did not.  He, the Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux from October 31, 1944, to April 29, 1945, preferred to work for social transformation via the Reformed Church of France and various non-partisan organizations.  Causes that inspired him included ecology and the prevention of juvenile delinquency.  Ellul, a professor at the University of Bordeaux from 1944 until his retirement in 1980, influenced many people around the world via his more than 35 books in the fields of theology and sociology.

Ellul, whose influences included Karl Marx, John Calvin, and Karl Barth, argued that Christians should be, from the perspective of the state and other social institutions, trouble-makers.  The systems, he insisted, are inherently violent, for, even if they do not commit violence, they depend upon it.  His proposed alternative was the “violence of love,” or the application of one’s energies to social change on behalf of the impoverished, especially the forgotten poor.  Regarding technology, Ellul criticized the deification of it.  He was no luddite, however.  No, his attitude toward technology was ambivalent.

Ellul, not a Biblical literalist, recognized that the sacred anthology contains inaccuracies and contradictions.  He dealt with them not by ignoring them, rationalizing them away, or rejecting the Bible, but by focusing on the messages in the Bible and its books as wholes.  The Church had canonized certain books, not isolated passages, he observed.  The best way to read the Bible, Ellul wrote, was to focus on the forest, not to become lost amid the trees.

Ellul died, aged 82 years, at Pessac (near Bordeaux) on May 19, 1994.

Ellul provides much food for thought for me.  I am not a Biblical literalist either, so his advice on reading and interpreting the scriptures resonates with me.  I also agree with Conflict Theory, an approach useful in history, my discipline.  Furthermore, I identify with Ellul’s ambivalent approach toward technology, with its benefits and its dangers.  I am a blogger, so I cannot be a luddite, but the Internet is not unambiguously good.  I appreciate our saint’s recognition of the violence inherent in social, economic, and political systems, whereby all of us become the beneficiaries of that violence, even if we do not commit it.  I also approve of his call to nonviolent social action in response.  Furthermore, the union of church and state perverts the church, transforming into an arm of the state.  Ellul’s cautious attitude toward the state therefore makes much sense to me.

People die yet ideas survive.  Ellul’s philosophy continues to influence people to nonviolent social action, fortunately.







Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Jacques Ellul,

and we pray that by his teachings we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61


Feast of Mary McLeod Bethune (May 18)   1 comment

Above:  Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-12536



African-American Educator and Social Activist


I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart.  They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.

–Mary McLeod Bethune


Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune left the world better than she found it.

Mary Jane McLeod was the fifteenth of seventeen children in her family.  She, born near Mayesville, South Carolina, on July 10, 1875, was a child of former slaves.  As such our saint learned the value of freedom at an early age.  Her grandmother Sophia, also a former slave, reinforced those lessons.  Young Mary Jane had a great appetite for knowledge in a place and at a time in which many unapologetically racist whites openly questioned the necessity and value of literacy and education for African Americans.

Mission schools of the former “Northern” (actually national) Presbyterian Church in the United States of America shaped our saint.  From the ages of 12 to 18 years she studied at Scotia Seminary for girls, Concord, North Carolina.  The racially integrated faculty impressed McLeod, who took to mathematics, science, Latin, and English with great eagerness.  After graduating from Scotia Seminary she studied at the Mission Training School of the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, from which she also graduated.  Then our saint applied to serve as a missionary to Africa, but the Presbyterian Board of Missions rejected her request, citing her youth.

McLeod’s vocation was actually to help African Americans.  She became a teacher at the Haines Institute, Augusta, Georgia.  In 1898 she married fellow teacher Albertus Bethune.  The couple moved to Savannah, Georgia, where they remained for a few years.  Our saint taught at mission schools–the Kendall Institute, Sumter, South Carolina; and the Palatka Mission School, Palatka, Florida–for a year.  Then, in 1904, she founded the Daytona Literary and Training School for Girls with five students and $1.50 ($41.70 in 2016 currency).  Bethune raised funds from the community and from corporate donors, however.  Donors included James Gamble (of Proctor and Gamble) and John D. Rockefeller, Sr.  Before 1919 the school had become the Daytona Educational and Industrial Institute.  In 1919 it changed its name to the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute.  In 1923-1925 the school merged with the Cookman Institute, Jacksonville, Florida.  The Cookman Institute, founded in 1872 and affiliated with the old “Northern” (actually national) Methodist Episcopal Church, trained African-American teachers and ministers.  The merged institution was Daytona-Cookman Collegiate Institution, which changed its name to Bethune-Cookman College in 1931.  Our saint served as the President until 1942 and again in 1946-1947.  She also transferred her membership from the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bethune was a civil rights pioneer.  She resisted the Ku Klux Klan and voted despite threats of violence.  Our saint also advocated for anti-lynching laws and for the termination of poll taxes.  She, who knew the stings of racial segregation well, acted to change her society.  This advocacy brought her to the attention of President Herbert Hoover, who invited her to attend a general session of the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection in 1930.

Eleanor Roosevelt was an especially important ally and friend of Bethune.  Through the First Lady our saint gained access to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom she lobbied on behalf of her people.  Bethune held government positions during the Roosevelt Administration.  She was the Director of Negro Administration from 1936 to 1944.  Our saint also served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of War and the Assistant Director of the Woman’s Army Corps.  In that capacity she organized the first woman’s officer candidate school.  Our saint also attended the founding conference of the United Nations.

As if Bethune were not busy enough, she did much more.  In 1935 she founded the National Council of Negro Women, an organization she led until 1939.  Our saint, also active in the National Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), served as the President of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History from 1936 to 1951.

Bethune, aged 79 years, rested from her labors on May 18, 1955.

Bethune-Cookman College became Bethune-Cookman University in 2007.





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 trouble,

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


Feast of Blessed Stanislaw Kubski (May 18)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dachau Concentration Camp

Image in the Public Domain



Polish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

Alternative feast day = June 12 (as one of the 108 Martyrs of World War II)

Blessed Stanislaw Kubski, born in partitioned and occupied Poland–at Ksiaz, Wielkopolskie, to be precise–on August 13, 1876, became a Polish nationalist, a political dissident, a Roman Catholic priest, and a martyr.  Our saint, a son of farmers Michael and Franciszek Kubski, attended seminary at Poznan-Hriezno.  He, ordained a priest on November 25, 1900, served as a parish priest at various places.  His political activities attracted the attention of certain officials of the German Empire.  In 1906, for example, Kubski supported a strike by school children who sought the right to learn in the Polish language.  Five years later German police fined our saint for organizing an educational reading without informing them.  Kubski was also active in city councils and various industrial groups.

Kubski was, by all accounts, a dedicated priest.  He remained one until he died.  Our saint, canon (1923-1925) then dean (from 1925) at Griezno, was also active in the Archdiocese of Gniezno above the parish level.  On September 8, 1939, after the Third Reich and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland, German authorities arrested Kubski for the crime of being a Roman Catholic priest.  They sent him first to Buchenwald, where he worked in a quarry.  In December 1939 Nazis transferred Kubski to Dachau.  There he remained until 1942.  That May 18, our saint being, according to the camp administration, unfit for work, he died in a gas chamber.  He was 65 years old.

Pope John Paul II declared Kubski a Venerable then a Blessed in 1999.





Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of Blessed Stanislaw Kubski,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage

to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

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


Feast of Donald Coggan (May 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Canterbury Cathedral, 1910

Image Source = Library of Congress

Publisher and Copyright Holder = Detroit Publishing Company

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a24699



Archbishop of Canterbury

Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury and author of more than 20 books, left his mark on The Church of England, his country, and the global church.

Coggan was a priest and an academic.  He, a child of Highgate businessman Cornish Arthur Coggan, entered the world on October 9, 1909.  Our saint, a graduate of St. John’s College, Cambridge, was Assistant Lecturer at Manchester University from 1931 to 1934.  He, ordained to the diaconate in 1934 then the priesthood the following year, served as the Curate of St. Mary’s, Islington, from 1934 to 1937.

Academia beckoned, however.  From 1937 to 1944 Coggan was Professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College, Ontario, Canada.  After that he worked at the London College of Divinity as Principal (1944-1956) and Macneil Professor of Biblical Exegesis (1952-1956).  Coggan also served as the Examining Chaplain to the Bishops of Lincoln (1946-1956), Manchester (1951-1956), Southwark (1954-1956), and Chester (1955-1956), and as Proctor in Convocation of the Diocese of London (1950-1956).

Then Coggan joined the ranks of the bishops.  He, the Bishop of Bradford (1956-1961) then the Archbishop of York (1961-1974), joined other capacities simultaneously.  He was, for example, the following;

  • Select Preacher at Oxford University (1960-1961),
  • Chairman of the Liturgical Commission of The Church of England (1960-1964),
  • Chairman of the College of Preachers (1960-1980),
  • Pro-Chancellor of York University (1962-1974),
  • Pro-Chancellor of Hull University (1968-1974),
  • President of the Society for Old Testament Studies (1967-1968),
  • Prelate of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1967-1990), and
  • Shaftesbury Lecturer (1973).

In 1974 Coggan became one of the oldest men appointed to the office of Archbishop of Canterbury.  As such he served briefly–not quite six years–the second shortest tenure in modern times.  (William Temple served for the briefest period of time.)  Coggan, an ardent evangelist, was an early supporter of the ordination of women in The Church of England.  He was also an ecumenist.  Our saint made history by attending the consecration of Pope John Paul II in 1978, thereby becoming the first Archbishop of Canterbury to attend a papal consecration in centuries.  Coggan also supported the Council of Christians and Jews.

Coggan remained active after retiring at the age of 70 years, consistent with canons.  In 1980 he became the Baron Coggan of Canterbury and Sissinghurst.  Our saint continued to write.  He also became Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Canterbury, serving until 1988.  Coggan also played a role in the translation of The Revised English Bible (1989), successor of The New English Bible (1961-1970), which he had also helped to translate.

Coggan, aged 90 years, died of natural causes at Winchester, where he had been an assistant bishop, on May 17, 2000.  His wife, Jean Braithwaite Strain Coffin (1909-2005), whom he had married in 1935, and two daughters survived him.

The legacy Coggan left the larger church also survives him, fortunately.





O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Donald Coggan and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

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

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34






Feast of Roger Schutz (May 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Brother Roger

Image Source = Vatican Radio



Founder and First Prior of the Taizé Community

Also known as Brother Roger


I discovered my Christian identity by reconciling within myself my Protestant origins and my faith in the Catholic Church.

–Brother Roger


Roger Schütz was an ecumenical pioneer who, even after his death, has continued to arouse the theological ire of both diehard anti-Roman Catholic Protestant and traditionalist Catholic camps while winning the approval of both the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.

Our saint had Protestant origins.  He, born in Provence, Switzerland, on May 12, 1915, was a son of Karl Ulrich Schütz, a Lutheran minister, and Amélie Henriette Marsauche, a French Calvinist.  From a young age, however, Roger had an interest in Roman Catholic spiritual writers, such as Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).  When our saint studied theology at Lausanne he wrote his thesis on the topic, “Is Saint Benedict’s ideal of the monastic life in conformity with the Gospel?”

The origins of the ecumenical monastery went back to 1940, when Schütz arrived in Taizé, Burgundy, France, on the border of the Nazi-occupation zone and the French State, or Vichy France.  He founded a community that sheltered Jews, orphans, and members of the Maquis.  Schütz, forced to flee from the Gestapo in 1942, returned two years later.  Then he began in earnest to set up the Taizé community.

Brother Roger wrote the community rule, the summary of which was:

Preserve at all times an interior silence to live in Christ’s presence and cultivate the spirit of the Beatitudes:  joy, simplicity, mercy.

On Easter Day 1949 the first brothers took their vows of celibacy, the sharing of possessions, and the acceptance of authority.  The ecumenical community was immediately a target of suspicion from both the Roman Catholic Church and mainstream Protestantism, although both of those camps lightened up over time.  In 1969, for example, the Roman Catholic hierarchy in France permitted Catholics to join the ecumenical monastery.  That community had 12 brothers in 1950, 50 brothers in 1965, and more than 100 brothers (most of them Catholics) in 2005.

Brother Roger was open about his Roman Catholic sympathies, although he never converted to Catholicism.  He defended the celibacy of the clergy and accepted the “universal ministry of the Pope,” for example.  Pope St. John XXIII invited our saint to observe Vatican II.  In 1974, at the Youth Council, which more than 40,000 people attended, an Orthodox bishop and five Cardinals were present.  Pope St. John Paul II visited Taizé in 1986.  Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey led a group of 100 young Anglicans there six years later.  Also, in 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, soon to become Pope Benedict XVI, gave Brother Roger communion at the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II.

Brother Roger, at the age of 90 years, was planning to retire when he died in 2005.  He had already designated a successor, Brother Alois.  On August 16, 2005, at a prayer service with 2,500 young people present, Luminita Ruxandra Solcan, a mentally ill woman from Romania, stabbed the prior fatally three times.  Those who issued their condolences included Pope Benedict XVI; Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; the Roman Catholic prelates of France and Germany; Nigel McCullough, the (Anglican) Bishop of Manchester; Geneviève Jacques, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches; and Bob Edgar, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.  At Brother Roger’s funeral Brother Alois prayed for divine forgiveness of Solcan.

I have written about many saints at this weblog since 2009.  They have been quite a varied group; many of them have been quite different from me.  (Vive a différence!)  Brother Roger has been one of the saints closest to my heart, especially given his zeal for ecumenism.







Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Roger Schütz,

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