Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1940s’ Category

Feast of Roland Allen (June 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Roland Allen

Image in the Public Domain

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ROLAND ALLEN (DECEMBER 29, 1868-JUNE 9, 1947)

Anglican Priest, Missionary, and Mission Strategist

The Episcopal Church added Roland Allen to its calendar of saints at the General Convention of 2009.

Roland Allen was, during his lifetime, a marginal figure in global missions.  He, born in Bristol, England, on December 29, 1868, was the fifth of five children of an Anglican priest.  Our saint, an Anglo-Catholic, attended St. John’s College, Oxford, then the Leeds Clergy Training School.  Allen, ordained to the diaconate in 1892 and the priesthood the following year, turned to foreign missions early in his career.  The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) dispatched him to its North China Mission in 1895.  Allen was planning to lead a new school for the training of Chinese catechists in 1900 when the Boxer Rebellion started.  He wrote of that time in The Siege of the Peking Legations (1901).  Our saint, on furlough in England, married Mary B. Tarlton.  The Allens, in northern China, welcomed their first child into the world in 1902.  Our saint fell ill, however, so the family returned to England.

There Allen became a parish priest.  He resigned his post in protest in 1907, however.  Our saint could not, in good conscience, obey the rule requiring him to baptize all babies presented for that sacrament, even if the parents lacked any Christian commitment.

Allen spent the rest of his life–much of it in Kenya–researching and pondering missions strategies.  While he did this he supported himself and his family financially by lecturing and writing.  In a series of books, notably Missionary Methods:  St. Paul’s or Ours (1912), Allen argued for revolutionary propositions:

  1. Missionaries should be voluntary clergy with secular employment, in the style of St. Paul the Apostle, who made tents.
  2. Missionaries should abandon all paternalism.
  3. Missionaries should adapt their methods to local customs.
  4. Missionaries should train local people to take over the missions.

Allen, aged 78 years, died in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 9, 1947.  His work did not become influential until the 1960s, however.

Allen understood something crucial:  Western missionaries were often their own worst enemies, bringing with them to foreign lands their prejudices, ethnocentrism, and imperial politics.  This baggage interfered with the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission.  Our saint’s critique was sharp and accurate, meant to help the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

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Almighty God, by your Spirit you opened the Scriptures of your servant Roland Allen,

so that he might lead many to know, live, and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Give us grace to follow his example, that the variety of those to whom we reach out in love may

receive your saving Word and witness and their own languages and cultures to your glorious Name;

through Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns

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

Numbers 11:26-29

Psalm 119:145-152

2 Corinthians 9:8-15

Luke 8:4-15

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 415

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Feast of Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs (June 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Last Stand:  Science Versus Superstition, by Udo J. Keppler

From Puck Magazine, July 19, 1899

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-28614

Charles Augustus Briggs is the man on the left in the clergy collar.

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CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS (JANUARY 15, 1841-JUNE 8, 1913)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Episcopal Priest, Biblical Scholar, and Alleged Heretic

father of

EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS (1867-JUNE 14, 1944)

Biblical Scholar and “Heretic’s Daughter”

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It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved.

Galileo Galilei

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Progress in religion, in doctrine, and in life is demanded of our age of the world more than any other age.

–Charles Augustus Briggs

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Above:  Charles Augustus Briggs

Image in the Public Domain

The tribe of alleged heretics includes luminaries.

Charles Augustus Briggs was one of the relatively liberal clergymen who became epicenters of controversy in the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (“Northern,” but actually national) in the late 1800s.  He, born in New York, New York, on January 15, 1841, was a son of Alanson Tuthill Briggs (Sr.), who managed the family business, the largest barrel-making company in the United States, and Sarah Mead Berrian Briggs.  Young Charles studied at the University of Virginia from 1857 to 1860; there he had a conversion experience.  For a few months our saint was a soldier in the New York Seventh Regiment during the Civil War.  Next Briggs matriculated at Union Theological Seminary (UTS), New York, New York.  He left in 1863, due to his father’s extended illness, to manage the family business.

Briggs married Julia Valentine Dobbs in 1865.  The couple had seven children, five of whom survived our saint.  These five were:

  1. Emilie Grace Briggs (1867-June 14, 1944);
  2. Agnes Briggs, who married Philip Ketteridge;
  3. Alanson Tuthill Briggs (II) (1871-January 31, 1946);
  4. Herbert Wilfrid Briggs; and
  5. Olive M. Briggs.

Briggs became a Presbyterian minister.  The First Presbytery of New York licensed our saint to preach in April 1866.  That June Charles and Julia Briggs traveled to Berlin, where he studied for his doctorate at the University of Berlin.  At that institution our saint studied under proponents of historical critical scholarship of the Bible; Isaac A. Dorner was, by Briggs’s account, an influential figure in the shaping of his theology.  Also in Berlin the Briggses welcomed their daughter Emilie Grace into the world.  Our saint, back in the United States, served as the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Roselle, New Jersey, from 1869 to 1874.  That year he accepted an appointment to Union Theological Seminary as Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Languages.

Briggs remained at Union Theological Seminary for the rest of his life, although not always as a Presbyterian.  He was, according to student then colleague, Presbyterian minister and UTS professor William Adams Brown (1865-1938), a

walking encyclopedia, combining an essentially conservative theology with a critical scholarship.

Most of Briggs’s critics within and beyond the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. never questioned his intellect, but they did doubt his orthodoxy.  Briggs, from 1880 to 1890 the Editor of the Presbyterian Review, was a champion of historical criticism scholarship, of Higher Criticism of the Bible.  Our saint argued for propositions that no not cause the author of this post to arch his eyebrows.  Briggs argued, for example that

  1. The Book of Isaiah is the product of two authors.  (I have read commentaries that argue for three Isaiahs.  The editors of The Jewish Study Bible argue for two Isaiahs.)
  2. The Book of Zechariah is a composite work.  (The study Bibles in my library agree with this conclusion.)
  3. The Torah is not the work of Moses, but a composite of various documents edited, cut, and pasted during the time of Ezra.  (Renowned Jewish Biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman supports this conclusion in his books Who Wrote the Bible? (1987), Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), and The Bible with Sources Revealed:  A New View Into the Five Books of Moses (2003).)
  4. The Book of Jonah is a work of fiction.  (Of course it is.  The story is a magnificent satire of the excesses of postexilic Jewish nationalism and a reminder that God’s love extends to all Gentiles, even national enemies.)
  5. The Bible is neither inerrant nor infallible.  The dogmas that it is constitute barriers to faith for many people.  (I have read the Bible too closely to affirm either inerrancy or infallibility.  To label the recognition of the obvious heretical is  to encourage one not to love God with all of one’s intellect.)

These and other views of Briggs allegedly subverted the Christian faith.

Briggs favored the reordering of American Presbyterian theology and the revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith, to moderate the rough edges of its Calvinism.  He, an ardent ecumenist and supporter of organic union among denominations, argued against “orthodoxism,” or a false orthodoxy that betrays the principles of the Protestant Reformation and of the best aspects of the Presbyterian tradition.  In Whither? A Theological Question for the Times (1889) Briggs wrote:

Orthodoxism assumes to know the truth and is unwilling to learn; it is haughty and arrogant, assuming the divine prerogatives of infallibility and inerrancy; it hates the truth that is unfamiliar to it, and prosecutes it to the uttermost.  But orthodoxy loves the truth.  It is ever anxious to learn, for it knows how greatly the truth or God transcends human knowledge….It is meek, lowly, and reverent.  It is full of charity and love.  It does not recognize an infallible pope; it does not know an infallible theologian.

Briggs did not remain either a Presbyterian or alive long enough to witness the triumph of his position in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  He lived until 1913, a decade after the denomination revised the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. did not side officially with the Modernist side in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy until the middle and late 1920s, however.  The Presbytery of New York put Briggs, since 1891 the Edward Robinson Chair of Biblical Theology at UTS, on trial for heresy and acquitted him on that charge in 1892, but the General Assembly of 1893 suspended him from ministerial duties until he repented.  He never repented.  Briggs, after preaching as a layman for a few years, became an Episcopal priest in 1899 instead.  He, 72 years old, died of pneumonia on June 8, 1913.

Briggs, working from his secure professional home at Union Theological Seminary, continued to teach, write, and edit.  One of his greatest accomplishments was the Hebrew and English Lexicon (1905), a classic and standard work.  His fellow authors were Francis Brown and S. R. Driver, but his daughter Emilie Grace contributed to the work also.  She, assistant to her father from the 1890s to 1913, was a crucial participant in his late scholarly endeavors.

Emilie should have had a doctorate.  In 1897 she made history by becoming the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary.  She pursued graduate studies and wrote her dissertation, The Deaconess in the Ancient and Medieval Church, which the UTS faculty approved.  Yet she never received her doctorate, due to the fact she could never get the dissertation published, a requirement for receiving a doctorate from UTS at the time.  She revised the dissertation for decades and various professors helped her try to get it published, to no avail.  Emilie taught Greek and the New Testament at the New York Training School for Deaconesses, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, from 1896 to 1915.  After her father’s death in 1913 her main project was his legacy.  He left some scholarly books unfinished.  She, the author of several scholarly articles, finished and got published Theological Symbolics (1914), History of the Study of Theology (two volumes, 1916), and a commentary on Lamentations.  Emilie, who studied the order of deaconesses, completed other projects her father never had time to finish; she could not get them published, however.  She also collected and organized her father’s papers, which she donated to the library at UTS in 1941.  Emilie, who never married, died, aged 77 years, on June 14, 1944.

Charles Augustus Briggs and his daughter and intellectual heir, Emilie Grace Briggs, belong on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  They were fearless in their embrace of both faith and reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Charles Augustus Briggs, Emilie Grace Briggs, 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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Feast of St. John XXIII (June 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. John XXIII

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN XXIII (NOVEMBER 25, 1881-JUNE 3, 1963)

Bishop of Rome

Born Angelo Giovanni Roncalli

Lutheran feast day = June 3

Episcopal and Canadian Anglican feast day = June 4

Roman Catholic feast day = October 11 (formerly June 3)

Pope St. John XXIII began the process of opening the proverbial windows of the Roman Catholic Church and became perhaps the most influential Vicar of Christ in the twentieth century.  He was certainly a breath of fresh air.

Angelo Giovanni Roncalli came from humble origins.  He, born at Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo, Italy, on November 25, 1881, was the third of thirteen children.  His parents were peasant farmers.  Our saint studied at the village school then at Bergamo.  Next he attended the St. Apollinare Institute, Rome, on scholarship, from 1901 to 1904, graduating with the Doctor of Theology degree.

The young priest became an academic and a scholar.  From 1905 to 1914 Roncalli served as the Secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo.  During that time our saint also lectured in ecclesiastical history at the diocesan seminary.  He, drafted during World War I, was a hospital orderly then a chaplain in the Italian army.  In 1921 Pope Benedict XV named Roncalli the national director of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.  Our saint found time to write historical monographs on various ecclesiastical topics, including a multi-volume work on St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), completed in 1958.

From 1925 to 1953 Roncalli was a diplomat.  He served as the apostolic visitor (1925-1931) then apostolic delegate (1931-1934) to Bulgaria then the apostolic delegate (1934-1944) to Turkey and Greece.  In Eastern Europe our saint established friendly relations with Eastern Orthodox bishops.  During the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-1944) Roncalli worked to prevent the deportation of Jews.  As the nuncio to France (1944-1953) our saint had to deal with the political aftermath of World War II.  When the government of Charles de Gaulle wanted the Church to remove thirty-three bishops suspected of being Vichy collaborators, he dismissed only three.  The nuncio found most of the evidence against the thirty-three bishops unsatisfactory.  He told de Gaulle:

What I have here is mostly newspaper clippings and gossip.  These are not evidence in any system of justice.  If you can’t supply something more concrete, I am afraid that any action against these men would be discreditable both to me and the justice of France.

–Quoted in Orlando Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (Nashville, TN:  Graded Press, 1968), pages 90-91

Our saint also supported the worker-priest movement, of which the Vatican was dubious.  Roncalli, elevated to the College of Cardinals on June 12, 1953, became the Patriarch of Venice three days later.

Pope Pius XII died in early October 1958.  At the end of the month the College of Cardinals elected Roncalli to fill the vacancy.  The 78-year-old Supreme Pontiff was no caretaker Pope.  At his enthronement St. John XXIII announced that he, most of all, wanted to be a good shepherd.  During the next few years our saint made changes in the Roman Catholic Church.  He expanded the College of Cardinals from a maximum of 70 members and expanded it to 87, while increasing its international diversity, by the end of 1962.  St. John XXIII started the revision of canon law and opened the first session of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965), which Pope Paul VI completed.  Our saint also revived the papal custom of visiting prisoners or patients at Christmas.  Furthermore, St. John XXIII, not a prisoner of the Vatican, as some of his predecessors had been, earned the respect of John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, both of whom he advised to act cautiously during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Some of St. John XXIII’s most impressive achievements were in the field of ecumenism.  In 1960 he established the Secretariat for Christian Unity.  That year he also made history by receiving Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The following year our saint sent official greetings to Athenagoras I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and dispatched observers to the gathering of the World Council of Churches.  The Supreme Pontiff, who greeted Jewish visitors by saying,

I am Joseph, your brother!,

excised from the liturgy for Good Friday the words offensive to Jews.

Good Pope John, aged 81 years, died on June 3, 1963.

Pope John Paul II declared our saint a Venerable in 1999 then a Blessed the following year.  Pope Francis canonized Roncalli in 2013.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Lord of all truth and peace, you raised up your bishop John to be a servant

of the servants of God and gave him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church:

Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son,

and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace;

through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you

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

Joel 2:26-29

Psalm 50:1-6

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 407

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Feast of Blessed Lojze Grozde (May 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  Yugoslavia, September 1939

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

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BLESSED LOJZE GROZDE (MAY 27, 1923-JANUARY 1, 1943)

Slovenian Roman Catholic Martyr

Alternative feast day = January 1

Blessed Lojze Grozde served God ably during his 19 years of life.  He, born out-of-wedlock at Trzišce, Zgornje Vodale, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, on May 27, 1923, and baptized that day, grew up with his maternal grandparents and an aunt, pious peasants who raised him.  Our saint, a fine student, attended a boarding school in Ljubljana, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous benefactor.  Grozde, who joined the Congregation of Mary at the age of 13 years and Catholic Action two years later, considered studying for the priesthood yet concluded that he could do more for God as a layman.

World War II proved deadly for Grozde.  Yugoslavia was under fascist–Italian and German–occupation.  Communist rebels, being opposed to fascism because they were communists, resisted the occupiers (as rebels in occupied countries tend to do).  Some of these rebels mistook our saint, who was en route to visit relatives, for a fascist collaborator.  He was, without a doubt, a Roman Catholic; he carried a Latin prayer-book and the copy of The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis.  These rebels arrested, incarcerated, and tortured Grozde, whom they killed at Mirna Trebnje, Slovenia, on January 1, 1943.  Some children found his corpse in the woods on February 23.

Pope Benedict XVI declared Grozde a Venerable then a Blessed in 2010.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Blessed Lojze Grozde

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

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

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Feast of Blessed Mykola Tsehelskyi (May 25)   Leave a comment

Above:  Ukraine, 1945

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from the Post-World War II Atlas Supplement to Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

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BLESSED MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI (DECEMBER 17, 1896-MAY 25, 1951)

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Priest and Martyr

Alternative feast day = June 27 (as one of the Martyrs Killed Under Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe)

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My dearest wife, the feast of the Dormition was our twenty-fifth anniversary.  I recall fondly our family life together, and every day in my dreams I am with you and the children, and this makes me happy.  I give a fatherly kiss to all their foreheads, and I hope to live honestly, behaving blamelessly, keeping far from everything that is foul.  I pray for this most of all.

–Blessed Mykola Tshhelskyi, writing from prison in Mordovia, Russia, U.S.S.R.

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Blessed Mykola Tsehelskyi was a priest in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  He, born in Strusiv, Ternopil District, Ukraine, Russian Empire, on December 17, 1896, studied theology at the University of Lviv then graduated in 1923.  Our saint, a married man, was the father of two sons and two daughters.  He was a priest from April 5, 1925 (his ordination), to May 25, 1951 (his death).  Tsehelskyi, a dedicated parish priest, suffered during World War II, when Soviet authorities persecuted him for refusing to convert to Russian Orthodoxy.  The persecution continued after the war.  Authorities arrested our saint on October 28, 1946, then, on January 27, 1947, a court sentenced him to a prison term of ten years.  He spent the rest of his life performing forced labor in Mordovia, Russia.  Authorities also exiled his family to the Chytenska region of Russia.

Pope John Paul II declared Tsehelskyi a Venerable then a Blessed in 2001.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty God, who gave to your servant Blessed Mykola Tsehelskyi

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, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 121

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 713

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

Above:  Logo of the United Lutheran Church in America

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL (MAY 22, 1870-OCTOBER 16, 1945)

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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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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

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

Above:  Poster of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED FRANZ JÄGERSTÄTTER (MAY 20, 1907-AUGUST 9, 1943)

Austrian Roman Catholic Conscientious Objector and Martyr

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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

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TALLIS AND HIS STUDENT AND COLLEAGUE, WILLIAM BYRD, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND JOHN MERBECKE, ENGLISH COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DITLEF GEORGSON RISTAD, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, LITURGIST, AND EDUCATOR

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Almighty God, 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

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