Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1990s’ Category

Feast of Christian de Cherge and His Companions (May 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of Northern Algeria

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Rand McNally World Atlas–Imperial Edition (1968)

Tibhirine is northwest of Médéa, southeast of Cherchel, and southwest of Blida.

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CHRISTIAN DE CHERGÉ (JANUARY 18, 1937-MAY 21, 1996)

Prior of the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas, Tibhirine, Algeria

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If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

–From the Last Testament of Christian de Chergé, translated by the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester, England

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The story of the monks of Tibhirine became the basis of the movie Of Gods and Men (2010).

In the early hours of March 27, 1996, twenty soldiers of the Armed Islamic Group (G.I.A.) burst into the Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas, Tibhirine, Algeria.  They abducted seven monks:

  1. Father Christian de Chergé, the Prior;
  2. Brother Luc (born Paul Bechier), a physician;
  3. Father Christophe Lebreton;
  4. Brother Michel Fleury;
  5. Father Bruno (born Christian LeMarchand);
  6. Father Célestin Ringeard; and
  7. Brother Paul Favre-Miville.

During a civil war in Algeria the G.I.A. wanted all foreigners to leave the country–or else.  The monks had remained, despite many warnings.  The Islamist group hoped to swap the monks for prisoners, but the French government refused to negotiate with terrorists.  The G.I.A. beheaded the monks on May 21.  Two monks–Father Jean-Pierre and Father Amédée, hid successfully from the terrorists on March 27.  These fortunate men told the story of the others.

The monks of Tibhirine understood the difference between Islam and Islamism.  They lived peaceably among Muslims, with whom they prayed and who came to the monastery for medical care.  The villagers certainly were not violent toward the monks.  Extremists were, unfortunately.

Christian de Chergé was a peaceful and tolerant man.  He, born in Colmar, France, on January 18, 1937, was the second of eight children born into a devout Roman Catholic family.  In 1959 our saint was a French soldier stationed in Algeria during the war for independence.  One of his friends was Mohammed, a police officer and a devout Muslim.  When a rebel attempted to ambush de Chergé, Mohammed, acting on his faith, saved our saint’s life.  The police officer became the victim of an assassination that day or the next one.  De Chergé never forgot his friend’s action and the high price he paid for it, and looked forward to meeting him again in the communion of saints.  De Chergé went on to become a priest in 1964 and a Trappist monk at Aiguebelle five years later.  He transferred to Tibhirine in 1971.  Our saint became an avid student of the Koran.  Villagers reciprocated his respect for them, Algeria, Islam, and Muslims.

Unfortunately, extremists, who did not know de Chergé and his fellow monks, acted out of a toxic stew of hatred, intolerance, and narrow nationalism.  The G.I.A., fighting a civil war against the less than warm-and-fuzzy military-controlled Algerian government, started killing foreigners who remained in the country after December 1, 1993.

The rest is history.

And you also, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing. Yes, for you also I wish this “thank you”—and this <adieu>—to commend you to the God whose face I see in yours.

And may we find each other, happy “good thieves,” in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.

–From the Last Testament of Christian de Chergé, translated by the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester, England

To repay violence with violence, hatred with hatred, intolerance with intolerance, and evil with evil is tempting and morally incorrect.  Shall we consider the scriptures?

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing this you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Also:

Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, respond with blessing, for a blessing is what God intends you to receive.

–1 Peter 3:9a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Besides, forgiveness is a better and more difficult path to trod.

De Chergé forgave his murderer in advance, for he wrote the first draft of his Last Testament on December 1, 1993, two and a half years before he died.

De Chergé puts me to shame.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of love in the hearts

of your holy Martyrs of Tibhirine, Algeria:

Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,

that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their examples;

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

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

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-15

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 715

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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

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HUGH O’FLAHERTY, “SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF THE VATICAN”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLUS THE CENTURION, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF PAUL SHINJI SASAKI, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF TOKYO; AND PHILIP LENDEL TSEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF HONAN

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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

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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

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FREDERICK DONALD COGGAN (OCTOBER 9, 1909-MAY 17, 2000)

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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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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

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 the Martyrs of the Sudan (May 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map Showing Sudan and South Sudan

Image Source = The World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency

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The Episcopal Church added this feast to its calendar at the General Convention of 2009.

The political history of the Sudan has been difficult since independence from the British Empire in 1956.  The vast country with a diverse population was majority Muslim in the north and majority Christian in the south.  Civil War fueled by a number of factors, including authoritarianism and religion, led to the deaths of more than 2,000,000 people from 1983 to 2005.  The conflict also displaced as many as 4,000,000 Christians within the country and made more than another million refugees in neighboring countries.  South Sudan seceded in 2011.  It has not found stability for a set of reasons including its underdeveloped economy (despite its oil wealth) and the civil war of 2013-2015, which formed 2,200,000 people to relocate.

Anglican work in the Sudan started in 1889.  Until 1974 Anglican churches were part of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.  Jurisdiction passed to the Archbishop of Canterbury until 1976, when the Episcopal Church of the Sudan formed.  That province of the Anglican Communion divided in 2017, creating the Episcopal Church of Sudan (in the north) and the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, consistent with the Anglican practice of having national churches.  The new Anglican provinces in the Sudan and South Sudan are actively engaged in the work of peacemaking and of witnessing to Christ in difficult circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY CLAY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL C. ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church:

As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death,

and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ;

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Psalm 116:10-17

Hebrews 10:32-39

Matthew 24:9-14

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 371

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Feast of Roger Schutz (May 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Brother Roger

Image Source = Vatican Radio

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ROGER LOUIS SCHÜTZ-MARSAUCHE (MAY 12, 1915-AUGUST 16, 2005)

Founder and First Prior of the Taizé Community

Also known as Brother Roger

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

–Brother Roger

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CALLIXTUS I, ANTERUS, AND PONTIAN, BISHOPS OF ROME; AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS, ANTIPOPE

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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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

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Feast of Jaroslav Vajda (April 28)   1 comment

Above:  Jaroslav Vajda

Image Source = hymntime.com

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JAROSLAV JAN VAJDA (APRIL 28, 1919-MAY 10, 2008)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer

Jaroslav Vajda was a hymn writer who, in his words, sought to

raise the level of wonder and appreciation of God’s awesome creation, justification, and sanctification.

–Quoted in Paul Westermeyer, With Tongues of Fire:  Profiles in 20th-Century Hymn Writing (St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1995), page 153

Vajda grew up in the old Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church (1902-1971), later renamed the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and , since 1971, the SELC District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  Our saint, born in Lorain, Ohio, on April 28, 1919, was a son of a minister.  Vajda studied in Racine, Wisconsin; and East Chicago, Indiana; before attending Concordia Junior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana (Class of 1938); and Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (B.A., 1941; M.Div., 1944).  He interned at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church, Central City, Pennsylvania.  Our saint was an intellectually active person interested in Slovak culture and language, as evidenced by his thesis, a history of Jiri Tranovsky‘s Cithara Sanctorum (1636), or Harp of the Saints, a hymnal containing 414 texts.  As a young man he had mastered the Slovak language, completing his first translation from Slovak at the age of 21 years.  He was also a talented poet in the English language.  Vadja began to compose poetry at the age of 18 years.  At that age, when he submitted some poems to The Cresset, a literary magazine of the Missouri Synod, he received positive and encouraging feedback.

Vajda was a minister and a married man.  In 1945 he married Louise Mastaglio of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the couple went on to have four children.  Our saint served on the parish, denominational, and ecumenical levels.  The congregations he served were:

  1. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Cranesville, Pennsylvania (1945-1949), a bilingual Slovak-English congregation, as pastor;
  2. Our Blessed Savior Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Pennsylvania (1949-1953), as pastor;
  3. St. John’s Lutheran Church, Brackenridge, Pennsylvania (1953-1963), a bilingual Slovak-English congregation, as pastor; and
  4. St. Lucas Lutheran Church, St. Louis, Missouri (1963-1976), as assistant pastor.

Beyond the parish level Vadja edited The Lutheran Beacon, of the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church, from 1959 to 1963; edited This Day, a family magazine of the Missouri Synod, from 1963 to 1971; served on the Missouri Synod’s Commission on Worship from 1960 to 1978; served on the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship from 1967 to 1978, and therefore helped to create the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978); served on the committee that created the Worship Supplement (1969); and edited and developed books for Concordia Publishing House from 1971 until 1986, when he retired.

Vajda translated hymns of Jiri Tranovsky (1592-1637), the Luther of the Slavs and the Father of Slovak Hymnody, from Slovak and composed many original hymns.  The oldest translation by our saint of a text from Tranovsky I have found dates to 1960.  Vajda, by his own accounts, wrote his first hymn in 1968, at the age of 49 years, and composed most of his texts after he retired, at the age of 67 years, in 1986.  Our saint’s contributions to hymnody were numerous and impressive, numbering 225.  (Aside:  Concordia Publishing House sells Sing Peace, Sing Gift of Peace:  The Comprehensive Hymnary of Jaroslav J. Vajda.)  Paul Westermeyer, in With Tongues of Fire (1995), listed 179 hymn titles alphabetically.  Not surprisingly, the greatest concentrations of Vajda’s hymns, apart from dedicated volumes, have been in Lutheran hymnals, given the confessional Lutheran theology in the texts.  My survey of hymnals and hymnal supplements of the main two Lutheran denominations in the United States has yielded the following counts of hymns by our saint:

  1. Worship Supplement (1969)–4,
  2. Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)–9,
  3. Lutheran Worship (1982)-5,
  4. With One Voice (1995)–3,
  5. Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998)–7,
  6. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)–6, and
  7. Lutheran Service Book (2006)–10.

Vajda, a longtime member of the Hymn Society of America, became a fellow of that organization in 1988.

Vajda, the recipient of many honorary doctorates, was a cultured man.  He studied Slovak Lutheran hymnody extensively.  He even wrote the article “Slovak Hymnody” for the excellent Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1981), a fine reference work and one of the best of the hymnal companion volumes.  Our saint also played the violin and translated works from Slovak into English.  Aside from hymns by Tranovksy, Vajda translated Bloody Sonnets (1950), Slovak Christmas (1960), Janko Kral (1972), An Anthology of Slovak Literature (1976), and an operatic libretto, Zuzanka Hraskovia (1978).  Original writings, aside from hymns, included They Followed the King (1963), Follow the King (1977), and Men and Women of the Bible:  45 Meditations on Biblical Heroes of the Faith (1996).

Vajda died, aged 89 years, at Webster Groves, Ohio, on May 10, 2008.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT; ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Jaroslav Jan Vajda and others, who have composed and translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

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

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Feast of Andre, Magda, and Daniel Trocme (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  France, 1941

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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DANIEL TROCMÉ (APRIL 28, 1912-APRIL 6, 1944)

French Educator, Humanitarian, and Martyr

nephew of

ANDRÉ TROCMÉ (APRIL 7, 1901-JUNE 5, 1971)

French Reformed Minister and Humanitarian

husband of

MAGDA TROCMÉ (NOVEMBER 2, 1902-OCTOBER 10, 1996)

French Humanitarian

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RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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You have to think like a hero merely to behave like a decent human being.

–Bartholomew Scott Blair in The Russia House (1990)

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Only to your fathers was YHWH attached, to love them, so he chose their seed after them,

you, above all (other) peoples,

as (is) this (very) day.

So circumcise the foreskin of your heart,

your neck you are not to keep-hard anymore;

for YHWH your God,

he is the God of gods and the Lord of lords,

the God great, powerful, and awe-inspiring,

he who lifts up no face (in favor) and takes no bribe,

providing justice (for) orphan and widow,

loving the sojourner, by giving him food and clothing.

So you are to love the sojourner,

for sojourners were you in the land of Egypt;

YHWH your God, you are to hold-in-awe,

him you are to serve,

to him you are to cling,

by his name you are to swear!

–Deuteronomy 19:15-20, Translated by Everett Fox (1995)

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It is very dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

–Voltaire

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Robert Ellsberg, in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), lists April 7 as the feast of André Trocmé.  One could, I suppose, also choose April 6, April 28, June 5, October 10, or November 2, if one were restricting oneself to birth and death dates.  However, on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, April 12 works fine.

Being a merely decent human being can be difficult and mortally perilous.  Those who behave as decent people during such circumstances are moral giants.

André Trocmé, born in Saint-Quentin-en-Tourment, France, on April 7, 1901, identified with the downtrodden and understood the Biblical mandate to care for them.  He, of Huguenot (properly pronounced U-guh-NO; the “t” and “s” are silent) stock, knew the history of the persecution of French Calvinists.  André had also been a poor refugee during World War I.  He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, where Henry Sloane Coffin taught and, in 1926, became the president of the institution.  In New York City André met and fell in love with Magda Grilli, Italian-born yet of Russian ancestry.  Members of her family had resisted authority in both Italy and Russia.  The couple married in 1925.

In 1934 André became the pastor in the Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon, or Le Chambon, for short.  He, Magda, and their children settled in the town, whose population went on in just a few years to commit great and unfortunately rare acts of morality and heroism.  For Pastor Trocmé  the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ was to live according to the ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount–to love God and one’s neighbors.  He also emphasized the portion of Deuteronomy I have quoted at the beginning of this post.  He was also a pacifist.

Pacifism, of course, does not necessarily mean surrender to injustice.  No, it means resisting injustice by nonviolent means.  This is a fact that some of the college students to whom I teach U.S. history fail to grasp.  I recall, for example, one pupil who, even after I corrected him in writing, insisted on describing Quakers as “passive-aggressive,” not pacifistic.

Above:  A Portion of Southern France

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The location of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon is slightly to the southeast of Yssingeau, in Haute-Loire.

The inhabitants of Le Chambon were neither passive nor aggressive.  No, they were Christian and merely decent.  In 1940, after the Third Reich took over France, the German government established a puppet state (the French State, in English), commonly called Vichy France.  The rest of France fell under direct German rule.  Le Chambon fell within the borders of Vichy France.  The Trocmés resisted the ultranationalism of the French State.  Resisting authority came naturally to them, especially Magda.

So did sheltering refugees.  As I have written, André had been one.  Also, Magda had worked in a camp for refugees from Francisco Franco’s Spanish Christian Fascists (Falangists, technically), officially neutral during World War II yet sympathetic to the Nazis.  Starting in 1940, with the help of the American Friends Service Committee, the Trocmés led the village in resisting the laws of the Third Reich and of Vichy France while obeying the laws of God.  Le Chambon and the neighboring farms became centers for sheltering Jews, many of them illegal aliens.  In 1942 the order to deport French Jews took effect.  The body count of that order exceeded 83,000.  In Paris alone, in the summer of 1942, the number of deported Jews was about 28,000.  Over years, however, the villagers of Le Chambon, led by the Trocmés, sheltered and saved no fewer than 2,500 Jews–perhaps as many as 5,000.  Vichy and Nazi authorities noticed yet never could capture any Jews there.  A doctor who forged documents died in a concentration camp.  Starting in early 1942 André had to go on the run, so Magda, who had helped him lead the village’s efforts, performed more duties.  There were, after all, documents to forge and deliveries of food and clothing to make.

The villagers of Le Chambon did not consider their actions in sheltering Jews remarkable.  This was an expression of their faith, after all.  Those actions were, however, relatively rare in France during World War II.  They also met with the disapproval of the leader of André’s denomination.

Daniel Trocmé, born on April 28, 1912, was André’s nephew.  Daniel, a science teacher and a compassionate man, had fragile health, including a heart condition.  He taught at Masion Les Roches, a Huguenot boarding school, in Verneuil.  In 1941 he accepted his uncle’s invitation to become the principal of Les Grillons, the boarding school for Jewish children at Le Chambon founded by the American Friends Service Committee.  Daniel was a kind and conscientious educator.  Eventually he left to assume the leadership of Maison Les Roches.  There Daniel sheltered Jewish youth.  Agents of the Gestaop raided the school on June 29, 1943.  Our saint did not flee the authorities, who detained him, along with 18 pupils.  He did not deny sheltering Jews.  No, Daniel told the agents that sheltering Jews was the morally correct action.  He spent the rest of his brief life as a prisoner, dying, aged 31 years, at Maidanek Concentration Camp, Lublin, Poland, on April 6, 1944.

André continued to live out his faith after the liberation of France.  He served as the European secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  And, during the Algerian War, our saint cooperated with Mennonites to help French conscientious objectors.  He died, aged 70 years, at Geneva, Switzerland, on June 5, 1971.

Magda died, aged 91 years, in Paris on October 10, 1996.  She lived long enough to witness the villagers, her husband, Daniel, and herself recognized formally as Righteous Gentiles.

Some of the passages of scripture that trouble me the most are those that counsel submission to authority–especially, in historical context, that of the Roman Empire.  Although freedom cannot exist amid anarchy, there are times when defying “legitimate” political authority is the only morally correct course of action.  This is a nuance I do not detect in the germane New Testament passages.

The Trocmés understood that nuance well, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUIS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

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

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

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

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