Archive for the ‘Saints of the 2010s’ Category

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


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.






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



Feast of Miep Gies (January 11)   Leave a comment

Presentatie boek "Herinneringen aan Anne Frank" van Miep Gies in het Anne Frankhuis in Amsterdam; Miep Gies  *5 mei 1987

Presentatie boek “Herinneringen aan Anne Frank” van Miep Gies in het Anne Frankhuis in Amsterdam; Miep Gies
*5 mei 1987

Above:  Miep Gies, 1987

Image Source = Nationaal Archief


MIEP GIES (FEBRUARY 15, 1909-JANUARY 11, 2010)

Righteous Gentile

I refer you, O reader, to this biography of Miep Gies.

My reflection on the legacy of Miep Gies is simple yet challenging:  Would I have been in her place?  I like to think that I would have done so, but I do not really know.  Perhaps the only way to know for sure is to in the position to have to make a decision in the matter.  The call of the Gospel entails loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself, with the understanding that this might be dangerous–even deadly.

Grace is free at all times yet never cheap.  No, it makes demands upon the lives of those who accept it.  “Take up your cross and follow Jesus,” grace tells us.

Miep Gies was fortunate enough to live long enough to survive the Third Reich.  Many other rescuers were less fortunate, become martyrs.  She took that risk, however.

For what cause would I be willing to risk martyrdom?  For what cause would you, O reader, be willing to risk martyrdom?







Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

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

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 736


Feast of Philip and Daniel Berrigan (December 7)   Leave a comment


Above:  Icon of Philip Berrigan

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Priest and Social Activist

brother of


Roman Catholic Priest and Social Activist


When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them are winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

–Doris Plenn, 1950s


Thus He will judge among the nations

And arbitrate for the many peoples,

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares

And their spears into pruning hooks:

Nation shall not take up

Sword against nation;

They shall never again know war.

–Isaiah 2:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

–Matthew 5:9, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)


Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal.  But the word of God is not fettered.

–2 Timothy 2:8-9, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)


Blessed are you, when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

–Matthew 5:11-12, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)


Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)


The Bible is replete with stories of prophets who spoke truth to power.  One reads in that sacred anthology that some of these prophets suffered imprisonment and/or death.  Those accounts are ancient and, due to the passage of so much time, generally non-controversial, at least in the circles in which I move.  More contemporary figures, such as the Berrigan brothers, remain controversial, however.  Although I do not agree with them entirely, I admire them and deplore the harsh treatment of them by authorities.  I also respect the faith that compelled them to take up their crosses, follow Christ, and suffer for the sake of righteousness.

The Berrigan brothers’ lives, being as intertwined as they were, require writing of them in one post.  Their lives stand as testimonies for peace and social justice.  For their evil disobedience they spent years in federal prisons–eleven years for Philip and more than seven years for Daniel.  Sometimes they engaged in civil disobedience together.  They also found themselves on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted list.


The Berrigans were a devout Roman Catholic family living in the vicinity of Duluth, Minnesota, in the early 1920s.  Freida Fromhart Berrigan and Thomas Berrigan raised six children–five sons and one daughter.  Thomas, a trade unionist, was a railroad engineer who raised his family on a farm.  Daniel debuted at Virginia, Minnesota, on May 9, 1921.  Philip entered the world at Two Harbors, Minnesota, on October 5, 1923.  The family moved to New York in 1926 after Thomas lost his job.  At Syracuse he, who hailed from the left wing of Roman Catholicism, founded the Electrical Workers Union and a Roman Catholic interracial council.

Daniel was a longtime Jesuit, for he joined the order immediately after graduating from high school in 1939.  He received his Bachelor’s degree from St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson, Hyde Park, in 1946.  From 1946 to 1949 Daniel taught at St. Peter’s Preparatory School, Jersey City, New Jersey.  He received his M.A. degree from Woodstock College, Baltimore, Maryland, in 1952, the same year he became a priest.  From 1954 to 1957 Daniel taught theology at LeMoyne College, Syracuse, New York.  In 1957 he won the Lamont Prize for Time Without Number, a volume of poetry.  From 1966 to 1970 Daniel served as the Assistant Director of University United Religious Work, an umbrella organization of campus chaplaincies at Cornell University.  He also served as the pastor of the Newman Club there.  Daniel also had professional roles at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York; Loyola University of the South, New Orleans, Louisiana; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; and Fordham University, New York, New York.

Philip entered the Society of St. Joseph (the Josephite Fathers) instead.  After graduating from high school at Syracuse he cleaned trains for the New York Central Railroad, played semi-professional baseball, and studied for a semester at St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario.  Then the U.S. Army drafted him in 1943.  Philip’s proximity to institutional racism in the U.S. Army (especially during basic training in Georgia) and what he learned about the lives of sharecroppers disturbed him.  Combat also affected Philip deeply; he had his fill of violence and killing.  After the war Philip attended and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts.  In 1950 he joined the Josephite Fathers, an order dedicated to working with African Americans.  Philip also graduated from St. Joseph’s Seminary, Washington, D.C., becoming a priest in 1955.  He graduated from Loyola University of the South with a degree in secondary education in 1957 and from Xavier University with a Master’s degree three years later.  Then Philip became a teacher.

Both brothers were active in the civil rights movement.  They participated in sit-ins, marches (such as at Selma, Alabama, in 1965), and bus boycotts.  Philip, in particular, identified with the urban poor.  For civil disobedience he went to prison for the first time in 1962-1963.  Philip ministered to other inmates while there.  Nevertheless, his activism earned him the disapproval of his superiors in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Berrigan brothers also protested the Vietnam War.  In 1964, at New York City, they founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship.  Later, at Baltimore, Philip founded the Baltimore Interfaith Peace Fellowship.  On October 27, 1967, he was one of the Baltimore Four, two Roman Catholics and two Protestants.  They poured their own blood on draft records.  Philip, out of jail on bail prior to sentencing for that act, recruited Daniel to join him and to become part of the Cantonsville Nine.  On May 17, 1968, at Cantonsville, Maryland, they doused draft records in homemade napalm and burned them.  All involved received prison sentences, delayed by an appeals period of sixteen months.  After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeals, Daniel and Philip went into hiding.  F.B.I. agents caught up with Philip after twelve days.  Daniel remained holed up in the block house of William Stringfellow (1928-1985), an Episcopalian, social activist, and lay theologian, for four months.  The prison terms expired in 1972.

While in prison Philip secretly married Elizabeth McAlister, a nun and one of the Cantonsville Nine, in 1969.  He was also among those charged with plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger and to bomb steam tunnels.  The trial (1972) ended in an acquittal.  The marriage of Philip and Elizabeth became public in 1973.  Then Pope Paul VI excommunicated him.  The couple had three children.  Philip and Elizabeth continued their antiwar activism.  In 1973, at Baltimore, they founded Jonah House, to support war resisters.

In 1980 the Berrigan brothers founded the anti-nuclear war and weapons Plowshares Movement.  On September 9, 1980, the Plowshares Eight, who included both brothers, trespassed at the General Electric nuclear missile facility at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.  There they damaged cones of Mark 12A missiles and poured blood on documents and files.  The Plowshares Eight, convicted the following year, appealed their sentences until 1990, when a judge reduced them to time served and 23 months of probation.

At his trial in 1981 Daniel said, in part:

Our act is all I have to say.  The only message I have to the world is this:  We are not allowed to kill innocent people.  We are not allowed to be complicit in murder.  We are not allowed to be silent while preparations for mass murder proceed in our name, with our money, secretly.

I have nothing else to say in the world.  At other times one could talk about family life and divorce and birth control and abortion and many other questions.  But this Mark 12A is here.  And it renders all other questions null and void.  Nothing, nothing can be settled until this is settled.  Or this will settle us, once and for all.

It’s terrible for me to live in a time where I have nothing to say to human beings except, “Stop killing.”  There are other beautiful things that I would love to be saying to people.  There are other projects I could be very useful at.  And I can’t do them.  I cannot.

Because everything is endangered.  Everything is up for grabs.  Ours is a kind of primitive situation, even though we would call ourselves sophisticated.  Our plight is very primitive from a Christian point of view.  We are back where we started.  Thou shalt not kill:  we are not allowed to kill.  Everything today comes down to that–everything.

–Quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, editors, Cloud of Witnesses, Revised Edition (2005), page 230

Philip’s final prison sentence resulted from his participation in the hammering of A-10 Warthog war planes at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Maryland, in December 1999.  He was in prison until December 2001.  He died a year later, on December 6, 2002, at Baltimore.  He was 79 years old.

In his later years Daniel continued in the good fight.  He opposed U.S. wars and military interventions in Central America, Iraq (both times), Kosovo, and Afghanistan.  He also tended to AIDS patients and spoke out against abortion and capital punishment and supported the Occupy Movement and equal rights for homosexuals.  Daniel died in New York City on April 30, 2016.  He was 94 years old.

The witness of the lives of the Berrigan brothers teaches us to love one another, especially when doing so is dangerous to oneself.








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.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of Jack Layton (August 22)   2 comments

Jack Layton Button

Above:  A Campaign Button

Image in the Public Domain



Canadian Activist and Federal Leader of the New Democratic Party

The process of researching this post entailed, among other activities, watching certain videos at YouTube.  In one of them Ezra Levant, a Canadian pundit, mocked adulation of the recently deceased Jack Layton.  Levant, who had mourned Layton’s passing just a few days before, showed a faux icon of Layton and derived attempts to depict him as a saint.

With this post I declare Layton to be a saint.

Jack Layton came from a family with a history of service to Canada and vulnerable people.  His great-great uncle on his mother’s side was William Henry Steeves (1814-1873), a Father of Confederation, a member of the Senate (1867-1873) as a Liberal, and an advocate for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.  Our saint, on his father’s side, was a great-grandson of Philip E. Layton, a blind organist who advocated for disability benefits and founded the Montreal Association for the Blind and the Philip E. Layton School for the Blind, Montreal, in 1908.  Philip was the father of Gilbert Layton (1899-1961), a conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec and cabinet minister in the provincial government in the late 1930s.  Gilbert was the father of Robert Layton (1925-2002), a Liberal Party activist who switched to the Progressive Conservative Party and served as a Member of Parliament from 1984 to 1993, as the Minister of State for Mines from 1984 to 1986, and as the Party Caucus Chair from 1986 to 1993.  He retired from politics in 1993 to focus on his recovery from prostate cancer.  Robert had married Doris Elizabeth Steeves.  Their firstborn son was John Gilbert Layton, born at Montreal, Quebec, on July 18, 1950.

Layton, who graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from McGill University, Montreal, 1970, embarked upon an academic career and a political vocation.  In 1971 he graduated from York University with his Master of Arts in Political Science.  He became a professor at Ryerson University then at York University, and completed his doctoral program at York University in 1983.  He, married to Sally Halford from 1969 to 1983, became an activist and councilman in Toronto in the 1980s, continuing the good work into the early 2000s.  He was especially passionate with regard to homelessness (favoring public housing as an alternative to incarceration), an issue he addressed locally and on which he wrote two books.  Layton also worked proactively on issues such as HIV/AIDS, recycling, renewable energy, and violence against women.  In 1988 he married Olivia Chow (b. 1957), who served as a councilwoman in Toronto from 1991 to 2005 and as a Member of Parliament from 2006 to 2015.

Layton grew up in The United Church of Canada and acted upon socially progressive Christianity.  Among his heroes was Tommy Douglas (1904-1986), Baptist minister and federal leader of the New Democratic Party.  Our saint, a member of the Bloor Street United Church, Toronto, also attended services at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, whose minister was his friend.  Layton, who had run for Parliament in 1993 and 1997, became the federal leader of the New Democratic Party in 2003 and finally won a seat in 2004.  He led his party, increased its number of seats, and retained his seat in the elections of 2006, 2008, and 2011.  In the House of Commons he opposed the war in Iraq, favored peacekeeping and reconstruction (as opposed to combat) in Afghanistan, and favored a plan to cap interest rates on credit card debt.  He also read scripture at the annual National Prayer Breakfast and taught a Bible study class for youth at Wynan United Church, Hudson, Quebec, in which he had grown up.

In 2011 the New Democratic Party, with Layton as leader, won 103 seats in the House of Commons and became the official opposition for the only time so far in Canadian electoral history.  (The Liberal Party, which came in third place in 2011, won a majority in the election of 2015.  The Conservative Party, which had formed minority governments in 2006 and 2008 before winning a majority in 2011, became the largest opposition party.   The New Democratic Party returned to its usual status as the party in third place.)  In May 2011 Layton became the Leader of the Official Opposition.  During the campaign he had used a cane, due to his recent hip surgery.  That cane, his smile, and his enthusiasm had become his trademarks.  The future seemed bright for Layton and his party.

In 2010 Layton had announced his diagnosis of prostate cancer.  He had sought and obtained treatment for it.  He had been vigorous during the federal campaign of 2011.  There had been no outward indication of disease as of election day 2011.  On July 25, 2011, however, Layton, looking and sounding seriously ill, announced that he had another cancer and that he was stepping down temporarily as party leader.  On August 20 he issued his farewell letter, which concluded with these words:

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Layton died at home in Toronto on August 22, 2011.  He was 61 years old.  The outpouring of grief came from across the political spectrum.






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 to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of Flora MacDonald (July 28)   2 comments

Flag of Canada Current

Above:  The Flag of Canada

Image in the Public Domain



Canadian Stateswoman and Humanitarian

Flora MacDonald worked to help the poor and other vulnerable and marginalized people at home and abroad.  This was consistent with her Christian upbringing.


MacDonald, of Scottish descent, was a native of North Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where Mary Isabel Royle MacDonald gave birth to her on June 3, 1926.  Our saint’s father, George Frederick MacDonald, was a trans-Atlantic telegraph operator for Western Union.  He was active in community life.  From this example young Flora learned civil responsibility.  The father also taught his daughter that she could become anything she wanted.  That lesson seemed unrealistic when Flora was young, for the horizons of females were curtailed relative to those of males.  Our saint studied at Empire Business College, where she prepared to become a secretary.  She became a bank teller instead.  Then, in the early 1950s, she traveled to Europe and hitchhiked across it.  Next she returned to Canada and became involved in politics.

MacDonald was a member of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.  She was a Red Tory–socially liberal, even radical by certain standards of her times.  At first she worked on the campaign of Nova Scotia party Leader Robert Stanfield in 1956.  He won, and MacDonald became a secretary at the party’s national office later that year.  She worked on the campaigns of federal party leader John Diefenbaker (Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963) in 1957 and 1958.  MacDonald held various support positions  in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Progressive Conservative Party until 1963, when Diefenbaker fired her for supporting a leadership review.  That year MacDonald became an administrator in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.  In 1967 she supported Robert Stanfield’s successful bid to become the party’s federal leader.  The following year MacDonald worked on the Stanfield’s unsuccessful federal campaign at the time of Trudeau Mania.


Trudeau Mania had run its course by 1972, the year Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau‘s Liberal Party lost its majority in the House of Commons and emerged from the federal election with a minority government propped up by the New Democratic Party.  1972 was also the year MacDonald won her seat in the House of Commons, representing the riding of Kingston and the Islands, in Ontario.  She won re-election in 1974, 1979, 1980, and 1984, serving until her defeat in 1988.

In 1976 MacDonald sought the federal leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.  She would have won (and gone on to become the Prime Minister three years later) if many male delegates who had sworn to support her had actually voted for her at the party convention.  Her bid failed because of the “Flora Syndrome,” as it became known.  The party was not yet ready for a female leader.  The successful candidate was Joe Clark, whom I also respect, along with Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  Clark’s government, with its minority in the House of Commons, lasted for a mere nine months in 1979 and 1980, sandwiched between two majorities for Trudeau and the Liberal Party.  Clark has admitted that he erred by governing as if he had a majority government.  What a MacDonald government would have been has become a matter of counterfactual history.

MacDonald and Clark became political allies.  He appointed her Secretary of State for External Affairs, making her the first woman to hold that post.  She also supported Clark during his unsuccessful bid to retain party leadership in 1983.  (Brian Mulroney defeated Clark.)  The Progressive Conservative Party lost its majority in 1993, when it lost its majority and retained only two seats, in contrast to the 169 seats it had won five years earlier.  The party increased its numbers in the House of Commons during the following eleven years, but it never came close to forming another government.  The merger of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada prompted the opposition of both Clark and MacDonald.  Our saint regarded the merger as a betrayal of principles.  In 2003 she wrote in The Star, a newspaper:

My reaction to the agreement (to merge) was first all one of incredulity, then anger.  The Party’s future lies not in some right-wing alliance that would violate the progressive and moderate traditions of its former leaders, but with a renewed emphasis on the values that the great majority of Canadians feel represent their views.

She voted for the New Democratic Party in the federal election of 2004.

MacDonald served ably as Secretary of State for External Affairs in 1979 and 1980.  She facilitated the settlement of more than 60,000 Vietnamese boat people in Canada.  In August 1979, at the Commonwealth conference in Lusaka, Zambia, our saint declined to go shopping with the wives of ministers.  She spent five hours in a refugee camp instead.  MacDonald also played a vital part in the “Canadian caper” of 1980, for she authorized falsified passports for the six Americans the Canadian embassy staff spirited out of Iran.

The Progressive Conservative Party, under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, won a majority in the House of Commons in 1984.  Mulroney had no respect for MacDonald, for he had a profane term by which he referred to her in private.  Nevertheless, he felt obligated to appoint her to the cabinet.  MacDonald served as the Minister for Employment and Immigration from 1984 to 1986 then as the Minister of Communications from 1986 to 1988.  (Joe Clark was the Secretary of State for External Affairs.)  MacDonald opposed the proposed free trade agreement with the United States in private, but, based on the principle of collective responsibility in the cabinet, supported it, although half-heartedly, in public.


The final stage (1988-2015) of MacDonald’s life was also impressive and constructive.  Our saint was a visiting lecturer at Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland.  She received the Order of Canada and honorary degrees.  She also worked on behalf of charities such as Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.  Furthermore, MacDonald worked with the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict and the United Nations.  She and Ed Broadbent, former federal leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, studied transnational corporations in Apartheid-era South Africa for the United Nations.  She and Broadbent became friends.  In 1995, also working with the United Nations, MacDonald confronted the dictatorial regime of Nigeria and convince the British Commonwealth to isolate the regime diplomatically.  In 1989 she visited Palestine, where she danced with one Elias, a wheelchair-bound boy with Down’s Syndrome.  Our saint also served as the Chair of the Board of Canada’s International Development Research Centre from 1992 to 1997 and led the World Federalist Movement–Canada.  From 1997 to 2007 MacDonald led Future Generations, which she founded to help the poor and the vulnerable in their communities.  Some of the projects of the organization were in Afghanistan, which our saint visited twelve times to promote the education of girls and women.


MacDonald, a member of the United Church of Canada, lived her Christian values.  She never married, but she was, according to one nephew, “an incredible aunt.”  She sought to raise up the downtrodden and succeeded.  When news of her death became public, even prominent politicians who disliked her praised her legacy.






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

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

Help us, like your servant Flora MacDonald, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 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 the New Martyrs of Libya (February 15)   1 comment

New Martyrs of Libya--Tony Rezk

Above:  Icon of the New Martyrs of Libya, 2015

Icon Writer = Tony Rezk

I have found the icon on many websites, never with any mention of any restriction regarding the use of the image.



Died February 15, 2015

On February 15, 2015, militants–terrorists, really; let us use the correct term–of the self-proclaimed Tripoli Province of the Islamic State beheaded 21 men in orange jumpsuits.  The terrorists had abducted these martyrs in December 2014 and January 2015.  The abducted were migrant workers.  All but one were Egyptian Coptic Christians who, their murderers claimed, persisted in unbelief.  These martyrs were:

  1. Milad Makeen Zaky,
  2. Abanud Ayad Atiya,
  3. Maged Solaiman Sheheta,
  4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan,
  5. Kirollas Shokry Fawzy,
  6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel,
  7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel,
  8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet,
  9. Tawardos Yusuf Tawardos,
  10. Girgis Milad Sinweet,
  11. Mina Fayez Aziz,
  12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib,
  13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf,
  14. a worker from Awr village,
  15. Ezat Bishri Naseef,
  16. Loqa Nagaty,
  17. Gaber Munir Adly,
  18. Esam Badir Samir,
  19. Malak Farag Abram, and
  20. Sameh Salah Faruq.

The twenty-first martyr was Matthew Ayariga of Ghana.  He had been a Christian for only a brief period of time before dying.  When terrorists asked Ayariga if he rejected Jesus, he identified with the Christian faith of the other martyrs.

Their God is my God,

Ayariga answered.  For that he died.

Coptic Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria Tawardos II declared these men the New Martyrs of Libya on February 21, 2015, and established their feast day as Amshir 8 on the Coptic Calendar, which is equivalent to February 15 on the Gregorian Calendar.

Often those who commit violence do so in the name of God, as they understand God.  If God is love, as I affirm, those who commit murder in the name of God stand in grievous error.  May they repent of their sins and throw themselves on the mercy of God, who forgives the penitent.  And may the examples of stalwart fidelity to God in the face of death inspire those of us who claim to follow God in Christ to remain in the faith, regardless of the cost.  May we heed the advice of the authors of the Letter to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse of John; may we remain faithful, not commit apostasy.  And may we refrain from repaying hatred and violence with anything except the love of Christ.  The servant is not greater than the master.  May we take our guidance from him.  May we leave that which is in the purview of God there and live in the love which Jesus modeled for us.








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 the New Martyrs of Libya,

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.

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


Feast of Nelson Mandela (December 5)   1 comment


Above:  South African President F. W. de Klerk with Nelson Mandela, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1993

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16052



President of South Africa and Renewer of Society

I have added a host of “new” saints with feast day in December to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days recently, but I have reserved Nelson Mandela until the end of this round of saints for December.  (One of the advantages of maintaining my own calendar of saints is that I have complete editorial control of it.)  To save the best for last is a good policy.  The process of adding to the Ecumenical Calendar will go on hiatus after this post, and I want a major, contemporary saint to be the first holy person a person comes across when scrolling down the page until I begin to add “new” saints with feast days in January again.  (I have twelve monthly lists of names to consider.)

In the great majority of posts in this genre I provide more personal details than I do in this one.  This time, however, I choose to include links to sources for those details and to focus instead on some targeted reflections related to Mandela.

Nelson Mandela Foundation

Nobel Prize

BBC News

World Methodist Council

Apartheid was a brutal and unjust system in the Republic of South Africa.  The national government deprived the majority population of civil rights and liberties.  It also persecuted even nonviolent activists for social justice.  Racism was one reason for these policies.  Some people were simply callous bastards.  Other reasons for these policies were the desire to retain power and the fear that a politically empowered majority African population might take revenge on the minority White population.  Those fears of revenge were predictable.  Indeed, movements of national liberation have not always led to peace and reconciliation.  Nevertheless, injustice is wrong at all times and places, and fear is no excuse for not respecting the image of God in other people.

Nelson Mandela struggled for social justice.  For a time, as part of that effort, he approved of violence.  Perhaps that was the only option the South African government left him for a while.  I choose to refrain from judging Mandela for that tactic, for I am in no position to do otherwise.  Far be it for me, one who has never lived under such an oppressive system, to judge those who have and who have resisted!  I do not know what decisions I would have made in their circumstances.  I do know, however, that my liberal tendency to oppose oppressive regimes and to support oppressed people renders me amenable to those who struggle for the recognition of their human dignity, which those in authority deny.  Slave rebellions make sense to me, after all.  Will the slaveholders emancipate the slaves if the slaves ask nicely?  The historical record does not indicate that they are inclined to do so.

Mandela, a Christian (a Methodist, to be precise), became a peacemaker.  The man, who, as a high-profile political prisoner, negotiated the terms of his release with President F. W. de Klerk, served as President from 1994 to 1999.  Then, unlike, many national leaders in Africa, he retired from office willingly.  Post-Apartheid South Africa featured no reign of vengeance.  No, President Mandela sought to united the diverse, divided population.

When Mandela died in December 2013 tributes to him in the United States were bipartisan.  Many of those who praised him were former critics.  However, many people on the conservative end of the political spectrum remained critical of the great man.  These criticisms were relics of the Cold War.  During the Cold War the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa were allies against Communists.  (The Cold War made for some uncomfortable and unfortunate alliances.  Frequently the U.S.A. allied itself with brutal governments.)  The Cold War also became an obstacle to seeking social justice in South Africa.  President Ronald Reagan, a firm opponent of the Soviet Union, told Archbishop Desmond Tutu to his face in the 1980s that the majority population of South Africa would have to wait for its freedom.  With the government of the United States allied with the government of South Africa and labeling the African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization, many South African dissenters found allies which dismayed the U.S. government and confirmed it in its distrust of the ANC.   But what if the U.S.A. had allied itself with those seeking freedom in South Africa instead of those who seeking to deny it? What is the value of boasting of high ideals without living them?

Mandela was an agent of God, social justice, and national reconciliation.  The human race needs more people like him.






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

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

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world

offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60