Archive for the ‘Saints of the 600s’ Category

Feast of Sts. Sylvia of Rome, Emiliana of Rome, Trasilla, and Gregory the Great (March 12)   Leave a comment

st-gregory-the-great

Above:  St. Gregory the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME (CIRCA 515-CIRCA 592)

Ascetic

Also known as Saint Silvia of Rome

Her feast transferred from November 3

mother of

SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT” (CIRCA 540-MARCH 12, 604)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = March 12

Alternative feast day = September 3

nephew of

SAINT EMILIANA OF ROME

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from September 3

sister of

SAINT TRASILLA 

Ascetic

Her feast transferred from December 24

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Pope St. Gregory I “the Great” was a pious man and a major saint whose vocation overlapped with difficult times in Italy.  His piety, which served him and many others well, grew out of his family.

His great-grandfather (through his father’s side of the family tree) was Pope St. Felix II (sometimes listed as St. Felix III), who reigned from 483 to 492.  St. Felix had to contend with the monophysite heresy (that Jesus had only a divine nature), intertwined with the politics of the (Eastern) Roman Empire shortly after the gradual demise of the Western Roman Empire, complete in 476.  According to J. N. D. Kelly, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986), St. Felix was intransient, harsh, and authoritarian (page 47).

565

Above:  The Roman (Byzantine) Empire in 565

Image Source = Florida Center for Educational Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida

Image used in accordance with licensing rules at the website of FCIT, which requests that I include this link

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St. Gregory I’s father was Gordianus, a Roman senator.  (Emperor Justinian I “the Great” had presided over the temporary reconquest of portions of the former Western Roman Empire.)  St. Gregory I’s mother was St. Sylvia of Rome (circa 515-circa 592).  The family resided in a mansion in Rome.  Then household included the future Pope’s aunts–sisters of Gordianus–St. Trasilla, and St. Emiliana of Rome at least.  According to some sources, there was a third sister, Gordiana.  The holy sisters/aunts had devoted their lives to God and chosen to live as ascetics in their brother’s household.  St. Gregory I also had a brother, whose name has not survived.  St. Sylvia, as a widow, joined her sisters-in-law in the ascetic life at the estate.

St. Gregory I, who served as the Prefect of Rome in 573 and 574, sold his property, donated the proceeds to the poor, lived ascetically, and became a monk at the estate in 574.  He also founded seven monasteries.  Pope Pelagius II removed St. Gregory I from the monastery in 578 and ordained him to the diaconate.  The following year the Supreme Pontiff dispatched him to Constantinople, the imperial capital, to request military aid in defending against incursions of the Lombards, who were building a kingdom in Italy.  Emperor Tiberius II (reigned 574-582) offered little help in defending his own territory in Italy, for he had other borders to defend too.  He recommended that the Italians seek help from the Franks and bribe the Lombards.  Our saint knew that he could not expect much help from Constantinople in the present time and in the future.  He returned to Rome and his monastery/estate in 585.  There he served as abbot while functioning as an advisor to Pope Pelagius II.

Pope Pelagius II died on February 7, 590.  Much to his chagrin St. Gregory I won election–unanimously, too–to the papal office.  The deacon would have preferred to continue as an abbot.  Despite all his attempts to evade the papacy, St. Gregory I became the Bishop of Rome on September 3, 590.  The 50-year-old saint, who was not in the best of health for much of the ensuing nearly 14 years, tended to his duties.  He, for example, enforced the celibacy of priests, established new rules for electing bishops, upheld papal supremacy, encouraged the veneration of authentic relics, established a school for singers, resisted Donatism in northern Africa, and wrote sermons and biblical commentaries.  Also, in 596, he sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his retinue to England.  St. Gregory also found himself forced to perform civil functions, due to the breakdown of government and the negligence of imperial officials.  He, for example, negotiated treaties, appointed generals, paid soldiers, and coordinated the feeding of starving masses in war zones.  He was the de facto ruler of much of Italy.  St. Gregory I, unable to walk at the end of his life, died on March 12, 604, during a siege of Rome.  His canonization was immediate and a matter of public acclamation.

What might St. Gregory I have been without the influence of his family?  And, had he not accepted his responsibilities, how might the lives of many others been worse?  Perhaps another person would have stepped forward and acted at least as capably.  Perhaps not.

Sometimes one’s duty includes dealing with a bad situation and improving it, without making it good.  That description certainly applies to the circumstances with which St. Gregory I had to contend.  May we, like this great saint, rise to the occasion whenever presents itself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory the Great to be a servant of the servants of God,

and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people:

Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught,

that your people, being fruitful in every good work,

may receive the crown of glory that never fades away;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8

Psalm 57:6-11

Colossians 1:28-2:3

Mark 10:42-45

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 269

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Feast of Sts. John Cassian and John Climacus (February 29)   Leave a comment

Vatican Flag

Above:  The Vatican Flag

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN CASSIAN (360-435)

Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, and Spiritual Writer

His feast = February 29

influenced

SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS (CIRCA 570 OR 579-MARCH 649)

Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Saint John of the Ladder, Saint John Scholasticus, and Saint John the Sinaita

His feast transferred from March 30

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st-john-cassian

Above:  St. John Cassian

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Cassian was an influential figure in both Eastern and Western Christianity.  He, from what is now Romania, entered the world in 360.  Our saint came from a wealthy family and received an excellent education.  For about three years he and Germanus, a friend, were monks at Bethlehem.  Next the duo pursued monastic life in Egypt.  Circa 399 they and about 300 other monks left for Constantinople after St. Theophilus, the Pope of Alexandria (reigned 384-412) and successor of St. Mark the Apostle, wrote a letter opposing Origen‘s noncorporeal understanding of God.  The monks sought the protection of the Alexandrian Pope’s rival, St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople.  At the imperial capital St. John Cassian became a deacon.  In 404, following the deposition of St. John Chrysostom, St. John Cassian traveled to Rome to defend the patriarch to the Bishop of Rome.

St. John Cassian spent the rest of his life in the West.  He, ordained to the priesthood, settled at Marseilles, Gaul.  Circa 415 our saint founded a monastery and a convent at that city.  He also wrote about monasticism in the Institutes and the Conferences.  St. Benedict of Nursia (circa 480-circa 550) was so impressed with the Conferences that he listed it as one of the books for reading aloud after supper.

the-ladder-of-divine-ascent

Above:  Icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent

Image in the Public Domain

St. John Cassian, who died at Marseilles in 435, influenced St. John Climacus, born in Syria circa 579.  He became a monk at Mt. Sinai at the age of 16 years.  Eventually our saint became an anchorite then an abbot there.  Finally, shortly before his death, St. John Climacus resigned his abbotcy to become a hermit again.  His second name, “Climacus,” came from his influential book, translated into English as The Ladder to Paradise and as The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  He wrote of the 30 steps to moral perfection, with each step corresponding to a year of Christ’s life from birth to baptism.  The steps were:

  1. On the renunciation of the world;
  2. On detachment;
  3. On exile or pilgrimage;
  4. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience;
  5. On painstaking and true repentance which constitute the life of holy convicts; and about the prison;
  6. On remembrance of death;
  7. On mourning which causes joy;
  8. On freedom from anger and on meekness;
  9. On remembrance of wrongs;
  10. On slander or calumny;
  11. On talkativeness and silence;
  12. On lying;
  13. On despondency;
  14. On the clamorous, yet wicked monster–the stomach;
  15. On incorruptible purity and chastity to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat;
  16. On the love of money or avarice;
  17. On poverty (that hastens heavenward);
  18. On insensibility, that is, deadening the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body;
  19. On sleep, prayer, and psalm-singing in the chapel;
  20. On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil and how to practice it;
  21. On unmanly and puerile cowardice;
  22. On the many forms of vainglory;
  23. On mad pride, and, in the same Step, on unclean blasphemous thoughts;
  24. On meekness, simplicity, guilelessness which come not from nature but from habit, and about malice;
  25. On the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual feeling;
  26. On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues;
  27. On holy solitude of body and soul;
  28. On holy and blessed prayer, mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer;
  29. Concerning heaven on earth, or godlike dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection; and
  30. Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues.

Climacus, who died in March 649, became an influential figure in both Eastern and Western monasticism via his book.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF BLESSED KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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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 servants Sts. John Cassian and John Climacus,

and we pray that by their teaching 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 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 Sts. John of Damascus and Cosmas of Maiuma (December 4)   1 comment

st-john-of-damascus

Above:  St. John of Damascus

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS (675 or 676-December 4, 749 or 754 or 780)

Theologian and Hymnodist

Also known as Saint John Damascene

Also known as Saint John Chrysorrhoas (or “Gold-Streaming”)

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SAINT COSMAS OF MAIUMA (DIED 760 OR 773 OR 794)

Theologian and Hymnodist

Also known as Saint Cosmas the Melodist

His feast transferred from October 14 (Julian Calendar) and October 27 (Gregorian Calendar)

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The Feast of St. John of Damascus is December 4 in the Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of England, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, among other denominations.  In Holy Mother Church his feast has fallen on December 4 since 1969; prior to that it was March 27.  (The Book of Catholic Worship, from 1966, confirms this date, which I found on several websites.  I prefer to confirm information via primary sources as much as possible.)  The transfer of the Feast of St. Cosmas of Maiuma from October to December is due to the overlap of his life and that of St. John, who were brothers in all but genetics and partners in various literary and theological projects.

Sergius Mansur, the biological father of St. John of Damascus and the adoptive father of St. Cosmas of Maiuma, held a prominent post in the Caliphate.  (Aside:  Sources have proven contradictory regarding his position.  The two main versions are tax collector and chief representative to the Christians.)  Sergius, a Christian, raised our two saints in the faith.  He also liberated one Cosmas the Monk from slavery and had the monk instruct young John and Cosmas in theology and philosophy.  St. John succeeded his father in government and exercised authority for years.

St. John’s destiny lay elsewhere, however.  Circa 716 he resigned his post, sold his possessions, sold his possessions, and donated the proceeds to the poor.  Then he and St. Cosmas became monks at the Monastery of St. Sabas the Sanctified, near Jerusalem, in 726.  That year Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (reigned 717-741) decreed Iconoclasm.  Our two saints wrote treatises condemning that heresy.  They also worked together on defenses of Christianity against Manichaeism.  St. John’s The Feast of Knowledge, containing “On the Orthodox Faith,” has proven especially influential.  Perhaps their longest-lasting legacies have been hymn texts and tunes for chants.  Due primarily to John Mason Neale (1818-1866) and John Brownlie (1859-1925) some of these texts have entered into English-language hymnody.  Neale translated the texts in various editions of Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862).  Brownlie’s volumes of translations included Hymns of the Greek Church (1900) and Hymns of the Early Church (1896).  Although one of our saints received credit for a particular poem, chant, or treatise, both of them worked so closely that one may assume reasonably that both were partially responsible, until the death of St. John.

St. Cosmas left the monastery in 743 and became the Bishop of Maiuma, a port city in Gaza.  He held that post for the rest of his long life and outlived St. John.  According to tradition, St. Cosmas lived to the age of 100 years, give or take a few years.

The three main greatest hits of St. John of Damascus in Episcopal Church hymnody are Easter texts:

  1. Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain;”
  2. Thou Hallowed Chosen Morn of Praise;” and
  3. The Day of Resurrection.”

These are present in The English Hymnal (1906).  So is a fourth text, “What Sweet of Life Endureth,” a funeral hymn.

These two saints left fine legacies, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JUSTUS FALCKNER, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILANDER CHASE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS OF VILLANOVA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF VALENCIA

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Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power

by your servants Saints John of Damascus and Cosmas of Maiuma;

that we, with them, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man,

and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection,

attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14

Psalm 29

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

John 5:24-27

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 101

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Feast of Sts. Willibrord and Boniface (November 7)   2 comments

Francia Map

Above:  Map of Francia

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT WILLIBRORD (658-NOVEMBER 7, 739)

Apostle to the Frisians

Also known as Clement of Echternach

His feast day = November 7

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SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ (675-JUNE 5, 754)

Apostle to the Germans

Also known as Winfrid, Wynfrith, and Wynfryth

His feast transferred from June 5

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INTRODUCTION

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Sts. Willibrord and Boniface were missionaries whose stories I can recount most effectively in one post, not two.

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SAINT WILLIBRORD (658-739)

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St. Willibrord, born Clement,  was the Apostle to the Frisians and a relative of St. Alcuin of York (735-804).  St. Willibrord, a Northumbrian native, was son of St. Wilgils/Hilgis of Ripon (feast day = January 31), a convert to Christianity.  St. Wilgils/Hilgis entrusted his son to the Church and became a holy hermit.  Young Clement studied at Ripon Abbey under the tutelage of his mentor, St. Wilfrid of Ripon (634-709), then abbot there and later the Bishop of York, Lichfield, and Hexham, in that order.  Clement became a Benedictine monk and spent twelve years at Rathmalsigi Abbey (in Ireland).  The abbot was St. Egbert of Lindisfarne (639-739).

Frisia was coming under the influence of Francia.  Pepin II, Mayor of the Palace from 680 to 714, requested that St. Egbert send missionaries to Frisia.  The abbot sent twelve monks, including Clement.  Early efforts, headquartered at the court of Pepin II, proved unsuccessful most of the time.  Nevertheless, Clement established a base of operations at Utrecht.  On November 21, 695, Pope St. Sergius I (reigned 687-701) consecrated Clement a bishop and named him Willibrord.

[Aside:  Many of the sources I consulted identified the pontiff erroneously as Sergius III.  J. N. D. Kelly makes clear, however, in The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986) that it was Sergius I and that Sergius III reigned from 904 to 911.]

The first stage of the Frisian mission spanned 695-716 and met with much success.  St. Willibrord presided over the building of both a monastery and a cathedral at Utrecht, plus the founding of many congregations.  This frightened chieftain Rabdod, who conquered Frisia in 716 and spent the remaining three years of his life undoing the work of St. Willibrord and his missionaries by destroying all ecclesiastical structures and killing missionaries.  Meanwhile, St. Willibrord and companions attempted (without much success) to evangelize in Denmark.

The Frisian mission resumed in 719.  St. Willibrord and companions, including St. Boniface, who had evangelized in Frisia as early as 716, rebuilt the Church in the region.  St. Willibrord retired to Echternach Abbey, Echternach (now in Luxembourg), which he had founded.  He died at the abbey on November 7, 739.  Veneration of him as a saint began immediately.

St. Willibrord is the patron of convulsions, epilepsy, epileptics, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and the Archdiocese of Utrecht.  According to a Medieval legend, an epidemic caused the cattle around Echternach Abbey to tremble then die.  Peasants in the region, the legend tells us, invoked St. Willibrord.  As they processed to his shrine, the story states, some of the peasants danced in a manner resembling the convulsions of the cattle, hence some of those patronages.

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SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ (675-754)

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St. Boniface of Mainz, born Winfrid and also known as Wynfrith and Wynfryth, assisted St. Willibrord in Frisia before becoming the “Apostle to the Germans.”  Winfrid/Wynfrith/Wynfryth was a native Exeter, in the Kingdom of Wessex, in England.  He, born in 675 and educated at monasteries, faced early opposition from his father to his plan to become a monk.  His father changed his mind eventually, however.  Our saint taught at the school attached to Nursling Abbey.  At the age of 30 years he became a priest.  He also wrote a Latin grammar, a series of riddles, and a treatise on poetry, participated in the Frisian mission, first in 716 then again in 719-722.  In 722 Pope St. Gregory II (reigned 715-731) appointed him to be a missionary bishop (without a diocese) in Germany and named him Boniface.  Ten years later our saint became a missionary archbishop.  He did not receive an appointment to a diocese until 743, when he became the Archbishop of Mainz.  The “Apostle to the Germans” led a successful missionary venture sponsored by Frankish rulers.  His immediate legacy included congregations, abbeys, and three dioceses.

St. Boniface and 52 others became martyrs near Dokkum, Frisia, on June 5, 754, prior to a planned confirmation service.  A band of violent pagans attacked them yet did not kill the Church there.

Our saint is the patron of brewers, Germany, file cutters, tailors, the Diocese of Fulda (in Germany), and the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface (in Manitoba, Canada).

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CONCLUSION

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We of the Church in 2016 stand on the broad shoulders of saints such as Willibrord and Boniface, who risked much to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and influenced civilization positively long after their lifespans ended.  We do not know how long-lasting our influences (direct and indirect, as well as positive and negative) will be.  May we strive, by grace, to be the most effective ministers of grace possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOANNA, MARY, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servants

St. Willibrord, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Frisia; and

St. Boniface of Mainz, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Frisia and Germany.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 716

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Feast of St. Aldhelm of Sherborne (May 25)   1 comment

England in 700 CE

Above:  England in 700

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE (639-MAY 25, 709)

Poet, Literary Scholar, Abbot of Malmesbury, and Bishop of Sherborne

St. Aldhelm comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days from the Roman Catholic Church and The Church of England.

St. Aldhelm was a scholar, poet, and churchman.  Our saint, a relative–perhaps a brother–of King Ine of Wessex (reigned 688-726), studied at Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, where Maildubh (died in 675), an Irish monk and scholar was abbot.  For a time St. Aldhelm studied at Canterbury under the tutelage of St. Adrian/Hadrian (died in 710).  Bad health forced our saint to return to Malmesbury, where he served as a monk under Abbot Maildubh until succeeding him in 675.  St. Aldhelm introduced the Rule of St. Benedict to the monastery, made the abbey a center of learning, oversaw the construction of a new church on the grounds, and expanded the land holdings of the monastery.

St. Aldhelm was a literary figure.  He was, as far as historians know, the first Anglo-Saxon to write in Latin.  His Latin writing style reflected his erudition, for it was abstruse and sesquipedalian.  His works were standard in English ecclesiastical schools for centuries, declining after the Norman Conquest (1066).  Our saint also wrote in Old English, but none of his writings in that language have survived.

St. Aldhelm, who had a strong devotion to Mary and the saints, became the first Bishop of Sherborne in 705, after the division of the large Diocese of Winchester.  He held that post until he died at Doulting, Somerset, on May 25, 709.

Archive.org offers several works about our saint:

  1. St. Aldhelm:  His Life and Times, Lectures Delivered in the Cathedral Church of Bristol, Lent, 1902 (1903), by George Forrest Browne;
  2. Life of S. Ealdhelm, First Bishop of Sherborne (1905), by William Beauchamp Wildman; and
  3. Two Ancient English Scholars:  St. Aldhelm and William of Malmesbury:  Being the First Lecture on the David Murray Foundation in the University of Glasgow Delivered on June 9th, 1931 (1931), by Montague Rhodes James.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Saint Aldhelm of Sherborne 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. Mellitus (April 24)   Leave a comment

England 600

Above:  England, 600 C.E.

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1967)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT MELLITUS (DIED APRIL 24, 624)

Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury

We know little about the early life of St. Mellitus.  He was probably Italian and of noble birth.  He might also have been the Abbot of St. Andrew, Rome, leader of the monastery to which Sts. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Gregory I “the Great” had belonged.  We do know, however, that St. Gregory I, as the Bishop of Rome, had sent St. Augustine and a team of missionaries a few years before he, at the request of St. Augustine (then the Archbishop of Canterbury) another team of missionaries.  The leader of that second team was St. Mellitus.

St. Mellitus became an important figure in the English Church in the 600s.  St. Augustine consecrated him a bishop in 604.  St. Mellitus, apostle to the East Saxons, established his headquarters at London.  He had to go into exile for at least a year in the late 610s because he refused to give sacramental bread to pagan princes.  His eventual successor (after decades of a vacancy) as bishop in that region was St. Cedd of Lastingham.  St. Mellitus became the third Archbishop of Canterbury in 619.  His tenure, during most which he was prone to bad health, was mostly uneventful.  He died in office on April 24, 624.

Foundational figures fascinate me, for I know that I am fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants.  My faith has much to do with that St. Mellitus, who left his homeland, settled in a foreign country, and engaged in missionary work there.  My ancestry is mostly British, so I owe a debt of gratitude to the founders of British Christianity, especially Roman Catholic missionaries to England in the late 500s and early 600s.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, DESERT FATHER

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

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, UNITARIAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Saint Mellitus,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of England.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 716

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Feast of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, Caelin, St. Cedd of Lastingham, St. Cynibil of Lastingham, St. Chad of Mercia, St. Vitalian, St. Adrian of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, and St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (March 2)   4 comments

England in 600 CE

Above:  England in 600 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 590-AUGUST 31, 651)

Celtic Missionary Bishop

His feast transferred from August 31

mentor of

CAELIN (600S)

Celtic Priest

brother of

SAINT CEDD OF LASTINGHAM (CIRCA 620-OCTOBER 26, 664)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Bishop of Essex, and Abbot of Lastingham

His feast transferred from October 26

brother of

SAINT CYNIBIL OF LASTINGHAM (CIRCA 622-664)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest and Monk

His feast = March 2

brother of

SAINT CHAD (A.K.A. CEADDA) OF MERCIA (DIED MARCH 2, 672)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Priest, Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop of York/the Northumbrians and of Lichfield/the Mercians and the Lindsey People

His feast day = March 2

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SAINT VITALIAN (DIED JANUARY 27, 672)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from January 27

consecrated 

THEODORE OF TARSUS (CIRCA 602-SEPTEMBER 19, 690)

Roman Catholic Monk and Archbishop of Canterbury

His feast transferred from September 19

worked with

SAINT ADRIAN (A.K.A. HADRIAN) OF CANTERBURY (DIED JANUARY 9, 710)

Roman Catholic Abbot of Ss. Peter and Paul’s, Canterbury

His feast transferred from January 9

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SAINT CUTHBERT OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 635-MARCH 20, 687)

Celtic and Roman Catholic Monk, Hermit, Priest, and Bishop of Lindisfarne

His feast transferred from March 20

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INTRODUCTION

Preparation for this post began with one name–St. Chad of Mercia.  As I took notes and followed leads, the number of saints, canonized and otherwise, increased to nine.  I could have gone beyond that, but (A) I had already written about some of the other related saints, and (B) I chose to draw the proverbial line somewhere.  I also thought seriously about covering the material in more than one post, but I decided that writing just one post would maintain the unity of the narrative, with its overlapping lives of saints.  I therefore invite you, O reader, to follow the proverbial bouncing ball and to draw inspiration from the lives of great men of God as you learn about them.

SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 590-AUGUST 31, 651)

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne

Above:  St. Aidan of Lindisfarne

Image in the Public Domain

Augustine was the Apostle of Kent, but Aidan was the Apostle of the English.

–Joseph Lightfoot (1828-1889), Anglican Bishop of Durham (1879-1889)

The best saint with whom to begin the narrative is St. Aidan of Lindisfarne.  The historical record contains little information about his early life.  It does tell us that he was Irish, ascetic, and, from an early age, a monk at Iona.

St. Aidan belonged to the Celtic Church, which preceded the Roman Catholic Church in the British Isles for centuries and existed alongside it for decades until the Synod of Whitby (664).  St. Oswald, the King of Northumbria from 634 to 641/642, was a devout Christian ruler, but a large proportion of his subjects consisted of pagans.  He contacted the great abbey at Iona and requested missionaries.  The first missionary bishop Iona sent was one Corman, who employed harsh tactics, alienated many people, failed thoroughly, and declared that converting the people was impossible.  Iona recalled him and replaced him with St. Aidan in 635.  St. Aidan, as the first Bishop of Lindisfarne (635-651), with the seat of his see at Bamburgh, used gentle tactics of evangelism.  He and his fellow missionaries converted many people, founded many churches, and built schools and monasteries.  He undertook many missionary journeys in Great Britain.  St. Aidan died at Bamburgh on August 31, 651, after returning from one such journey.

FOUR HOLY BROTHERS:  CAELIN, SAINT CEDD OF LASTINGHAM, SAINT CYNIBIL OF LASTINGHAM, AND SAINT CHAD OF MERCIA

St. Aidan taught four Northumbrian brothers at Lindisfarne.  They were Caelin (600s), St. Cedd of Lastingham (circa 620-October 26, 664), St. Cynibil of Lastingham (622-664), and St. Chad of Mercia (died March 2, 672).  These brothers continued their studies under St. Egbert of Lindisfarne (circa 639-729) in Ireland and became priests in the Celtic Church.

St. Cedd

Above:  St. Cedd of Lastingham

Image in the Public Domain

St. Aidan’s successor as Bishop of Lindisfarne was St. Finan of Lindisfarne (in office 651-661).  In 653 Bishop St. Finan sent four priests, including St. Cedd, to engage in missionary work in Northumbria.  The efforts proved successful, leading to the conversion of many people and the building of churches and monasteries.  In 654 St. Finan consecrated St. Cedd as the Bishop of Essex, with the seat of the see at London.  Four years later St. Cedd expanded his portfolio by founding the abbey at Lastingham and becoming the abbot thereof.

St. Cedd’s three brothers assisted in this founding.  Caelin, a court chaplain, arranged for the royal donation of land.  St. Cedd started a forty-day-long fast to purify the site of the monastery prior to construction.  He held up well until the twenty-ninth day.  St. Cynibil took up the fast on the thirtieth day.  St. Cedd recalled his other brother, St. Chad, from Ireland to help with the founding also.

St. Cynibil lived as a monk at Lastingham until 664, when he died of plague.

Ss. Cedd and Chad attended the Synod of Whitby (664) and accepted its result.  Rome and its customs were supreme.  St. Cedd died of plague on October 26, 664, during a visit to the monastery at Lastingham.  St. Chad succeeded him as abbot.

That year St. Chad became the Bishop of the Northumbrians, with his seat at York.  There was already a bishop-designate, St. Wilfrid (lived 634-709), but, for political reasons, King Oswiu of Northumbria (reigned 642-670) chose St. Chad.  St. Wilfrid, ordained in France, arrived to find a rival claimant to his see.  The resolution of this dispute fell to the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus.

SAINT VITALIAN, BISHOP OF ROME (DIED JANUARY 27, 672), AND THEODORE OF TARSUS (CIRCA 602-SEPTEMBER 19, 690)

St. Vitalian

Above:  St. Vitalian

Image in the Public Domain

Historical records tell us little regarding the early life of St. Vitalian.  We do know that his birthplace was Segni, near Rome, and that his father’s name was Anastasius.  Those records are mostly silent regarding the saint’s life prior to becoming the Pope.

St. Vitalian’s papacy started on July 30, 657, and ended with his death on January 27, 672.  His predecessor was St. Eugene I (reigned 654-657), a man with a conciliatory spirit, especially regarding the Eastern Roman Empire and the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  St. Vitalian succeeded where St. Eugene I could not; he restored good relations between the Holy See and Constantinople.  Later during his papacy St. Vitalian found an opening (due to internal politics in Constantinople) to insist on what was not previously politically feasible:  an unambiguous statement that Jesus had two wills–not one or three.  Closer to home, St. Vitalian established the singing school at the Lateran to train singers for the new, more elaborate papal rites.

St. Vitalian sought to fill the vacant See of Canterbury.  Deusdedit (reigned 655-664) had died.  The see remained vacant for four years.  Twice St. Vitalian asked St. Adrian (of Canterbury), who declined, claiming to be unworthy.  St. Adrian, a native of northern Africa, had become the Abbot of Narida, Naples, at a young age.  He was indeed an accomplished, capable, and humble man.  Wighard, Archbishop-designate from 666, died of plague in 667.

Theodore of Tarsus

Above:  Theodore of Tarsus

Image in the Public Domain

Finally the Holy Father found his man in Theodore of Tarsus (circa 602-690).  Theodore was a native of Tarsus, Cilicia, Asia Minor, the hometown of St. Paul the Apostle.  He was also a learned monk who had fled his home region because of Islamic conquests in the Eastern Roman Empire.  In 667 Theodore lived in an Eastern Rite monastic community at Rome.  He was also in the sixties.  Theodore had many miles to go before he slept, however.  On March 26, 668, at Rome, St. Vitalian consecrated him the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Pope sent St. Adrian (of Canterbury) and St. Benedict Biscop with him to England.  These three men–Theodore of Tarsus, St. Adrian of Canterbury, and St. Benedict Biscop–left positive and long-term legacies in England.

THEODORE OF TARSUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY (668-690)

England in 700 CE

Above:  England in 700 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Theodore of Tarsus was among the most important Archbishops of Canterbury.  He arrived in England in May 669 to find a divided Church, for the Synod of Whitby (664) by which the Roman Catholic Church took over the Celtic Church, remained controversial.  Kingdoms divided the island further.  He had much work to do to create a sense of unity.

Immediately the Archbishop addressed the dispute regarding Ss. Chad and Wilfrid.  He deposed St. Chad, declared his consecration irregular and therefore null, and installed St. Wilfrid.  St. Chad took this well and with humility, declaring that he had never thought himself worthy of the office anyway.  Then he returned to the abbey at Lastingham.  This humility impressed Theodore, who re-consecrated him and made him the Bishop of the Mercians and the Lindsey People, with the seat of the see at York.  From 669 to 672 St. Chad fulfilled his duties faithfully.  He died of plague at Lichfield on March 2, 672.  Among his eventual successors was St. Wilfrid, who served in the post from 691 to 709.

Theodore of Tarsus left his mark on the English Church.  He filled vacant sees, created new dioceses, and reorganized the Church.  Along the way he became a party to disputes, including one with St. Wilfrid, whose Northumbrian diocese he divided.  The Archbishop, being a human being, could never please all of the people all of the time, but he did win widespread respect.  The Venerable Bede wrote that Theodore was “the first archbishop whom all the English obeyed.”  Theodore died at Canterbury on September 19, 690.  He was 88 years old.

SAINT ADRIAN OF CANTERBURY IN ENGLAND

Gaul in 628 C.E.

Above:  Gaul in 628 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Theodore of Tarsus collaborated with St. Adrian of Canterbury (died January 9, 710).  St. Adrian, whom some sources list as St. Hadrian, arrived in England in 671.  Ebroin, the perfidious Mayor of the Palace in Neustria, in Merovingian France, detained St. Adrian for about two years.  The Mayor of the Palace claimed that the saint was on a secret mission for the Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II (reigned 641-668).  Of course our saint was not on any such mission.  Furthermore, Ebroin’s timing was bad, even considering the fact that news traveled more slowly in the 600s than it does in 2015.  Constans II died under suspicious circumstances on July 15, 668.  But who needs facts, right?  Eventually Ebroin released St. Adrian.

The Archbishop of Canterbury appointed St. Adrian the Abbot of Ss. Peter and Paul’s, Canterbury, in 671, succeeding St. Benedict Biscop.  St. Adrian advised and assisted Theodore of Tarsus in bringing liturgical unity to the English Church.  The abbot, a well-educated man, made the School of Canterbury the center of learning in England and established other institutions of learning in England.  From these schools emerged scholars and missionaries who renewed church life in England, France, and Germany.

SAINT CUTHBERT OF LINDISFARNE (CIRCA 635-687)

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne also helped to bring peace to the English Church after the Synod of Whitby (664).  He was probably a native of the environs of Melrose, for, as a young person, he tended sheep near the monastery there.  In 651, when fifteen or sixteen years old, St. Cuthbert reported a vision upon the event of the death of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne.  The young man claimed to have seen angels carrying St. Aidan’s soul to Heaven.  This experience prompted St. Cuthbert to join the monastery at Melrose that year.  There he remained until 664 when St. Eata (died October 26, 686), the Abbot of Melrose from 651 to 678 (and a protegé of St. Aidan), sent St. Cuthbert to Lindisfarne to introduce Roman Catholic customs there.  He also evangelized effectively and demonstrated a strong devotion to the Mass, for he could not celebrate it without tears.  In 676, with permission from the Abbot of Lindisfarne, St. Cuthbert became a hermit and began to deepen his contemplative life.  His first hermitage was the site known today as St. Cuthbert’s Cave.  St. Cuthbert’s’ long-term hermitage was a site on Farne Island, however.

Circumstances removed St. Cuthbert from Farne Island briefly.  In 686 Church officials persuaded him to succeed St. Eata (Bishop of Lindisfarne from 678 to 685 then Bishop of Hexham from 685 to 686) as Bishop of Lindisfarne.  St. Cuthbert’s episcopate was brief.  At Christmas 686 he, knowing that he was dying, resigned and returned to Farne Island.  He died there on March 20, 687.

CONCLUSION

The legacies of these nine saints (not all of them canonized) echo down the corridors of time.  These were foundational figures.  I, as a Christian and, more specifically, an Episcopalian, stand on their shoulders.  These men built up and renewed the Church, to which I belong.

The work of building up and renewing the Church is never finished.  This is especially true in the global West, where much of Christianity is declining and pockets of it are falling into frightened fundamentalism and hateful phobias targeted at people.  Between the extremes of the right (where too much is literal and fixed) and the left (where too much is metaphorical and relative) one finds a middle way of truth and of love for God without denying tolerance, intellectualism, and science.  That broad path of faithful union of healthy spirituality with secular knowledge and respect for the dignity of those who are different also exists in Christian tradition.  It is the best way forward for the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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Almighty God, we praise you, for your servants

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne,

Caelin,

St. Cedd of Lastingham,

St. Cynibil of Lastingham,

St. Chad of Mercia,

St. Vitalian,

St. Adrian of Canterbury,

Theodore of Tarsus, and

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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