Feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod (May 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Eugène de Mazenod

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CHARLES-JOSEPH-EUGÈNE DE MAZENOD (AUGUST 1, 1782-MAY 21, 1861)

Bishop of Marseille and Founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate

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I am a priest, a priest of Jesus Christ.  That says it all.

–St. Eugène de Mazenod

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St. Eugène de Mazenod, who hailed from minor nobility, experienced the political turmoil of the French Revolution and founded an order of missionary priests.  Our saint, born in Aix-en-Provence, on August 1, 1782, went into exile with his family when he was eight years old.  His father, Charles-Antoine de Mazenod, had been the President of the Court of Accounts, Aids and Finances in Aix-en-Provence.  Charles-Antoine, in exile in a series of Italian cities, proved to be an unsuccessful businessman, so the family’s financial condition declined precipitously.  As the family traveled from city to city, St. Eugène’s formal education ended prematurely.  In Venice a priest, Bartolo Zinelli, continued our saint’s education informally.  The family moved on to Naples then to Palermo.  There, thanks to the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Cannizzaro, the de Mazenods’ fortunes improved greatly.  There St. Eugène assumed the title “Count.”

In 1802 “Count” Eugène de Mazenod returned to his homeland after an absence of 11 years.  In France he was merely Citizen de Mazenod.  His parents had separated.  St. Eugène’s mother, Marie-Rose Joannis de Mazenod, was struggling to recover the family’s property, seized in 1790.  She was also attempting to arrange the marriage of her son to the wealthiest heiress possible.  St. Eugène, suffering from depression, saw no good future for himself until he discerned a vocation to the Roman Catholic priesthood.  He matriculated at the seminary of St. Sulpice, Paris, in 1808, and joined the ranks of priests on December 21, 1811.

Learn who you are in the eyes of God.

–St. Eugène de Mazenod

St. Eugène returned to his hometown as a priest.  He, not seeking social status, served as a priest to villagers, youth, servants, prisoners, and the ill.  Like-minded priests joined our saint in this noble work.  These self-proclaimed Missionaries of Provence, the origin of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (as of 1826), heard many confessions.  They also preached not in French, but in Provencal, the language of the common people.  St. Eugène served as the first Superior General of the order, from 1826 until he died, in 1861.

Leave nothing undared for the Kingdom of God.

–St. Eugène de Mazenod

St. Eugène rose to the episcopate.  In 1802 the regime of Napoleon Bonaparte suppressed the Diocese of Marseille.  When the French government reversed that decision Canon Fortuné de Mazenod, our saint’s uncle, became the bishop.  Immediately, in 1823, Fortuné appointed his nephew the Vicar-General of the diocese.  Nine years later our saint became the Auxiliary Bishop of Marseille.  This consecration created a major diplomatic incident, for it happened in Rome and the French government (that of King Louis-Philippe at the time) had become accustomed to holding a prominent role in ecclesiastical affairs since the Concordat of 1802.  Diplomatic tensions died down eventually.  In 1837 Fortuné retired.  St. Eugène succeeded him.  As the Bishop of Marseille our saint oversaw the construction of the cathedral at Marseille and the founding of parishes.  He, appointed a senator in 1856, died of cancer on May 21, 1861.  St. Eugène was 78 years old.

He had, meanwhile, expanded the work of the Oblates into Ireland, Switzerland, England, Canada, the United States, Ceylon, South Africa, and Lesotho.

Pope Paul VI declared St. Eugène a Venerable in 1970 then a Blessed five years later.  Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1995.

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 God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints,

and who raised up your servant Saint Eugène de Mazenod to be a light in the world:

Shine, we pray, in your hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise,

who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 28:16-20

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 717

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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 John Eliot (May 20)   Leave a comment

Above:   John Eliot

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN ELIOT (JULY OR AUGUST 1604-MAY 20, 1690)

“The Apostle to the Indians”

On the calendar of saints of The Episcopal Church the commemoration of the life of John Eliot falls on May 21.  May 20 is a better date, however, given the fact he died on May 20, 1690.  Therefore the Feast of John Eliot falls on May 20 on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Since his feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar via The Episcopal Church, my denomination, I emphasize a particular point about the breadth of the Episcopal calendar of saints.  I note that Eliot, a Puritan (albeit a Non-Separatist one), occupies a slot on the calendar of saints of a church that is the U.S. counterpart of the denomination he rejected de facto.  The catholicity of the Episcopal calendar of saints appeals to me.

John Eliot, who became an evangelist to Native Americans, was an Anglican priest who turned into a Non-Separatist Puritan minister.  He, born in England in July or August 1604, graduated from Cambridge in 1622 then became a priest in The Church of England.  During the next few years he transformed into a Puritan, however.  He arrived in the new Massachusetts Bay colony in 1631 and became a minister at Roxbury.  Unlike many other Puritans, our saint did not consider indigenous people to be agents of Satan and a population to kill.  (If one cannot kill alleged agents of Satan, which group of people can one kill in good conscience, I ask facetiously.)  No, he studied the Algonquin language and, having mastered it, inaugurated his mission to the native speakers of that tongue in 1646.

The “Apostle to the Indians” was an effective evangelist.  Eliot received help from the government of the English commonwealth via the Corporation for Promoting and Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians of New England, which Parliament chartered in 1649.  Natives in the “praying towns,” fourteen of which Eliot founded over time, received education, homes, clothing, and food.  Eliot founded the first indigenous church in 1660, published an Algonquin translation of the New Testament the following year, and released the full Bible in Algonquin in 1663.  As of 1674 about 3,600 “Praying Indians” resided in New England.

Unfortunately, war came, and fear, intolerance, and violence destroyed what Eliot worked so hard to maintain.  During King Philip’s War (1675-1676) many panicky colonists did not distinguish between Christian Indians and non-Christian Natives while attacking and killing people.  After the war, which resulted in the decimation of the indigenous population of New England and the selling of many Indians into slavery in the Caribbean basin, the work of evangelizing Native Americans in New England became more difficult.  The mission dwindled.  The last native minister died in 1716.

Eliot was also historically important with regard to publishing in North America.  He helped to prepare the Bay Psalm Book (1640), the first book printed in New England.  Our saint also wrote The Christian Commonwealth (1659), suppressed due to its political position, republicanism.  Eliot’s The Communion of Churches (1665) was the first book published privately in North America.  Other works by our saint were Indian Grammar Begun (1666), The Indian Primer (1669), and The Harmony of the Gospels (1678).

Eliot, aged 85 years, died at Roxbury on May 20, 1690.  He had built up a mission for the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of his indigenous neighbors.  Unfortunately, others tore that down.  Nevertheless, Eliot was faithful to the end.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Eliot was a pioneer in the fields of Native American linguistic studies and missions to indigenous populations in North America.  Many subsequent people have stood on his proverbial soldiers.

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 God, by the proclamation of your Word all nations are drawn to you:

Make us desire, like John Eliot, to share your Good News with those whom we encounter,

so that all people may come to a saving knowledge of you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Great Creator, we thank you for the imagination and conviction of your evangelist, John Eliot,

who brought both literacy and the Bible to the Algonquin people,

and reshaped their communities into fellowships of Christ to serve you and give you praise;

and we pray that we may so desire to share your Good News

with others that we labor for mutual understanding and trust;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 1:1-11

Psalm 68:33-36

Romans 15:13-21

Mark 4:1-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 381

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Tallassee Shoals XIV: Turtles   Leave a comment

Above:  A Turtle Just Outside Ben Burton Park, October 24, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

Turtles interest me; simply watching them is pleasurable.  On occasion I photograph them as they go about their turtle lives.

On October 24, 2017, as I was about to enter Ben Burton via a back route (marked as a jeep trail on the diagram in this entry), I noticed a turtle in my vicinity.  He went on his way and I sent on mine.

Above:  Turtles on a Rock in the Middle Oconee River, October 31, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Larger turtles sun themselves on rocks in the Middle Oconee River, beside Ben Burton Park.  Photographing them can prove tricky, for turtles frequently return to the water if one has to walk through leaves to get close enough to the river bank to get a good view.  I get to observe the river turtles frequently, though.  That is fortunate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Tallassee Shoals XIII: Small Waterfall   Leave a comment

Above:  A Portion of Poss Creek, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

As one enters Ben Burton Park in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, one crosses a bridge that spans Poss Creek, which flows into the Middle Oconee River.  The creek, with water flowing over exposed rocks, is lovely.  Small waterfalls are among the features of this creek.

The creek was part of the former Tallassee Shoals Hydroelectric Facility, which was operational from 1902 to 1960.  I wonder what the creek looked like then, especially given the fact that remnants of that hydroelectric facility surround it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Tallassee Shoals XII: Stone Corner   Leave a comment

All Images Dated November 9, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

Just beyond the entrance to Ben Burton Park and in the vicinity of Poss Creed one sees this stone corner, a lovely sight indeed.  Today the general public gets to enjoy the area.  I wonder what purpose the area served between 1902 and 1960, when the Tallassee Shoals Hydroelectric Facility was operational.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Tallassee Shoals XI: Low Stone Wall   Leave a comment

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor, November 9, 2017

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This post is part of a series that began with this entry.

From Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, stone walls inside the woods are visible.  Consider the photographs in this post, O reader.  The geographical point of reference for the camera is on the beaten path in the park.

To the north of this wall is another stone wall, one that is uneven and that follows the landscape.

Such remnants of the Tallassee Shoals Hydroelectric Facility, operational from 1902 to 1960, prompt me to wonder what this site looked like prior to 1960.  Some old photographs (all of which I have included in previous posts in this series) provide some clues, but they do not depict these walls.  That set of old photographs leaves many sights to my imagination.

We know that nature takes over quickly when people cease to maintain structures.  The photographs in this post show the results of 47 years of nature taking over.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

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