Archive for the ‘J. Edgar Hoover’ Tag

Feast of Richard McSorley (October 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Image Source = Google Earth

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RICHARD T. MCSORLEY, S.J. (OCTOBER 2, 1914-OCTOBER 17, 2002)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Professor, and Peace Activist

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I see my mission in life, as God has made it known to me, to help make the Catholic Church what it should be, a peace church.  To be Christian means to have respect for life in all its forms, and in today’s nuclear age, that means Christians must become active witnesses for peace and must firmly oppose all forms of war.

–Father Richard T. McSorley, S.J., quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 540

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Father Richard T. McSorley, S.J., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cady and Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

The McSorleys of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were a large and devout Roman Catholic family.  There were fifteen children, eight of whom entered religious life.  Young Richard entered the Society of Jesus in 1932, at Wernesville, Pennsylvania.  By 19939, our saint completed his degree in philosophy.  That year, the order sent him to Manila, the Philippines, to teach at a Jesuit high school and seminary.

McSorley spent December 13, 1941-February 23, 1945, as a prisoner of the Japanese Empire.  He and other Jesuits and seminarians suffered repeated tortures.  McSorley nearly died of starvation.  He, hauled repeatedly before firing squads, saw fellow prisoners executed.  Japanese soldiers laughed at our saint, and aimed their guns at him without shooting.  They faked him out three times.

After U.S. paratroopers rescued the prisoners.  McSorley returned to the Untied States of America.  Our saint graduated from seminary at Woodstock College in Maryland.  He, ordained to the priesthood in 1946, embarked upon a life of ministry and social justice.  He, assigned to St. James’ Church, St. Mary’s City, Maryland, confronted Jim Crow laws, individual racism, and the Ku Klux Klan.  He preached against racism, advocated for the desegregation of church and society, and nearly became the victim of a Klan lynching.  McSorley, not intimidated, refused to be silent.

McSorley, who taught philosophy at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania (1952-1961), completed his doctorate at Ottawa University, Canada, during those years.  Then he taught theology at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1961f).  He also did all of the following:

  1. He tutored the children of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
  2. He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, Alabama.
  3. He opposed the Vietnam War.
  4. He became a pacifist in the 1960s.
  5. He tried to abolish all chapters of the R.O.T.C. at Roman Catholic colleges and universities.
  6. He favored the abolition of the R.O.T.C.
  7. He denounced all weapons of mass destruction.
  8. He condemned nuclear weapons as sinful.
  9. He helped to found Pax Christi U.S.A. in the 1970s.
  10. He went to jail for peacefully protesting Apartheid and nuclear weapons.
  11. He opposed Ronald Reagan’s policy of supporting repressive governments in Latin America.
  12. He wrote books and articles.

McSorley had a well-developed sense of the disparity between the laws of God and the laws of governments.  For our saint, Christian love was nonviolent love.  He considered Just War Theory absurd, especially in the age of nuclear weapons:

Can we serve both God and our government when the government orders us to do what God forbids?  Of course not.

McSorley belonged to the Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton wing of the Roman Catholic Church.  Our saint made enemies, of course.  He made enemies inside the Society of Jesus.  F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover (that paragon of opposition to civil rights and civil liberties) considered McSorley a “disgrace” and searched in vain for a way to smear his reputation.

McSorley, aged 88 years, died in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 2002.

Our saint took to heart the commandment of Jesus to love one’s enemies.  In so doing, McSorley became a radical–a radical Christian.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Richard T. McSorley] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of William Stringfellow (April 26)   1 comment

Above:  William Stringfellow

Fair Use

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FRANK WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW (APRIL 26, 1928-MARCH 2, 1985)

Episcopal Attorney, Theologian, and Social Activist

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I think they need to hear it.

–William Stringfellow, explaining why he read long passages of the Bible to the F.B.I. agents recording his telephone calls

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This is the man America should be listening to.

Karl Barth, on Stringfellow, early 1960s

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It is profane, as well as grandiose, to manipulate the Bible in order to apologize for America.

–William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973)

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For thousands of us, he became the honored keeper and guardian of the Word of God.

Daniel Berrigan, 1985

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William Stringfellow comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via five sources.  He is on the short list of people The Episcopal Church will probably list officially as a saint once the “fifty-year-rule” (to which the denomination has made notable exceptions) ceases to be a barrier.  Stringfellow’s name appears in this context in the back of Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and its successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  Cloud of Witnesses, 2d. ed (2005), edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, contains Wallis’s remembrance of his friend of 14 years.  A Year with American Saints (2006), by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, features Stringfellow.  So does All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), by Robert Ellsberg.

Stringfellow was a prophet.  He was, by definition, also a controversial figure.  Our saint was the kind of man certain contemporary reactionaries would dismiss cynically as a “social justice warrior.” Stringfellow would, in a counterfactual scenario in which he would have heard that term, probably have considered it a compliment and read the Book of Amos to his critics.  He did, after all, read long Biblical passages to the F.B.I. spooks who recorded this telephone calls.  That was better than what some other spied-upon U.S. citizens did in identical circumstances–frequently insult J. Edgar Hoover profanely.

Stringfellow stood up for what he believed.  He condemned economic injustice, racism, institutionalized segregation, homophobia, misogyny, sexual promiscuity, and other offenses.  Our saint also advocated for the ordination of women within The Episcopal Church long before 1976, when the General Convention approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.  His opposition to the Vietnam War and to nuclear weapons also made him many enemies on the Right.

Frank William Stringfellow was a man who allowed the Bible to shape him.  He was a radical and a strong social critic who walked the walk.  Our saint, born in Johnston, Rhode Island, on April 26, 1928, was a life-long Episcopalian.  At age fifteen, he matriculated at Bates College, Lewiston, Massachusetts.  When Stringfellow left Bates College, he studied at the London School of Economics.  Our saint served in the Second Armored Division, U.S. Army, during World War II.  Next, he earned his J.D. degree at Harvard Law School.

Stringfellow moved into a slum in Harlem after he graduated from Harvard Law School.  He joined the East Harlem Protestant Parish, taught Biblical studies, and practiced law.  He remained in Harlem until 1967.  Our saint moved for health-related reasons; a metabolism-related disorder that led to diabetes affected him.  Stringfellow and platonic partner, poet Anthony Towne (died in 1980), a Methodist, moved to Block Island, New Shoreham, Rhode Island.

All evidence points to Stringfellow being a celibate, semi-closeted homosexual.  This matter, relevant to his life and activism, does not offend me.  (Stringfellow no more chose to be homosexual than I chose to be heterosexual.)

Theologically, Stringfellow was neo-orthodox.  He read works by Karl Barth (with whom he had a conversation in Harlem in the early 1960s) and Jacques Ellul.  The neo-orthodox theology of original sin pervading neo-orthodoxy was evident in his writings, including many of his books.  The presence of original sin in American culture and social institutions was one of Stringfellow’s most controversial topics.  He objected to reading the Bible through (dominant) American cultural eyes.  Rather, our saint interpreted (dominant) American culture through Biblical lenses.  He concluded that the Bible condemned his culture and his society’s institutions.  That proved to be controversial when

My country, right or wrong

was a popular slogan for many people.

Stringfellow’s views and activism placed him on J. Edgar Hoover’s radar, hence the wire-tapping.  When our saint’s friend, Father Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) was a fugitive for having destroyed military draft records, Stringfellow and Toyne sheltered him for four months.  F.B.I. agents raided the house on Block Island and arrested all three.  The court eventually dropped the charges (of sheltering a fugitive) against Stringfellow and Towne, though.

Stringfellow, in constant pain during his final years, died at home on March 2, 1985.  He was 56 years old.

Stringfellow defined being holy as

being truly human.

By that standard, of being the best person one can be, our saint was holy.

Stringfellow’s prophetic witness remains relevant, unfortunately.  I write “unfortunately” because the United States of America, my country, has continued collectively and officially down a path contrary to the high moral standards Stringfellow championed.  I wonder what the FOX News Channel (according to which Mister Rogers was evil) would have said about Stringfellow, had it existed when he was alive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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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), 736

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Feast of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin (May 9)   12 comments

Above:  Dorothy Day, 1934

Image in the Public Domain

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DOROTHY DAY (NOVEMBER 8, 1897-NOVEMBER 29, 1980)

ARISTODE PIERRE MAURIN (MAY 9, 1877-MAY 15, 1949)

Cofounders of the Catholic Worker Movement

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Don’t call me a saint.  I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.

–Dorothy Day

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People who are in need and are not afraid to beg give to people not in need the occasion to do good for goodness’ sake.  Modern society calls the beggar bum and panhandler and gives him the bum’s rush.  But the Greeks used to say that people in need are ambassadors of the gods.  Although you may be called bums and panhandlers, yo are in fact the ambassadors of God.  As God’s ambassadors you should be given good, clothing, and shelter by those who are able to give it.

–Peter Maurin on Christian hospitality

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Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin were radicals, even according to the standards of many other radicals.  Their radicalism was consistent with their Christian faith.

Peter Maurin lived according the reality that all of us depend entirely on God.  Aristode Pierre Maurin, born in Oultet, in the Lanquedoc region of France, on May 9, 1877, joined the Christian Brothers when he was 16 years old.  Mandatory military service in 1898 and 1899 highlighted sense of the conflict between civil and religious duties.

Maurin preferred his religious responsibilities.  The government of the French Third Republic closed many religious schools in 1902.  At that time our saint left the Christian Brothers and joined Sillon, a left-wing Roman Catholic movement.  He departed that movement in 1908, for he disagreed with Sillon’s increasingly political nature.  Maurin emigrated to Canada in 1909.  After two unsuccessful years as a homesteader in Saskatchewan, our saint worked a series of jobs in the United States and Canada.  He was, for example, a wheat harvester, a track layer, and a coal miner.  In 1932 Maurin, who never married, was working as a handyman at a Roman Catholic boys’ school in upstate New York.  When time permitted he travelled to New York City, where he spent time in branches of the public library and spoke on street corners.  He met Dorothy Day in the city in December 1932.

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.  We know Him in the breaking of the bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore.  Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.

–Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day, born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 8, 1897, made a roundabout journey to faith.  She, baptized in The Episcopal Church when young, had rejected the Christian faith by the time she was a college student.  Day dropped out of college to become a journalist for radical publications in New York City.  In 1926 our saint, in a common-law marriage on Staten Island, gave birth to a daughter, Tamar Teresa Day (Batterham Hennessy), who lived until 2008.  Day had her daughter baptized in the Roman Catholic Church.  The following year our saint converted to Roman Catholic Church, thereby ending her common-law marriage.

Day became dissatisfied with the church’s support for the status quo.  She channeled this attitude into The Catholic Worker, the first issue of which debuted on May 1, 1933.  The publication, which Maurin suggested calling The Catholic Radical, was pro-labor and critical of both Marxism and capitalism.  The Catholic Worker, rooted in the Gospels, advocated not for reform, but for school revolution of a nonviolent variety.  She preferred an agricultural and decentralized society grounded in faith.  Toward this end the movement founded farms.  Also, the newspaper offices became a “house of hospitality” for providing food and shelter.

Maurin suffered a stroke in 1944.  He spent his final years, during which he struggled with memory loss, at the retreat center near Newburgh, New York.  There he died on May 15, 1949, aged 72 years.  His corpse, buried in a borrowed grave, wore a secondhand suit.

Day, radical politically–to the point of being a professing anarchist–was conservative in her piety.  Our saint, a pacifist–even during World War II–opposed wars consistently and argued against nuclear proliferation.  She also committed acts of civil disobedience, for which authorities arrested her repeatedly.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated her, as if she were a threat or a criminal.  Director J. Edgar Hoover was a reactionary and an unrepentant racist who opposed social change (especially the Civil Rights Movement any antiwar movement), kept his job as long as he did by blackmailing politicians, trampled civil liberties, and presided over an agency that attempted to blackmail the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., into committing suicide.  Of course Day had an F.B.I. file.  If Jesus of Nazareth had lived in the U.S.A. at the time, Hoover would have labeled him a subversive and ordered surveillance of him.  Our Lord and Savior’s F.B.I. file would have been thicker than a large-print Bible.

Day died, aged 93 years, in New York City on November 29, 1980.  The Roman Catholic Church, having begun to consider her for recognition as a saint, has labeled her a Servant of God.

Day and Maurin were indeed subversives–for Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WHITE BENSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF LOUIS FITZGERALD BENSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

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

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

Help us, like your servants Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin,

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, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

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

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Feast of Fannie Lou Hamer (March 14)   2 comments

fannie-lou-hamer-1964

Above:  Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

Image Source = Library of Congress

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-01267

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FANNIE LOU TOWNSEND HAMER (OCTOBER 6, 1917-MARCH 14, 1977)

Prophet of Freedom

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I’m never sure anymore when I leave home whether I’ll get back or not.  Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed.  But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.  I’m not backing off that and no one will have to cover the ground I walk as far as freedom is concerned.

–Fannie Lou Hamer, quoted by Danny Duncan Collum in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, Cloud of Witnesses (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2005), page 109

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Christianity is being concerned about your fellow man, not building a million-dollar church while people are starving right around the corner.  Christ was a revolutionary person, out there where it is happening.  That’s what God is all about, and that’s where I get my strength.

–Fannie Lou Hamer, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 118

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Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1997), lists Fannie Lou Hamer as the saint for March 14 and describes her as a “Prophet of Freedom.”  That is an accurate description.

Fannie Lou Townsend, born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, on October 6, 1917, was always poor.  She was the youngest of 20 children born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, the poorest region of a state (infamous for its open, institutional racism and reactionary politics) that has long been the butt of jokes about poor states.

Thank God for Mississippi!

has long been the exclamation of citizens of other impoverished states grateful that their states are Forty-Ninth or Forty-Eighth–but not Fiftieth–in the prevention of scabies or some other disease, or in certain educational attainment statistics, et cetera.  As an old joke says, we know that the inventor of the toothbrush hailed from Mississippi because, if he had come from any other state, it would be a teethbrush.

1951

Above:  Northwestern Mississippi

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Our saint, who suffered from childhood polio, had a fourth-grade education and also became a sharecropper.  In 1945 she married Perry “Pap” Hamer, a tractor driver on a nearby plantation.  The Hamers adopted two daughters, Dorothy and Virgie, and worked on plantations in Sunflower County, Mississippi.  Our saint knew both hard work and little reward for it:

Sometimes I be working in the fields and I get so tired, I say to the people picking cotton with us, “Hard as we have to work for nothing, there must be some way we can change this.

–Quoted by Danny Duncan Collum in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, Cloud of Witnesses (2005), page 103

Hamer also knew the injustice of forced sterilization.  In 1961, while she was having surgery for the removal of a tumor, the surgeon sterilized her as part of a state program targeting poor African-American women.

In August 1962, at the age of 44 years, Hamer became politically active.  She attended a voter registration rally sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Immediately she began to attempt to register to vote–a right the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States theoretically prevented anyone from denying her on the basis of her race.  She succeeded in January 1963.  By then, however, the Hamers’ landlord had evicted the family and confiscated their possessions in repayment for alleged debts.  These were acts in retaliation for her registering to vote.  Our saint became a field secretary for SNCC.  Her work was to encourage African Americans to register to vote and to communicate the plight of Southern African Americans to Northern whites.  There were consequences.  She received death threats.  The State Sovereignty Commission kept the family under surveillance.  Also, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Citizens’ Council (now the Conservative Citizens’ Council), and J. Edgar Hoover‘s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) harassed the Hamers.

In 1963, when Hamer and some other civil rights workers were returning from Charleston, South Carolina, police in Winona, Montgomery County, Mississippi, arrested them and incarcerated them for several days.  Officers presided over beatings of these activists.  Our saint suffered the effects of the beatings for the rest of her life; a blood clot in her left eye impaired her vision.  She also suffered kidney damage.  Hamer might have died shortly, for she overheard officers plotting to kill the activists and dispose of their bodies.  Fortunately, local activists and the federal Department of Justice arranged for their release.

From 1964 to 1968 Hamer was active the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which she helped to form and in which she exercised leadership.  She sought unsuccessfully to unseat the state Democratic Party’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1964.  She also ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965.  Hamer did succeed, however, in influencing the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  She also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and opposed the Vietnam War, which she understood in the context of human rights for poor people.  In addition, she helped to organize the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.  All of her actions stemmed from her Christian faith.

Other actions that stemmed from Hamer’s Christian faith were local in nature; she sought to improve conditions in Ruleville and Sunflower County.  Our saint helped to bring the Head Start program to the area, raised funds for building 200 low-income housing units, helped to found a day care center, and was instrumental in bringing a garment factory to town.  Our saint also organized the Freedom Farm Cooperative (ultimately 680 acres), to acquire land for agricultural workers forced off the land they had been farming due to the mechanization of agriculture.

Hamer suffered from a variety of health issues at the end of her life.  She had diabetes.  Also, the effects of juvenile polio and the beatings in Winona in 1963 remained with her.  Furthermore, she had breast cancer.  Hamer died at Mound Bayou Community Hospital, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, on March 14, 1977.  She was 59 years old.

Hamer understood herself to be engaged in a struggle against forces of spiritual darkness.  She was correct.  How else should one categorize Jim Crow laws, a state program of forced sterilization, government surveillance of peaceful activists, and official and unofficial intimidation of them?  And how else should one label consent of these foul deeds?  It has happened here.  Much has changed, but much has also remained the same.  Certain state governments have, in recent years, instituted programs to suppress minority voting.  They have been careful to avoid using openly racist language while doing so, but their actions have targeted minorities.  If Hamer were alive today, she would have much work to do and much opposition to overcome.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

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

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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