Archive for the ‘Robert Ellsberg’ Tag

Feast of Mechthild of Magdeburg, St. Mechthild of Hackeborn, and St. Gertrude the Great (July 28)   1 comment

Above:  Eisleben and Helfta, Germany

Image Source = Google Earth

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MECHTHILD OF MAGDEBURG (1210?-1282/1285)

German Mystic, Beguine, and Nun

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SAINT MECHTHILD OF HACKEBORN (CIRCA 1241-NOVEMBER 19, 1298)

German Nun and Mystic

Also known as Saint Mechthild of Helfta

Her feast transferred from February 26, November 16, and November 19

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SAINT GERTRUDE THE GREAT (JANUARY 6, 1256-NOVEMBER 17, 1302)

German Mystic and Abbess

Also known as Saint Gertrude of Helfta

Her feast transferred from April 12, November 15, November 16, and November 17

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What hinders spiritual people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins.  I tell you in truth:  when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul becomes so dark…and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.

–Mechthild of Magdeburg, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 320-321

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The smallest details of creation are reflected in the Holy Trinity by means of the humanity of Christ, because it is from the same earth that produced them that Christ drew his humanity.

–St. Mechthild of Hackeborn, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 505

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Inscribe with your precious blood, most merciful Lord, your wounds on my heart, that I may read in them both your sufferings and your love.

–St. Gertrude the Great, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 488

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These three saints knew each other.

Before I write about these mystics, I seek to clarify identities.  In this post, O reader, you will read of two Mechthilds and two Gertrudes.  That some secondary sources indicate confusion does not surprise me.  However, even a small effort easily separates the identity of one Mechthild from the other and the identity of one Gertrude from the other.

One of my purposes of this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, is to emphasize relationships and influence.  Sometimes one can properly tell one saint’s story in the context of at least one other saint.  That is the case in this post.

Beguines were informal female monastics.  These women formed intentional communities without taking vows or receiving formal ecclesiastical approval.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, born in Saxony circa 1210, came from a devout and wealthy family.  Starting at the age of 12 years, she reported daily greetings from the Holy Spirit.  In 1230, our saint, seeking to deepen her faith, became a Beguine and embarked on a religious life of prayer and asceticism.  She also criticized ecclesiastical corruption and worldliness.  Mechthild of Magdeburg made enemies in the Church, not surprisingly.  Details of her clash with another Beguine, Hadewijch of Brabant (1200-1248), have faded from the historical record.  Mechthild of Magdeburg’s book, The Flowing Light of the Godhead, was the most important work of German Roman Catholic mysticism prior to Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1327/1328).

Mechthild of Magdeburg was nearly blind in 1270, when she became a Cistercian nun at St. Mary’s Convent, Helfta, near Eisleben.  She spent the rest of her life (until 1282/1285) there.

One of the other nuns at Helfta was St. Mechthild of Hackeborn/Helfta (c. 1241-1298), born at the family castle, Helfta.  She was also a mystic.  St. Mechthild of Hackeborn/Helfta, educated by nuns, had become a Cistercian nun at Roderdorf, Switzerland.  Then, in 1258, she transferred to Helfta, where her older sister, Gertrude, was the abbess.  St. Mechthild had her first mystical experience at Mass; she saw Christ in the host and the wine.  She also had a reputation as a counselor within the convent.

St. Mechthild was a close friend of St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302).  St. Gertrude, who arrived at the abbey when five years old, stayed.  St. Mechthild was chiefly responsible for raising her.  St. Gertrude, who had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, reported many mystical experiences.  She, who referred to Christ as her Beloved Spouse, became a capable spiritual director.  St. Gertrude compiled St. Mechthild’s teachings and visions in the Book of Grace.

St. Mechthild, about 57 years old, died on November 19, 1298.

St. Gertrude, the abbess (1292f), lived until November 17, 1302.  She was 46 years old.  Her book was The Herald of Divine Love.

Ecclesiastical authorities generally recognized Sts. Mechthild and Gertrude with feat days yet not extended that courtesy to Mechthild of Magdeburg.  Trying to sort out that matter has become somewhat complicated due to confusing one Mechthild for the other.  The Roman Catholic Church has assigned multiple feast days to Sts. Mechthild and Gertrude.  In Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, The Episcopal Church has assigned them one feast, November 19.  The Church of England has defined November 19 as the feast day of Mechthild of Magdeburg.  The date on this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, comes via proximity to July 27, the feast day of Mechthild of Magdeburg in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants Mechthild, Mechthild, and Gertrude

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by their teachings we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ your Son;

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

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 119:41-48

Luke 10:38-42

–Adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, 582

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Feast of Blessed Antonio Rosmini (July 1)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed Antonio Rosmini

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED ANTONIO FRANCESCO DAVIDE AMBROGIO ROSMINI-SERBATI (MARCH 25, 1797-JULY 1, 1855)

Founder of the Institute of Charity

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Pray that God in his mercy may give me patience to carry my cross though it be to the end of my life, and that I may never think hardly of those have brought it on me.

–Blessed Antonio Rosmini, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 284

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Blessed Antonio Rosmini, a priest, a scholar, a philosopher, and an Italian patriot, was usually embroiled in ecclesiastical controversies.

Our saint, born in Rovereto, Italy, Holy Roman Empire (when it was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire, to quote Voltaire), on March 25, 1797, came from wealth and lower aristocracy.  His family’s money came from silk manufacturing.  Rosmini, a graduate of the University of Padua, joined the ranks of priests in 1821.  Then he wrote and studied at Rovereto (1821-1826) and Milan (1826-1828).

Rosmini started getting into trouble immediately.  He opposed state interference, such as the nomination of bishops, in ecclesiastical matters.  The Church, our saint insisted, must be independent of all states and an arm of none.  That position offended many powerful people.

Nevertheless, Rosmini had powerful allies, too.  One of these was Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari (1765-1846), also known as Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846).  Gregory XVI approved Rosmini’s new order of priests, the Institute of Charity, founded on February 20, 1828.  St. Magdalena of Canossa (1774-1835), foundress of the Daughters of Charity, had, in 1820, invited our saint to found a similar order for men.  He accepted, eight years later.  The founding of the Institute of Charity was a response to one of the church’s problems–the inadequate education of priests.

Rosmini, a capable philosopher, countered John Locke.  In particular, our saint wrote in response to Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.  Rosmini’s rebuttal was A New Essay Concerning the Origin of Ideas (1830).  Another major work that proved to be more controversial was Treatise on Moral Conscience (1839).  Rosmini was in trouble with elements of Holy Mother Church for that work from 1839 to 1854, when the Church exonerated him.

[NOTE:  I choose not to paraphrase Rosmini’s philosophy.  Instead, I refer you, O reader, to the article about our saint at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for those details.]

Two other controversial works were Five Wounds of the Church (1832) and A Constitution Based on Social Justice (1848).  The latter work anticipated Catholic social teaching that Pope Leo XIII (reigned 1878-1903) established.  The five self-inflicted wounds of the church were:

  1. The separation of the priests and the people at Mass.  Rosmini favored liturgical renewal that entailed the transition to vernacular language in the Mass.
  2. The Inadequate education of priests.  Rosmini addressed this problem in the Institute of Charity.
  3. The disunity of bishops.
  4. The nomination of bishops by secular authorities.
  5. The enthrallment of the Church to wealth.

Rosmini’s reputation in the Church was improving until 1848.  Pope Pius IX (reigned 1846-1878) was initially a liberal and a reformer.  During the first two years of his pontificate, our saint’s support for Italian unification was not a liability either.  In 1848, however, Pio Nono became a reactionary.  The following year, the Church listed Five Wounds of the Church (1832) and A Constitution Based on Social Justice (1848) on the Index.

Rosmini, 58 years old, died in Stressa, Piedmont, Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, on July 1, 1855.

Rosmini’s official ecclesiastical reputation has varied postmortem.  He was officially exonerated from 1854 to 1888-1889.  Then Pope Leo XIII condemned some of our saint’s propositions.  The Vatican exonerated our saint again in 2001, during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.  Then Pope Benedict XVI declared Rosmini a Venerable in 2006 and beatified him the following year.

Rosmini was ahead of his time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Almighty God, we praise you for the men and women you have sent

to call the Church and renew its life [such as Blessed Antonio Rosmini].

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 kingdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

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

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Feast of Vincent Lebbe (June 25)   Leave a comment

Above:  Vincent Lebbe

Image in Public Domain

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FRÉDÉRIC-VINCENT LEBBE (AUGUST 19, 1877-JUNE 24, 1940)

Belgian-Chinese Roman Catholic Priest, Missionary, and Founder of the Little Brothers of Saint John the Baptist

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I would rather die than go on living as a neutral, not daring to call good and evil by their proper names, not daring to give my last ounce of blood for the oppressed.

–Vincent Lebbe

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Vincent Lebbe comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997).

Frédéric-Vincent Lebbe, like his Presbyterian contemporary, Pearl S. Buck, was a culturally sensitive missionary.  Lebbe, born in Ghent, Belgium, on August 19, 1877, grew up in a Roman Catholic family.  At the tender age of 11 years, our saint discerned his vocation to become a missionary priest in China, and to die there.  He joined the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians/the Lazarists) in Paris in 1895.  Lebbe arrived in China in 1901 and joined the ranks of priests on October 28.  Alphonse Favier (1837-1905), the Titular Bishop of Pentacomia, ordained him in Beijing.

Lebbe, unlike many of his fellow missionaries, respected Chinese culture.  He, unpretentious, carried his own luggage off the boat when he arrived in 1901, although, as one fellow missionary told him,

In China no missionary ever carries his own case.

Lebbe rejected all political and cultural imperialism.  Cultural imperialism caused many Chinese people to perceive all Christian missionaries as imperial agents.  Many were, of course.  Rather, our saint identified as Chinese.  He even became a Chinese citizen in 1927.  Lebbe mastered Chinese, dressed like a Chinese laborer, and encouraged indigenous leadership of the Church.  In 1926, Pope Pius XI consecrated six Chinese bishops, all of whom Lebbe had recommended.

Lebbe, an outcast and a traitor, according to many of his European counterparts, was home.  He resigned from the Congregation of the Mission in 1929 and led the new Little Brothers of Saint John the Baptist.  During the war with China, our saint led efforts to save many lives while placing his life at risk.  This did not prevent Communists from mistaking him for a government spy.  After six weeks as a prisoner of Communist forces in 1940, Lebbe was in a weakened state.  He, released, died on June 14, 1940.  Lebbe was 62 years old.  The Chinese government declared a day of mourning for the man whose Chinese name translated as, “the thunder that sings in the distance.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST; HIS SON-IN-LAW, JOHN HENRY HOBART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW YORK; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM HOBART HARE, APOSTLE TO THE SIOUX AND EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF NIOBRARA THEN SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA VOLPICELLI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE SACRED HEART; SAINT LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, FOUNDER OF THE GRAY FRIARS OF CHARITY AND COFOUNDER OF THE GRAY SISTERS OF SAINT ELIZABETH; AND SAINT GIULIA SALZANO, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE CATECHETICAL SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AND THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEYS AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF DONALD COGGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN ZIATYK, POLISH UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1952

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God of grace and might, we praise you for your servant Vincent Lebbe,

to whom you gave gifts to make the good news known.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of your kingdom,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

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

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Feast of John Dalberg Acton (June 19)   Leave a comment

Above:  John Dalberg Acton

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN EMERICH EDWARD DALBERG ACTON, FIRST BARON ACTON AND THIRTEENTH MARQUESS OF GROPPOLI

(JANUARY 10, 1834-JUNE 19, 1902)

English Roman Catholic Historian, Philosopher, and Social Critic

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Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

–Lord Acton

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John Dalberg Acton comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997).

The first issue I choose to address is the question of the hyphen.  Depending on the source one consults, one may read our saint’s name as John Dalberg Acton or as John Dalberg-Acton.  If one consults editions of our saint’s writings published during his lifetime, as one can easily do at archive.org, one sees his name listed both ways.  I choose to forgo the hyphen.

Lord Acton was a child of expatriates.  His grandfather had been Sir John Francis Edward Acton, Sixth Baronet Acton (1736-1811), a Neopolitan admiral and prime minister.  Our saint’s mother was German, hence “Dalberg” in his name.  Lord Acton’s father was Sir Richard Acton, who died before 1840.  Our saint, born in Naples, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, on January 10, 1834, grew up with his stepfather, Granville George Leveson-Gower, Second Earl Granville (1815-1891).  The stepfather, prominent in the Liberal Party, brought Lord Acton into the orbit of William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, and 1892-1894).  Lord Acton became one of Gladstone’s chief advisors.

First, however, Lord Acton had to study and travel.  He studied at Oscott College, Warwickshire, then continued his studies in Munich.  Our saint’s teacher and mentor in Munich was Father Johann Josef Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890), a Roman Catholic priest, historian, and theologian.  Döllinger taught Lord Acton proper historical methodology.  The two men remained friends and allies for the rest of Döllinger’s life.  Our saint also traveled in Europe and the United States before returning to England in 1858.

[Aside:  I have made a note to myself to add Father Döllinger to this Ecumenical Calendar eventually, on schedule.]

Lord Acton blended public service and private-sector religious activity for a while.  From 1859 to 1864, he edited The Rambler, renamed Home and Foreign Review in 1862.  (He succeeded John Henry Newman in that role.)  Our saint could not imagine not being a Roman Catholic, even when maintaining that identity became difficult for him.  Pope Pius IX (reigned 1846-1878) was, for most of his papacy, a reactionary; he disapproved of modernism, science, constitutional government, the loss of the Papal States to the new Kingdom of Italy, et cetera.  Lord Acton, however, approved of all of the above.  According to our saint, there was no discrepancy between correct Christian doctrine and the properly rigorous, scientific study of the past, and, for that matter, science.

Lord Acton retired for public life circa 1870.  He, the First Baron Acton from 1869, openly disagreed with Pio Nono and papal allies in person at the First Vatican Council (Vatican I) in 1870.  Our saint never supported papal infallibility.  Father Döllinger also argued against papal infallibility and kept doing so after Vatican I.  He, excommunicated in 1871, joined the Old Catholic Church and continued as a priest.  Lord Acton somehow talked his way out of an excommunication.  That conversation with Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892), the Archbishop of Westminster from 1865 to 1892, must have been exceptional.  Lord Acton was not renowned for personal diplomacy.  In fact, he did not suffer fools easily.  His customary bluntness made him many enemies.

Lord Acton married Bavarian Countess Marie von Arco-Vallery in 1865.  The couple raised three daughters and one son.

Lord Acton offered a distinct political philosophy.  He would have argued with Samuel and Henrietta Barnett regarding Christian Socialism.  (I support disagreement among saints on my Ecumenical Calendar.)  Lord Acton drew influences from Edmund Burke (1729-1797) and Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859).  Our saint, an opponent of nationalism, had an internationalist approach.  His background informed that opinion.  Our saint argued that the union of sacred and temporal power was dangerous.  He also distrusted any state with what he considered excessive power.  Such a state posed a threat to liberty, he insisted.  And, when one’s conscience conflicted with the state, our saint favored acting on conscience.  Lord Acton was neither an anarchist nor a libertarian.  The state was necessary and could be a force for he good, he understood.  Our saint also made a distinction between the nation and the state, and understood the Biblical concept of collective responsibility.  He cautioned

The nation is responsible to heaven for the acts of the state.

Lord Acton was primarily a historian after Vatican I.  He wrote and lectured on an elite academic level.  Our saint, the Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge (1895-1902), died in Tegernsee, Bavaria, German Empire, on June 19, 1902.

Lord Acton was a man of his time.  He pondered principles quoted in his faith, in real time.  He also changed his mind over time, as well-adjusted people have done since time immemorial.

His example challenges us to do the same in our contexts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ENRICO REBUSCHINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND SERVANT OF THE SICK; AND HIS MENTOR, SAINT LUIGI GUANELLA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT MARY OF PROVIDENCE, THE SERVANTS OF CHARITY, AND THE CONFRATERNITY OF SAINT JOSEPH

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN MERZ, CROATIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VASILE AFTENIE, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1950

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [John Dalberg Acton 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 Maurice Blondel (June 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Aix-en-Provence, France

Image Source = Google Earth

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MAURICE ÉDOUARD BLONDEL (NOVEMBER 2, 1861-JUNE 4, 1949)

French Roman Catholic Philosopher and Forerunner of the Second Vatican Council

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I propose to study action, because it seems to me that the Gospel attributes to action alone the power to manifest love and attain God!  Action is the abundance of the heart.

–Maurice Blondel, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 245

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A GIFT FROM HOLY MOTHER CHURCH

Maurice Blondel, born in Dijon, France, on November 2, 1861, became an influential philosopher who presaged the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).  He attended the Sorbonne, from which he graduated in 1893.  Our saint’s dissertation, which he published, was L’Action.  This proved to be an influential, epoch-making work that inspired the ire of many conservative Roman Catholics yet never the official disapproval of any Bishop of Rome, not even the reactionary and anti-intellectual Pius X, archenemy of Modernism.

Aside:  I disapprove of Pius X and regard his canonization is a grave error.  I am much closer to his immediate predecessor, Leo XIII, theologically.  By the way, what is wrong with Modernism?  I prefer it to Postmodernism.  If I were a Postmodernist, I would wonder why I should get out of bed each morning, due to incessant uncertainty about even the simplest matters, such as what I can know, if anything.  

Blondel argued for a “philosophy of action,” a blend of Neoplatonism and pragmatism in the context of Roman Catholicism.  He argued against extrinsicism, the traditional Roman Catholic tendency to present revelation as divine self-disclosure and an invitation to participate in divine life, not a presentation of heavenly truths, apart from the context of human existence.  Our saint preferred immanence to transcendence.   Blondel favored a “method of immanence,” or revelation corresponding to human questions and yearnings.  He insisted that the Gospel is intrinsic, not extrinsic, because it it resonates with deepest experience, for all human actions refer to the infinite reality, the ground of existence.  (I detect shades of Paul Tillich and God as the Ground of Being.)  Blondel wrote that the human choice is whether to open ourselves to the dimension of infinite being or to live closed in on ourselves.  Christ’s earthly life and his resurrection, our saint argued, was the dimension of infinite reality.  Therefore, Blondel wrote, faith is a dimension of all human experience, not a mere aspect (one of many) of life.  The institutional Church, Blondel wrote, has no monopoly on grace and salvation, which are freely and universally available.

Blondel, a professor in Aix-en-Provence, starting in 1897, was a devout Roman Catholic who attended Mass daily, except when health-related issues prevented him from doing so.  Although he was not a Modernist, many traditional Roman Catholics thought he was.  Suspicions of his alleged heterodoxy created difficulties in our saint securing a position for a few years in the 1890s.  Pope Pius XII, who wrote a congratulatory note to our saint in 1945, did not think of Blondel as a Modernist.  Our saint wrote and published many articles about Church Fathers and modern philosophy.  Rose, his wife, died in 1919.  He, nearly blind by 1927, entered into a forced retirement.  Blondel remained active, though; he dictated major works for two decades.

Blondel, aged 87 years, died in Aix-en-Provence on June 4, 1949.

His influence has remained evident.  It was obvious in documents that emerged from Vatican II.  I have also detected Blondel’s influence in my denomination, The Episcopal Church, in which worship, therefore, the Prayer Book, defines the church.   The Book of Common Prayer (1928) presented God in the manner of the old theology; God was transcendent.  Liturgical revision, starting in 1967, resulted in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), which reflects the new theology, according to which God is imminent.

Blondel’s influence within and beyond Roman Catholicism does not surprise me.  After all, many theologians and ecclesiastical leaders read beyond the boundaries of their denominations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, you gave to your servant Maurice Blondel

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by this teaching we may know you,

the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,

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

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 721

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Feast of William Stringfellow (April 28)   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 Jean-Pierre de Caussade (March 1)   Leave a comment

Above:  Nancy, France, August 24, 1914

Image Creator = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-16805

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JEAN-PIERRE DE CAUSSADE (MARCH 7, 1675-MARCH 6, 1751)

French Roman Catholic Priest and Spiritual Director

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The Holy Spirit writes no more Gospels except in our hearts.  All we do from moment to moment is live this new gospel of the Holy Spirit.  We, if we are holy, are the paper, our sufferings and our actions are the ink.  The workings of the Holy Spirit are his pen, and with it he writes a living gospel.

–Jean-Pierre de Caussade, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 104

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Little documentation of the life of Jean-Pierre de Caussade has survived.  His now-classic work, translated into English as The Abandonment to Divine Providence or as The Sacrament of the Present Moment, was a book he wrote for the Sisters of the Visitation at Nancy, France, whom he served as their spiritual director from 1733-1740.  Father de Caussade also wrote to the Sisters after he ceased to be their spiritual director.  His book remained unpublished until 1861.

For the record, I know that at least one scholar has questioned de Caussade’s authorship of this work.  However, the assumption in this post is that our saint wrote it.

We can be certain of some biographical dates.  De Caussade, born in Cahors, France, on March 7, 1675, died in Toulouse, France, on March 6, 1751, one day prior to what would have been his seventy-sixth birthday.

Theological controversy surrounded The Abandonment to Divine Providence.  Although de Caussade was not a Quietist, some ecclesiastical officials misinterpreted his book as being a Quietist text.  Quietism, which influenced some varieties of Protestantism, was a form of mysticism that minimized the role of the Church and its sacraments.  According to Quietism, if one were sufficiently quiet, blocking out distractions both internal and external, one could hear just one voice.  The assumption of Quietism was that this voice was that of the Holy Spirit.

De Caussade was an orthodox Roman Catholic and a mystic; his counsel fit in neatly with Roman Catholic monastic spirituality and mysticism.  He wrote that God was present in the ordinary details of daily life.  Our saint wrote of the “sacrament of the present moment” and encouraged the Sisters to progress spiritually until their lives became living sacred texts, contemporary gospels the Holy Spirit was writing.

De Caussade influenced certain notable saints, including St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) and Dorothy Day (1897-1980).

De Caussade’s counsel is consistent with advice from St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  The bumper sticker-length reduction of a portion of one of the sermons of the Bishop of Hippo Regius is,

Love God and do what you will.

The full germane text is longer, of course.  The core of the issue is:

Once for all, then, a short precept is given to you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

In other words, if one is “in the zone” of divine love, one can do whatever one wants and honor God, for one will act out of love for God, by grace.  If one’s life has become a gospel the Holy Spirit is writing, one can love God and do what one will, by grace.  “If” is a crucial word in this scenario.

May you, O reader, live in such a manner as to be aware of the “sacrament of the present moment” in your daily life.  And may your life be another contemporary gospel the Holy Spirit is writing.  If your life is such a gospel, may it continue to be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Jean-Pierre de Caussade

and all those who with words have filled us with desire and longing for you;

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

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 728

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Feast of Blessed Henry Suso (March 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed Henry Suso

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED HENRY SUSO (MARCH 21, 1295-JANUARY 25, 1366)

German Roman Catholic Mystic, Preacher, and Spiritual Writer

Born Heinrich von Berg

Alternative feast days = January 25 and March 2

Also known as Amandus and the Servant of the Eternal Wisdom

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Ah, gentle God, if Thou art so lovely in Thy creatures, how exceedingly beautiful and ravishing Thou must be in Thyself.

–Blessed Henry Suso, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 101

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Blessed Henry Suso comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), in which March 4 is his feast day.

Heinrich von Berg, born in Uberlingen, near Contance, on March 21, 1295, changed his life then preached the love of God.  Our saint, from German nobility, joined the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) at the age of 13 years.  Young Suso was obsessed with his salvation or damnation.  He mortified his flesh and reported terrifying visions of Hell.  Then our saint sought and received spiritual counsel from another Dominican, Meister Eckhart (1260-1329).  Under Eckhart’s guidance Suso stopped being self-centered spiritually, abandoned physical mortification, and focused on the salvation of other people.

The Dominican prior became an itinerant preacher in service to Christ, whom he called “Eternal Wisdom,” “a gentle loving mistress.”  Suso sought to bring people to God and to deepen their faith by focusing on divine love, not by scaring them.  He also wrote under the pseudonym “Amandus” and worked mainly in Switzerland and the Upper Rhine valley.

Suso was a good man, objectively.  He was also gentle and kind.  Nevertheless, he had to contend with false allegations, including poisoning someone, fathering the child of a woman he was counseling, and stealing.  Our saint spent time in prison on false charges.  Authorities ultimately exonerated him with each other, however.

The self-identified “Servant of Divine Wisdom,” aged 70 years, died in Ulm on January 25, 1366.

Pope Gregory XVI beatified Suso in 1831.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND HIS SISTER, SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

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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O God, by whose grace your servant Blessed Henry Suso,

kindled with the flame of your love,

became a burning and a shining light in your Church:

Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline,

and walk before you as children of light;

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

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Acts 2:42-47a

Psalm 133 or 34:1-8 or 119:161-168

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 6:24-33

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 723

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Feast of Lanza del Vasto (January 31)   Leave a comment

Above:  Peace Sign

Image in the Public Domain

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GIUSEPPE GIOVANNI LUIGI MARIA LANZA DI TRABIA-BRACIFORTE (SEPTEMBER 29, 1901-JANUARY 6, 1981)

Founder of the Community of the Ark

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Power can be used for any purpose, but nonviolence or the power of justice can serve only justice.

–Lanzo del Vasto; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 15

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Lanzo del Vasto, from Italian nobility, devoted most of his adult life to working for peace, nonviolence, and reconciliation.  Giuseppe Giovanni Luigi Maria Lanza di Trabia-Braciforte, born in San Vito dei Normanni, Italy, on September 29, 1901, was a son of Don Luigi Lanza di Trabia-Braciforte and Anne-Marie Henriette Nauts-Oedenkoven.  Our saint, a student of philosophy, matriculated at the University of Pisa in 1922.  He, raised in a Roman Catholic family, remained within that tradition for the rest of his life.  Del Vasto worked with non-Roman Catholics, though.  He participated in the Indian independence movement and lived in Mohandas Gandhi’s ashram in 1936-1937.  Gandhi called our saint Shantidas, of “Servant of Peace.”  Shantidas spent the majority of this adult life traveling around the world.  He had a particular interest in sites of ongoing violent conflict.

The future must be a future of nonviolence, or else there will be no future.

–Lanza del Vasto

Toward that end, del Vasto protested (often via fasting) against evils.  These evils included torture (especially during the Algerian War), concentration camps, nuclear weapons, the global arms race, and wars.  Our saint became so famous for nonviolent protests against violence that Pope St. John XXIII gave him an advance copy of the encyclical Pacem in Terra in 1963.

In 1948 del Vasto and his wife, Chantelle, founded the first Community of the Ark, in France.  Families lived in intentional community, practiced common prayer, refused to commit violence or to exploit anyone, and became collectively self-sufficient.  It was a model from the Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37.  Del Vasto founded subsequent branches of the Community of the Ark.  He was doing that in Murcia, Spain, on January 6, 1981, when he died of a brain hemorrhage.  Our saint was 79 years old.

Lanza del Vasto took Biblical ethics seriously.  What would the world be like if more people did likewise?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2019 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF F. CRAWFORD BURKITT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA, 1942 AND 1943

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ENGLISH-DANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of our 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 Jacques Bunol (January 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Mauthausen, Austria

Image in the Public Domain

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JACQUES BUNOL (JANUARY 29, 1900-JUNE 2, 1945)

French Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1945

Born Lucien Bunol

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The saints have never attached importance to what their hands do; they did what they had to do, but they did it for love.

–Jacques Bunol; quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 51

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Jacques Bunol, born Lucien Bunol, died because he followed Jesus.

Bunol, born into a poor family in Normandy on January 29, 1900, grew up wanting to become a priest.  He did.  Our saint also became a teacher.  The call to the contemplative life led our saint into the Carmelite order at Lille.  After a year or so of contemplation, he became the head of the monastery’s junior school.  Contemplation remained Bunol’s preference, though.  Our saint, obedient to what he understood to be the will of God, was a very good educator.

After the Nazi occupation of France began in 1940, Bunol provided shelter for three Jewish boys at the school.  Agents of the Gestapo arrested Bunol and the Jewish youths on January 13, 1944.  Our saint ministered to his fellow prisoners, said Masses, and shared his rations.  He survived the war; Allied forces liberated the concentration camp at Mauthausen on May 5, 1945.  Bunol, ailing, helped as he was able, but died in a hospital in France on June 2.

Bunol’s story inspired the movie Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS EXIGUUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND REFORMER OF THE CALENDAR

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, CHEYENNE WARRIOR, CHIEF, AND HOLY MAN, AND EPISCOPAL DEACON AND MISSIONARY IN OKLAHOMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS MAURIAC, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST, CHRISTIAN HUMANIST, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

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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), 60

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