Archive for the ‘Robert Ellsberg’ Tag

Feast of Friedrich von Hugel (May 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Baron Friedrich von Hugel

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Independent Scholar and Philosopher

Baron Friedrich von Hügel was a paradox.  He was, on one hand, a theological modernist–not a bad kind of person to be, especially in the light of deepening knowledge of science and the past.  On the other hand, von Hügel was simultaneously a by-the-book Roman Catholic who did not permit himself to express doubts regarding church teachings.  He should have been more critical.

Von Hügel, born at Florence, Tuscany (where his father was an ambassador), on May 5, 1852, grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family.  His father, Karl von Hügel (1795-1870), was an explorer and an Austrian diplomat.  The family relocated to England in 1867.  Three years later, while in Vienna, our saint, due to ill health, had to abandon his program of studying law.  This prompted a spiritual crisis, followed by a conversion experience.

Von Hügel, independently wealthy, worked as an independent scholar and philosopher.  In 1873 he married Lady Mary Herbert (daughter of Sidney Herbert, Lord Herbert of Lea).  The couple resided at London for the rest of their lives.  Our saint, a champion of theological Modernism, met Alfred Loisy (1857-1940) in Paris in 1884.  The two men collaborated and built a network of Roman Catholic Modernists.  Nevertheless, von Hügel was more conservative than the eventually excommunicated Loisy, who lamented that Christ had promised us the Kingdom of God and all we got was the Church.  (Loisy did have something of a valid point.)  Von Hügel, who considered the Roman Catholic Church to be overly centralized, refused to express doubts regarding official teachings.  He was a Modernist in the sense that he shifted emphases, thereby implicitly abandoning the dogmatic tradition of Roman Catholicism.  Pope (now Saint) Pius X’s anti-Modernist encyclical of 1907 devastated von Hügel, who quietly fell in line, sort of.

The variety of Modernism von Hügel embraced post-encyclical was

a permanent, never quite finished, always sooner or later, more or less, re-beginning set of attempts to express the old Faith and its permanent truths and helps–to interpret it according to what appears the best and most abiding elements in the philosophy and the scholarship and the science of the later and latest times.  Such work never ceases for long, and to it I shall try to contribute my little share.

–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 199

After the encyclical of 1907 von Hügel switched his focus of study to mysticism and spirituality.  The masterpiece from the latter portion of his life was The Mystical Element of Religion (two volumes, 1923), focusing on St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510).

Our saint, in the realm of his own spirituality, remained devout to the end.  He went to confession weekly, prayed the rosary, and regularly spent hours at a time in devotion before the Blessed Sacrament.

Von Hügel, aged 72 years, died on January 27, 1925.

I have a complicated relationship with Roman Catholicism.  I find much in it that is commendable yet much that I dislike.  The combination of my United Methodist upbringing and my inherent quasi-Catholic predisposition does much to explain this.  I am, simply put, too Protestant to be a Roman Catholic and too Roman Catholic to be a Protestant.  Certainly I reject the propositions that the Bible and Holy Mother Church are infallible.  I, a practicing Episcopalian, am content to remain one while questioning teachings of many denominations, including my own, which, fortunately, lacks a magisterium.

Thus von Hügel interests me.  As much as I respect his piety and intellectual inquiry, his attachment to a centralized authority (the Papacy) in a church he considered to be excessively centralized is alien to my way of thinking and being.  Although I am an orderly person Anglican-style theological diversity appeals to me.  I prefer some degree of chaos to rigid, enforced orthodoxy.  Yes, I understand the difference between the Roman Catholicism of 1870-1965 and that since Vatican II.  Yes, I prefer post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, folk masses and Marty Haugen‘s schlocky music not withstanding.  Yet Holy Mother Church insists that I, as one of the “separated brethren,” lack the fullness of the faith.  At least that official position is more generous than the one it replaced.

My reservations aside, von Hügel is a fine addition to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  I wonder how much he would have thrived in the more open intellectual and theological climate to Roman Catholicism since Vatican II.





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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Friedrich von Hügel 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







Feast of Max Josef Metzger (April 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Max Josef Metzger

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr


It is honorable to die for one’s country, but still more honorable to die for righteousness and peace.

–Max Josef Metzger


Father Metzger comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997).

Max Josef Metzter, born in the German village of Schopfheim on February 3, 1887, discerned his priestly vocation at an early age.  He, ordained the priesthood in 1911, served as an army chaplain in 1914-1915, leaving military service during World War I due to ill health.  The lasting effect of the Great War upon our saint was to transform him into a pacifist.  He devoted the rest of his life to the cause of peace and disarmament, among other causes.  He worked with the White Cross, a mission to the downtrodden.  Our saint also founded the World Peace League as well as the World Congress of Christ, an ecumenical peace movement.  He was also a pioneering ecumenist, for he promoted Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue and reconciliation.

Metzger opposed Nazism from the beginning.  The Gestapo asserted him several times, the final time being in June 1943.  His specific offense was to write foreign bishops to ask them to help secure a negotiated settlement of the war.  The courier, unfortunately, was an agent of the Gestapo.  Metzger, convicted of treason, went to his fate (martyrdom via beheading) on April 17, 1944.  His final spoken prayer was

Now, Lord Jesus, I come.

Our saint was 57 years old.

The example of Father Metzger raises some challenging issues.  As Voltaire reminds us down the corridors of time,

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

Likewise, to quote The Use of Force in International Affairs (1961),

If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

I rank Metzger among the German patriots.  Patriotism does not necessarily entail supporting the government or the administration.  This is especially true when the government is a genocidal dictatorship.

To praise those who resisted the Third Reich is easy in North America in 2017.  After all, finding someone, regardless of political affiliation, who looks upon Nazi Germany with moral revulsion is a simple task.  More challenging is to ask how one, if one had been in Nazi jurisdiction at the time, would have acted.  One might hope that one would have had the moral courage to resist the Third Reich, but one might be inaccurate.  How easy is it after all, to go along and get along, to keep one’s head down and be passive?  Yet, as the late Howard Zinn reminded us, one cannot be neutral on a moving train.

Father Metzger took a moral stand and paid the ultimate price.  His conscience did not permit him to attempt to be neutral on a moving train.  Many of us are so fortunate as not to have to take such risks.  Others, however, must, due to their circumstances, make such decisions.





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

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

Help us, like your servant Max Josef Metzger,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ,

our Saviour 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


Feast of Andre, Magda, and Daniel Trocme (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  France, 1941

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


DANIEL TROCMÉ (APRIL 28, 1912-APRIL 6, 1944)

French Educator, Humanitarian, and Martyr

nephew of

ANDRÉ TROCMÉ (APRIL 7, 1901-JUNE 5, 1971)

French Reformed Minister and Humanitarian

husband of


French Humanitarian




You have to think like a hero merely to behave like a decent human being.

–Bartholomew Scott Blair in The Russia House (1990)


Only to your fathers was YHWH attached, to love them, so he chose their seed after them,

you, above all (other) peoples,

as (is) this (very) day.

So circumcise the foreskin of your heart,

your neck you are not to keep-hard anymore;

for YHWH your God,

he is the God of gods and the Lord of lords,

the God great, powerful, and awe-inspiring,

he who lifts up no face (in favor) and takes no bribe,

providing justice (for) orphan and widow,

loving the sojourner, by giving him food and clothing.

So you are to love the sojourner,

for sojourners were you in the land of Egypt;

YHWH your God, you are to hold-in-awe,

him you are to serve,

to him you are to cling,

by his name you are to swear!

–Deuteronomy 19:15-20, Translated by Everett Fox (1995)


It is very dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.



Robert Ellsberg, in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), lists April 7 as the feast of André Trocmé.  One could, I suppose, also choose April 6, April 28, June 5, October 10, or November 2, if one were restricting oneself to birth and death dates.  However, on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, April 12 works fine.

Being a merely decent human being can be difficult and mortally perilous.  Those who behave as decent people during such circumstances are moral giants.

André Trocmé, born in Saint-Quentin-en-Tourment, France, on April 7, 1901, identified with the downtrodden and understood the Biblical mandate to care for them.  He, of Huguenot (properly pronounced U-guh-NO; the “t” and “s” are silent) stock, knew the history of the persecution of French Calvinists.  André had also been a poor refugee during World War I.  He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, where Henry Sloane Coffin taught and, in 1926, became the president of the institution.  In New York City André met and fell in love with Magda Grilli, Italian-born yet of Russian ancestry.  Members of her family had resisted authority in both Italy and Russia.  The couple married in 1925.

In 1934 André became the pastor in the Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon, or Le Chambon, for short.  He, Magda, and their children settled in the town, whose population went on in just a few years to commit great and unfortunately rare acts of morality and heroism.  For Pastor Trocmé  the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ was to live according to the ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount–to love God and one’s neighbors.  He also emphasized the portion of Deuteronomy I have quoted at the beginning of this post.  He was also a pacifist.

Pacifism, of course, does not necessarily mean surrender to injustice.  No, it means resisting injustice by nonviolent means.  This is a fact that some of the college students to whom I teach U.S. history fail to grasp.  I recall, for example, one pupil who, even after I corrected him in writing, insisted on describing Quakers as “passive-aggressive,” not pacifistic.

Above:  A Portion of Southern France

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The location of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon is slightly to the southeast of Yssingeau, in Haute-Loire.

The inhabitants of Le Chambon were neither passive nor aggressive.  No, they were Christian and merely decent.  In 1940, after the Third Reich took over France, the German government established a puppet state (the French State, in English), commonly called Vichy France.  The rest of France fell under direct German rule.  Le Chambon fell within the borders of Vichy France.  The Trocmés resisted the ultranationalism of the French State.  Resisting authority came naturally to them, especially Magda.

So did sheltering refugees.  As I have written, André had been one.  Also, Magda had worked in a camp for refugees from Francisco Franco’s Spanish Christian Fascists (Falangists, technically), officially neutral during World War II yet sympathetic to the Nazis.  Starting in 1940, with the help of the American Friends Service Committee, the Trocmés led the village in resisting the laws of the Third Reich and of Vichy France while obeying the laws of God.  Le Chambon and the neighboring farms became centers for sheltering Jews, many of them illegal aliens.  In 1942 the order to deport French Jews took effect.  The body count of that order exceeded 83,000.  In Paris alone, in the summer of 1942, the number of deported Jews was about 28,000.  Over years, however, the villagers of Le Chambon, led by the Trocmés, sheltered and saved no fewer than 2,500 Jews–perhaps as many as 5,000.  Vichy and Nazi authorities noticed yet never could capture any Jews there.  A doctor who forged documents died in a concentration camp.  Starting in early 1942 André had to go on the run, so Magda, who had helped him lead the village’s efforts, performed more duties.  There were, after all, documents to forge and deliveries of food and clothing to make.

The villagers of Le Chambon did not consider their actions in sheltering Jews remarkable.  This was an expression of their faith, after all.  Those actions were, however, relatively rare in France during World War II.  They also met with the disapproval of the leader of André’s denomination.

Daniel Trocmé, born on April 28, 1912, was André’s nephew.  Daniel, a science teacher and a compassionate man, had fragile health, including a heart condition.  He taught at Masion Les Roches, a Huguenot boarding school, in Verneuil.  In 1941 he accepted his uncle’s invitation to become the principal of Les Grillons, the boarding school for Jewish children at Le Chambon founded by the American Friends Service Committee.  Daniel was a kind and conscientious educator.  Eventually he left to assume the leadership of Maison Les Roches.  There Daniel sheltered Jewish youth.  Agents of the Gestaop raided the school on June 29, 1943.  Our saint did not flee the authorities, who detained him, along with 18 pupils.  He did not deny sheltering Jews.  No, Daniel told the agents that sheltering Jews was the morally correct action.  He spent the rest of his brief life as a prisoner, dying, aged 31 years, at Maidanek Concentration Camp, Lublin, Poland, on April 6, 1944.

André continued to live out his faith after the liberation of France.  He served as the European secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  And, during the Algerian War, our saint cooperated with Mennonites to help French conscientious objectors.  He died, aged 70 years, at Geneva, Switzerland, on June 5, 1971.

Magda died, aged 91 years, in Paris on October 10, 1996.  She lived long enough to witness the villagers, her husband, Daniel, and herself recognized formally as Righteous Gentiles.

Some of the passages of scripture that trouble me the most are those that counsel submission to authority–especially, in historical context, that of the Roman Empire.  Although freedom cannot exist amid anarchy, there are times when defying “legitimate” political authority is the only morally correct course of action.  This is a nuance I do not detect in the germane New Testament passages.

The Trocmés understood that nuance well, however.








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

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


Feast of Harriet Tubman (March 26)   Leave a comment


Above:  Harriet Tubman

Image in the Public Domain




The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives and legacies of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman on July 20.  I have decided, however, to break up that commemoration on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  Therefore I establish her feast day as being separate and set it at March 26, following the lead of Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997).

Our saint, born circa 1820 in Dorcester County, Maryland, was originally Araminta “Minty” Ross, a slave.  She endured the humiliations and injustices of slavery; her Christian faith, among other things, helped her to do this.  Our saint was a mystic; she entered into trances and understood God to speak to her.  After a trance in 1849 she escaped to freedom in Canada.

“Minty” became Harriet Tubman in 1844, when she married John Tubman.  He died in 1851.

Tubman’s faith compelled her to put her life at risk for the freedom of slaves.  From 1851 to 1861 she made at least 19 trips to Maryland and back to Canada, to bring more than 300 slaves to freedom.  “Moses,” as many slaves called her, was a physically slight person and a moral giant.  She put her life at risk to help others; the bounty for her capture was $40,000.  (Aside: $40,000 in 1861 currency = $1,110,000 in 2015 currency.)  Tubman relocated to upstate New York in 1858/1859.  During the Civil War she worked as a nurse, a scout, and a spy for the U.S. Army.  She even participated in a raid that freed more than 750 slaves.

Tubman continued her good works after the Civil War.  She, although poor, took African-American orphans and elderly people into her home.  Although she was illiterate, our saint founded schools for African-American children.  When she came into more money, she helped those who were more impoverished than she was.  Our saint, who married Nelson Davis (died in 1888) in 1869, was the adoptive mother of Gertie Davis (born in 1876).  Our saint also advocated for feminist causes, working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  Tubman, however, chose to focus more on the problems of African Americans than on those of women in general.

Tubman died at Auburn, New York, on March 10, 1913.  She was in her nineties.

In 2016, when the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced plans to replace President Andrew Jackson‘s image on the $20 bill with the likeness of Tubman, candidate Donald Trump denounced the proposed change as an example of political correctness.  Actually, Tubman did more that was positive for the United States than Jackson did.  Jackson, for example, executed the policy of Indian removal, set the stage for the morally indefensible Trail of Tears, and led the charge to destroy the Second Bank of the United States.  The last item alone makes his place on money dubious.





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

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

Help us, like your servant Harriet Tubman, 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


Feast of Blessed Oscar Romero and the Martyrs of El Salvador (March 24)   1 comment


Above:  The Scene Immediately After the Assassination of Archbishop Romero

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador


I have frequently been threatened with death.  I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection.  If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.

Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned.  But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life then may my blood be the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality….A bishop will die, but the church of God–the people–will never die.

–Archbishop Romero, quoted in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 133


This feast exists in various denominations.  From Roman Catholic websites I know of the beatification of Romero on May 23, 2015, and of the fact of decades of official suspicion that he was a Marxist.  And, based on my library, I know the following statements to be accurate:

  1. The Episcopal Church observes the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, 1980,  and the Martyrs of El Salvador.”
  2. The Church of England keeps the feast of “Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr, 1980.”
  3. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada observe the feast of “Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, 1980.”

Furthermore, Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1979), places Romero’s feast on March 24, the same date of the saint’s feast on the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Church of England calendars.


Archbishop Oscar Romero became a martyr for challenging the repressive government of El Salvador which had death squads that targeted civilians.  The U.S. Government, for reasons of Cold War politics, provided military aid to this regime during the Carter and Reagan Administrations.  The Cold War provided cover for a multitude of murders, apparently.

Romero, born at Ciudad Barrios, San Miguel, El Salvador, on August 15, 1917, became an apprentice to a carpenter at the age of 13 years.  The following year our saint discerned a vocation to the priesthood; he began to prepare for it.  Romero studied in El Salvador at in Rome.  Our saint, ordained a priest on April 4, 1942, became a parish priest in his homeland.  He also served as the diocesan secretary at San Miguel.

The episcopate summoned.  On April 25, 1970, Romero became the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador.  He left that post on October 15, 1974, to become the Bishop of Santiago de Maria.  There he began to liberalize.  Romero had been suspicious of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and of the call (from 1968) of Archbishop Helder Camara for the Church to advocate for social justice for the poor and the oppressed, not to identify with those who oppress them.  Despite Romero’s gradual shift to the left (in progress), he remained relatively conservative when he became the Archbishop of San Salvador on February 3, 1977.

Romero’s move to the left accelerated soon after he became archbishop.  On March 12, 1977, government gunmen assassinated Father Rutilio Grande, a priest committed to social justice for campesinos.  The following Sunday the archbishop suspended Masses in the capital city and demanded the punishment of the guilty.  Romero became a vocal opponent of the regime, which killed civilians as a matter of policy; he was the “Voice of the Voiceless.”  The junta that seized power in 1979 did not cease the repression.  Early in 1980 our saint wrote President Jimmy Carter and requested that the U.S. Government halt military aid to the government of El Salvador.  This did not endear the archbishop to the Salvadoran regime, of course.

On Sunday, March 23, 1980, in a homily, Romero effectively signed his death warrant.  He said in part:

I would like to appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the troops of the National Guard, the Police, and the garrisons.  Brothers, you belong to our own people.  You kill your own brother peasants; and in the face of an order to kill that is given by a man, the law of God should prevail that says:  Do not kill!  No soldier is obliged to obey an order counter to the law of God.  No one has to comply with an immoral law.  It is time ow that you recover your conscience and obey its dictates rather than the command of sin.  The Church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of the dignity of the human person, cannot remain silent before so much abomination.

We want the government to seriously consider that reforms mean nothing when they come bathed in so much blood.  Therefore, in the name of God, and in the name of the longsuffering people, whose laments rise to heaven everyday more tumultuous, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God:  stop the repression!

–Translated by Nena Terrell and Sally Hanlon; quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, editors, Cloud of Witnesses (2005), pages 278-279

The following day, Monday, March 24, 1980, Romero preached his final homily at a hospital chapel in San Salvador.  He said in part:

“God’s reign is already present on earth in mystery.  When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.”

That is the hope that inspires Christians.  We know that every effort to better society, especially when so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.

–Translated by James R. Brockman, S.J. and quoted in The Violence of Love:  The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero (San Francisco, CA:  Harper & Row, 1988), page 242

A government gunman assassinated Romero after the completed that homily.

Civil War began later that year and continued until 1992.  The government of El Salvador (the one receiving military aid from the United States Government) killed more than 75,000 civilians as a matter of policy.  Among those murdered by death squads were Roman Catholic priests, members of Roman Catholic orders, and lay people associated with them.


Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,

If thou wouldst my disciple be;

Deny thyself, the world forsake,

And humbly follow after me.


Take up thy cross; let not its weight

Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;

My strength shall bear thy spirit up,

And brace thine heart and nerve thine arm.


Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,

Nor let thy foolish heart rebel;

The Lord for thee the cross endured,

To save thy soul from death and hell.


Take up thy cross then in his strength;

And calmly every danger brave;

‘Twill guide thee to a better home,

And lead to victory o’er the grave.


Take up thy cross and follow him,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

Charles William Everest (1814-1877), 1833


Oscar Romero took up his cross and followed Christ.





Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor,

and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope:

Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador,

we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life,

even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,

be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

–Isaiah 2:5-7

Psalm 31:15-24

Revelation 7:13-17

John 12:23-32

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 287


Feast of Emmanuel Mournier (March 22)   Leave a comment


Above:  Emmanuel Mournier

Image in the Public Domain



Personalist Philosopher


I am very concerned that we discover a means of entering into the suffering and struggle of the workers….We have vainly tried to work for truth and justice, but we are not entirely with Christ so long as we do not take our place alongside those outcasts.

–Emmanuel Mournier, defending the worker priests movement; 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 129


Emmanuel Mournier, while seeking the truth and good social ethics, managed to alienate some people to his right and to his left.  Both populations misrepresented him.

Mournier, born at Grenoble on May 1, 1905, matriculated at the University of Grenoble.  At first he studied medicine; later he changed his major to philosophy.  He continued his study of philosophy at the Sorbonne, in Paris.  Our saint, a devout Roman Catholic, found himself threatened by the secular atmosphere of the Sorbonne and put off by the complacency and individualism of the Church establishment.  Mournier began to develop Personalism, a political and mystical variety of religious socialism in which the human person has the highest value.  He argued that each person possesses both spiritual and temporal dimensions–in relationship with others and open to divine transcendence.  Both atheistic totalitarianism and bourgeois materialistic capitalism deny this reality, our saint wrote.  (Martin Luther King, Jr., seems to have been familiar with Personalism.)  Christianity, Mournier wrote, has become infected by the bourgeois spirit and has come to prop up “the established disorder,” which our saint devoted his life to opposing.

In 1932 Mournier left his position as a professor of philosophy and founded L’Esprit, a Personalist journal.  In the pages of L’Esprit our saint challenged Marxism, capitalism, and the Church establishment.  He called for the Church to embrace the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to transform culture by infusing it with Christian values.

In 1940 Nazi forces occupied much of France.  The rest of the country was under the control of the French State, or Vichy France, which collaborated with the Third Reich.  Mournier left Paris for Lyons.  There he became involved in the resistance.  For this activity authorities arrested him in January 1942.  Our saint spent 11 months in prison.  The experience left him physically debilitated.

After the liberation our saint revived L’Esprit.  He argued against seeking revenge against those who collaborated with the Nazis.  Mournier also supported the worker priests movement, in which priests identified with industrial workers by becoming industrial workers.  (The Roman Catholic establishment opposed the worker priests movement.)  The Communist journal L’Humanite, unimpressed with Mournier, accused of being an ally of fascists.  On the other hand, some conservative Roman Catholics, ignoring his strong critique of Marxism, accused him of being a communist.

Mournier died of a heart attack at Chatenay-Malabry, France, on March 22, 1950.  He was 44 years old.





Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Emmanuel Mournier,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

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

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

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 60


Feast of Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach (March 21)   3 comments


Above:  St. Thomas’s Church, Leipzig

Image in the Public Domain



father of


half-brother of




Johann Sebastian Bach is an officially recognized saint on several calendars.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church–Canada assign him the feast day of July 28, without any other composers.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada designate July 28 as the feast day for not only J. S. Bach but also Heinrich Schutz and George Frederick Handel.  The Episcopal Church, in A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016), assigns July 28 to J. S. Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell.  Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), celebrates the life of J. S. Bach on March 21.

For generations certain members of the Bach family were distinguished in creative endeavors, mostly in music.  I have chosen to focus on three of these Bachs–a father and two of his sons.





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Johann Sebastian Bach, born at Eisenach on March 21, 1685, was the youngest child of Elizabeth Lammerhirt (1644-1694) and Johann Ambrosious Bach (1645-1695), a string player.  In 1695 the orphaned J. S. Bach moved in with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (1671-1721), the organist at St. George’s Church, Eisenach, and a former pupil of Johann Pachelbel.  Johann Christoph Bach also taught his youngest brother to play keyboard instruments.  J. S. Bach, who joined the boys’ choir at St. Michael’s Church, Luneburg, in 1700, studied music in the school library there.  By 1702 he was apparently a skilled organist at Sangerhausen.  Johann Sebastian did not get that job, but he did join the ducal orchestra at Weimar the following year.  Later he became the organist at St. Boniface’s Church, Arnstadt.

Life changed for J. S. Bach in 1707.  That year he became the organist at St. Blasius, Muhlhausen.  He also married Maria Barbara Bach (1694-1720).  The couple went on to have seven children, including Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788).  J. S. Bach resigned his position at Muhlhausen in 1708 and accepted a new job as the court organist at Weimar.  In 1714 J. S. Bach became the concert master, with the responsibility of composing a cantata each month.  Two years later, a less qualified man became the kappelmeister, a position J. S. Bach wanted, at Weimar.  Our discontented saint departed the court in 1717.  He became the kappelmeister at Kothen, serving until 1723.  Maria Barbara died suddenly on July 4, 1720.  J. S. Bach married his second wife, Anna Magadalena Wilcken (1701-1760), on December 3, 1721.  The couple went on to have 13 children, including Johann Christian Bach (1735-1795).

In 1723 J. S. Bach accepted the position of cantor at Thomas’s Church, Lepizig.  His responsibilities included composing, teaching, and leading music, as well as providing musicians for that and three other congregations (New Church, St. Peter’s Church, and St. Nicholas’s Church).  From 1729 to 1737 and 1739 to 1741 J. S. Bach directed the Collegium Musicum, founded by Telemann in 1704, at Leipzig.  In 1736 he became the court composer at Leipzig.  Later in life J. S. Bach spent much time traveling; some of the time he was in the court of Frederick II “the Great” of Prussia, in Berlin.

J. S. Bach died, nearly blind and aged 65 years, at Leipzig on July 28, 1750.  His final act was to dictate “Before Thy Throne I Come.”

For J. S. Bach composing music, whether overtly sacred or not, was an act of praising God, not of glorifying himself.  He composed thousands of works yet saw only ten of them published.  Some of his compositions, unfortunately, have not survived to today.  J. S. Bach, a Lutheran church musician, became engaged in arguments regarding music with some Pietistic Lutherans, who thought that his music was too elaborate.  (Pietists!)  Most of our saint’s compositions remained forgotten until the 1800s.  In 1829 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) started a J. S. Bach revival.  J. S. Bach’s compositions included cantatas, motets, Latin liturgical works, Passions, oratorios, chorales, chamber music, orchestral music, canons, works for keyboard instruments, and works for the lute.  Among his greatest sacred works were the St. Matthew Passion, the St. John Passion, the Christmas Oratorio, the Mass in B Minor, and the Cantata #80. (I prefer a modern performance of the latter work; period instruments do not blow the roof off the building, so to speak.)





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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, born at Weimar on March 8, 1714, was Emanuel to those who knew him well.  Georg Philipp Telemann was his godfather.  C. P. E. Bach, who learned music from his father, studied law at Frankfurt, graduating in 1735.  From 1740 to 1767 C. P. E. Bach was the harpsichordist to Frederick II “the Great” of Prussia.  Frederick II’s insistence upon subservience in musicians bothered our saint, who was finally able to resign and become the kappelmeister at Hamburg, succeeding Telemann.  Meanwhile, C. P. E. Bach had married Johanna Maria Dannemann in 1744.  Three of their children survived childhood.

C. P. E. Bach, worthy to be his father’s successor, was a renowned composer, teacher, and performer of the harpsichord and the clavichord.  His Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (Part I, 1753; Part II, 1762) influenced Franz Joseph Haydn (who called it “the school of schools”), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig von Beethoven.  C.  P. E. Bach’s compositions included symphonies, concertos, chamber music, sonatas, fantasias, dances, fugues, and sacred music.  His sacred music included a Magnificat and 21 Passions.

C. P. E. Bach died, aged 74 years, at Hamburg on December 14, 1788.





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Johann Christian Bach, born at Leipzig on September 5, 1735, was a half-brother of C. P. E. Bach.  J. C. Bach, trained in music by his father’s cousin, Johann Elias Bach (1705-1755), went to work with C. P. E. Bach in 1750, after the death of J. S. Bach.  Five years later J. C. Bach left for Italy; there he studied at Bologna.  His conversion from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism offended much of his family.  From 1760 to 1762 he was the organist at the Basilica-Cathedral of the Nativity of St. Mary, Milan.

J. C. Bach spent most of the last two decades of his life in England.  There he preferred that people call him “John Bach.”  In 1762 he became the composer to the King’s theatre in London; he wrote Italian operas for it.  Later John Bach became the music master to Queen Charlotte (consort of King George III) and her children.  In 1773 John Bach married Italian singer Cecilia Grassi.  The couple experienced severe financial difficulties toward the end of his life; they were the victims of embezzlement.  The composer died, aged 46 years, in London, on January 1, 1782.  Queen Charlotte paid his estate’s debts and provided Cecilia with a pension.

J. C. Bach’s compositions included sonatas, polonaises, minuets, chamber quartets, symphonies, concertos, operas, oratorios, and various sacred works, including a Requiem and settings of the Magnificat, the Salve Regina, the Dies Irae, the Gloria, and the Te Deum.


The music of these great composers has enriched the lives of many people, including me.








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

We bless your name for inspiring

Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Johann Christian Bach,

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love 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), page 728