Archive for the ‘St. Frumentius’ Tag

Feast of St. Justin de Jacobis and Blessed Michael Ghebre (July 14)   2 comments

Above:  Map of Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in 1850

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS (OCTOBER 9, 1800-JULY 31, 1860)

Roman Catholic Missionary Bishop in Ethiopia

Also known as Saint Giustino de Jacobis

His feast transferred from July 31

converted

BLESSED MICHAEL GHEBRE (1788/1791-JULY 30, 1855)

Ethiopian Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

Also known as Ghébre-Michael

Alternative feast day = September 1

One of my goals in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.  July 14, on the Roman Catholic calendar, is the Feast of Blessed Michael Ghebre.  On the same calendar July 31 is the feast of St. Justin (Giustino in Italian) de Jacobis, who converted him.  One can tell their stories separately, of course, but one can tell those stories more effectively together.

St. Justin fame from and worked in southern Italy, prior to national unification on that peninsula.  He, born in Sam Fele, Luciana, south of Naples, came from a once-wealthy family.  He, after having grown up mostly in Naples, joined the Vincentians in on October 17, 1818.  He was 18 years old.  St. Justin took his vows on October 18, 1820.  Then, at Brindisi, he became a priest on June 12, 1824.  St. Justin spent most of fifteen years giving missions and retreats in southern Italy, with some time off for other duties.  By 1834 he had become a much sought-after preacher and confessor also.  From 1834 to 1836 St. Justin was the Vincentian superior in Leece.  Next he directed seminarians in Naples, emphasizing personal prayer.  At Naples, in 1836-1837, our saint ministered to victims of an outbreak of cholera.  In 1838-1839 St. Justin was the superior of the Vincentian Provincial House at Naples.  He was on track to become a bishop in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies when he chose instead to found the Roman Catholic in Ethiopia (Abyssinia).

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, subordinate to the Coptic Church (Egyptian) until 1959, dated to the 300s, when St. Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373) dispatched St. Frumentius (d. circa 380) as a missionary.  St. Frumentius became the first Abuna, or Patriarch, of of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, often called simply the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  Christianity in that region of Africa owed much to St. Philip the Evangelist, one of the earliest Christian deacons, hopefully not confused with St. Philip the Apostle.  Over time the Ethiopian Orthodox Church parted Christological ways with Rome, embracing monophysitism, the heresy that Christ had just one nature–divine.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has long been one of the great, defining cultural institutions in that country.  It has coexisted with strong Jewish elements (due to the presence of one of the ten Lost Tribes of Israel–one descended from the tribe of Dan, to be precise) and varieties of paganism.  Since the Arab conquest of much of northern Africa in the 600s Islam has been a factor in the region.  As if all that were not enough, political struggles between Ethiopia emperors and provincial potentates were contributing to a tense situation by the 1830s.  What was political?  What was religious?  Was there a difference?

St. Justin stepped into this political and religious milieu in 1839.  He pioneered effective missionary tactics that proved controversial in the Roman Catholic Church in general and the Vincentian order in particular.  St. Justin, headquartered in the northern part of the country, adopted Ethiopian attire, mastered the three languages essential to his work, and emphasized the education of indigenous priests.  The Apostolic Vicar was so effective that, despite persecution of the Roman Catholic mission by the government, he converted about 12,000 people.  In January 1849 he became the Titular Bishop of Nilopolis; he became a bishop anyway.  Venerable Guglielmo Massaia (1809-1889) had consecrated St. Justin for this missionary work.

Blessed Michael Ghebre, also known as Ghébre-Michael, was one of St. Justin’s converts.  Blessed Michael, born in Dido, West Gojjam, in 1788 or 1791, had been an Ethiopian Orthodox monk since the age of 19 years.  He, a Roman Catholic since 1844, joined the Vincentians.  In 1851 St. Justin ordained him to the priesthood.

Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia (reigned 1855-1868) continued the persecution of Roman Catholicism.  He, a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, even outlawed Roman Catholicism in 1860.  Authorities had arrested Blessed Michael and four companions in 1854.  For thirteen months the evangelists suffered abuse in prison.  Blessed Michael died in transit between Meccia Coreccia and Molicha Gebaba, Mirab Shewa, on July 30, 1855.  St. Justin died five years later, after having spent several months in prison then having endured a forced march to the Halai region of Eritrea.  He spent the final stage of his life as a missionary in Eritrea.  St. Justin died, aged 60 years, on July 30, 1855.

Pope Pius XI declared Michael Ghebre a Venerable then a Blessed in 1926.

Holy Mother Church recognized de Jacobis as a Venerable (in 1935, by Pope Pius XI), a Blessed (in 1939, by Pope Pius XII), and a full saint (in 1975, by Pope Paul VI).

Often accounts of the persecution of Christians, from antiquity to current events, are of persecution by adherents of other religions.  Sometimes these are stories of persecution by antitheists, to use Reza Aslan‘s term.  (Aslan distinguishes between atheists and antitheists.  Atheism is the rejection of belief in God or any deity; antitheism includes the desire to destroy religion.)  In this post, however, you, O reader, have read of persecution of some Christians by other Christians.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote,

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

The history of organized religion has confirmed this statement, unfortunately.  Frequently adherents of one branch of a faith have persecuted and martyred members of other branches of that faith.  This was true in ancient times.  It has remained true to this day.  So has the reality of inter-religious persecution and martyrdom.  None of it has ever been holy.

May all who commit evil–especially from religious conviction–understand the error of their ways and repent.  Theological differences and arguments will always exist, but they can–and should–exist without the evil in the name of religious conviction accompanying one or more sides.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERMANUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE AND DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND SAINT DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ROGER SCHÜTZ, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZÉ COMMUNITY

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servants

Saint Justin de Jacobis and Blessed Michael Ghebre,

who made the good news known in Ethiopia.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Feast of Sts. Aedesius and Frumentius (October 27)   1 comment

Above:  Flag of Ethiopia

SAINT AEDESIUS (A.K.A. SAINT EDESIUS) (LIVED DURING THE 300S)

Priest and Missionary

colleague (and possibly brother) of

SAINT FRUMENTIUS (DIED CIRCA 380)

First Bishop of Axum and Abuna of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Disclaimer:  Accounts I have located, consulted, and used to write this post disagree on details.  I have, however, attempted to sort through the discrepancies and to write as accurately as possible.  Sometimes objective reality blends with legend.  Distinguishing between the two categories can prove difficult when examining the stories over 1700 years after the fact.

Sometimes life offers unexpected opportunities.  Who would have expected that two Syrian students of philosophy, en route back home from a journey to India, would have played a vital role in Ethiopian history?

In 340 the two saints from Tyre survived the killing of most of their shipmates when the vessel stopped along the coast of the Kingdom of Aksum, which included parts of present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Yemen.  They joined the court of King Ousanas subsequent to this event; St. Aedesius served as cupbearer and St. Frumentius as secretary.  The saints remained in the royal court after Ousanas died; St. Frumentius functioned as tutor to the young Ezana II.  When Ezana II began to govern in his own right the saints left the kingdom.  St. Aedesius returned to Tyre, where he became a priest.  St. Frumentius traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, where he asked St. Athanasius to send a missionary.  St. Athanasius sent St. Frumentius.

Christianity had arrived in the Aksumite Kingdom before the two Syrians arrived.  St. Philip the Evangelist  played a vital role in introducing Christianity to the region by witnessing to an Ethiopian eunuch.  Traveling Roman merchants had brought it along with their wares.  But the two saints aided greatly in the faith’s propagation.  St. Frumentius, known to the locals as Abuna Salama, became the first Abuna (“Father” or Patriarch) of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, often called simply the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  His Christological orthodoxy led to the enmity of Roman Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337-361), an Arian.  And, in the 300s, St. Aedesius, at Tyre, told Rufinus of Aquileia, a church historian, of the legacy of his friend and colleague.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, historically

…the prime source and custodian of the cultural and literary heritage of the nation

The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia, Volume 6 (1982), page 1001,

was subordinate to the Coptic Church until 1959.

A side note:  John J. Delaney, in Dictionary of Saints (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday and Company, 1980), page 239, refers to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as

the dissident Ethiopian Church.

Is it my imagination, or do I detect an attitude?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your servants,

and who raised up your servants

Saint Aedesius and Saint Frumentius

to be the light of the world:

Shine, we pray, in our hearts,

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

who called us out of darkness into marvelous light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 28:16-20

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