Archive for the ‘St. John XXIII’ Tag

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 Gustave Weisel (January 16)   1 comment

Above:  Logo of the Society of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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GUSTAVE WEIGEL (JANUARY 15, 1906-JANUARY 3, 1964)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest and Ecumenist

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Whether we like it or not, Protestants and Catholics are inevitably related to each other by the concept of opposition, and the opposition is stronger the nearer we approach the moment of split of one from the other.  Today we are all striving manfully to overcome the sense of opposition, but we are descendants of the past and history works in all of us.

–Father Gustave Weigel; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 452

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Gustave Weigel, a Jesuit priest and a professor of theology, became a pioneer of ecumenism in the Roman Catholic Church.

Weigel, a native of the United States, taught in both the United States and Chile.  He, born in Buffalo, New York, on January 15, 1906, was the second of three children of Auguste Weigel and Louise Leontine Kiefer.  He attended Catholic schools in Buffalo.  After graduating from high school in 1922, our saint became a Jesuit novice at Poughkeepsie, New York.  In 1926 he transferred to Woodstock College, Woodstock, Maryland.  There he earned the A.B. and M.A. degrees in three years.  After teaching Latin and English at Loyola College, Baltimore, during the 1929-1930 academic year, Weigel returned to Woodstock College, to study for the priesthood.  He, ordained a priest on June 25, 1933, earned the Licentiate of Sacred Theology degree the following year.  Our saint continued his education in Rome, where, in 1937, he earned his Doctor of Sacred Theology degree.  Weigel taught theology at the Catholic University of Chile from 1937 to 1948 and for two months in 1949.  He spent the rest of his academic career at Woodstock College while writing books and articles, as well as lecturing in the United States and Germany.

Years before Pope St. John XXIII opened the windows of the Church, so to speak, Weigel became involved in ecumenism.  He engaged with Protestantism in writing as early as 1954.  Six years later, our saint and Presbyterian Robert McAfee Brown collaborated on An American Dialogue.  That year, Weigel became the first Roman Catholic to deliver endowed lectures at Yale University.

Weigel, aged 57 years, died on January 3, 1964.

As Weigel wrote, final ecclesiastical reunion will be the work of God.  Christians, however, can and must overcome misconceptions they harbor about each other and their traditions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

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God our Father, your Son Jesus prayed that his followers might be one as he is one with you,

so that in peace and concord we may carry to the world the message of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 133

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:15-23

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of Leon Bloy, Jacques Maritain, and Raissa Maritain (November 4)   4 comments

Above:  The Flag of the French Republic

Image in the Public Domain

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LÉON BLOY (JULY 11, 1846-NOVEMBER 3, 1917)

French Roman Catholic Novelist and Social Critic

godfather of

JACQUES MARITAIN (NOVEMBER 18, 1882-APRIL 28, 1973)

French Roman Catholic Philosopher

husband of

RAÏSSA OUMANSOV MARITAIN (1883-NOVEMBER 4, 1960)

Russian-French Roman Catholic Contemplative

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The worst evil is not to commit crimes, but to have failed to do the good one might have done.

–Léon Bloy, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 477

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If Christians were to renounce…the desire for sanctity, this would be an ultimate betrayal against God and against the world.

–Jacques Maritain, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 503

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It is an error to isolate oneself from men….If God does not call one to solitude, one must live with God in the multitude, must make him known there and make him loved.

–Raïssa Maritain, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 480

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Alors il leva les yeux sur ses disciples et dit:

Heureux vous les pauvres, car le royaume de Dieu à vous!…

Mais malheur à vous, les riches, car vous avez votre consolation.

Luc 6: 20 et 24, La Sainte Bible, Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée (1976)

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As Léon Bloy understood, Jesus said,

Blessed are the poor

and

Woe to you who are rich.

The novelist, who internalized that value system, railed against the dominant social value that says

Woe to you who are poor

and

Blessed are the rich.

Bloy, born in Notre-Dame-de-Sanihac, France, on July 11, 1846, grew up an agnostic hostile to Roman Catholicism.  His father was Jean-Baptiste Bloy; our saint’s mother was Anne-Marie Carreau.  In 1869 Bloy converted to Roman Catholicism, however.  He was a frequently controversial figure with a temper, which he brought to bear on social ills, including greed, injustice, materialism, and anti-Semitism.  Our saint also led a difficult, impoverished life.  His writings did not sell well, and poverty contributed to the deaths of two of his children.  The self-critical novelist died at the age of 71 years on November 3, 1917, in Bourg-la-Reine, France.

Bloy did, despite his self-recriminations for having done too little for God, help to bring the Maritains to faith.

Jacques Maritan, born in Paris, France, on November 11, 1882, became a prominent philosopher.  He, raised in a Protestant family, had lost his faith by the time he matriculated at the Sorbonne in 1899.  Yet the search for the truth still mattered to Maritain.  At the Sorbonne he met and fell in love with another troubled seeker, Raïssa Oumansov.

The Oumansov family, formerly of Rostov and Mariupol, the Russian Empire, was Jewish.  The family, with daughters Raïssa and Vera, had moved to Paris in 1893, to escape official anti-Semitism and to provide better educational opportunities for the daughters.  Raïssa, as an adolescent, lost her faith.  She sought the truth in vain at the Sorbonne (1900f).  She did, however, meet Jacques Maritain when he asked her to sign a petition protesting the Czarist government’s treatment of socialist students.

The Maritains, married in 1904, eventually became despondent over having not found the truth that they made a suicide pact.  They agreed that they would take their lives if, within a year, they did discover the meaning of life.  Bloy befriended them, though, and led them, as well as Vera Oumansov, into the Roman Catholic Church.  He stood as their godfather in 1906.  Jacques, Raïssa, and Vera eventually chose to become Oblates of St. Benedict, and to make vows of perpetual chastity.

Jacques immersed himself in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and spent much of his life applying Thomism to the modern world.  He, a professor at the Institut Catholique, Paris, from 1914 to 1939, offended many conservative Roman Catholics by favoring constitutional government and opposing the Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco.  Jacques, with Raïssa acquainted with Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, also favored what he called “Integral Humanism,” or the infusion of Christian values into the world via what he called “Lay Spirituality.”  Jacques, an opponent of the Vichy government, taught in the United States and Canada from 1940 to 1945.  After World War II he served as the French Ambassador to the Vatican.  During that period (1945-1948), he befriended Angelo Roncalli, the Nuncio to France.  Roncalli went on to become St. John XXIII, Bishop of Rome, in 1958.  Jacques taught at Princeton University from 1948 to 1960.

Raïssa became a poet and a contemplative.  She understood that God was calling her to share in divine suffering, and kept a spiritual journal.  She died on November 4, 1960.  Jacques had her spiritual journal published posthumously.

Jacques, as a widower, joined the Little Brothers of Jesus, the order Blessed Charles de Foucauld founded in the Algerian desert in 1933.  Jacques became a notice at Toulousse in 1961; he made his vows nine years later.  Pope St. Paul VI recognized our saint in person at the Vatican in 1965.  The Supreme Pontiff presented our saint with a copy of the Vatican II document on the Church and the Modern World.  Jacques, aged 90 years, died in Toulousse on April 28, 1973.

Part of the meaning of life is to help each other live faithfully, to glorify God, to enjoy God, and to show the light of Christ in our lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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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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Feast of St. Paul VI (September 26)   5 comments

Above:  St. Paul VI 

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PAUL VI (SEPTEMBER 26, 1897-AUGUST 6, 1978)

Bishop of Rome

Born Giovanni Battista Montini

This post, as of the drafting and publication of this post, is slightly anticipatory.  Documentation tells us that Pope Benedict XVI declared Paul VI a Venearble in 2012 and that Pope Francis beatified Montini in 2014.  According to news reports, Pope Francis is set to canonize Paul VI on October 14, 2018.  Given that fact, plus the reality that, for me, differences among Venerables, Blesseds, and full Saints are purely semantic, I choose to proceed with calling the deceased Supreme Pontiff St. Paul VI, although he will remain a Blessed Paul VI for about one more month.

The feast day for St. Paul VI is September 26, the anniversary of his birth.  Usually a saint’s feast day falls on the anniversary of his or her death, but that date, for Montini, is the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Giovanni Battista Montini, born in Concescio, Italy, on September 26, 1897, came from a devout family.  His father was an attorney and a member of parliament.  Montini, devoted to his mother, became a priest on May 29, 1920.  Graduate studies in Rome ensued.

Montini’s star rose quickly in the Church.  In 1922 he joined the Vatican Secretariat of State.  He, the Nuncio to Poland from May to November 1923, resigned for health reasons.  On July 8, 1931, our saint became a domestic prelate to the Holy See.  Montini, assistant to Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) from December 13, 1937, worked closely with Pacelli/Pius XII until 1954.

Montini must have severely offended the Holy Father, for Pius XII exiled our saint to Milan.  On November 1, 1954, Montini began his duties as the Archbishop of Milan, far from being a plumb assignment.  In Milan, Montini was the “workers’ archbishop,” winning the approval of disaffected industrial workers.  He presided over an archdiocese still recovering from World War II.  Furthermore, Montini’s ecumenism became evident when he conducted dialogues with a group of Anglicans–a revolutionary practice prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).

In 1958 Pope St. John XXIII succeeded the late Pius XII.  On December 5, 1958, St. John XXIII made Montini a Cardinal.  (Five years prior our saint had declined a similar offer from Pius XII, who had never repeated the offer.)  Cardinal Montini and St. John XXIII were two of the primary shapers of Vatican II.  St. John XXIII died in June 1963.  The conclave elected Cardinal Montini to succeed him; our saint became Pope Paul VI.  He presided over the final sessions of Vatican II.

St. Paul VI was doctrinally conservative and socially radical.  That has been a combination common in Christian history.  Many of the English Tractarians, for example, were open about their Christian Socialism.  Actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy has, by definition, been conservative.  It has also challenged entrenched social structures and institutions, ended chattel slavery in much of the world, condemned the economic exploitation of the poor by the rich, championed labor unions, and opposed racial segregation.

If one is to understand the legacy of St. Paul VI, one must grasp the combination of theological orthodoxy and social and political radicalism.  What, for example, is more theologically orthodox and, sadly, socially and politically radical than the Golden Rule?

Life in the Roman Catholic Church since 1965 has been, depending on one’s perspective, either too liberal or too conservative.  St. Paul VI, who met with Archbishops of Canterbury Michael Ramsey (in 1966) and Donald Coggan (in 1977) and, in 1965, with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras, lifted the mutual anathemas dating to 1054, angered many traditionalists.  St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967), which condemned the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the Third World and committed the Church to addressing that problem constructively, was consistent with the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, and Pope Leo XIIIHumanae Vitae (1968), which maintained the condemnation of artificial contraception, has been controversial from day one.  The decision to sell the papal tiara and give the proceeds to help the poor was at least a good gesture.  St. Paul VI sought to balance innovation and the integrity of ecclesiastical teaching.  The extent to which he succeeded has never ceased to be a topic of disagreement.

St. Paul VI, aged 80 years, died on August 6, 1978.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK J. MURPHY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCUS CH’OE KYONG-HWAN, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1839; SAINTS LAWRENCE MARY JOSEPH IMBERT, PIERRE PHILIBERT MAUBANT, AND JACQUES HONORÉ CHASTÁN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS, MISSIONARIES TO KOREA, AND MARTYRS, 1839; SAINT PAUL CHONG HASANG, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1839; AND SAINTS CECILIA YU SOSA AND JUNG HYE, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1839

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant St. Paul VI

to be a bishop in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all bishops the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 719

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Feast of E. F. Schumacher (September 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Cover of Small is Beautiful (1973)

Fair Use

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ERNST FRIEDRICH SCHUMACHER (AUGUST 16, 1911-SEPTEMBER 4, 1977)

German-British Economist and Social Critic

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I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967

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In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.

–E. F. Schumacher, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 388

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Ernst Friedrich Schumacher joins the ranks of holy people at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).  The date for Schumacher in that volume is September 7, but, given Schumacher’s death on September 7, 1977, the feast day of September 4 works better.

Schumacher, once a committed atheist, developed an interest in religion, which influenced his economic opinions.  The power of Roman Catholicism, with mysticism, Thomism, and social teaching encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and St. John XXIII, eventually grounded Schumacher, who joined Holy Mother Church in 1971.

Schumacher was German yet did much work in England.  The native of Bonn, born on August 16, 1911, moved to England as a Rhodes Scholar in the 1930s.  He remained as an “enemy alien” sent to work on a farm in the north of England during World War II.  After the war Schumacher worked (in Germany) as an economic advisor to the British Control Board then (in England) for two decades as the chief economist and head of planning at the British Coal Board.

These experiences transformed Schumacher into a radical, prophetic figure.  He wrote two seminal books, Small is Beautiful:  Economics as if People Mattered (1973) and A Guide for the Perplexed (1977).  Our saint proclaimed materialism to be an inferior religion, one that defines growth, efficiency, and production as the ultimate standards of value, ignores the spiritual side of people, and sets society on a course for disaster.  One essay in Small is Beautiful was “Buddhist Economics,” which, according to Schumacher, he could have just as easily called “Christian Economics,” except that

no one would have read it.

In that essay, based partially on his experience as an economic advisor to the Burmese government, Schumacher condemned Western economic priorities such as the stimulation of greed and envy, as well as the encouragement of waste and short-term thinking.  Instead he encouraged the Buddha’s idea of “right livelihood,” or the dignity of work, the alleviation of suffering, respect for beauty, the reduction of desires, et cetera.  In A Guide for the Perplexed our saint wrote that society needs “metaphysical reconstruction,” because our technological answers do not help us answer the question,

What am I to do with my life?

He wrote that, if human civilization is to survive, it needs to change its logic of

a violent attitude to God’s handiwork

and replace it with reverence.

Schumacher, who influenced the language of the modern ecological movement, was touring in Switzerland when he died of a heart attack on September 4, 1977.  He was 66 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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

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

Help us, like your servant E. F. Schumacher,

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), 60

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Feast of Joseph and Mary Gomer (September 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sierra Leone, 1951

Image Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951), 94

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JOSEPH GOMER (JULY 20, 1834-SEPTEMBER 6, 1892)

husband of

MARY GREEN GOMER (DIED DECEMBER 1, 1896)

U.S. United Brethren in Christ Missionaries in Sierra Leone

This feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Orlo Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (1968), a U.S. Methodist Sunday School resource for adults.  The volume profiles 11 people, including the then-recently deceased St. John XXIII, listed under this other name, Angelo Roncalli.  The book contains a biography of Joseph Gomer, but I extend this feast to include Mary Green Gomer, whose story comes bound up with that of her husband.  Unfortunately, little information about her is available.

The Gomers were the first African-American missionaries the former Church of the United Brethren in Christ (one of the predecessors of The United Methodist Church) commissioned.  For more than two decades the Gomers worked as missionaries in Sierra Leone, building the first successful relationship between Christianity and the people of Shenge, Sherbro Island, and laying the foundation for faith in members of generations alive today.

Joseph Gomer seemed like an unlikely choice for missionary work.  He, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 20, 1834, grew up on a farm near Battle Creek, Michigan.  He attended school with white youth, but had to endure racist insults daily.  At the age of 16 years Gomer left home and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he found a job in a furniture store.  In the Windy City our saint also joined the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.  During the Civil War he served as a cook in the U.S. Army.  After the war, on a steamboat from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Dayton, Ohio, Gomer met Mary Green, a widow traveling with her adolescent daughter to home in Chillicothe, Ohio.  The couple had become engaged to marry before the steamboat docked in Dayton.  That year they married in Third United Brethren Church, Dayton.  Joseph worked as a foreman in a large mercantile house.  His responsibilities were in the purview of measuring and fitting carpets.  The Gomers were active in Third Church, holding formal and informal leadership positions.  Joseph, for example, often had more than one title simultaneously.

The Gomers’ lives changed in 1870.  The denomination had established a mission on Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone, in the late 1850s.  The mission grew coffee and rubber trees.  After the missionary assigned there died in 1870, the Gomers applied to fill the vacancy.  They were lay members.  They were relatively uneducated and lacked missionary training.  Furthermore, the denomination had not yet commissioned any African-American missionaries.  The United Brethren commissioned the Gomers and sent them to Sherbro Island, however.  The Gomers sailed on November 8, 1870, and arrived in January 1871.

The challenges facing the Gomers were daunting, and their frustrations were also numerous and great.  For starters, they arrived at a mission post consisting of rundown buildings and few people who cared about the mission.  After all, there had been no missionary there most of a year.  Many of the local people thought of Christianity as a religion just for white people.  Competition among missionaries of various denominations was a drawback, and local feuding chiefs created civil strife.

Nevertheless, the Gomers accomplished much.  They introduced more efficient farming techniques, built a thriving industrial school, fought superstition and ignorance, eschewed denominational competition, convinced many locals that Christianity was a religion for Africans, converted many people, inspired people to repair buildings and construct new ones, and reconciled mutually hostile chiefs.  Mary focused on working with women and children.  Joseph became an ordained minister during his years as a missionary.  The Gomers cared about the people among whom they labored for the glory of God.  The couple’s skin color helped them to build relationships with people on Sherbro Island.  The Gomers served three terms in Sierra Leone, with breaks in the United States from November 1875 to November 1876 and from April 1889 to November 1889.

During the third term of service Joseph was planning to retire, given his failing health.  He never retired, for he died in Freetown on September 6, 1892.  He was 58 years old.

Mary retired from missionary service in May 1894.  Then she returned to Dayton, Ohio, where she died on December 1, 1896.

Men and women such as Joseph and Mary Gomer have been essential to the building up of the Church.

One lesson from the story of the Gomers is that sometimes the people best suited for a particular role are the ones who seem most unlikely.  As the Bible teaches, God qualifies the called.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servants Joseph Gomer and Mary Green Gomer,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

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

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-7

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716

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Feast of Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (September 3)   4 comments

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER (JANUARY 8, 1900-SEPTEMBER 3, 1968)

Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and Witness for Civil Rights

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Fast from criticism, and feast on praise.

Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy.

Fast from ill-temper and feast on peace.

Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment.

Fast from jealousy, and feast on love.

Fast from pride, and feast on humility.

Fast from selfishness, and feast on service.

Fast from fear, and feast on faith.

–Arthur Carl Lichtenberger on Lenten practice

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Arthur Carl Lichtenberger was a leader of The Episcopal Church during a transitional period of its life.  His influence has been evident since his term as Presiding Bishop.

Lichtenberger was a theologian and a scholar.  He, born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on January 8, 1900, was a child of Adam Lichtenberger and Thereza Heitz.  He graduated from Kenyon College with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in 1923.  Two years later he graduated from the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Our saint, ordained a deacon in 1925 and a priest the following year, was Professor of New Testament at St. Paul’s Divinity School, Wuchang, China, from 1925 to 1927.  Graduate work at Harvard University followed in 1927-1928.  Next our saint was the Rector of Grace Church, Cincinnati, Ohio (1928-1933).  While the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Brookline, Massachusetts (1933-1941), Lichtenberger was also a lecturer at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge (1935-1941).  Our saint went on to serve as the Dean of Trinity Cathedral, Newark, New Jersey (1941-1948), then as Professor Pastoral Theology at the General Theological Seminary, New York City (1948-1951).  Throughout his career Lichtenberger received numerous Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Civil Law, and Doctor of Humane Letters degrees.

Lichtenberger joined the ranks of bishops in 1951.  That year he became the Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri.  The following year he succeeded to become the Bishop of Missouri.  While in the Diocese of Missouri Lichtenberger wrote the exposition on the Book of Esther for Volume III (1954) of The Interpreter’s Bible.  He also initiated congregational-level study of church mission, resulting in an increase in the amount of outreach and the number of churches.

Above:  A Portion of The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1954), x

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

At the General Convention of 1958 Lichtenberger won the election for Presiding Bishop, to succeed Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980), who had served in that post since 1947.  On that occasion Lichtenberger affirmed those unalienable rights no government, person, or group has a moral right to deny anyone.  He said that the human rights

to vote, to eat a hamburger where you want, to have a decent job, to live in a house fit for habitation are not rights to be litigated or negotiated.

(Those are still disputed points in the United States of America in 2018, unfortunately.)  Our saint led The Episcopal Church in affirming civil rights.  On his watch the House of Bishops supported the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 1963) and what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In June 1964, after Congress passed that landmark law, Lichtenberger issued a public statement in which he acknowledged that

legislation cannot change attitudes,

but

…law does influence the way in which men and women treat one another, and more than just relationships do provide a social climate in which attitudes change….We must commit ourselves without reservation to the full support of civil rights.

Baptism, Lichtenberger argued, creates a new social order.  This understanding, which influenced his views on the imperative of civil rights protections, has become part of the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Speaking of liturgical revision, Lichtenberger supported it.  At the General Conventions of 1961 and 1964 he favored the authorization of “trial use” liturgies.  The process of revising The Book of Common Prayer (1928) was underway when he died in 1968.

Lichtenberger became the Presiding Bishop when the denominational headquarters were inadequate.  The Church had occupied 281 Fourth Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, since 1894.  By 1958 branch offices in Connecticut, Chicago, and elsewhere in New York City were necessary.  Since 1960 the headquarters of The Episcopal Church have been at 815 Second Avenue, Manhattan.

On the ecumenical front Lichtenberger made history.  In 1961, en route to the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, our saint visited Pope St. John XXIII, thereby becoming the first Episcopal Presiding Bishop to visit a pope.

Lichtenberger was unable to complete a full term as Presiding Bishop.  As Parkinson’s Disease took its toll, our saint realized that he had to resign.  So, at the General Convention of 1964, the House of Bishops elected John Hines (1910-1997) to lead the denomination.  On his way out of office Lichtenberger published The Day is at Hand (1964), a collection of some of his writings.  From 1965 to 1968 our saint was Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lichtenberger, aged 68 years, died in Bethel, Vermont, on September 3, 1968.

Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia, has as one of its endowed chairs the Arthur Carl Lichtenberger Chair in Pastoral Theology and Continuing Education.

I revere John Hines, who deserves many accolades was still stands as a controversial and prophetic figure in 2018.  History should give him his due.  Yet I notice that his legacy overshadows that of Lichtenberger, a man no less supportive of civil rights and liturgical revision.  It is past time that Lichtenberger receive his due, which need not come at the expense of Hines.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JÓZEF PUCHALA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRANCISCAN FRIAR, PRIEST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Arthur Carl Lichtenberger,

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 power in 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 (2006), 60

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