Archive for the ‘Thomas a Kempis’ Tag

Feast of Richard Challoner (September 30)   1 comment

Above:  Richard Challoner

Image in the Public Domain

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RICHARD CHALLONER (SEPTEMBER 29, 1691-JANUARY 12, 1781)

English Roman Catholic Scholar, Religious Writer, Translator, Controversialist, Priest, and Titular Bishop of Doberus

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INTRODUCTION

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Bishop Richard Challoner comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via his many works, mainly his 1749-1952 revision of the Douai-Rheims Version of the Bible (1582/1609).

Challoner lived during a time of official persecution of Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom.  Prior to the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829), Roman Catholics could not participate fully in public life.  For decades after the Catholic Emancipation Act, they still could not participate fully in public life, either.  However, the Catholic Emancipation Act did permit Roman Catholics (except clergy) to sit in the Parliament and serve as members of lay corporations.  Roman Catholics could also hold most crown offices, with a handful of exceptions.  Furthermore, no Roman Catholic cleric was to wear clerical attire outside of church, religious orders were officially under a ban (an unenforced one), and no Roman Catholic prelate was to use a title any Anglican prelate used.  Nevertheless, the Catholic Emancipation Act was a huge step forward for British and Irish Roman Catholics.  The Universities Tests Act (1871) opened universities to Roman Catholics.

Understanding the political-religious climate in which Challoner lived is crucial to grasping his works and their tone.  If one understands why he gave as good as he got, one comprehends our saint and his works in context.

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CONVERT, PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND APOLOGIST

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Challoner, born in Lewes, England, on September 29, 1691, came from a Presbyterian family.  His father was a winecooper.  The father died when our father was a boy.  Then Challoner’s mother became the housekeeper to a Roman Catholic family at Gage, Firle, Sussex.  Our saint joined the Roman Catholic Church when he was about 13 years old, in the household of another Roman Catholic family–the Holmans, of Warkworth, Northamptonshire.  Father John Gother, the Holmans’ chaplain, was also a religious writer and a controversialist.  He taught Challoner Roman Catholic doctrine and helped him get into the English College, Douai, France.

Challoner spent 1705-1730 at the English College, Douai.  He matriculated in July 1705.  Our saint was such a good student that he completed the twelve-year-long course of study in eight years.  In 1708, the pupil committed to return to England on a mission, when required to do so.  Challoner, when twenty-five years old, began to teach the rhetoric and poetry courses.  The following year, he began an eight-year-long appointment as Professor of Philosophy.  Challoner, ordained to the priesthood on March 28, 1716, graduated with his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1719.  The following year, our saint became the Vice President, as well as Professor of Theology and Prefect of Studies.  Challoner received his Doctor in Divinity degree in 1727.  Before our saint left the English College, he published his first book, Think Well On’t; or, Reflections on the Great Truths of the Christian Religion, for Every Day in the Month (1728).

Challoner returned to England, on a mission, in 1730.  He settled in London and began his ministry.  Our saint initially did so disguised as a layman because of the political-religious climate in England.  Challoner said Masses secretly, visited prisons, and performed his priestly duties faithfully.  In his spare time, our saint wrote and translated.  He wrote or translated the following through 1737:

  1. The Grounds of Catholic Doctrine, as Contained in the Profession of Faith (translation, 1732);
  2. Unerring Authority of the Catholic Church (1732);
  3. A Short History of the First Beginning and Progress of the Protestant Religion, Gathered Out of the Best Protestant Writers, By Way of Question and Answer(1733);
  4. A Roman Catholic’s Reasons Why He Cannot Conform (1734);
  5. The Touchstone of the New Religion (1734);
  6. The Young Gentleman Instructed in the Grounds of the Christian Religion (1735);
  7. A Specimen of the Spirit of the Dissenting Teachers (1736); and
  8. The Catholic Christian Instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifice, Ceremonies, and Observances of the Church; By Way of Question and Answer (1737).

The latter book got Challoner into legal trouble.  Our saint had criticized Anglican divine Dr. Conyers Middleton (1683-1750), a man whose sarcastic polemics got him in trouble with various people.  Middleton had condemned the Roman Catholic Church.  Then Challoner spared no words regarding Middleton in the preface to The Catholic Christian Instructed.  Next, the querulous Middleton pressed charges against our saint, who returned to Douai.

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BISHOP AND VICAR APOSTOLIC CHALLONER

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What would Challoner’s next promotion be?  Some favored him becoming the President of the English College, Douai.  The previous President had died in 1738, and our saint was qualified for the position.

However, Benjamin Petre (1672-1758) had a different job in mind for Challoner.  Petre, the Titular Bishop of Prusa and the Vicar Apostolic of the London District (March 12, 1734-December 22, 1758), wanted Challoner to serve as the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the London District instead.  (The Apostolic Vicarate of the London District existed from 1688 to 1850.)  Petre prevailed; Challoner received his appointment on September 12, 1739.  Challoner was insufficiently Roman Catholic for critics who pointed out that he was a convert from Presbyterianism.  Finally, after a long delay, our saint became the Titular Bishop of Doberus and the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the London District on January 29, 1741,

Challoner kept writing in 1738-1740.  His works included:

  1. Rheims Testament (1738), edited with F. Blyth;
  2. a translation of the Confessions of Saint Augustine of Hippo (1740); and
  3. The Garden of the Soul:  A Manual of Spiritual Exercises and Instructions for Christians, Who, Living in the World; Aspire to Devotion; With an Explanation of the Mass (1740).

Challoner had a rigorous travel schedule to maintain in his new position.  He had oversight over ten English counties, the Channel Islands, British North America (mainly Maryland and Pennsylvania), and parts of the West Indies.  Going to the Western Hemisphere was impossible, for practical reasons.  Visiting the ten home counties took three years.

While traveling, Challoner had time to write.  He wrote or translated the following works, among others, from 1741 to 1758:

  1. The Ground of the Old Religion (1742);
  2. A Letter to a Friend Concerning the Infallibility of the Church (1743);
  3. Memoirs of Missionary Priests, as Well Secular as Regular and of Other Catholics of Both Sexes, That Have Suffered Death in England on Religious Accounts from the Year of Our Lord 1577 to 1684 (174_);
  4. Britannia Sancta (1745), with help from Alban Butler;
  5. the revised, modernized version of the Douai-Rheims translation (1582/1609) of the Bible (in stages, 1749-1752);
  6. A Papist Misrepresented and Represented (17__), abridged from Gother;
  7. Remarks on Two Letters Against Popery (1751);
  8. Instructions for the Jubilee (1751);
  9. Meditations for Every Day of the Year (1753);
  10. The Wonders of God in the Wilderness; or, the Lives of the Most Celebrated Saints of the Oriental Deserts (1755);
  11. The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus (1757), abridged from Abraham Woodhead; and
  12. Manual of Prayers (1758).

Challoner succeeded as the Vicar Apostolic of the London District on December 22, 1758, upon the death of Bishop Petre.  Our saint, being 67 years old, immediately applied for a Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic.  James Robert Talbot (1726-1790) received his appointment on March 10, 1759.  Talbot became the Titular Bishop of Birtha and the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic on August 14, 1759.  Neither Challoner nor Talbot knew how long our saint had left–decades, actually.  Challoner remained in London, mostly and his health recovered.  Meanwhile, Talbot traveled.

Challoner tended to his administrative duties well.  These duties included opening two schools for boys, founding a school for poor girls, starting conferences among priests in London, and helping to found the Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Poor.  He did all of this in hiding, evading arrest for being a Roman Catholic cleric.  After the passage of the Catholic Relief Act (1778), being a priest ceased to lead to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Challoner’s final batch of writings and translations included:

  1. A Caveat Against the Methodists (1760);
  2. The City of God of the New Testament (1760);
  3. A Memorial of Ancient British Piety; or, a British Martyrology (1761);
  4. An Abstract of the Old and New Testaments (17__);
  5. The Following of  Christ, in Four Books (17__), a translation of The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis;
  6. The Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation (17__);
  7. The Morality of the Bible (1762);
  8. Devotion of Catholics to the Blessed Virgin (1764); and
  9. Rules of Life for a Christian (1766).

The final blow to Challoner came from the infamous Gordon Riots (1780).  For three days, an anti-Roman Catholic mob attacked Roman Catholic chapels and the homes of Roman Catholic families in London.  Some members of the mob sought the aged Challoner, to drag him into the street and kill him.  Our saint heard the mob from his hiding place.  He escaped, with help, during the riots.

Challoner never recovered from the shock of this violence.  He, aged 89 years, died in London on January 12, 1781.

Talbot succeeded him as the Vicar Apostolic of the London District and served until 1790.

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CONCLUSION

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Challoner’s greatest literary legacies may be his meditations, hagiographies, and the revision of the Douai-Rheims Version of the Bible.  These have achieved the status of classics.  The Douai-Rheims-Challoner Version of the Bible was the standard Roman Catholic English-language translation of the Bible well into the twentieth century.  It was also the basis of the Confraternity Version (in its stages, 1941-1969), itself the basis of The New American Bible (1970, 1986, 1991), revised into The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011).

I am an Episcopalian.  To be precise, I am an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic, in that order.  When I hear Roman Catholics speak of an infallible Church, I roll my eyes, at least metaphorically.  I reject the concept of an infallible Church.  I also reject the concepts of an infallible Bible and an infallible Pope.

I respect and admire Challoner while disagreeing with him much of the time.  I recognize him as a member of the Christian family.  I also condemn all those who persecuted Challoner and other Roman Catholics or consented to that persecution.  Furthermore, I deplore the bigotry and violence of those who participated in the Gordon Riots (1780).

Challoner should have been able to operate openly while in England.

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Lord God of love and justice,

thank you for the tireless efforts, faithful witness, and

devout writings of your servant, Richard Challoner.

May we, inspired by his love for you,

rededicate our lives to your service,

and remain faithful despite all obstacles.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 70

2 Timothy 4:1-8

Luke 9:21-27

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

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Feast of Geert Groote (August 23)   Leave a comment

Above: Part of Europe in 1360

Image in the Public Domain

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GEERT GROOTE (1340-AUGUST 20, 1384)

Founder of the Brethren of the Common Life

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Always put more hope in eternal glory than in fear of hell.

–Geert Groote, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 360

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Geert Groote comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (1997), via Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).

Before I write about Groote’s life, I ground this post in geography and history.  Know then, O reader, the following:

  1. During Groote’s lifetime, the city of Deventer was within the frontiers of the Bishopric of Utrecht (extant 1024-1528), within the Holy Roman Empire.  The leader of the Bishopric of Utrecht.
  2. Deventer is in The Netherlands in 2021.
  3. The Black Death (1347-1351), the most notorious and historically significant outbreak of the Bubonic Plague, occurred during Groote’s lifetime.  The rebuilding of civilization after the Black Death led to the beginning of the modern world, gave rise to many oppressed people rising up, and planted many seeds of the Protestant Reformation.  (As Norman Cantor, that great historian of the Middle Ages wrote, we live in the world the Black Death made.)  After at least half of the population of Europe had died within four years, societies were ready for revolutions.  There was no turning back the clock to the way Europe had been.

Groote, born in Deventer in October 1340, came from a secure and wealthy family .  He received a fine education, by the standards of the time, although portions of the curriculum would not have met the standards of 2021.  Our saint’s father worked in the municipal government of Deventer.  Groote, educated at the Sorbonne, Paris, emerged well-versed in topics ranging from theology and philosophy to astronomy and canon law.  He graduated in 1358.

Groote became a teacher.  He taught in Deventer (1362f) then in Cologne.  Via family connections, he received some ecclesiastical benefices.  The young and wealthy scholar led a selfish life.  Our saint, convicted of this sin at the age of 34 years, in 1374, gave up everything and became a guest at a Carthusian monastery near Arnhem.

The year 1374 took place during a revolutionary age in Western Europe.  The Black Death had not discriminated; it had killed many able churchmen.  Many of the replacements were of a lesser caliber.  In England, John Wycliffe (circa 1320-1384) had become a revolutionary in his later years.  He was well on the way to becoming the “Morning Star of the Reformation.”  Men who read his works in subsequent years and agreed with him included Jan Hus (1371-1415) and Martin Luther (1483-1546).

In 1374, when Groote became a guest at a Carthusian monastery, he converted his family home in Deventer into a shelter for impoverished women.  Our saint, who took his new, religious life seriously, became a Roman Catholic deacon.

Groote started preaching in the Diocese of Utrecht in 1379.  He traveled and preached for four years, until the Bishop of Utrecht revoked our saint’s preaching license by ordering that only priests could preach.  Groote made himself extremely inconvenient to many powerful, wealthy people.  He preached interior spiritual renewal.  Our saint encouraged meditation on the life of Jesus as the model of Christian virtue.  He also denounced ecclesiastical abuses.  These included greed, simony, and sexual misconduct.  Finally, in 1383, the Bishop of Utrecht halted Groote’s preaching.  The gag order remained effective until the final year of our saint’s life.

Communities of the “Devout,” or formally, the Brethren of the Common Life, practiced their faith “in the world,” not in a monastery or a convent.  They practiced the Devotia Moderna, which entailed being silent and alone, and meditating upon the Passion of Christ, on redemption, on one’s death, on the Last Judgment, and on Heaven and Hell.  The movement spread throughout the Low Countries and Germany.  One subsequent member of the Brethren of the Common Life was the great spiritual writer Thomas à Kempis (circa 1380-1471).  Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) also drank deeply of the legacy of our saint.  Erasmus, alive when the Protestant Reformation began, remained within the Roman Catholic Church, of which he was also sharply critical.

Groote resumed preaching in the final year of his life.  He also continued to minister to the sick.  By tending to a patient suffering from the Bubonic Plague, our saint contracted that disease, which caused his death.  Groote died in Deventer on August 20, 1384.

I harbor great respect and much affection for Holy Mother Church.  I, raised a Protestant, feel drawn to her.  Yet I remain on the banks of the Tiber River, so to speak; I have chosen not to cross that river.  I acknowledge that the Roman Catholic Church has been its own worst enemy, stifling reforms that would have staved off revolutions and schisms.  

  1. The Roman Catholic Church forbade Groote from preaching.
  2. The Roman Catholic Church executed Jan Hus as a heretic.  That execution was heretical.
  3. The Roman Catholic Church exhumed and burned the corpse of John Wycliffe.
  4. The Roman Catholic Church tried to have Martin Luther killed.  The Pope excommunicated Luther, whose Plan A did not include committing schism.  Then the Church blamed Luther for committing schism.

The Roman Catholic Church is not unique in being its own worst enemy, of course.  The other Christian communions have been their own worst enemies from their inception, too.  They also have blood on their institutional hands.  Do I need to write about the people John Calvin (1509-1564) and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) had executed, for example?  And do I need to explain the witch hunts that members of various denominations committed in the Old and New Worlds?  Do I need to explain about Protestants martyring each other as well as Roman Catholics?  Do I need to list examples of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox attacking and killing each other? I am not picking on the Roman Catholic Church and ignoring the sins of other Christian denominations and traditions.

Institutionalization, combined with a defensive attitude, has proven detrimental to the Church fulfilling its potential.  Geert Groote understood this truth.  His life testified to that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JAMES HEWITT MCGOWN, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DRAUSINUS AND ANSERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF SOISSONS; SAINT VINDICIAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CAMBRAI, AND SAINT LEODEGARIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF AUTUN

THE FEAST OF EDWARD OSLER, ENGLISH DOCTOR, EDITOR, AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ANTONIA DE PAZ Y FIGUEROA, FOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DIVINE SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PERPETUA, FELICITY, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS AT CARTHAGE, 203

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

to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life [such as your servant Geert Groote].

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 the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Blessed Lojze Grozde (May 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  Yugoslavia, September 1939

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945)

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BLESSED LOJZE GROZDE (MAY 27, 1923-JANUARY 1, 1943)

Slovenian Roman Catholic Martyr

Alternative feast day = January 1

Blessed Lojze Grozde served God ably during his 19 years of life.  He, born out-of-wedlock at Trzišce, Zgornje Vodale, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, on May 27, 1923, and baptized that day, grew up with his maternal grandparents and an aunt, pious peasants who raised him.  Our saint, a fine student, attended a boarding school in Ljubljana, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous benefactor.  Grozde, who joined the Congregation of Mary at the age of 13 years and Catholic Action two years later, considered studying for the priesthood yet concluded that he could do more for God as a layman.

World War II proved deadly for Grozde.  Yugoslavia was under fascist–Italian and German–occupation.  Communist rebels, being opposed to fascism because they were communists, resisted the occupiers (as rebels in occupied countries tend to do).  Some of these rebels mistook our saint, who was en route to visit relatives, for a fascist collaborator.  He was, without a doubt, a Roman Catholic; he carried a Latin prayer-book and the copy of The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis.  These rebels arrested, incarcerated, and tortured Grozde, whom they killed at Mirna Trebnje, Slovenia, on January 1, 1943.  Some children found his corpse in the woods on February 23.

Pope Benedict XVI declared Grozde a Venerable then a Blessed in 2010.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Blessed Lojze Grozde

triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 714

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Feast of Thomas a Kempis (July 24)   3 comments

Thomas a Kempis

Above:  Thomas à Kempis

Image in the Public Domain

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THOMAS À KEMPIS (CIRCA 1380-JULY 25, 1471)

Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, and Spiritual Writer

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The Episcopal Church observes the life and legacy of Thomas à Kempis on July 24.

Thomas Hemerken was a native of Kempen, now on the German side of the Rhine River and near the Dutch border.  In the late 1300s the political structure was that of the Holy Roman Empire.  He studied with the Brethren of the Common Life at Deventer, Holland, for seven years.  The Brethren lived simply and communally.  They operated influential schools, supported themselves financially by copying manuscripts, emphasized the inner life and virtuous living, emphasized practical theology, and practiced moderation with regard to ascetic and penitential practices.  The founder of the order was Gerhard Groote (1340-1384), who had come from a wealthy family and renounced his worldly ways.  In 1399 our saint joined the Brethren at Mount St. Agnes, near Zwolle, Holland.   His brother was the prior there.  Kempis took monastic vows in 1407, became a priest six years later, and advanced to the rank of subprior in 1425.  He was an introvert who was more comfortable in the company of books than people. (I respect that.) Kempis enjoyed copying the scriptures, works of the Church Fathers, and books about asceticism.

Kempis died at Mount St. Agnes on July 25, 1471.

Our saint’s enduring legacy is Of the Imitation of Christ, or the Imitation of Christ for short, a book whose authorship many people have doubted for a long time.  In my copy, dated 1891, for example, Anglican priest, poet, and educator Frederic W. Farrar (1831-1903) argued in his introduction that the authorship of the Imitation of Christ was an impossible question to answer.  Other scholars have been certain, however, that Kempis wrote the book.  The author of an old Encyclopedia Britannica article argued that the preponderance of evidence affirmed that our saint wrote the book, for example.

The text builds on orthodox Christology and Trinitarian theology and emphasizes, as its title indicates, imitating Christ:

“He that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness,” saith the Lord.  These are the words of Christ, by which we are admonished how we ought to imitate His life and manners, if we will be truly enlightened, and be delivered from all blindness of heart.

Let therefore our chiefest endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of JESUS CHRIST.

–Page 13 in my copy, published in 1891

Kempis favored frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist as a spiritual practice.  Daily reception is best, he wrote.  The sacrament and the scriptures are both essential for Christian living, he insisted:

In the mean time I will walk in faith, strengthened by the examples of the Saints.

I have also holy books for my comfort and for the glass of my life; and above all these I have Thy most Holy Body and Blood for a singular remedy and refuge.

–Page 305 in my copy, published in 1891

The Imitation of Christ has become the second most influential work in Western Christianity and the Christian book translated into the second greatest number of languages.  The Bible occupies the first rank in both categories.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SCIENTIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

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Holy Father, you have nourished and strengthened your Church

by the inspired writings of your servant Thomas a Kempis:

Grant that we may learn from him to know what is necessary to be known,

to live what is to be loved,

to praise what rightly pleases you,

and always to seek to know and follow your will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18

Psalm 33:1-5, 20-21

Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Luke 6:17-23

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 483

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Feast of John Newton (July 24)   3 comments

John Newton

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN NEWTON (JULY 24, 1725-DECEMBER 21, 1807)

Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer

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JOHN NEWTON, CLERK

ONCE AN INFIDEL AND LIBERTINE

A SERVANT OF SLAVES IN AFRICA WAS

BY THE RICH MERCY OF OUR

LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST

PRESERVED, RESTORED, PARDONED,

AND APPOINTED TO PREACH THE FAITH

HE HAD LONG LABOURED TO DESTROY

–from John Newton’s epitaph, which he wrote

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John Newton (1725-1807), famously the author of “Amazing Grace,” wrote much more than that.  He did write, for example, the splendid hymn, “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” which I prefer to “Amazing Grace.”  (I do tilt toward Anglo-Catholicism.)

Newton’s father was a ship master; his mother was a devout Calvinist who raised him to become a minister.  Yet she died when our saint was just seven years old.  Newton, educated formally only from ages nine to eleven years, went to sea with his father at age eleven.  Six years later our saint joined the Royal Navy, from which he deserted in time.  Then he joined the ranks of slave traders.

Our saint came to realize eventually that grace was free yet not cheap; it did require much of him.  In 1748, at age twenty-three, he converted to Christianity after reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  Yet our saint did not abandon the slave trade immediately.  In 1750 Newton, aged twenty-five years, married Mary Catlett, whom he had known since he had been seventeen years old and she fourteen.  And finally, in 1754, our saint’s conscience forced him into a different line of work.

The reformed man started his new life as a tide surveyor at Liverpool, yet he studied for Anglican Holy Orders.  He, ordained, served as Curate of Olney (1764-1780) then as Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807).  Toward the end of our saint’s tenure at Olney he and neighbor William Cowper, also a hymn writer, collaborated on Olney Hymns (1779).

Newton, blind at the end of his life, died in London in 1807, having been born there also.

A partial list of Newton’s published works follows:

  1. Cardiphonia:  or, The Utterances of the Heart;
  2. Letters to a Wife, Volumes I and II,
  3. Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade (1788);
  4. Works, Volume I;
  5. Works, Volume II;
  6. Works, Volume III;
  7. Works, Volume IV;
  8. Works, Volume V; and
  9. Works, Volume VI.

Newton wrote many laudatory and generally excellent hymns, some of which I have added to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  Here is another:

Though troubles assail and dangers affright,

Though friends should all fail and foes all unite,

Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,

The Scripture assures us, the Lord will prevail.

+++++

The birds without barn or storehouse are fed;

From them let us learn to trust for our bread;

His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied,

So long as ’tis written, “The Lord will provide.

+++++

His call we obey, like Abram of old,

Not knowing our way, but faith makes us bold;

For, though we are strangers, we have a good guide,

And trust, in all dangers, the Lord will provide.

+++++

No strength of our own or goodness we claim;

Yet since we have known the Saviour’s great Name,

In this our strong tower for safety we hide,–

The Lord is our power, the Lord will provide.

And here is another:

Now may He who from the dead

Brought the Shepherd of the sheep,

Jesus Christ, our King and Head,

All our souls in safety keep.

+++++

May He teach us to fulfill

What is pleasing in His sight,

Perfect us in all His will,

And preserve us day and night.

+++++

To that Redeemer’s praise,

Who the covenant sealed with blood,

Let our hearts and voices raise

Loud thanksgivings to our God.

Perfection, as in “be perfect as God is perfect” in the Gospels, as I have read in commentaries, indicates being suited to one’s purpose.  John Newton became suited to God’s purpose for him.  May each of us become suited to God’s purpose for each of us also, if we are not that already.  If the latter scenario is our reality, may we remain in it.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES DE SALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GENEVA

THE FEAST OF THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEY AND JURIST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BARCLAY, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

John Newton and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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