1 May. Saint Phillip and Saint James, Apostles. The two apostles commemorated on this day are among those about whom little is known, except for their mention in the Gospels. James the Less is so called to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee and from James “the brother of the Lord,” or perhaps to indicate youth or lack of stature. He is known to us from the list of the Twelve, where he is called James the son of Alpheus. He may also be the person referred to in Mark’s Gospel as James the younger, who, with his mother Mary and the other women, watched the crucifixion from a distance. Philip figures in several important incidents in Jesus’ ministry as reported in John’s Gospel. There we read that Jesus called Philip soon after calling Andrew and Peter. Philip, in turn, found his friend Nathanael, and convinced him to come and see Jesus, the Messiah. Later, when Jesus saw the hungry crowd, he asked Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5). Philip’s practical response, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (John 6:7), was the prelude to the feeding of the multitude with the loaves and fishes. In a later incident in John’s Gospel, some Greeks came to Philip asking to see Jesus. At the Last Supper, Philip’s request, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied,” evokes the response, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8, 9).
From the treatise On the Prescription of Heretics by Tertullian: “The preaching of the apostles. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself declared what he was, what he had been, how he was carrying out his Father’s will, what obligations he demanded of men. This he did during his earthly life, either publicly to the crowds or privately to his disciples. Twelve of these he picked out to be his special companions, appointed to teach the nations. One of them fell from his place. The remaining eleven were commanded by Christ, as he was leaving the earth to return to the Father after his resurrection, to go and teach the nations and to baptize them into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The apostles cast lots and added Matthias to their number, in place of Judas, as the twelfth apostle. The authority for this action is to be found in a prophetic psalm of David. After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit which had been promised to them, so that they could work miracles and proclaim the truth, they first bore witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and established churches throughout Judea. They then went out into the whole world and proclaimed to the nations the same doctrinal faith. They set up churches in every city. Other churches received from them a living transplant of faith and the seed of doctrine, and through this daily process of transplanting they became churches. They therefore qualify as apostolic churches by being the offspring of churches that are apostolic. Every family has to be traced back to its origins. That is why we can say that all these great churches constitute that one original Church of the apostles; for it is from them that they all come. They are all primitive, all apostolic, because they are all one. They bear witness to this unity by the peace in which they all live, the brotherhood which is their name, the fellowship to which they are pledged. The principle on which these associations are based is common tradition by which they share the same sacramental bond. The only way in which we can prove what the apostles taught – that is to say, what Christ revealed to them – is through those same churches. They were founded by the apostles themselves, who first preached to them by what is called the living voice and later by means of letters. The Lord had said clearly in former times: I have many more things to tell you, but you cannot endure them now. But he went on to say: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into the whole truth. Thus Christ shows us that the apostles had full knowledge of the truth, for he had promised that they would receive the whole truth through the Spirit of truth. His promise was certainly fulfilled, since the Acts of the Apostles prove that the Holy Spirit came down on them.”
Sequence by Blessed Notker Balbulus (+912), from the Sarum Rite celebration of the feast:
“Bright amongst the saints, the Senate of the Apostles, ruler of Kingdoms, the first of all the earth.
Govern the manners and life of the Churches,
Which believe everywhere through thy doctrine.
Antiochus and Remus gave thee, O Peter, the throne of their kingdoms,
Thou Paul, didst invade Greece, the realm of the tyrant Alexander.
The wild Africans thou, O Matthew, didst clothe in the shining skin of the lamb,
which does not know any spots.
John, Philip, Simon, both James’s equally,
Andrew, Thaddeus, famous warriors of God,
Lo, the East and the West,
yes, all the round circle of the world,
Rejoice to have them as fathers and await them as judges,
And therefore all the world humbly heaps upon you praise and the honor due to the saints.”
Collect: Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
2 May. Saint Athanasius (295-373). Rarely in the history of the Church has the course of its development been more significantly determined by one person than it was by Athanasius in the fourth century. Gregory of Nazianzus called him “the pillar of the Church,” and Basil the Great said he was “the God-given physician of her wounds.” Athanasius was born in Alexandria, and was ordained deacon in 319. He quickly attracted attention by his opposition to the priest Arius, whose denial of the full divinity of the Second Person of the Trinity was gaining widespread acceptance. Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria, took Athanasius as his secretary and adviser to the first Ecumenical Council, at Nicaea in 325, which dealt with the Arian conflict. Athanasius was successful in winning approval for the phrase in the Nicene Creed which has ever since been recognized as expressing unequivocally the full godhead of the Son: “of one Being with the Father” (homoousios). When Alexander died in 328, Athanasius became bishop. He fearlessly defended the Nicene Christology against emperors, magistrates, bishops, and theologians. Five times he was sent into exile. He often seemed to stand alone for the orthodox faith. “Athanasius contra mundum (against the world)” became a by-word. Yet, by the time of his last exile, his popularity among the citizens of Alexandria was so great that the Emperor had to recall him to avoid insurrection in the city. Athanasius wrote voluminously: biblical interpretation, theological exposition, sermons, and letters. His treatise, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, is a still widely read classic. In it, he writes, “The Savior of us all, the Word of God, in his great love took to himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half-way. He became himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which he, the Word of God, did in the body. Human and human-minded as men were, therefore, to whichever side they looked in the sensible world, they found themselves taught the truth.”
From a discourse by Saint Athanasius on the incarnation of the Word: “The Word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible and immaterial, entered our world. Yet it was not as if he had been remote from it up to that time. For there is no part of the world that was ever without his presence; together with his Father, he continually filled all things and places. Out of his loving-kindness for us he came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on mankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us; he did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain. He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen. If he had wanted simply to be seen, he could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, he took our body in its reality. Within the Virgin he built himself a temple, that is, a body; he made it his own instrument in which to dwell and to reveal himself. In this way he received from mankind a body like our own, and, since all were subject to the corruption of death, he delivered this body over to death for all, and with supreme love offered it to the Father. He did so to destroy the law of corruption passed against all men, since all died in him. The law, which had spent its force on the body of the Lord, could no longer have any power over his fellowmen. Moreover, this was the way in which the Word was to restore mankind to immortality, after it had fallen into corruption, and summon it back from death to life. He utterly destroyed the power death had against mankind – as fire consumes chaff – by means of the body he had taken and the grace of the resurrection. This is the reason why the Word assumed a body that could die, so that this body, sharing in the Word who is above all, might satisfy death’s requirement in place of all. Because of the Word dwelling in that body, it would remain incorruptible, and all would be freed for ever from corruption by the grace of the resurrection. In death the Word made a spotless sacrifice and oblation of the body he had taken. By dying for others, he immediately banished death for all mankind. In this way the Word of God, who is above all, dedicated and offered his temple, the instrument that was his body, for us all, as he said, and so paid by his own death the debt that was owed. The immortal Son of God, united with all men by likeness of nature, thus fulfilled all justice in restoring mankind to immortality by the promise of the resurrection. The corruption of death no longer holds any power over mankind, thanks to the Word, who has come to dwell among them through his one body.”
Collect: Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servant Athanasius, to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition, trusting solely in the grace of your eternal Word, who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
4 May. Saint Monica (331-387). Monica’s life story is enshrined in the spiritual autobiography of her eldest son, in the Confessions of Saint Augustine. Born in North Africa about 331, of Berber parents, Monica was married to a Latinized provincial of Tagaste named Patricius, whom she won to the Christian faith before his death. In her earlier years she was not without worldly ambitions and tastes. She grew in Christian maturity and spiritual insight through an ever-deepening life of prayer. Her ambition for her gifted son was transformed into a passionate desire for his conversion to Christ. After his baptism in Milan in 387, by Bishop Ambrose, Augustine and his mother, together with a younger brother, planned to return home to Africa. While awaiting ship at Ostia, the port of Rome, Monica fell ill. Augustine writes, “One day during her illness she had a fainting spell and lost consciousness for a short time. We hurried to her bedside, but she soon regained consciousness and looked up at my brother and me as we stood beside her. With a puzzled look, she asked, ‘Where was I?’ Then, watching us closely as we stood there speechless with grief, she said, ‘You will bury your mother here.’” Augustine’s brother expressed sorrow, for her sake, that she would die so far from her own country. She said to the two brothers, “It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.” To the question, whether she was not afraid at the thought of leaving her body in an alien land, she replied, “Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.” Recent excavations at Ostia have uncovered her original tomb. Her mortal remains, however, were transferred in 1430 to the Church of St. Augustine in Rome.
Sequence for the Feast of St Monica, attributed to Adam of St. Victor (1112-1146),
translated by Digby S. Wrangham:
“St. Augustine, that great Father,
And his mother blest, together
Let us praise with tuneful lay;
Publishing our veneration
For them in due celebration
Of this longed-for holy day !
Mother chaste, for pure faith noted,
Dear to Christ, in life unspotted,
This St Monica her son,
Though from heathen sire he springeth,
This day to a new birth bringeth,
By her to the true faith won.
Blessed was that tearful shower.
Through which shone with brilliant power
On the Church a light so bright !
Though with many tears she soweth.
Back she brought the fruit that groweth,
Reaping in joy’s full delight
More than she had asked possessing,
O what wondrous transport’s blessing
In the spirit then felt she;
Sound in faith her son perceiving,
And in Christ alone believing
With his whole soul’s energy I
Help she gave to those most needing, —
Christ thus in their persons feeding, —
Called the mother of the poor !
Caring for the sick moreover.
She would wash and cleanse and cover
Up from cold each ulcered sore.
Matron with all graces glowing !
Whom the wounds, such true love showing,
Of the Crucified pierce through !
Roused by these, she so deploreth,
That the tears, which she outpoureth,
Drench the pavement with their dew.
She, with heaven’s bread saturated,
Off the earth stands elevated
Full a cubit’s distance high:
With enraptured mind she joyeth;
‘Let us upward fly !’ she crieth,
‘ To the heights above the sky !’
O thou mother, O thou matron !
Be thy children’s friend and patron,
Pleading for them in the skies,
That, from flesh-bands liberated,
We may be associated
With thy son in Paradise ! Amen.”
Collect: O Lord, through spiritual discipline you strengthened your servant Monica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
7 May. Harriet Starr Cannon, Religious, (1823-1896). Harriet Starr Cannon founded the Community of St. Mary. Cannon was born in Charleston and was orphaned in 1824 when her parents died of yellow fever. She grew up with her only surviving sibling in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the home of relatives. In 1851, Cannon entered the Sisters of the Holy Communion, an order founded by William Augustus Muhlenberg, Rector of the Church of the Holy Communion in New York City. The Sisters were heavily involved in the operation of clinics and care facilities that would become St. Luke’s Hospital in the City of New York. During her years with the Sisters of the Holy Communion, Cannon served as a nurse. Over time, Harriet Cannon yearned for a more traditional monastic form of religious life. When agreement could not be reached with Sisters of the Holy Communion, Cannon and a small group of her sisters moved to form a new order. On the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1865, Horatio Potter, Bishop of the Diocese of New York, received from Harriet Cannon and her sisters the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, at St. Michael’s Church in Manhattan. The sisters began life together as the Community of St. Mary and Harriet Cannon became the Order’s first Superior. The apostolate of The Community of St. Mary began with nursing and the care of women who had endured difficult circumstances. After time, however, Mother Cannon and her Sisters became increasingly committed to providing free schools for the education of young women in addition to their medical work. The Community continued to grow and developed girls’ schools, hospitals, and orphanages in New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The Community of St. Mary played a critical role in response to the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in the 1870’s. Sister Constance and her companions are remembered on September 9.
Excerpt from a letter by Mother Harriet: “I know you are very weary and things look rather dark; but as a matter of fact things are not really dark. God ruleth over all, and if we feel troubled, is it not a want of faith on our part? Just think of our blessings: what are our trials compared to our blessings? … I realize that the checks we receive as a Community are blessings in disguise. Sometimes it comes to me we are too worldly, do too much to please people outside; so let us believe that when God speaks to us, as He has in the events of the past summer, that He longs to make us all more entirely His own, that He would have our very best. … I am writing you a long letter, and have still something more to say: when the School is fairly in order, you must go away for a rest. This is a positive command; do not think it cannot be.”
Collect: Gracious God, you called Mother Harriet and her companions to revive the religious life in the Episcopal Church by founding the religious community of St. Mary, and to dedicate their lives to you: Grant that, after their example, we may ever surrender ourselves to the revelation of your holy will; through our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
8 May. Dame Julian of Norwich, (1342-1416). Of Dame Julian’s early life we know little, only the probable date of her birth. Her own writings in the Revelations of Divine Love are concerned only with her visions, or “showings,” that she experienced when she was thirty years old. She had been gravely ill and was given the last rites; suddenly, on the seventh day, all pain left her, and she had fifteen visions of the Passion. These brought her great peace and joy. “From that time I desired oftentimes to learn what was our Lord’s meaning,” she wrote, “and fifteen years after I was answered in ghostly understanding: ‘Wouldst thou learn the Lord’s meaning in this thing? Learn it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it thee? Love. What showed he thee? Love. Wherefore showed it he? For Love. Hold thee therein and thou shalt learn and know more in the same.’ Thus it was I learned that Love was our Lord’s meaning.” Julian had long desired three gifts from God: “the mind of his passion, bodily sickness in youth, and three wounds—of contrition, of compassion, of will-full longing toward God.” Her illness brought her the first two wounds, which then passed from her mind. The third, “will-full longing” (divinely inspired longing), never left her. She became a recluse, an anchoress, at Norwich soon after her recovery from illness, living in a small dwelling attached to the Church of St. Julian. Even in her lifetime, she was famed as a mystic and spiritual counselor and was frequently visited by clergymen and lay persons, including the famous mystic Margery Kempe. Kempe says of Julian: “This anchoress was expert in knowledge of our Lord and could give good counsel. I spent much time with her talking of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Lady Julian’s book is a tender and beautiful exposition of God’s eternal and all-embracing love, showing how his charity toward the human race is exhibited in the Passion. Again and again she referred to Christ as “our courteous Lord.” Many have found strength in the words the Lord had given her: “I can make all things well; I will make all things well; I shall make all things well; and thou canst see for thyself that all manner of things shall be well.”
Excerpt from The Revelations of Divine Love, “To motherhood as properties belong natural love, wisdom and knowledge — and this is God. For though it is true that our bodily bringing forth is very little, low, and simple compared to our spiritual bringing forth, yet it is he who does the mothering in the creatures by whom it is done. The natural loving mother, who recognizes and knows the need of her child, takes care of it most tenderly, as the nature and condition of motherhood will do. And continually, as the child grows in age and size, she changes what she does, but not her love. When the child has grown older, she allows it to be punished, breaking down vices to enable the child to receive virtues and grace. This work, with all that is fair and good, our Lord does in those by whom it is done. Thus he is our mother in nature, by the working of grace in the lower part of love for the higher. And he wills that we know it, for he wills to have all our love fastened to him. In this I saw that all the debts we owe, by God’s command, to fatherhood and motherhood by reason of God’s fatherhood and motherhood, are repaid in the true loving of God. This blessed love Christ works in us. And this was showed in everything, especially in the noble, plenteous words, where he says, ‘I am what you love.'”
Collect: Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
9 May. Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop and Theologian, (330-389). The son of a local bishop, Gregory was born in Cappadocia, a district in the central part of the Roman province of Asia Minor (now Turkey). Gregory loved God, the art of letters, and the human race—in that order. He studied rhetoric in Athens with his friend Basil of Caesarea, and Julian, later to be the apostate emperor. Gregory, together with Basil, compiled an anthology of the work of the great Alexandrian theologian and biblical commentator, Origen, The Philokalia. Two years later, he returned to his home at Nazianzus, a town then rent by heresies and schism. His defense of his father’s orthodoxy in the face of a violent mob brought peace to the town and prominence to Gregory. In 361, against his will, Gregory was ordained priest, and settled down to live an austere, disciplined life. He was not to have peace for long. Basil, in his fight against the Arian Emperor Valens, compelled Gregory to become Bishop of Sasima. According to Gregory, it was “a detestable little place without water or grass or any mark of civilization.” He felt, he said, like “a bone flung to the dogs.” His friendship with Basil suffered a severe break. Deaths in his family, and that of his estranged friend Basil, brought Gregory himself to the point of death. He withdrew for healing. In 379, Gregory moved to Constantinople, a new man and no longer in despair. He appeared as one afire with the love of God. His fame as a theologian rests on The Five Theological Orations he delivered during the fall of 380 on the doctrine of the Trinity. They are marked by clarity, strength, and a charming gaiety, and led to his being known among the Fathers of the church as “The Theologian.” The next year, the new Emperor Theodosius entered Constantinople, and expelled its Arian bishop and clergy. Then, on a rainy day, the crowds in the Great Church of Hagia Sophia acclaimed Gregory bishop of Constantinople, after a ray of sunlight suddenly shone on him. Power and position meant nothing to Gregory. After the Ecumenical Council of 381, he retired to Nazianzus, where he died in 389. Gregory was not a prolific writer: he never composed any learned dogmatic treatise, nor a biblical commentary. His literary bequest consists solely of orations, poems, and letters. In his prose as well as in his verse, he always remains the great rhetorician, with a perfection in form and style unattained by any of his Christian contemporaries. Of an exquisite sensibility, he was avid for sympathy and for friendship, but could find, if not happiness, at least a tolerable condition, only in solitude. There, opening his heart, he found God and peace. Gregory, although he distinguished the value proper to consecrated virginity and the way in which it contains in embryo all the separations of monasticism, was sensitive to the positive values of marriage and of a life woven around family ties. For Gregory, the purpose of Christianity is to cause us to live the divine life in Christ, as Christ made our human life his own in the flesh. In this regard, he follows St. Athanasius in understanding that God was made man in Christ, so that man might be divinized. According to Gregory, this divinization is the fruit of the incarnation, but is actually realized by our association with the cross of the Savior, when we share in his glorification. To the extent that we have been transformed into God through the operation of the Holy Spirit, we shall be able to see God more clearly, who in his essence remains beyond the comprehension of any finite creature.
The Hymn to God by St. Gregory Nazianzen, translated by John McGuckin.
You are above all things
and what other way can we rightly sing of you?
How can words sing your praise
when no word can speak of you?
How can the mind consider you
When no mind can ever grasp you?
You alone are unutterable
from the time you created all things that can be spoken of.
You alone are unknowable
From the time you created all things that can be known.
All things cry out about you,
those which speak, and those which cannot speak.
All things honor you,
those which think, and those which cannot think.
For there is one longing, one groaning, that all things have for you.
All things pray to you that comprehend your plan
and offer you a silent hymn.
In you, the One, all things abide
and all things endlessly run to you
who are the end of all.
And you are the One, and All, and none of them –
being not one thing, not all things.
You who bear all names,
How shall I name you, who cannot be named?
What heavenly mind can penetrate
those veils above the clouds?
You who are greater than all things
For what other way can we rightly sing of you?
Collect: Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
9 May. Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, Prophetic Witness, (1700-1760). Nicolaus von Zinzendorf was a Count of the Holy Roman Empire who always had more interest in religious matters than in affairs of court. Following studies at the pietist center of Halle, he developed his own “theology of the heart,” which placed great emphasis on a close personal relationship with the suffering Savior. This “heart religion” was not just inner emotion, however, but was to result in a life totally devoted to the Savior. “All of life becomes a liturgy,” said Zinzendorf, and even the most mundane task can be an act of worship. Always a champion of the underdog, he granted asylum to Czech Protestant exiles. Following a unifying experience on August 13, 1727, in their settlement of Herrnhut on his estate, the old church of the Unitas Fratrum or Bohemian Brethren was reborn and developed a rich liturgical and devotional life. This Moravian Church as it came to be called launched pioneer mission work, first in the Caribbean and then around the world. Zinzendorf himself became a bishop, and devoted his personal fortune to furthering the work of the church. He was an early advocate of ecumenism, and in America he attempted to bring Protestant denominations together in the “Pennsylvania Synods.” He was not a systematic theologian, but produced numerous theological writings, widely read in Germany. In addition to these, he was a prolific hymn writer, and many of his hymn texts remain in use today in the Moravian Church and beyond. His view of the church is summed up in his stanza:
Christian hearts, in love united, seek alone in Jesus rest;
has he not your love excited? Then let love inspire each breast.
Members on our Head depending, lights reflecting him, our Sun,
brethren—his commands attending, we in him, our Lord, are one.
(Moravian Book of Worship 1995: 673)
Collect: God of life made new in Christ, you call your Church to keep on rising from the dead: We remember before you the bold witness of your servant Nicolaus von Zinzendorf, through whom your Spirit moved to draw many in Europe and the American colonies to faith and conversion of life; and we pray that we, like him, may rejoice to sing your praise, live your love and rest secure in the safekeeping of the Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
13 May. Frances Perkins, Public Servant and Prophetic Witness, (1880-1965). Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve a President of the United States as a member of the cabinet. Born in Boston and educated at Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University, Perkins was passionate about the social problems occasioned by the continuing effects of industrialization and urbanization. As a young adult she discovered the Episcopal Church and was confirmed at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois, on June 11, 1905, and was a faithful and active Episcopalian for the remainder of her life. After moving to New York, she became an advocate for industrial safety and persistent voice for the reform of what she believed were unjust labor laws. This work got the attention of two of New York’s governors, Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt, in whose state administrations she took part. President Roosevelt appointed her to a cabinet post as Secretary of Labor, a position she would hold for twelve years. As Secretary of Labor, Perkins would have a major role in shaping the “New Deal” legislation signed into law by President Roosevelt and which had great impact upon the nation as it emerged from the Great Depression of the early 1930’s. During her years of public service, Frances Perkins depended upon her faith, her life of prayer, and the guidance of her church for the support she needed to assist the United States and its leadership to face the enormous problems of the time. During her time as Secretary of Labor, she would take time away from her duties on a monthly basis and make a retreat with the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor in nearby Catonsville, Maryland. Following her public service she became a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University. She remained active in teaching, social justice advocacy, and in the mission of the Episcopal Church until her death in 1965.
Excerpt from a 1962 speech on The Roots of Social Security: ”When I asked what I was to speak about today, the suggestion was made I talk about the roots, or beginnings, of the Social Security Act. So I have thought about the roots. I suppose the roots — the idea that we ought to have a systematic method of taking care of the material needs of the aged — really springs from that deep well of charitableness which resides in the American people, and the efforts and the struggles of charity workers and social workers to handle the problems of people who were growing old and had no adequate means of support. Out of this impulse to be kind to the poor sprang, I suppose, a mulling of ideas about social insurance for the aged. But those people who were doing it didn’t know that it was social insurance. They just kept thinking that something definite, something that people could look forward to, would be a great asset and a great assistance to them in their work. Even De Tocqueville, in his memoirs of his visit to America, mentioned he thought was a unique state of mind of the American people: That they were so honestly concerned about their poor and did so much for them personally. It was not an organization; it was not a national action; it was not a State action; it was not Government. It was personal action that De Tocqueville mentioned as being characteristic of the American people. They were so generous, so kind, so charitably disposed”
Collect: Loving God, we bless your Name for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency. Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
16 May. The Martyrs of the Sudan. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” the third-century North African teacher, Tertullian, once wrote. And in no place is that observation more apt than in Sudan, Africa’s largest country, and a land long torn by violence. British policy in the late nineteenth century was to arbitrarily divide the vast country between a Muslim North and a multiethnic South, limiting Christian missionary activity largely to the latter, an artificial division that has created enduring problems. Since independence, on January 1, 1956, three civilian governments and three military dictatorships have ruled a country that has experienced forty-one years of civil war. During the 1980s Sudan’s internal armed conflict assumed an increasingly religious character, fueled by a northern-dominated Islamic government imposing authoritarian political control, Islam as the state religion, a penal code based on Sharia law, and restrictions on free speech and free assembly. On May 16, 1983, a small number of Episcopal and Roman Catholic clerical and lay leaders declared they “would not abandon God as they knew him.” Possibly over two million persons, most of them Christians, were then killed in a two-decade civil war, until a Comprehensive Peace Treaty was signed in January 2005. During those years, four million southern Christians may have been internally displaced, and another million forced into exile in Africa and elsewhere. Yet despite the total destruction of churches, schools, and other institutions, Sudanese Christianity, which includes four million members of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, has both solidified as a faith community, and gradually expanded at home and among refugees, providing steadfast hope in often-desperate setting. This hymn, written by Sudanese children in exile in Ethiopia, reflects both the tragedy and depth of faith of Sudan’s Christians:
Look upon us, O Creator who has made us.
God of all peoples, we are yearning for our land.
Hear the prayer of our souls in the wilderness.
Hear the prayer of our bones in the wilderness.
Hear our prayer as we call out to you.
Collect: O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
17 May. William Hobart Hare, Bishop of Niobrara, and of South Dakota, (1838-1909). William Hobart Hare was a missionary bishop to the Niobrara Territory and later the first bishop of South Dakota. Hare was born in Princeton, New Jersey. Although he studied at the University of Pennsylvania, he never received a degree and prepared for ordination without attending seminary. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1859 and to the priesthood in 1862. He served St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s, Chestnut Hill, both in Philadelphia. He moved to Minnesota in 1863 with the hope that a different climate would improve his wife’s failing health. It was there that he first came into contact with Native Americans, an encounter that would change his life and shape his vocation. Hare returned to Philadelphia in 1867 to become the Rector of the Church of the Ascension, but his personal interest in the church’s ministry among Native Americans never waned. In 1871, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church created the Missionary District of Niobrara encompassing much of the Dakotas. A year later, the House of Bishops elected Hare to become the Bishop of Niobrara and he was ordained to the episcopate on January 9, 1873. Bishop Hare, often referred to as “The Apostle to the Sioux,” devoted himself to work among the Native Americans in the vast expanse of the Niobrara Territory. Well ahead of his time in his approach to mission work, Hare believed it was important to honor as much of the tradition and culture of the people as possible. His desire was not to destroy the fabric of Sioux culture, but to bring the gospel into the midst of it so that the people could also come to know Jesus. Instead of suppressing the customs of the people, he saw them as vessels that could communicate God’s grace. In 1883, the House of Bishops divided the Missionary District of Niobrara into the districts of North and South Dakota. Bishop Hare from that point took responsibility for what would become the Diocese of South Dakota.
Excerpt from Reminiscences: An Address Delivered at a Service Commemorative of the Fifteenth Anniversary of his Consecration (1888): “From the first, therefore, I struggled against the notion that we were missionaries to Indians alone and not missionaries to all men; I pressed the study of the English language and its conversational use in our schools, and, however imperfect my efforts, the aim of them has been to break down ‘the middle wall of partition’ between whites and Indians, and to seek not the welfare of one class or race, but the common good. The character of the work to be done appears from the fact that the Indians with whom the Mission has had to deal were some of the most reckless and the wildest of our North American Tribes, and scattered over a district some parts of which were twelve days’ travel distant from others. So desolate was the country that on one of my trips I remember not seeing a human face or a human habitation, not even an Indian lodge, for eight days. Emissaries of evil had reached the Indians long before the Missionaries of the Cross appeared. ‘All the white men
that came before you,” replied a chief, said that they had come to do us good, but they stole our goods and corrupted our women; and how are we to know that you are different?’”
Collect: Wakantanka, Holy God, you called your servant William Hobart Hare to bear witness to you throughout the vast reaches of the Niobrara Territory, bearing the means of grace and the hope of glory to the peoples of the Plains: We give you thanks for the devotion of those who received the Good News gladly, and for the faithfulness of the generations who have succeeded them. Strengthen us with your Holy Spirit that we may walk in their footsteps and lead many to faith in Jesus Christ, in whom the living and the dead are one; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
17 May. Thurgood Marshall, Lawyer and Jurist, (1908-1993). Thurgood Marshall was a distinguished American jurist and the first African American to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Marshall attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Pushed toward other professions, Marshall was determined to be an attorney. He was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School due to its segregationist admissions policy. He enrolled and graduated magna cum laude from the Law School of Howard University in Washington. Marshall began the practice of law in Baltimore in 1933 and began representing the local chapter of the NAACP in 1934, eventually becoming the legal counsel for the national organization. He won his first major civil rights decision in 1936, Murray v. Pearson, which forced the University of Maryland to open its doors to blacks. At the age of 32, Marshall successfully argued his first case before the United States Supreme Court and went on to win 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the court. As a lawyer, his crowning achievement was arguing successfully for the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in 1954. The Supreme Court ruled that the “separate but equal” doctrine as unconstitutional and ordered the desegregation of public schools across the nation. President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall as the 96th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1967, a position he held for 24 years. Marshall compiled a long and impressive record of decisions on civil rights, not only for African Americans, but also for women, Native Americans, and the incarcerated; he was a strong advocate for individual freedoms and human rights. He adamantly believed that capital punishment was unconstitutional and should be abolished. During his years in Washington, Marshall and his family were members of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, where he was affectionately known as “The Judge.” He is remembered as “a wise and godly man who knew his place and role in history and obeyed God’s call to follow justice wherever it led.”
Excerpt from Thurgood Marshall’s Bicentennial Speech: “No doubt it will be said, when the unpleasant truth of the history of slavery in America is mentioned during this bicentennial year, that the Constitution was a product of its times, and embodied a compromise which, under other circumstances, would not have been made. But the effects of the Framers’ compromise have remained for generations. They arose from the contradiction between guaranteeing liberty and justice to all, and denying both to Negroes. The original intent of the phrase, “We the People,” was far too clear for any ameliorating construction. Writing for the Supreme Court in 1857, Chief Justice Taney penned the following passage in the Dred Scott case, on the issue whether, in the eyes of the Framers, slaves were ‘constituent members of the sovereignty, and were to be included among “We the People”: ‘We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race …; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit …. [A]ccordingly, a Negro of the African race was regarded … as an article of property, and held, and bought and sold as such. [N]o one seems to have doubted the correctness of the prevailing opinion of the time.” And so, nearly seven decades after the Constitutional Convention, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the prevailing opinion of the Framers regarding the rights of Negroes in America. It took a bloody civil war before the l3th Amendment could be adopted to abolish slavery, though not the consequences slavery would have for future Americans. While the Union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not. In its place arose a new, more promising basis for justice and equality, the 14th Amendment, ensuring protection of the life, liberty, and property of all persons against deprivations without due process, and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws. And yet almost another century would pass before any significant recognition was obtained of the rights of black Americans to share equally even in such basic opportunities as education, housing, and employment, and to have their votes counted, and counted equally. In the meantime, blacks joined America’s military to fight its wars and invested untold hours working in its factories and on its farms, contributing to the development of this country’s magnificent wealth and waiting to share in its prosperity. What is striking is the role legal principles have played throughout America’s history in determining the condition of Negroes. They were enslaved by law, emancipated by law, disenfranchised and segregated by law; and, finally, they have begun to win equality by law. Along the way, new constitutional principles have emerged to meet the challenges of a changing society. The progress has been dramatic, and it will continue. The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 could not have envisioned these changes. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendent of an African slave. ‘We the People’ no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of ‘liberty,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘equality,’ and who strived to better them. And so we must be careful, when focusing on the events which took place in Philadelphia two centuries ago, that we not overlook the momentous events which followed, and thereby lose our proper sense of perspective.”
Collect: Eternal and ever-gracious God, you blessed your servant Thurgood with exceptional grace and courage to discern and speak the truth: Grant that, following his example, we may know you and recognize that we are all your children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, who teaches us to love one another; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
19 May. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, (909-988). In the ninth century, under King Alfred the Great, England had achieved considerable military, political, cultural, and even some ecclesiastical recovery from the Viking invasions. It was not until the following century that there was a revival of monasticism. In that, the leading figure was Dunstan. Dunstan was born into a family with royal connections. He became a monk and in 943 was made Abbot of Glastonbury. During a year-long political exile in Flanders, he encountered the vigorous currents of the Benedictine monastic revival. King Edgar recalled Dunstan to England in 957, appointed him Bishop of Worcester, then of London; and, in 960, named him Archbishop of Canterbury. Together with his former pupils, Bishops Aethelwold of Winchester and Oswald of Worcester (later of York), Dunstan was a leader of the English Church. All three have been described as “contemplatives in action” — bringing the fruits of their monastic prayer-life to the immediate concerns of Church and State. They sought better education and discipline among the clergy, the end of landed family interest in the Church, the restoration of former monasteries and the establishment of new ones, a revival of monastic life for women, and a more elaborate and carefully ordered liturgical worship. This reform movement was set forth in the “Monastic Agreement,” a common code for English monasteries drawn up by Aethelwold about 970, primarily under the inspiration of Dunstan. It called for continual intercession for the royal house, and emphasized the close tie between the monasteries and the crown. This close alliance of Church and State, sacramentalized in the anointing of the King, was expressed liturgically in the earliest English coronation ceremony of which a full text survives, compiled for King Edgar by Dunstan and his associates. The long-term effects of this tenth-century reform resulted in the development of two peculiarly English institutions: the “monastic cathedral,” and “monk-bishops.” Dunstan is reputed to have been an expert craftsman. His name is especially associated with the working of metals and the casting of bells, and he was regarded as the patron saint of those crafts.
Excerpt from Eadmer of Canterbury, The Lives and Miracles of Saints Oda, Dunstan, and Oswald: “And so the festive day began to break on which the Lord, the Son of God, our God, victoriously ascended to heaven after conquering death [the Feast of the Ascension], and Dunstan, having finished the night Office, was alone in the church of our Savior at Canterbury and was fixed in total concentration on Christ as he reflected upon such a joyous event. While he was doing this he looked up and, behold, a countless multitude of men in white, wearing golden crowns upon their heads and gleaming with unimaginable brightness, burst in through the doors of the church and stood gathered together in a group all around Dunstan and with one voice they rendered words of greeting to him in this way: ‘Greetings, beloved Dunstan, greetings. The Son of God, whom you piously desire, orders, if you are prepared, that you should come with us and celebrate this day, whose joys you yearn for with undivided love, thankfully and joyously in his court.’ Dunstan was not at all disturbed by their faces and voices, and asked who they might be. ‘We are the Cherubim and Seraphim,’ they said, ‘and we would like to know how you wish to respond to these things.’ Then Dunstan, in a devout state of heart and mind, and rendering due thanks for such great favor with suppliant voice, said: ‘You know, O holy and blessed spirits, what honor, what hope, what joy occurred on this day for the human race through the ascension of Jesus Christ, Lord and God of everyone. You know, nonetheless, that it is my duty on this day to refresh the sheep of that same Lord of mine, who have been entrusted to me, with the bread of eternal life and to tell them by what path they ought to follow him, where he has gone before. Moreover, many people have assembled on this account and I must not let them down in such an important matter. For this reason, I cannot come today to where you have invited me.’ They replied: ‘Well then, ensure that on the Sabbath you are ready to travel with us from here to Rome and to sing ‘Holy, holy, holy’ forever before the supreme pontiff. He agreed with what they had proposed”, and they vanished from his sight.”
Collect: O God of truth and beauty, you richly endowed your bishop Dunstan with skill in music and the working of metals, and with gifts of administration and reforming zeal: Teach us, we pray, to see in you the source of all our talents, and move us to offer them for the adornment of worship and the advancement of true religion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
20 May. Alcuin, Deacon, and Abbot of Tours, (730-804). Alcuin was born near York into a noble family related to Willibrord, the first missionary to the Netherlands. He was educated at the cathedral school in York under Archbishop Egbert, a pupil of Bede. He thus inherited the best traditions of learning and zeal of the early English Church. After ordination as a deacon in 770, he became head of the York school. Following a meeting in 781 with the Emperor Charlemagne in Pavia (Italy), he was persuaded to become the Emperor’s “prime minister,” with special responsibility for the revival of education and learning in the Frankish dominions. Alcuin was named Abbot of Tours in 796, where he died on May 19,
804, and was buried in the church of St. Martin. Alcuin was a man of vast learning, personal charm, and integrity of character. In his direction of Charlemagne’s Palace School at Aachen, he was chiefly responsible for the preservation of the classical heritage of western civilization. Schools were revived in cathedrals and monasteries, and manuscripts of both pagan and Christian writings of antiquity were collated and copied. Under the authority of Charlemagne, the liturgy was reformed, and service books gathered from Rome were edited and adapted. To this work we owe the preservation of many of the Collects that have come down to us, including the Collect for Purity at the beginning of the Holy Eucharist.
Letter to Bishop Higbald of Lindisfarne, after the church had been sacked by Vikings in 793: “To Bishop Higbald and the whole community of the church of Lindisfarne, good sons in Christ of a most blessed father, the holy Bishop Cuthbert, Alcuin, a deacon, sends greeting and blessing in Christ. When I was with you your loving friendship gave me great joy. Now that I am away your tragic sufferings daily bring me sorrow, since the pagans have desecrated God’s sanctuary, shed the blood of saints around the altar, laid waste the house of our hope and trampled the bodies of the saints like dung in the street. I can only cry from my heart before Christ’s altar: ‘O Lord, spare thy people and do not give the Gentiles thine inheritance, lest the heathen say, ‘Where is the God of the Christians?’’ What assurance can the churches of Britain have, if Saint Cuthbert and so great a company of saints do not defend their own? Is this the beginning of the great suffering, or the outcome of the sins of those who live there? It has not happened by chance, but is the sign of some great guilt. You who survive, stand like men, fight bravely and defend the camp of God. Remember how Judas Maccabaeus cleansed the Temple and freed the people from a foreign yoke. If anything needs correction in your way of gentleness, correct it quickly. Recall your patrons who left you for a season. It was not that they lacked influence with God, but they were silent, we know not why. Do not glory in the vanity of dress; that is cause for shame, not boasting, in priests and servants of God. Do not blur the words of your prayers by drunkenness. Do not go out after the indulgences of the flesh and the greed of the world, but stand firm in the service of God and the discipline of the monastic life, that the holy fathers whose sons you are may not cease to protect you. May you remain safe through their prayers, as you walk in their footsteps. Do not be degenerate sons, having such fathers. They will not cease protecting you, if they see you following their example. Do not be dismayed by this disaster. God chastises every son whom he accepts, so perhaps he has chastised you more because he loves you more. Jerusalem, a city loved by God was destroyed, with the Temple of God, in Babylonian flames. Rome, surrounded by its company of holy apostles and countless martyrs, was devastated by the heathen, but quickly recovered through the goodness of God. Almost the whole of Europe has been denuded with fire and sword by Goths and Huns, but now by God’s mercy is as bright with churches as the sky with stars and in them the offices of the Christian religion grow and flourish. Encourage each other, saying, ‘Let us return to the Lord our God, for he is very forgiving and never deserts those who hope in him.’ And you, holy father, leader of God’s people, shepherd of a holy flock, physician of souls, light set on a candle-stick, be a model of all goodness to all who can see you, a herald of salvation to all who hear you. May your community be of exemplary character, to bring others to life, not to damnation. Let your dinners be sober, not drunken. Let your clothes befit your station. Do not copy the men of the world in vanity, for vain dress and useless adornment are a reproach to you before men and a sin before God. It is better to dress your immortal soul in good ways than to deck with fine clothes the body that soon rots in dust. Clothe and feed Christ in the poor, that so doing you may reign with Christ. Redemption is a man’s true riches. If we loved gold we should send it to heaven to be kept there for us. We have what we love: let us love the eternal which will not perish. Let us love the true, not the transitory, riches. Let us win praise with God, not man. Let us do as the saints whom we praise. Let us follow in their footsteps on earth, to be worthy to share their glory in heaven. May divine goodness keep you from all adversity and bring you, dear brothers, to the glory of the heavenly kingdom with your fathers. When our lord King Charles returns from defeating his enemies, by God’s mercy, I plan to go to him, and if I can then do anything for you about the boys who have been carried off by the pagans as prisoners or about any other of your needs, I shall make every effort to see that it is done. Fare well, beloved in Christ, and be ever strengthened in well-doing.”
Collect: Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
21 May. John Eliot, Missionary among the Algonquin, (1604-1690). John Eliot, known as “The Apostle to the Indians,” was born at Widford in Hertfordshire, England. Educated at Cambridge, Eliot’s nonconformist beliefs brought him into conflict with the tenets of the established church, and he departed for New England in 1631. Eliot arrived in Boston later that year and became the pastor of a church in Roxbury. During his tenure as pastor in Roxbury he became concerned with the welfare of the native populations and he learned Algonquin language. After two years of study he began preaching to them in their own language. Like Roger Williams before him, Eliot had learned the native language and preached to the local tribes, but unlike Williams, Eliot devoted his entire life’s work to preaching the Gospel to the native people. In 1649, by act of Parliament, a Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating of the Gospel among the Indians of New England was set up, and with the financial backing of the English government, Eliot built a native settlement at Natick. The native people were provided with food, clothing, homes, and education, and in 1660 the first Indian church in New England was founded. During this time, Eliot began his monumental translation of the English Bible into the Algonquin language. Starting with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, he was able to complete translations of the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew with the financial support of the Corporation for the Propagating of the Gospel. In 1661, his Algonquin New Testament was published, a copy of which was sent to King Charles II, and finally, in 1663, his complete translation of the Bible was published. Eliot would revise his translation several times after most copies had been destroyed in the Indian Wars of 1670, along with many of the Indian settlements he established. Eliot wrote a number of other books before his death, including a grammar of the Algonquin language. His work was vital to the studies of many linguists after him who were interested in Native American languages.
Letter to Reverend Hanmer at Barnstable in Devonshire: “Reverend and deare Sir, I have received your letters dated March 12, 1651, wherin the Lord hath made you an unexpected instrument, and messenger of incouragment, and supply unto this work of the Lord among these poore Indians, and that, it may be when expected helps may be more slow; that so the Lord might please to shew himself the onely guide, and provider for his people in all theire wayes. I desire to acknowledge the Lord herein, who hath never failed me in this work of his. It is meete that I should informe you of the state of this work, that your prayres may be, with the more particular faith and fervor, be breathed forth at the throne of grace, in the behalfe of this work, and those which labour therin. I cannot be so particular as I would, by reason of streights of time, the ship being quickly to saile after I have received your letters. If the Lord give you oportunity of goeing to Excester, or of intercourse with reverend Mr. Nicols, by him you may heare somewhat more then I can now wright unto your selfe. The reverend ministers, and christian people there, having bene these two years contribuitors towards this work, and by whose supply, a great part of the work for the civile part in charges and expences, hath bene caryed on. After several years preching to them, the Lord opened theire hearts to desire baptisme to scale up pardon of theire sinne, and to desire church estate, and ministry, whereby to injoy all Gods ordinances, and to
injoy cohabitation, and civile government, as subservient unto, and greatly conducing unto these spiritual wayes, and mercys. In this order they have bene taught, they must have visible civility, before they can rightly injoy visible sanctitie in ecclesiastical communion. Henc we looked out a place fitt for to begin a towne, where a competent number of people might have subsistenc together. In the yeare 1650 we began that work through rich grace. In the yeare 1651 in a day of fasting and prayre, they entered into a covenant with God, and each other, to be ruled by the Lord in all theire affaires civilie, makeing the Word of God theire only magna charta, for government, laws, and all conversation. And chose rulers of tennes, fifties, and of an hundred. The platforme of which holy government of Gods owne institution, I have sent over this yeare unto Mr. Nicols with the reverend elders in Exon. And if the Lord give you opertunity, I should gladly wish your selfe might also have a sight of it, that I might receive your animadversions on it. But in my poore thoughts, I apprehend it would be a mercy to England, if they should in this terme of lines, take up that forme of government, which is a divine institution, and by which Christ should reigne over them, by the word of his mouth. But I forget myselfe, I am speaking of the Indians, whom I desire to traine up, to be the Lords people only, ruled by his Word in all things. And the Lord hath blessed them in this theire government, and guided them in judgment. This present yeare the Lord seemeth to ripen and prepare them for holy church covenant whereby they give up themselves to be governed by the Lord ecclesiastically, in all his ordinances, and church administrations. But I shall walk by good advise before I doe this. They are now building themselves a meeting house, which when it is made, it may please the Lord to call them forth to be built a spirituall house unto the Lord. Touching what you say of my wrighting for a supply of books for my brother Mahu, it is true I did so. But soone after the Lord was pleased to offer a comfortable supply both to him, and me also. For I bought two librarys of two ministers who left us, and they are both paide for, by the corporation in London, and my brother Mahu hath bene possessed of his a good while. Besides, the reverend elders, ministers of Exon have sent unto us new supply, and this yeare they sent unto us the second edition of the new annotations upon the whole bible, so that through the riches of Gods bounty he is now supplyed, but what particular books he may further want, I cannot tell. Sir you make mention of a liberal gift of a religious gentleman, whose name I hope I shall hereafter know, that I may expresse my thankfulnesse in a few lines unto him.” … But I can now goe no further. I doe humbly blesse the Lord for the prayres that are made in all the churches, in the behalfe of this work, and us that labour in it. I beg for the continuanc thereoff, and so commending you and all your holy labours unto the Lord, and to the blessing of his grace I rest. Your unworthy fellow labourer in the gospell of Christ, Roxbury this 19th of the 5th, 1652. John Eliot.”
Collect: Great Creator, source of mercy, we thank you for the imagination and conviction of your evangelist, John Eliot, who brought both literacy and the Bible to the Algonquin people, and reshaped their communities into fellowships of Christ to serve you and give you praise; and we pray that we may so desire to share your Good News with others that we labor for mutual understanding and trust; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
23 May. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Johannes Kepler, Astronomers, (1571-1630). Nicolaus Copernicus first studied law and medicine before serving as a cleric under the direction of his uncle, the Bishop of Warmia (in northeastern Poland). Copernicus first set forth his heliocentric theory of astronomy in a small work called the Commentariolus, which was not published until 1878. His argument that the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of the universe around which the planets rotated was developed fully in his 1543 opus De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium. The initial ecclesiastical reaction to his revolutionary theory was somewhat muted, but when his thought was further developed by Galileo, the religious debate was intensified, and De Revolutionibus was placed on the index of banned books. Copernicus had originally dedicated his work to the Pope, and he saw no conflict between his theory and the authority of Scripture. Among those chiefly responsible for the solidifying of Copernicus’ theories was the German astronomer Johann Kepler. Born nearly a century after Copernicus, Kepler was first educated at Tübingen, where he received instruction in Copernican theory. His first major work on Copernican astronomy was the Mysterium Cosmographicum, in which he believed he had demonstrated God’s geometric plan for the universe. Kepler saw in the relation between the sun and the rotating planets the image of God himself, and like Copernicus, he saw no conflict between his astronomical views and the account of God in the Scriptures. Kepler is chiefly known for his discovery of the laws of planetary motion, set forth variously in his later works. Though their works were each controversial in their own way, Copernicus and Kepler laid the groundwork for modern astronomy. Kepler’s work was even influential on Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation. Both men, through their life’s work, testified to the extraordinary presence of God in creation and maintained, in the face of both religious and scientific controversy, that science can lead us more deeply into an understanding of the workings of the Creator.
Excerpt from the Preface of The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, addressed to Pope Paul III: “I have no doubt that acute and learned astronomers will agree with me if, as this discipline especially requires, they are willing to examine and consider, not superficially but thoroughly, what I adduce in this volume in proof of these matters. However, in order that the educated and uneducated alike may see that I do not run away from the judgement of anybody at all, I have preferred dedicating my studies to Your Holiness rather than to anyone else. For even in this very remote comer of the earth where I live you are considered the highest authority by virtue of the loftiness of your office and your love for all literature and astronomy too. Hence by your prestige and judgement you can easily suppress calumnious attacks although, as the proverb has it, there is no remedy for a backbite. Perhaps there will be babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject and, badly distorting some passage of Scripture to their purpose, will dare to find fault with my undertaking and censure it. I disregard them even to the extent of despising their criticism as unfounded. For itis not unknown that Lactantius, otherwise an illustrious writer but hardly an astronomer, speaks quite childishly about the earth’s shape, when he mocks those who declared that the earth has the form of a globe. Hence scholars need not be surprised if any such persons will likewise ridicule me. Astronomy is written for astronomers. To them my work too will seem, unless I am mistaken, to make some contribution also to the Church, at the head of which Your Holiness now stands. For not so long ago under Leo X the Lateran Council considered the problem of reforming the ecclesiastical calendar. The issue remained undecided then only because the lengths of the year and month and the motions of the sun and moon were regarded as not yet adequately measured. From that time on, at the suggestion of that most distinguished man, Paul, bishop of Fossombrone, who was then in charge of this matter, I have directed my attention to a more precise study of these topics. But what I have accomplished in this regard, I leave to the judgement of Your Holiness in particular and of all other learned astronomers.”
Collect: As the heavens declare your glory, O God, and the firmament shows your handiwork, we bless your Name for the gifts of knowledge and insight you bestowed upon Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler; and we pray that you would continue to advance our understanding of your cosmos, for our good and for your glory; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
24 May. Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, (1789-1870). When the General Convention of 1835 made all the members of the Episcopal Church members also of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, it provided at the same time for missionary bishops to serve in the wilderness and in foreign countries. Jackson Kemper was the first such bishop. Although he was assigned to Missouri and Indiana, he laid foundations also in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas, and made extensive missionary tours in the South and Southwest. Kemper was born in Pleasant Valley, New York. He graduated from Columbia College in 1809, and was ordained deacon in 1811, and priest in 1814. He served Bishop White as Assistant at Christ Church, Philadelphia. At his urging, Bishop White made his first and only visitation in western Pennsylvania. In 1835, Kemper was ordained bishop, and immediately set out on his travels. Because Episcopal clergymen, mostly from well-to-do Eastern homes, found it hard to adjust to the harsh life of the frontier—scorching heat, drenching rains, and winter blizzards—Kemper established Kemper College in St. Louis, Missouri, the first of many similar attempts to train clergymen, and in more recent times lay persons as well, for specialized tasks in the Church. The College failed in 1845 from the usual malady of such projects in the church—inadequate funding. Nashotah House, in Wisconsin, which he founded in 1842, with the help of James Lloyd Breck and his companions, was more successful. So was Racine College, founded in 1852. Both these institutions reflected Kemper’s devotion to beauty in ritual and worship. Kemper pleaded for more attention to the Indians, and encouraged the translation of services into native languages. He described a service among Oneida Indians which was marked by “courtesy, reverence, worship—and obedience to that Great Spirit in whose hands are the issues of life.” From 1859 until his death, Kemper was diocesan Bishop of Wisconsin. He is more justly honored by his unofficial title, “The Bishop of the Whole Northwest.”
Collect: Lord God, in your providence Jackson Kemper was chosen first missionary bishop in this land, and by his arduous labor and travel congregations were established in scattered settlements of the West: Grant that the Church may always be faithful to its mission, and have the vision, courage, and perseverance to make known to all people the Good News of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
25 May. Bede, the Venerable, Priest, and Monk of Jarrow, 735). At the age of seven, Bede’s parents brought him to the nearby monastery at Jarrow (near Durham in northeast England) for his education. There, as he later wrote, “spending all the remaining time of my life … I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, teaching, and writing.” Bede was ordained deacon at nineteen, and priest at thirty. He died on the eve of the Ascension while dictating a vernacular translation of the Gospel according to John. About 1020 his body was removed to Durham, and placed in the Galilee, the Lady Chapel at the west end of the Cathedral nave. Bede was the greatest scholar of his time in the Western Church. He wrote commentaries on the Scriptures based on patristic interpretations. His treatise on chronology was standard for a long time. He also wrote on orthography, poetic meter, and especially on history. His most famous work, The Ecclesiastical History of England, written in Latin, remains the primary source for the period 597 to 731, when Anglo-Saxon culture developed and Christianity triumphed. In this work, Bede was clearly ahead of his time. He consulted many documents, carefully evaluated their reliability, and cited his sources. His interpretations were balanced and judicious. He also wrote the History of the Abbots (of Wearmouth and Jarrow), and a notable biography of Cuthbert, both in prose and verse. His character shines through his work—an exemplary monk, an ardent Christian, devoted scholar, and a man of pure and winsome manners. He received the unusual title of Venerable more than a century after his death. According to one legend, the monk writing the inscription for his tomb was at a loss for a word to fill out the couplet:
Hac sunt in fossa
(This grave contains
the— blank—Bede’s remains)
That night an angel filled in the blank: Venerabilis.
Collect: Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship: Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
26 May. Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605). Although Christianity had existed in Britain before the invasions of Angles and Saxons in the fifth century, Pope Gregory the Great decided in 596 to send a mission to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. He selected, from his own monastery on the Coelian hill in Rome, a group of monks, led by their prior, Augustine. They arrived in Kent in 597, carrying a silver cross and an image of Jesus Christ painted on a board, which thus became, so far as we know, “Canterbury’s first icon.” King Ethelbert tolerated their presence and allowed them the use of an old church built on the east side of Canterbury, dating from the Roman occupation of Britain. Here, says the Venerable Bede, they assembled “to sing the psalms, to pray, to say Mass, to preach, and to baptize.” This church of St. Martin is the earliest place of Christian worship in England still in use. Probably in 601, Ethelbert was converted, thus becoming the first Christian king in England. About the same time, Augustine was ordained bishop somewhere in France and named “Archbishop of the English Nation.” Thus, the see of Canterbury and its Cathedral Church of Christ owe their establishment to Augustine’s mission, as does the nearby Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul, later re-named for Augustine. The “chair of St. Augustine” in Canterbury Cathedral, however, dates from the thirteenth century. Some correspondence between Augustine and Gregory survives. One of the Pope’s most famous counsels to the first Archbishop of Canterbury has to do with diversity in the young English Church. Gregory writes, “If you have found customs, whether in the Roman, Gallican, or any other Churches that may be more acceptable to God, I wish you to make a careful selection of them, and teach the Church of the English, which is still young in the faith, whatever you can profitably learn from the various Churches. For things should not be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things.” This counsel bears on the search for Christian “unity in diversity” of the ecumenical movement of today. Augustine died on May 26, probably in 605.
Collect: O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations: We bless your holy Name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
27 May. Bertha and Ethelbert (560-616), Queen and King of Kent, (539-612). Christianity had been known in Britain among the Celts since the third century, but in the fifth century the southeast was invaded by pagan Anglo-Saxons who drove the Celts north and west into Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Ethelbert succeeded his father as Saxon king of Kent in 560. He was, according to the Venerable Bede, a fair ruler and the first English King to promulgate a code of law. Brisk cross-channel trade with France exposed Ethelbert to Roman customs and luxuries. His admiration for the Frankish ways led him to marry a French Christian princess, Bertha. Although not a Christian himself, Ethelbert promised Bertha’s father that she could practice her faith. Good to his word, he welcomed her chaplain and granted him an old Christian mausoleum to convert into the Church of St. Martin, which still stands today. In 597, the Roman mission to England under Augustine arrived. When he first heard the Gospel, Ethelbert was cautious and unconvinced. However, his fair-mindedness and hospitality were evident in his welcome to Augustine: “The words and promises you bring are fair enough, but because they are new to us and doubtful, I cannot accept them and forsake those beliefs which I and the whole English race have held so long. But as you have come on a long pilgrimage and are anxious, I perceive, to share with us things which you believe are true and good, we do not wish to do you harm; on the contrary, we receive you hospitably and provide what is necessary for your support; nor do we forbid you to win all you can to your faith and religion by your preaching.” The following Pentecost, Ethelbert was baptized, becoming the first Christian King in England. Though he helped the missionaries and founded cathedrals and churches throughout southeastern England, including Canterbury Cathedral, he never coerced his people, or even his children, into conversion. Bertha’s kind and charitable nature and Ethelbert’s respect for law and the dignity of individual conscience represent, to this day, some of the best of the English Christian spirit.
Collect: God our ruler and guide, we honor you for Queen Bertha and King Ethelbert of Kent who, gently persuaded by the truth of your Gospel, encouraged others by their godly example to follow freely the path of discipleship; and we pray that we, like them, may show the goodness of your Word not only by our words but in our lives; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
28 May. John Calvin, Theologian, (1509-1564). John Calvin was the premier theologian and leader of the Reformed wing of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin was born in France in 1509 and reared in a devout Roman Catholic family. He excelled at his studies and by the age of 19 he had earned a master’s degree. His father wanted him to study law, which he did for a time, but Calvin’s own passions were theology, languages, rhetoric, and the literary sciences. Around 1534, he underwent a major conversion experience, left the Roman Church, and devoted the rest of his life to the evangelical cause of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin’s greatest work is The Institutes of the Christian Religion, first published in 1536, but repeatedly updated and revised until its final edition in 1559. Unlike Luther and Zwingli, whose theological writings were “situational” in the sense of addressing particular conflicts, Calvin’s Institutes were a more systematic treatment of the whole of Reformed evangelical theology. By taking up his reforming agenda fifteen years after Luther and Zwingli, Calvin was able to write in a more reflective and considered mode, beyond the crossfire and immediacy of the early years of the Reformation. Standard themes in Reformed theology—the sovereignty of God, election and predestination, the true nature of the Christian life, and the proper understanding of the authority of Scripture — even now bear strong Calvinist qualities. The Institutes continue to be an accessible window into the Reformed theology of the sixteenth century. Calvin was also interested in theological principles’ controlling the civil state by imposing moral discipline on the people. His efforts in Geneva to establish such a theocratic moral code enjoyed periods of modest success but were met with resistance as well. Positively, Calvin’s theocratic principles of public life led to the creation of hospitals, care for the poor, orphans, widows and the infirm, provisions for better sanitation, and the creation of new industries to employ the people. Calvin’s Geneva was also a safe haven for John Knox and other Protestants of the Reformed tradition during times of unrest and exile.
Excerpt from the Institutes of Christian Religion, (Chapter 2): “Having seen that the dominion of sin, ever since the first man was brought under it, not only extends to the whole race, but has complete possession of every soul, it now remains to consider more closely, whether from the period of being thus enslaved, we have been deprived of all liberty; and if any portion still remains, how far its power extends. In order to facilitate the answer to this questions it may be proper in passing to point out the course which our inquiry ought to take. The best method of avoiding error is to consider the dangers which beset us on either side. Man being devoid of all uprightness, immediately takes occasion from the fact to indulge in sloth, and having no ability in himself for the study of righteousness, treats the whole subject as if he had no concern in it. On the other hand, man cannot arrogate any thing, however minute, to himself, without robbing God of his honor, and through rash confidence subjecting himself to a fall. To keep free of both these rocks, our proper course will be, first, to show that man has no remaining good in himself, and is beset on every side by the most miserable destitution; and then teach him to aspire to the goodness of which he is devoid, and the liberty of which he has been deprived: thus giving him a stronger stimulus to exertion than he could have if he imagined himself possessed of the highest virtue.”
Collect: Sovereign and holy God, you brought John Calvin from a study of legal systems to understand the godliness of your divine laws as revealed in Scripture: Fill us with a like zeal to teach and preach your Word, that the whole world may come to know your Son Jesus Christ, the true Word and Wisdom; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, ever one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
30 May. Joan of Arc, Mystic and Soldier, 1431). Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was born the daughter of peasant stock in France in 1412. Called the “Maid of Orleans,” she was a religious child, and at a young age she began to experience spiritual visions, which she described as voices emerging from a powerful flash of light. She believed that Saint Michael and Saint Catherine, among other saints, called her to save France from the civil war between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy. At first, her visions were looked upon skeptically, but she eventually convinced King Charles VII, the not yet consecrated King of France, of the genuineness of her visions. In consultation with several of his theologians, Charles decided to allow Joan to lead an expedition to Orleans. According to legend, she wore a suit of white armor and carried a banner bearing the symbol of the Trinity and the words “Jesus, Maria.” Charles’ troops were inspired and won the battle for their city. She convinced Charles to proceed to Reims for his coronation and she stood at his side throughout the ceremony. Joan was eventually taken prisoner by Burgundian troops and sold to the English. In 1431, she returned to France, appeared before the Bishop of Beauvais, and was tried at Rouen on charges of witchcraft and heresy. Her visions were declared “false and diabolical” and she was forced to recant. Later that year, however, she was tried and condemned as a relapsed heretic and burnt to death at Rouen. In 1456, following an appeal of her trial, Pope Callistus III declared her to have been falsely accused. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. Although her efforts were unsuccessful in ending civil war in France, she inspired later generations with her faith, her heroism, and her commitment to God and to her King. She is today one of the patron saints of France.
Letter from Joan of Arc to the Hussites of Bohemia: “For a long time now, common knowledge has made it clear to me, Joan the Maiden, that from true Christians you have become heretics and practically on a level with the Saracens. You have eliminated the valid faith and worship, and have taken up a disgraceful and unlawful superstition; and while sustaining and promoting it there is not a single disgrace nor act of barbarism which you would not dare. You corrupt the sacraments of the Church, you mutilate the articles of the Faith, you destroy churches, you break and burn statues which were created as memorials, you massacre Christians unless they adopt your beliefs. What is this fury of yours, or what folly and madness are driving you? You persecute and plan to overthrow and destroy this Faith which God Almighty, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have raised, founded, exalted, and enlightened a thousand ways through a thousand miracles. You yourselves are blind, but not because you’re among those who lack eyes or the ability to see. Do you really believe that you will escape unpunished, or are you unaware that the reason God does not hinder your unlawful efforts and permits you to remain in darkness and error, is so that the more you indulge yourselves in sin and sacrileges, the more He is preparing greater suffering and punishments for you. For my part, to tell you frankly, if I were not busy with the English wars, I would have come to see you long before now; but if I don’t find out that you have reformed yourselves I might leave the English behind and go against you, so that by the sword – if I can’t do it any other way – I will eliminate your false and vile superstition and relieve you of either your heresy or your life. But if you would prefer to return to the Catholic faith and the original light, then send me your ambassadors and I will tell them what you need to do; if not however, and if you stubbornly wish to resist the spur, keep in mind what damages and crimes you have committed and await me, who will mete out suitable repayment with the strongest of forces both human and Divine. Given at Sully on the 23rd of March, to the heretics of Bohemia.”
Collect: Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor you for the calling of Joan of Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Joan, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
31 May. Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast commemorates the visit of the Blessed Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth, recorded in the Gospel according to Luke (1:39–56). Elizabeth, who was then carrying John the Baptist, greeted Mary with the words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary broke into the song of praise and thanksgiving which we call the Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” In this scene, the unborn John the Baptist, the prophet who was to prepare the way of the Lord, rejoices in the presence of him whose coming he is later to herald publicly to all Israel, for the Gospel records that when Mary’s greeting came to her kinswoman’s ears, the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. This feast arose within the Franciscan Order from their devotion to the earthly life of Christ, was championed by St. Bonaventure, and was extended to the universal church by Pope Urban VI in 1389.
From a Homily by Saint Bede the Venerable: “‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’ With these words, Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favors, bestowed unceasingly on the human race. When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power an greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his savior and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation. These words are often for all God’s creations, but especially for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her savior, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her son and her Lord. ‘For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’ Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him. She did well to add: ‘and holy is his name’, to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: ‘and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ The is the name she spoke of earlier: ‘and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’ Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.”
Sequence from the older Latin Rite celebration of the Visitation:
“Let us celebrate on this day
The feast in the house of Zacharias
With praises of joy.
Let us contemplate what had been done there,
And from that feast shall happen a feast
Now in the house of the Church.
As a subject for this feast
We consider the grace
Of rich charity,
Which had received, as it is written,
Made fertile in her old age.
All the world shall rejoice,
And venerate with the whole heart
This sweet visit,
The kindness of a compassionate heart,
The great humility of her station,
The holy comfort.
At the entry of Mary
The spirit of prophecy
Enlightens child and mother.
The happy mother, comforted and
Strengthened, gives birth to
The long-due son.
Therefore, Sion, praise the reason for this feast,
The Mother of God,
Out of thy whole heart.
Whatever thou mayest say about the kind lady
In the songs we owe to her
Is less than sufficient.
O visitor in the mountains,
Be also a visitor in these plains
For the mother Church.
Through the gift of Grace,
Which human power cannot achieve,
May she become Christian medicine.
Thou blessed amongst women,
Star of the see, true light
Comfort the mourning clergy,
Enlighten the people.
Grant, that we may enjoy
The blessed fruit of thy womb.
That we may always be his
In everlasting glory. Amen.
Collect: Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.