July 31 – Ignatius of Loyola

From the Bible

Read Luke 15:1-6

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.  Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy.  And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?”  But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.  Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?”  And they could not reply to this.

About Ignatius

“Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.”

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”  (Ignatius of Loyola)

The quotes above from Ignatius of Loyola are among his most famous and they sum up the practicality and ambition that he lived out after his conversion to Christianity. Those of us who are Protestants probably haven’t been given much information about Ignatius because he was a strong opponent of the Reformation in the 1500s and vigorously supported (some would argue blindly) the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at the time. None of us gets everything right and this lasting division of the Church has proven itself to be deeply problematic for centuries. Much is lost if we refuse to listen to one another. Ignatius became a powerful leader in the Church of his day and was the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. His writings have become a wonderful guide to many who seek Jesus. He was a devoted follower who took his early experiences as a soldier prior to his conversion and applied all the good lessons he learned to the work of discipleship. His Spiritual Exercises is a 200 page text designed to be simple and helpful to people who desire to find God everywhere. We celebrate his Saint’s Day on July 31, the day he died in 1556.

Nice spirituality site with extensive biography resources: [link]

July 11 – Benedict of Nursia

From the Bible

Read 1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

benedict-icon-full1About Benedict of Nursia

Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547?)  was born in North Central Italy (the Umbria province) when the Asian hordes were pulling much of the region back into violence with their war and pillaging.  His  biographer, St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record  the dates of his birth and death, though he refers to a  Rule written by  Benedict.  According to  Gregory’s Dialogues Benedict’s parents sent him to Rome for classical studies but he found the life of the city too degenerate  for his tastes.  Consequently he fled to a place southeast of Rome called  Subiaco where he lived as a hermit. There he was then discovered by a group of monks who prevailed upon him to become their spiritual leader. His rule soon became too much for the lukewarm monks so they plotted to poison him. Gregory recounts the tale of Benedict’s rescue; when he blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine, it broke into many pieces.

Benedict left the wayward monks and established twelve monasteries with  twelve monks each in the area south of Rome.  Later, perhaps in 529, he moved to Monte Cassino, about eighty miles  southeast of Rome; there he destroyed the pagan temple dedicated to Apollo and built his premier monastery.  It was there too  that he wrote the Rule for the monastery of Monte Cassino, though he  envisioned that it could be used elsewhere. Gregory presents Benedict  as the model of a saint who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God. Through a balanced pattern of living  and praying Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the glory of God.   Gregory recounts a vision that Benedict received toward the end of his  life:  In the dead of night he suddenly beheld a flood of light shining down from above more brilliant than the sun, and with it every  trace of darkness cleared away.  According to his own description, the  whole world was gathered up before his eyes “in what appeared to be a  single ray of light” (ch. 34).  St. Benedict, the monk par excellence,  led a monastic life that reached the vision of God.

Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism – a few centuries after Monasticism began in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Palestine.  His genius was to put the forms of the East into an accessible format that was warm and flexible. He was mostly the leader of a community, not a scholar.  The Rule is  the sole known example of Benedict’s writing, but it shows his genius to crystallize the best of the monastic tradition and to pass it on to Europe. The Benedictine vows are basically “obedience, stability, and conversion of life.”  He helped formalize a movement of the Spirit into “a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to order nothing harsh or rigorous.” These “schools” that soon dotted Europe were centers of light and stability for centuries. Benedict, and the subsequent monks in his tradition, are known for both prayer and labor (ora et labora).

Some of the stories about Benedict told by Gregory can be found here [link].

Quotes:

The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.

Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.

Prayer ought to be short and pure, unless it be prolonged by the inspiration of Divine grace

More on Benedict of Nursia:

Catholic Encyclopedia [link]

Christianity Today [link]

Order of St. Benedict [link]

July 6 — Jan Hus

From the Bible

Read Matthew 10:16-31

On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say

Hus Memorial -- Prague

Hus Memorial — Prague

About Jan Hus

Jan Hus was born in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) in about 1371. By 1400 he was a priest and about to become part of the University in Prague.

He helped launch a vigorous reform of the church in a particularly difficult time in Europe’s history. It was in the middle of what is known as the Great Schism. The King of France moved the seat of the Papacy from Rome to Avignon. Rival popes were elected. Sides were taken and battles were fought. The Council of Constance from 1414 to 1418 was called to solve the issue.

In the middle of this Jan Hus denounced various church practices in his sermons, taking his lead from the famous John Wycliffe of England (the ‘morning star of the Reformation”). For instance, Hus thought it was unbiblical for the wine of communion to be reserved for the priest. He whole-heartedly accepted the practice of the church worshipping in the Czech language, rather than in Latin. He argued that “laypeople” had an important role to play in the administration of the Church and that Christ was the true head of the Church, not the Pope. He thought church officials should not be earthly governors.

After the death of Pope Alexander V (an antipope), a crusade against the practices of granting indulgences started, of which Hus was also a part. He produced writings that are said to be directly taken from Wycliffe’s writings, notably: De ecclesia (The Church). In them he argued that no Pope or Bishop had the right to raise a sword in the name of Church. He insisted that people attained forgiveness only by repentance, not Papal indulgence. His followers publicly burned Papal communiques (“bulls”) and believed that Hus’ sayings should be followed, to rather than those of the Church hierarchy. As a result, in 1412 Jan Hus was excommunicated for insubordination.

Diebold Schilling's Spiezer Chronik (1485)

Diebold Schilling’s Spiezer Chronik (1485)

In 1414 he was summoned to the Council of Constance, with the Emperor guaranteeing his personal safety even if found guilty. He was tried, and ordered to recant certain heretical doctrines. He replied that he had never held or taught the doctrines in question, and was willing to declare the doctrines false, but not willing to declare on oath that he had once taught them. The one point on which Hus could be said to have a doctrinal difference with the Council was that he taught that the office of the pope did not exist by God’s command, but was established by the Church so that things might be done in an orderly fashion. The Council, having just narrowly succeeded in uniting Western Christendom under a single pope after years of chaos, was not about to have its work undone. So it found him guilty of heresy, and he was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

Hus’ approach to being the church was human, Bible centered, and spiritual.  To partisans on both sides of the Schism, his views seemed idealistic at best, and at worst a dreamy anarchism or heresy. Throughout all the controversy that followed his teaching he maintained a creative loyalty to the church while challenging its pathologies. His death helped give birth to the Moravian Church. That group held the light out for his prophecy to be fulfilled: it is claimed that he said, “In one hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous “Ninety-five Theses of Contention” to the church door in Wittenberg. Before he died in flames, Hus is said to have stated: “It is better to die well than to live wickedly … Truth conquers all things.”

More on Hus? http://www.tlogical.net/biohuss.htm

June 18 – Vernard Eller

From the Bible

Read John 10:14-18

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

About Vernard Eller

Vernard Eller (died this day in 2007) was an Anabaptist scholar, author, and teacher during some of the the most trying eras for peacemakers and simplicity practitioners – the latter half of the 20th Century.  He was part of the Church of the Brethren (“cousins” to the Brethren in Christ) and most of his presence was on the West Coast part of that family.

His most famous works are The Mad Morality and Christian Anarchy: Jesus’ Primacy Over the Powers.  He was known as an effective and practical interpreter of radicals like Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Jacques Ellul.  Eller was an open critic of materialism and nationalism in the Church as well as a vocal advocate for simplicity, reducing possessions, radical sharing of wealth, and nonviolent conflict resolution.

“The primary thrust of my life has been to try to bring into focus four different elements not often seen as even being compatible: a strong Christian commitment; solid thought and scholarship; clear and powerful communication; and true wit and humor,” Eller in a 1980 issue of “Messenger” magazine.

“To put the matter simply the problem with today’s congregations is that they are usually far more concerned to ‘be’ somewhere than to ‘get’ somewhere; to establish and consolidate a secure position, rather than to push on toward a goal.But according to the New Testament, stability and security are precisely ‘not’ what God intended for the church. Instead, Eller believes, the church should be a do-it-yourself, de-institutionalized, de-professionalized people in a caravan – a community of the outward bound.” from The Outward Bound: Caravaning as the Style of the Church

More on Vernard Eller:

A Christianity Today post the week after his death [link]

A short article “The Lord’s Supper is Not a Sacrament” [link]

Wikipedia article for Christian Anarchism [link]

 

June 9 – Columba

From the Bible

Read Jude 1:3-16

These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind;autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.  They are wild waves of the sea,foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

About Columba

Columba is a “saint” who still, after almost fifteen hundred years, exerts an appeal upon our imaginations. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland.

Born in Ireland, on December 7, 521 A.D. to Fedhlimidh and Eithne of the Ui Neill clan in Gartan (Donegal), he was of the blood royal, and might indeed have become High King of Ireland had he not chosen to be a priest.

As a young man, Columba soon took an interest in the church, joined the monastery at Moville, and was ordained a deacon by St. Finnian. After studying with a bard called Gemman, Columba was ordained a priest by Etchen, the bishop of Clonfad. Columba entered the monastery of Mobhi Clarainech, and when disease forced the disbanding of that monastery, Columba went north and founded the church of Derry.

Tradition has it that after founding several other monasteries, Columba copied St. Finnian’s psalter without the permission of Finnian, and thus devalued the book. When Finnian took the matter to High King Dermott for judgement, Dermott judged in favor of Finnian, stating “to every cow its calf; to every book its copy”. Columba refused to hand over the copy, and Dermott forced the issue militarily. Columba’s family and clan defeated Dermott at the battle of Cooldrevny in 561.

Tradition further holds that St. Molaisi of Devenish, Columba’s spiritual father, ordered Columba to bring the same number of souls to Christ that he had caused to die as pennance.

He came from Ireland to Scotland, to the colony of Dalriada founded on the west coast by his fellow Irish Scots who were at that time somewhat oppressed by the dominant Picts. With twelve companions he founded his monastery on Iona in the year 563. These Celtic monks lived in communities of separate cells, but Columba and his companions combined their contemplative life with extraordinary missionary activity.

Amongst his many accomplishments, Columba was a splendid sailor. He sailed far amongst the islands and travelled deep inland, making converts and founding little churches. In Ireland he had already, it is said, founded a hundred churches.

Of all the Celtic saints in Scotland, Columba’s life is much the best documented, because manuscripts of his Life, written by St Adamnan, one of his early successors as abbot of Iona, have survived.

Columba was a poet as well as a man of action. Some of his poems in both Latin and Gaelic have come down to us, and they reveal him as a man very sensitive to the beauty of his surroundings, as well as always, in St Adamnan’s phrase, ‘gladdened in his inmost heart by the joy of the Holy Spirit.’

He died on June 9 in the year 597.

More?

You tube history on Celtic saints [link]

Columba and Loch Ness [link]

Columba (and others) and the Book of Kells [Part 1 link] [Part 2 link]

May 26 – Bede

From the Bible

Read Philemon 1:4-7

 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,  because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.  I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.  

About Bede

“The Venerable Bede” died on this day in 735.   He is widely recognized as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon scholars. When he was seven Bede was sent to Benedict Biscop at the monastery of St Peter at Wearmouth for his education, when he was nine he moved to Jarrow, Northumbria, where he would live out the rest of his days. Saint Bede became a deacon at age 19 and priest at 30.

Eventually being named as the first native of the British Isles to be named by the Pope as Doctor of the church (in 1899).  His most famous work, which is a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity, is Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum or The Ecclesiastical History of the English People which was completed in 731 AD. It is the first work of history in which the AD system of dating is used.

Much of Bede’s observations and writings were focused on the natural world.  His scholarship is notably advanced because of his ability to weave together fragments into coherent works with very limited resources.

From his most famous work: “The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”

Try this quote on: “Better a stupid and unlettered brother who, working the good things he knows, merits life in Heaven than one who though being distinguished for his learning in the Scriptures, or even holding the place of a doctor, lacks the bread of love.”

Want to read Bede’s groundbreaking book? http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book1.asp

More from English people who love him? http://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/history/bede, http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/people/bede.htm

Additions from Orthodox Wiki: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Bede

May 16 – Brendan

From the Bible Read James 4:14-15

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

About Brendan the Navigator

Saint Brendan (c. 484 – c. 577) was an Irish monastic called “the Navigator”, “the Voyager”, and “the Bold.” A man who understood his calling to walk in vulnerability in an extreme way.  He and some companions went out onto the Atlantic Ocean in search of the Island of Paradise.  They searched for 7 years and had many adventures along the way.  The chronicle of Brendan’s journey became a medieval blockbuster and much later some decided that Brendan had actually made it to the America’s in his leather bound boat.  Brendan put himself at the mercy of God as a spiritual adventurer.  He quested.  May we quest so boldly toward new waters with God.  May we face the fears of the deep and unknown so faithfully.

St. Brendan’s Prayer

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?

Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honour? Shall I throw myself wholly upon You, without sword or shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on?Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?

Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?

Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean? O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?

O Christ, will You help on the wild waves?

Want more?

Launch on St. Brendan’s Day http://rodwhitesblog.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/launch-on-st-brendans-day/

From St. Brendan’s monsatery in Maine http://www.saintbrendans-online.org/SaintBrendan.dsp