Sep 27 – Vincent DePaul

Sep 27 - Vincent DePaul

Vincent DePaul
Helper of the Poor
27 September 1660

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Vincent de Paul was born in Gascony in about 1580, of peasant stock. He was an intelligent lad, and his father sent him off to be educated. He was ordained at twenty, and at first was interested chiefly in a successful career. But when he was thirty, he accepted a post as chaplain and tutor in the household of Philip de Gondi, Count of Joigny. This brought him into contact with the peasants on the Gondi estate, and he became concerned for their needs, physical and spiritual. A peasant who believed himself to be dying confessed to him that his previous confessions for many years had been dishonest. Vincent began to preach in the local church on confession, repentance, forgiveness, and the love of God. His sermons drew such crowds of penitents that he had to call in a group of other priests to assist him. He took on the pastorship of a neighboring church attended by a more fashionable and aristocratic crowd, and there he likewise drew many of his listeners to repentance and amendment of life. Returning to Paris, he worked among the prisoners destined for the galleys who were being held at the Conciergerie.

(A reader asked whether “galleys” was a misprint for “gallows”. No, until fairly recently (certainly into the 1820’s) French convicts were often sentenced to pull the oars on ships. There is a an essay on the subject by the historian W H (Warren) Lewis (brother of C.S. Lewis) in the book Essays Presented To Charles Williams, Oxford U Press, about 1945. The best known account is in the novel Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, which contains several long essays on the galley system. Hugo’s novels often have long sections where the action stops completely, while the author explains to the reader some aspect of French culture or history. The novelist Ayn Rand, who considers Hugo the world’s greatest novelist, complains that these sections affect her like commercials interrupting a television drama. It seems an odd complaint from the author of Atlas Shrugged, but I digress.)

In 1625 he established the Congregation of the Mission (now known as the Vincentians, or the Lazarists), a community of priests who undertook to renounce all ecclesiastical advancement and devote themselves to work in the small towns and villages of France. In an age not noted for “interdenominational courtesy,” he instructed his missioners that Protestants were to be treated as brothers, with respect and love, without patronage or condescension or contentiousness. Wealthy men and women came to him, expressing a wish to amend their lives, and he organized them into a Confraternity of Charity, and set them to work caring for the poor and sick in hospitals and in home visits. In 1633 the Archbishop or Paris gave him the Priory of St Lazare as a headquarters. There he offered retreats six times a year for those who were preparing for the ministry. These lasted two weeks each, and each involved about eighty students. He then began to offer similar retreats for laypersons of all classes and widely varying backgrounds. He said (identifying Lazarus of the Parable with Lazarus of Bethany):

This house was formerly used as a retreat for lepers, and not One of them was cured. Now it is used to receive sinners, who are sick men coveed with spiritual leprosy, but are cured by the grace of God. Nay, rather, they are dead men brought back to life. What a joy it is to think that the house of St Lazare is a house of resurrection! Lazarus, after he had been four days in the tomb, came out alive, and our Lord who raised him up still gives the same grace to many who, after staying here some days as in the grave of Lazarus, come out with a new life.

Out of his Confraternity of Charity there arose an order of nuns called the Daughters (or Sisters) of Charity, devoted to nursing those who were sick and poor. He said of them, “Their convent is the sick-room, their chapel the parish church, their cloister the streets of the city.” Many babies were abandoned in Paris every year, and when Vincent saw some of them, he established an orphanage for them, and thereafter often wandered through the slums, looking in corners for abandoned babies, which he carried back to the orphanage.

He complained to the King that ecclesiastical posts were distributed simply as political favors, and that the spiritual qualifications of the appointees were simply ignored. The King responded by creating a Council of Conscience to remedy the matter, with Vincent at the head. On one occasion, a noblewoman of the court, furious with Vincent because he refused to nominate her son for a position as bishop, threw a stool at him. He left the room with a stream of blood pouring from his forehead, and said to a companion who was waiting for him, “Is it not wonderful how strong a mother’s love for her son can be?” He died 27 September 1660.

by James Kiefer

Sep 27 – Thomas Traherne

Sep 27 - Thomas Traherne

Thomas Traherne
Priest + Poet
27 September 1674

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Thomas Traherne, MA (1636 or 1637, Hereford, England – ca. October 10, 1674, Teddington) was an English poet and religious writer. His style is often considered Metaphysical.

Traherne was an inconsequential literary figure during his life, whose works were unappreciated until long after his death. He led a humble, devout life, largely sheltered from the literary community. Only one of his works, Roman Forgeries (1673), was published in his lifetime. Christian Ethicks (1675) followed soon after his death, and later A Serious and Patheticall Contemplation of the Mercies of God (1699); but after that much of his finest work was lost, corrupted or misattributed to other writers.

The discoveries responsible for his renewed vindication as a theologian, beside the poems, are four complete Centuries of Meditation, short paragraphs embodying reflexions on religion and Christian morals. Some of these, evidently autobiographical in character, describe a childhood from which the “glory and the dream” was slow to depart. Of the power of nature to inform the mind with beauty, and the ecstatic harmony of a child with the natural world, the earlier poems, which contain his best work, are full. In their manner, as in their matter, they remind the reader of William Blake and William Wordsworth. The poems on childhood may well have been inspired by Vaughan’s lines entitled The Retreat. He quotes George Herbert‘s “Longing” in the newly discovered Lambeth Manuscript. His poetry is essentially metaphysical and his workmanship is uneven, but the collection contains passages of great beauty.

His poems were published in Poems (1903) and Centuries of Meditations (1908). The Select Meditations were only published in 1997. In 1996 and 1997, another of Traherne’s manuscripts were discovered in the Folger Library in Washington DC by Julia Smith and Laetitia Yeandle. A second was discovered in Lambeth Palace Library in London by Jeremy Maule. The Ceremonial Law, from the Folger library, is an unfinished epic poem of over 1,800 lines. The Lambeth Manuscipt contains four, and a fragmentary fifth, mainly prose works known as: Inducements to Retiredness, A Sober View of Dr Twisse, Seeds of Eternity, The Kingdom of God and the fragment Love. … These two finds are a primary contributing factor to why Traherne is now being considered as much as a theologian as a poet.

—  more at Wikipedia



Sep 26 – Wilson Carlile

Sep 26 - Wilson Carlile

Wilson Carlile
Priest + Founder of Church Army
26 September 1942

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From the Satucket Lectionary 

Wilson CarlileWilson Carlile was born in 1847 in Brixton. He suffered from a spinal weakness all his life, which hampered his education. He entered his grandfather’s business at the age of thirteen but soon moved on and learnt fluent French, which he used to good advantage in France trading in silk. He later learned German and Italian to enhance his business, but was ruined in a slump in 1873. After a serious illness, he began to take his religion more seriously and became confirmed in the Church of England. He acted as organist to Ira D Sankey, during the Moody and Sankey missions and in 1881 was ordained priest, serving his curacy at St Mary Abbots in Kensington, together with a dozen other curates. The lack of contact between the Church and the working classes was a cause of real concern to him and he began outdoor preaching. In 1882, he resigned his curacy and founded the Church Army, four years after the foundation of the Salvation Army. He continued to take part in its administration until a few weeks before his death on this day [26 September] in 1942.

[Source: Report on the Calendar, Lectionary and Collects, 2000, by The Liturgical Commision of the Church of England, July 1995. Additional information is available from Wikipedia]


Sep 25 – Sergius of Moscow

Sep 25 - Sergius of Moscow

Sergius of Moscow
Abbot – Holy Trinity of Moscow
25 September 1392

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From the Satucket Lectionary

To the people of Russia, Sergius is a national hero and an example of Russian spiritual life at its best.

Pall of St. SergiusSergius was born around 1314, the son of a farmer. When he was twenty, he and his brother began to live as hermits in a forest near Moscow. Others joined them in what became the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, a center for the renewal of Russian Christianity. Pilgrims came from all Russia to worship and to receive spiritual instruction, advice, and encouragement. The Russians were at the time largely subservient to the neighboring (non-Christian) Tatar (or Tartar) people. Sergius rallied the people behind Prince Dimitri Donskoi, who defeated the Tatars in 1380 and established an independent Russia.

Sergius was a gentle man, of winning personality. Stories told of him resemble those of Francis of Assisi, including some that show that animals tended to trust him. He had the ability to inspire in men an intense awareness of the love of God, and a readiness to respond in love and obedience. He remained close to his peasant roots. One contemporary said of him, “He has about him the smell of fir forests.” To this day, the effect of his personality on Russian devotion remains considerable.

(The following material is taken with minor alterations from The Lives of the Saints, by Sabine Baring-Gould, author of the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers. The reader will note that this account was written before the Communist Revolution, at a time when the Czar was still ruler of Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church was the official religion of the country.)

The name of Sergius is as dear to every Russian’s heart as that of William Tell to a Swiss, or that of Joan of Arc to a Frenchman. He was born at Rostoff in the early part of the 14th century, and when quite young left the house of his parents, and, together with his brother Stephen, settled himself in the dense forests of Radonege with bears for his companions, suffering from fierce cold in winter, often from famine. The fame of his virtues drew disciples around him. They compelled him to go to Peryaslavla-Zalessky, to receive priestly orders from Athanasius, Bishop of Volhynia, who lived there. Sergius built by his own labor in the midst of the forest a rude church of timber, by the name of the Source of Life, the Ever Blessed Trinity, which has since grown into the greatest, most renowned and wealthy monastery in all Russia–the Troitzka (=Trinity) Abbey, whose destiny has become inseparable from the destinies of the capital.

Princes and prelates applied to Sergius not only for advice, but also for teachers trained in his school, who might become in their realms and dioceses the heads of similar institutions, centers whence light and wisdom might shine. Tartar invasion had quenched the religious fervor of the Russians: a new era of zeal opened with the foundation of the Troitzka monastery and the labors of Sergius. At the request of Vladimir, Athanasius, a disciple of Sergius, founded the Visotsky monastery at Serpouchoff; and another of his pupils, Sabbas, laid the foundation of the convent of Svenigorod, while his nephew Theodore laid that of Simonoff in Moscow. In the terrible struggle against the Tartars, the heart of the Grand-Prince Demetrius failed him; how could he break the power of this inexhaustible horde which, like the locusts of the prophet Joel, had the garden of Eden before them and left behind them a desolate wilderness? It was the remonstrance, the prayers of Sergius, that encouraged the Prince to engage in battle with the horde on the fields of the Don. No historical picture or sculpture in Russia is more frequent than that which represents the youthful warrior receiving the benediction of the aged hermit. Two of his monks, Peresvet and Osliab, accompanied the Prince to the field, and fought in coats of mail drawn over their monastic habit; and the battle was begun by the single combat of Peresvet with a gigantic Tartar, champion of the Horde.

The two chief convents in the suburbs of Moscow still preserve the recollection of that day. One is the vast fortress of the Donskoi monastery, under the Sparrow Hills. The other is the Simonoff monastery already mentioned, founded on the banks of the Mosqua, on a beautiful spot chosen by the saint himself, and its earliest site was consecrated by the tomb which covers the bodies of his two warlike monks. From that day forth he stood out in the national recollection as the champion of Russia. It was from his convent that the noblest patriotic inspirations were drawn, and, as he had led the way in giving the first great repulse to the Tartar power, so the final blow in like manner came from a successor in his place. In 1480, when Ivan III wavered, as Demetrius had wavered before him, it was by the remonstrance of Archbishop Bassian, formerly prior of the Troitzka monastery, that Ivan too was driven, almost against his will, to the field. “Dost thou fear death?” so he was addressed by the aged prelate. “Thou too must die as well as others; death is the lot of all, man, beast, and bird alike; none avoid it. Give these warriors into my hands, and, old as I am, I will not spare myself, nor turn my back upon the Tartars.” The Metropolitan, we are told, added his exhortations to those of Bassian. Ivan returned to the camp, the Khan of the Golden Horde fled without a blow, and Russia was set free for ever. [Note: The reader will remember that Constantinople (also called New Rome) fell to the Turks in 1453, and thus the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire came to an end. This same Ivan III married the niece of the last Byzantine Emperor, and so claimed for himself a position in the line of Christian Emperors beginning with Constantine, and for Moscow the position of Third Rome, the capital thenceforth of the Christian world.]

Now back to the time of Sergius.

The Metropolitan, Alexis, being eighty-four years old, perceived that his end was approaching, and he wished to give Sergius his blessing and appoint him as his successor. But the humble monk, in great alarm, declared that he could not accept and wear the sacred picture of the Blessed Virgin suspended by gold chains, which the primate had sent him from his own breast on which it had hung. “From my youth up,” said he, “I have never possessed or worn gold, and how now can I adorn myself in my old age?” St. Sergius died at an extremely advanced age in 1392, amidst the lamentations of his contemporaries.

by James Kiefer


Sep 22 – Philander Chase

Illumination - Philander Chase

Philander Chase
22 September 1852

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Philander Chase was born in New Hampshire in 1775. He graduated from Dartmouth, and then entered the ministry in the Episcopal Church. He served congregations in Lake George, Poughkeepsie, New Orleans and Hartford, but felt the calling to preaching on the frontier and so moved west in 1817. He became bishop of Ohio in 1818, and also founded Kenyon College, raising the necessary funds in England. He ran into conflicts, both in his diocese and in the college, and so resigned his positions in 1831 and moved to Michigan. However, the newly-formed diocese of Illinois called him in 1835 to be its bishop, and he served in this position until his death, and as Presiding Bishop from 1843.

Much more can be found on a site devoted to Philander Chase, at Kenyon College. A biography of him is also available from the Internet Archive.

Bp. Philander Chase and his wife.


Sep 21 – Saint Matthew

Illumination - Matthew

Saint Matthew
Apostle + Evangelist
21 September NT

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From the Satucket Lectionary

St. Matthew, after Rubens. From a 19thC illustrated Book of Common PrayerOne day Jesus was walking and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at a tax collection post, and said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Him, and became one of His twelve apostles. (See M 9:9-13 = P 2:13-17 = L 5:27-32) Tax collectors in those days were social outcasts. Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes). Patriotic and nationalistic Jews hated them because they were agents of the Roman government, the conquerors, and hated them with a double hatred if (like Matthew) they were Jews, because they had gone over to the enemy, had betrayed their own people for money. Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

(Jesus numbered among his disciples persons of widely different backgrounds. They included not only Matthew, a former agent of the Roman government, but Simon the Zealot (not to be confused with Simon Peter). Josephus tells us that the Zealots were fanatical nationalists, determined to drive out the Romans by guerrilla tactics, ambushes, assassinations, terrorist methods, or whatever worked. Their motto was, “No king but Messiah, no tax but the Temple, no friend but the Zealot.” It is not clear that Simon was, or had been, a member of the group that Josephus describes, but it seems clear that he would have regarded himself as at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Matthew.)

The name “Matthew” means “gift of the LORD.” Mark and Luke, in the story of his calling, name him “Levi.” Perhaps this was his original name, and he received a new name from Jesus when he became a disciple. (It has also been suggested that he was simply a member of the tribe of Levi.)

Of Matthew’s life after Pentecost the Scriptures tell us nothing. Later accounts of his life vary, some reporting that he was martyred, others that he died a natural death. The Christian community since early times has commemorated him as a martyr.

Whether the Apostle Matthew is also the Evangelist Matthew — that is, whether the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name — is disputed. The Gospel itself does not say who wrote it, but the designation “according to Matthew” is very old. In favor of his authorship it may be noted that (1) while Mark and Luke give the fourth pair of Apostles as “Matthew and Thomas,” the Gospel of Matthew gives them as “Thomas and Matthew”; and (2) while Luke 5:29 explicitly states, and Mark 2:15 suggests, that Matthew gave a banquet for Jesus, Matthew 9:10 in describing the same banquet does not indicate who the host was. Both of these variations would be routine touches of modesty if Matthew was the author.

On the other hand, the gospel (1) does not have the manner of an eyewitness, and (2) is thought by many scholars to contain material borrowed from Mark, whereas one would not expect someone who had been an eyewitness to borrow from someone who had not. (NOTE: The view that Mark is an older Gospel than Matthew is widespread and not long ago many scholars regarded the matter as settled. However, there is respectable opinion holding that Matthew is the earliest Gospel after all. See, for example, the comments in the Matthew volume of The Anchor Bible.)

Perhaps the Gospel was written by some early Christian, not an apostle, whose name was Matthew, and about whom nothing else is known. Early Christian readers, hearing the Gospel ascribed to “Matthew,” would naturally associate it with the Apostle of that name, and so the ascribing of the work to the Apostle Matthew becomes common at an early date, by a perfectly natural misunderstanding.

Papias of Hierapolis, writing in the late first or early second century, says that Matthew compiled the sayings (Logia) of Jesus in Hebrew. Now the material common to Matthew and Luke, but not to Mark, includes sayings of Jesus but almost no narrative. It has therefore been conjectured that there was once a document (usually called Q), now lost, that is basically a collection of speeches by Jesus, and that Matthew (the evangelist) and Luke, had access to it while Mark did not. It has been suggested that Matthew (the apostle) is the author of this document Q, which may well have been first written in Hebrew (or Aramaic).

The Scripture readings associated with the day bear the themes of Matthew as a Gospel-writer (hence readings that speak of the Scriptures), Matthew as an Apostle, and Matthew as a sinner called by God’s grace.

by James Kiefer

Sep 20 – Patteson & Companions

Sep 20. - Patteson & Companions

John Coleridge Patteson, Bishop of Melanesia, & his Companions
20 September 1871

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From the Satucket Lectionary

Engraving of John Coleridge PattesonJohn Coleridge Patteson was born in London in 1827. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, and graduated in 1849. After a tour of Europe and a study of languages, he became a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, in 1852. In 1855, he heard Bishop George Selwyn of New Zealand (see 11 Apr.) call for volunteers to go the South Pacific to preach the Gospel. He went there, and founded a school for the education of native Christian workers. He was adept at languages, and learned twenty-three of the languages spoken in the Polynesian and Melanesian Islands of the South Pacific. In 1861 he was consecrated Bishop of Melanesia.

The slave-trade was technically illegal in the South Pacific at that time, but the laws were only laxly enforced and in fact slave-raiding was a flourishing business. Patteson was actively engaged in the effort to stamp it out. However, injured men do not always distinguish friends from foes. After slave-raiders had attacked the island of Nakapu, in the Santa Cruz group, Patteson and several companions visited the area. They were assumed to be connected with the raiders, and Patteson’s body was floated back to his ship with five hatchet wounds in the chest, one for each native who had been killed in the earlier raid. The death of Bishop Patteson caused an uproar back in England, and stimulated the government there to take firm measures to stamp out slavery and the slave trade in its Pacific territories. It was also the seed of a strong and vigorous Church in Melanesia today. Patteson and his companions died on 20 September 1871.

by James Kiefer

A biography of him is online, thanks to Project Canterbury.