Tag Archives: church

St Patrick

Today is the day we wear green, drink Guinness, and eat corned beef and hoist a pint to the Apostle of Ireland. His feast day is both a religious and cultural holiday.

The dates of his life are not entirely certain but he lived during the fifth century. He was born in Roman Britain possibly in the year 387. His father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest, but Patrick himself was not an active believer. According to his Confession, when he was sixteen he was captured by Irish pirates who took him to the Emerald Isle where he was enslaved for six years tending sheep. This time in captivity proved critical to his spiritual development. God spoke to him and showed him mercy and forgiveness for his ignorance and sin. Through prayer, he strengthened his relationship with God and converted to Christianity. During this time, he also became fluent in the Irish language and culture which would prove key later on. Much like Joseph who sold into slavery in Egypt, God sent Patrick into captivity for a reason. In both cases, people meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. In this case, the conversion of an entire nation and people!

God told him that he would soon be freed and to travel to a distant port where he would find a ship willing to take him to Britain. After escaping from his master, he traveled two hundred miles to the coast where he persuaded a ship captain to let him aboard. After three days sailing, he landed back in Britain and after various adventures, including encountering a herd of wild boar,  he returned home to his family. On his way back to Britain, he was captured again and spent sixty days in captivity in Tours where he discovered French monasticism.

He continued to study Christianity. He studied in Europe, principally at Auxerre, but is thought he visited Marmoutier Abbey at Tours. St. Germanus ordained him. After receiving a vision, he returned to Ireland as a missionary. He founded three hundred churches and baptized 100,000 Irish men, women, and children. He ordained priests to lead the new churches and converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in spite of family opposition. Patrick also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too.

Tradition says that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Trinity, using the three-leafed plant to explain one God in three persons. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and there were a number of triple deities which may have aided him in his efforts to evangelize the Irish when he used the shamrock as a teaching tool.

It also said that he banished all the snakes from Ireland after they attacked him during a forty day fast. The trouble with this account is that Ireland has never had snakes due to the fact that it is too cold. So there were no snakes for him to banish. Yet the story could be metaphorical. Heresy is often depicted in the church as a snake. By converting the Irish to Christianity, he banished paganism from Ireland. So he banished the “snakes” of heresy from the island.

Modern scholars say he died in 460 but Irish historians prefer the later date of 493. Legend has it he was buried in Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, alongside St. Columba and St. Brigid, though that has never been proven.

Interestingly enough, some depictions of him show him wearing blue and that color was the color associated with Ireland. It was until later on, due to Ireland’s deep green hues, that green became the color we now associate with the saint and Ireland.

He is venerated worldwide and is known as the Enlightener of Ireland. He is one of Ireland’s primary saints, along with Sts. Columba and Brigit of Kildare. His influence cannot be understated. Thanks to his efforts, Ireland became the land of saints and scholars.

 

 

Martin of Tours: Soldier for Christ

The following is from my book, Torchbearers: Profiles in Christian Courage.

PROFILE FIVE

MARTIN OF TOURS

Soldier for Christ

(316-397)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the comic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12

We are called to be soldiers for Christ. We are commanded to preach the good news to the ends of the earth and to help establish God’s kingdom here on earth. History is filled with great examples of men and women who have answered that call. St. Martin of Tours is one of them.

The son of pagan Roman officials, Martin was born in Upper Pannonia—present day Hungary—in 331 and was educated in Pavia in northern Italy. He knew from the age of ten that he wanted to become a Christian, but was enrolled in the Imperial cavalry five years later against his will. He had yet to be baptized. This is the basis of his patronage of soldiers and horsemen. On one bitterly cold night at Amiens, he gave half his cloak to a naked and freezing beggar. Soon afterward, he saw a vision of Christ wearing it. This is the basis of his invocation against impoverishment. Martin was finally baptized soon after this.

He asked for a discharge from the army, believing that as a Christian he was not allowed to fight. He was accused of cowardice. His answer was to stand unarmed in the battle line, holding only a cross—at the sight of which the enemy surrendered. MartSt_Martin_Icon_2006in was given his discharge and he left the army in his early 20s to become a disciple of Hilary of Potiers. He later traveled in Italy and Dalmatia. He lived as a hermit for ten years before rejoining Hilary, who encouraged him to found a community of hermit-monks at Liguge, the first monastery is what is now France.

In 372, at the age of 56, he accepted the epicopate of Tours. Though he was reluctant to accept the offer and continued to live as a monk, he was zealous in the discharge of his duties. He was a dedicated missionary to the Franks who adopted military methods to lead an army of monks through the land destroying idols, pagan temples, and graves and preaching the good news to all. He traveled to the remotest parts of his diocese by foot, by donkey and by boat and was a wonder-worker whose miracles included healing lepers and raising a man from the
dead. He later established another great monastic center at Marmoutier.

Martin opposed Arianism and Priscillianism, the two great heresies of his day, but he opposed the practice of putting heretics to death. He unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the execution of Priscillian and others for heresy. He interceded with the emperor Maximus arguing that it was sufficient to declare them heretics and excommunicate them.

Martin, the first great pioneer of Western monasticism, died at Candes near Tours in 397. More than 2,000 monks accompanied his body back to Tours. St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of France and over 4,000 churches in France are named after him.

Martin of Tours’ selfless dedication is an inspiration to us all. Each and every one of us should be zealous in spreading the gospel by using whatever gifts has given us. Not every one of us is called to be preaching on the street corner or to go the remotest parts of the globe. We are all gifted in different ways. But whatever gifting each of us may have, we are all to be about the kingdom’s work. As St. Augustine once said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” Words to live by!

O God, who are glorified in the Bishop Saint Martin both by his life and death, make new, we pray,

the wonders of your grace in our hearts, that neither death nor life may separate us from your love.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Common of Pastors)

St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440)

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Frances of Rome is an Italian saint, wife, mother, mystic,  organizer of charitable work and a Benedictine oblate who founded a religious community of oblates who share a common life without religious vows (still exists today). She is a wonderful example to the church who was faithful to God and remarkable in her charitable work for the poor. She also shows us what happens when we submit to God’s will even when it contrasts with our own.

Frances was born in 1384 in Rome to a wealthy and aristocratic couple in the district of Parione and christened in the nearby Church of St. Agnes on the famed Piazza Novona. When she was eleven, she wanted to become a nun but her parents had other ideas. They had already arranged for her to be married. Her soul was troubled at this point. Yet God granted her a special grace by sending her an archangel to be her guardian angel. The angel questioned her about her motives to become a nun despite her parents’ wishes. Was this honoring to God? She decided to submit to her parents and married Lorenzo Ponziani, commander of the papal troops of Rome and member of an extremely wealthy family. The marriage was a happy one, lasting forty years, partly because Lorenzo admired his wife and partly because he was frequently away at war.

With her sister-in-law, Vannozza, Frances visited the poor and took care of the sick, inspiring other wealthy women of the city to do the same. Soon after her marriage, she fell seriously ill. Her husband called in a man who dabbled in magic but she drove him away. She later recounted that Saint Alexis had appeared to her and cured her.

When her mother-in-law died, Frances became mistress of the household. During a time of flood and famine, she turned part of the family’s country estate into a hospital and she distributed food and clothing to the poor. This angered her father-in-law and he took away her keys to the supply rooms. But then something miraculous occurred: the corn bin and wine barrel were replenished after she finished praying. Upon seeing this, her father-in-law handed the keys back to her. This was also the catalyst for her husband’s conversion.

During the wars of the Great Schism, Lorenzo served the pope in Rome. Their son, Batista, was to be delivered as a hostage to the commander of the Neapolitan troops. Obeying this order on the command of her spiritual director, Frances brought the boy to Campidoglio. Along the way, she stopped in the Church of Aracoeli and entrusted the life of her son to the Blessed Mother. Upon their arrival, the troops put her son on a horse to transport him off to captivity. The horse, however, refused to move despite heavy whipping. The soldiers saw the hand of God in this and returned the boy to his mother.

During a period of exile, much of Lorenzo’s property and possessions were destroyed. In the course of one occupation of Rome by Neapolitan troops, Lorenzo was severely wounded and never fully recovered. Frances nursed him throughout the rest of his life.

She experienced other sorrows as well. She lost two children to the plague. Chaos abounded in Rome in that period of neglect by the pope and ongoing warfare between him and other forces competing for power in Italy. Rome was in ruins and wolves roamed the streets. Once again, Frances saw the opportunity for ministry and responded. She opened her home as a hospital and drove her wagon  through the countryside to collect wood for fire and herbs for medicine. It is said that she had the gift of healing and over sixty cases were attested to during the canonization proceedings.

The Catholic Encyclopedia writes, “With her husband’s consent, Frances practiced continence, and advanced in a life of contemplation. Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly patronages. She had a gift of miracles and ecstasy, as well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning purgatory and hell, and foretold the ending of the Great Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience.”

On August 15, 1425, the Feast of the Assumption, she founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary, a confraternity of pious women, under the authority of the Olivetan monks of Santa Maria Nova in Rome. But these women would neither be cloistered nor bound by formal vows in order so they could follow her pattern of combining a life of prayer with answering the needs of their society.

In March 1433, she founded a monastery at Tor de’ Specchi, near the Campidoglio, in order to allow for a common life by those members of the confraternity who felt called to this. It remains the only house of the Institute. On July 4 of that year, they received the approval of Pope Eugene IV as a religious congregation of oblates with private religious vows. They later became known simply as the Oblates of St. Frances of Rome.

Frances herself remained in her own home, nursing her husband for the last seven years of his life from his battle wounds. When he died in 1436, she moved into the monastery and became their superior. She died in 1440 and was buried in Santa Maria Nova.

On May 9, 1608, she was canonized by Pope Paul V and in the following decades there was a diligent search for her remains, which had been hidden due to the troubled times in which she lived. Her body was found incorrupt some months after her death. Her grave was identified on April 2, 1638 (but this time only the bones remained) and her remains were reburied in the Church of Santa Maria Nova on March 9, 1649, which has since then been her feast day. In 1869, her body was exhumed and has since been on display in a glass coffin for the veneration of the faithful. The Church of Santa Maria Nova is often referred to as the Church of St. Frances.

In 1925, Pope Pious XI declared her the patron saint of automobile drivers because of the account that an angel used to light the road before her with a lantern when she traveled, keeping her safe from hazards. She is honored as the patron saint of oblates. She is also the patron saint of widows.

Frances had an implicit trust in God: suffering from a painful illness, giving away food to the poor and never wavering from her faith when ridiculed. Frances shows us the balance of active life, prayer and works of charity. She believed her family came first and must never be slighted in order to spend more time in prayer or acts of charity. As a Benedictine oblate myself, she certainly serves as an example to me and I hope you as well.

Desire to Work for Others: Katherine Drexel

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Katherine Drexel, born on November 26, 1858 in Philadelphia, was born into the wealthiest families in America. She was the daughter of an investment banker. Her family owned a considerable fortune. Her uncle was the founder of Drexel University. When her father died, he established a trust for his three daughters worth fourteen million dollars. Devout Catholics, all three of them regarded their fortune as an opportunity to glorify God through the service of others.

As a young and wealthy woman, she made her social debut in 1879. However watching her stepmother’s three year battle with cancer taught her money could not save her from pain and death. Her life took a profound turn. She had several marriage proposals. But she decided to give herself and her fortune to God. There were plenty of claims on her generosity. But Katherine felt a special dedication to those who were ignored by the Church, especially blacks and Native Americans. She was appalled by the treatment of Native Americans. She endowed scores of schools on Indian reservations and supported Catholic missions on reservations. She also established 50 missions for Native American in 16 states. In 1878 during a private audience with Pope Leo XIII she begged the pope to send priests to serve the Native Americans. He responded, “Why not become a missionary yourself?” It was another turning point.

Finding no existing religious orders corresponding to her sense of mission, she founded her own: The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. A few months later, the Philadelphia Archbishop Ryan blessed the cornerstone of the motherhouse in Bensalem, PA. In the first of many incidents that indicated not all shared her concern for social justice, a stick of dynamite was discovered near the site. She insisted that her sisters rely on alms, while she reserved her fortune for initiatives such as the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions and the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic College established for black students. Such efforts on behalf of blacks drew the ire of the KKK who made multiple threats. Segregationalists harassed her work even burning a school in Philadelphia. But by 1942, Drexel and her order founded and established a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools.

In 1935, Drexel suffered a heart attack and in 1937 she relinquished the office of superior general. Though becoming gradually more infirm, she was able to devote the rest of her life to Eucharistic adoration and therefore fulfilling her lifelong desire for a contemplative life. Over the course of six decades, Mother Katherine spent about $20 million dollars of her fortune building schools and churches, as well as the paying the salaries of teachers in rural schools for blacks and Indians.

Mother Drexel, whose life spanned the era of slavery and the dawn of the civil rights movement, died on March 3, 1955, at the age of 96. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Numerous schools, parishes and churches are named in her honor.

Mother Drexel: “Often in my desire to work for others…some hostile influence renders me powerless. My prayers seem to avail nothing…In such cases I must not grieve. I am only treading in my Master’s steps.”

Just who is St. Valentine?

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We have just celebrated Valentine’s Day. But who is St. Valentine exactly and why his name synonymous with love and romance? The patron saint of love has been identified with two early Christians: a priest martyred in Rome around 269 and buried on the Flaminian Way north of the city and a bishop of Terni, in Umbria, who was also executed in Rome. Some seventeenth century sources assert they are the same person. Modern experts believe the priest-martyr to be the real Valentine. The name “Valentine” derived from “valens” (worthy, strong, powerful) was a popular name in Late Antiquity. At least eleven other saints are named Valentine.

The reasons for his association with lovers is also disputed. There are many legends associated with this saint, none of them based on fact. One is that Valentine, a priest, going against the emperor’s order, secretly married couples so their husbands wouldn’t have to go to war. The legend claims that soldiers were sparse in those day so this was a huge inconvenience for the emperor. Another legend is that he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods. Being imprisoned for this, Valentine gave his testimony in prison and through his prayers healed the jailer’s daughter of blindness. On the day of his execution, he left a note for her signed “Your Valentine.” A possibility for his association with lovers derives from a centuries old belief that birds choose their mates on February 14. Another one is that it is a survival from the Roman festival of Lupercalia held in mid-February to secure fertility and keep evil away. It was once thought that Valentine’s Day was created to supersede this pagan feast. But this theory has been dismissed by modern scholars. Many of the current legends were invented  in the fourteenth century, most notably Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when February 14 first became associated with romantic love.

What we do know for certain is that troubled lovers have invoked him since medieval times and that the custom of sending a Valentine’s Day card to a chosen partner, first commercialized in the U.S. in the 1840s, has become a major industry.

St. Martin of Tours (316-397)

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He was the son of a pagan Roman officer and born in 316 in what is now Hungary. Educated in Pavia in northern Italy. From the age of ten, he knew he intended to become a Christian but was enrolled in the Imperial calvary five years later against his will and before he could be baptized. One bitterly cold night at Amiens, he gave half of his cloak to a freezing naked beggar and soon afterwards saw a vision of Christ wearing it. This is the basis of his invocation against impoverishment and has been depicted by numerous artist including El Greco (seen above). As a result of this event, he was finally baptized.

He asked for a discharge because he believed that as a Christian he was not allowed to fight and was accused of cowardice. His answer to that was to stand unarmed in battle holding only a cross-at the sight of which the enemy surrendered. He was given his discharge in 339 and became a disciple of St. Hillary of Potiers; he ended up converting his mother to Christianity. Martin later travelled in Italy and Dalmatia. He lived as a hermit for ten years before rejoining Hilary who encouraged him to found a community of monk-hermits at Liguge, the first monastery in what is now France.

In 372, Martin, now 56, accepted the episcopate in Tours. He was reluctant to accept the position and continued to live as a monk, first in a cell near his church and later at Marmoutier where he established another great monastic center. He continued to live in a strict monastic way until his death. He was zealous in the discharge of his duties. As bishop of Tours, he was a dedicated missionary to the Franks and other northern tribes who had invaded the region. As a former soldier, he used military methods in missionary work. He travelled to the remotest parts of the diocese by foot, by donkey and by boat. From Tours, he led an army of monks through France destroying idols, pagan temples and graves and preaching. Martin was also a wonder worker whose miracles included healing lepers and raising a man from the dead.

Martin opposed Arianism and Priscillianism, the two great heresies of the day, but condemned the practice of putting heretics to death. He actually interceded with the emperor Maximus in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the execution of Priscillian and others for heresy, declaring that it was sufficient to declare them heretics and excommunicate them.

The first great pioneer of Western monasticism, Martin died at Candes, near Tours in 397. More than 2,000 monks attended his body on its return to Tours. He is the patron saint of France. His feast day is November 11. The saint has given his name to a spell of good weather around his feast day (Nov. 11) known as St. Martin’s summer; the English equivalent of the American Indian summer. His biography, written by Sulpicius Severus, was extremely popular in the Middle Ages and his cult was widespread. In France, over 4000 churches are dedicated to him. And the Benedictine monastery near me where I am going to be an oblate is named after St. Martin of Tours. A popular saint indeed, he is the patron saint of not only France, but also soldiers, horses, riders, geese and wine growers. His emblems are a globe of fire and a goose.

All Saints: Remembering Those Who’ve Gone Before

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This past weekend, we celebrated the Feast of All Saints’ Day also known as All Hallows or the Feast of All Saints. It falls on November 1, the day after Halloween. In fact the term Halloween comes from All Hallows Eve. It is celebrated across the board; Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants celebrate this feast. The following day is All Souls (November 2). October 31-November 2 is called Hallowtide.

In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. It is a national holiday in many traditional Catholic countries. The next day commemorates all the faithful departed who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. In both the Catholic and Anglican churches, November 2nd is called the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed. The celebration of these days comes from the fundamental belief that there is a spiritual and prayerful bond between those in heaven (Church Triumphant) and those still on earth (Church Militant). In local congregations, deceased members are honored and remembered.

All Saints’ Day may originate in the ancient Roman observation of May 13, the Feast of Lemures, in which malevolent and restless spirits were propitiated. Some scholars base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin was that of All Saints on their identical dates and the similar theme of all the dead.

In the early church, Christians would commemorate a martyr’s death at the place of death. In the fourth century, with the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate date for each could not be assigned to each. But the church, rightly feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this can be found in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. And in the Eastern Orthodox Church, All Saints is still celebrated on this day.

The origin of All Saints’ Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been celebrated on various day in different places. The Feast of All Saints on its current date is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) who in oratory on relics moved the day of celebration to November 1 and suppressed the May 13 festival.

A November festival of all saints was already widely celebrated in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious issued at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all of the bishops.

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches. Protestants generally regard all true Christians as saints. There are those saints with a capital “S” like Luke, Peter, Paul, etc. And then there are those with a little “s” (the rest of us). In Protestant churches, All Saints is celebrated in remembrance of all Christians both past and present.

In Mexico, All Saints coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead celebration. Known as the Day of the Innocents, it honors deceased children and infants. In Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain and U.S. cities like New Orleans, people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In some parts like Portugal, they also light candles on the graves.

In Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Catholic parts of Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Sweden, the custom is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. In English-speaking nations the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn “For All the Saints” by Walsham How. The most familiar hymn tune for this hymn is “Sine Nomine” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. Another popular hymn for this day is “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”

Remembering those who have gone before is especially important. Laura Huff Hileman writes, “Saints are just people who are trying to listen to God’s Word and live God’s call. This is the communion of saints we speak of in the Apostle’s Creed-that fellowship of believers that reaches beyond time and place, even beyond death. Remembering the saints who have helped extend and enliven God’s kingdom is what All Saints’ Day is about.” Indeed, we are surrounded by that “great cloud of witnesses” and they are watching us each and every day. On All Saints, we take time to remember “all the saints from whom the labors rest.”

A Story of Love & Dedication

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On October 19th, we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke, the patron saint of my parish. In my research, I found the following article in the Tacoma newspaper dated January 20, 1936. It is regarding Ms. Emma M. Unthank, the fiance of the Rev. Henry S. Bonnell, the first priest who died in 1884 (age 31). Her story of love and dedication to him is both heart warming and inspiring. I have reprinted here:

A little white-haired lady put fresh flowers on a 52-year-old grave in Tacoma cemetery today, keeping a tryst with her fiance of half-a-century ago. Every day since 1884, seasonable flowers have nodded over the grave; and every day except in the stormiest weather, Ms. Emma Unthank has seen to it they were in place.

The grave was that of the Rev. Henry S. Bonnell, an Episcopalian clergyman. In 1882, Mr. Bonnell, a tall, eager-eyed young man with the square cut full beard of his day, came to the wilderness of Washington Territory. A native of St. Peter’s Episcopal Parish, Brooklyn, and protege of Bishop Paddock of that city, he had just graduated from General Theological Seminary in New York.

Here in the Northwest he assumed the rectorate of St. Luke’s Church, Tacoma, and in addition rode a circuit through the valleys of the Puget Sound country. One of his charges was Christ Church, Puyallup. He was instrumental in founding the first Tacoma Young Man’s Christian Association. In Tacoma, too, he met Miss Unthank, then studying to be a school teacher. Petite and dark-haired, she attracted him immediately. They were affianced and the wedding date tentatively set.

Constant rain in the Sound country, however, aggravated a lung ailment from which the minister suffered. He contracted tuberculosis, went to California to recuperate and died there in 1884. His body was returned to Tacoma on almost the exact day that been set for his wedding. Miss Unthank, remained here and become a teacher in the city schools. She continued in this position until a few years ago. Generations of children passed under her tutelage without guessing of her after-school pilgrimages to the cemetery five miles from her home.

She never married.

A few days ago a curious visitor to the cemetery noticed the flowers on the old grave. Investigating, he learned the whole story from the Rev. E.C. Schmeiser, present rector of the Puyallup church, who was one of the few persons cognizant of Ms. Unthank’s half century of devotion. Miss Unthank retired from active teaching some time ago. She and her sister, also unmarried, continued to live together in an old-fashioned house. Rain was threatening in Tacoma today and few visitors were expected to the cemetery. But attendants waited confidently for the arrival of a sprightly little old lady-she’s nearly 75 now-who would surely come with flowers for the lover of fifty-two years ago.

I hope you found that story heart-warming as I did. Ms. Unthank died, unmarried, on the 23rd of February 1941, age 82. She is also buried in the old Tacoma cemetery in the same grave as her sister, Minnie. The cross on our altar is in memoriam of the Rev. Henry Bonnell on which is inscribed “He was a bright and shining light.” May we also be remembered as such.

Walking the Camino

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The Way of St. James is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the apostle St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia in northwestern Spain, where tradition tells us that the remains of the saint are buried. The Way of St. James or the El Camino was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, along with Rome and Jerusalem and one where a plenary indulgence could be earned. Legend tells us that the saint’s remains were transported by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on what is now the city of Santiago de Compstela.

The Way can take one of dozens of pilgrimage routes to Santiago. Traditionally, as with a lot of pilgrimages, the Way starts at one’s home and ended at the pilgrimage site. However, a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. Yet, the Black Death, Protestant Reformation and the political unrest in 16th century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago. Later, the route attracted a growing number of pilgrims. The route was the first to be declared an European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987. It was also named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Whenever, St. James’ Day (July 25) falls on a Sunday, the cathedral declares a Jubilee Year. The most recent was 2010. The next will be 2021.

The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. As the symbol, the shell is seen very frequently along the trails. The shell is seen on posts and signs along the route in order to guide pilgrims along the way. The shell is also seen on pilgrims themselves as wearing a shell shows you are a traveler on the Camino. Most pilgrims receive a shell at the start of their journey and either attach it to themselves by sewing it onto their clothes or wearing it around their neck or simply keeping it in their backpack. The pilgrim’s staff is a walking staff used by pilgrims to the shrine . Usually the stick has a hook on it so that something may be hung from it and may have a crosspiece on it.

Today, tens of thousands of Christians and many others set out each year to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few by horseback.  In addition to those making a religious pilgrimage, many others walk the route for non-religious reasons like travel or sport. And many consider it a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat.

Pilgrims on the Way walk for weeks or months to visit the city of Santiago de Compostela. They follow many routes but the most popular route is Via Regia and its last part the French Way. The Spanish consider the Pyrenees a starting point. Common starting points along the French border are St. Jean-Pied-de-Port or Somport.

In Spain, France and Portugal, pilgrim’s hostels with beds in dormitories dot the common routes, providing overnight accommodation for pilgrims who hold a credencial. It usually costs between 6 to 10 euros per night per bed. Pilgrims are usually limited to one night’s stay and are expected to leave by eight in the morning to continue their pilgrimage.

Most pilgrims carry a document called the credencial which is  a pass which gives access to inexpensive, sometimes free, overnight accommodation along the trail. Also known as a “pilgrim’s passport” the credencial is stamped with the official St. James’ stamp of each town  or hostel at which the pilgrim has stayed. It serves a record of where they ate or slept. It also provides proof to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago that the journey was accomplished according to an official route.

The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims upon finishing their pilgrimage. To earn it, one needs to walk at least 100 km. At the Pilgrim’s Office, the credencial is examined for stamps and dates, and the pilgrim is asked to state whether the motivation was “religious,” “religious and other” or “other.” In the case of the first two, a compostela is available. In the case of “other” there is a simpler certificate in Spanish. The Pilgrim’s Office gives more than 100,000 compostelas each year to pilgrims from more than 100 different countries.

A Pilgrim’s Mass is held in the Cathedral at noon for pilgrims. Pilgrims who received the compostela the day before have their countries of origin and starting point of their pilgrimage announced at the Mass. The highlight of the service is the synchronization of the “Hymn to Santiago” with the spectacular swinging of the huge Botafumeiro, the famous thurible kept in the cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container or censor.

The Camino has been highlighted in TV show “Rick Steves’ Europe” and the movie “The Way.”

 

 

 

 

Two Men and a House They Built

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On a lake in southeastern Wisconsin, is a house, Nashotah House, a traditional and theologically conservative seminary in the Episcopal Church. It is also officially recognized by the Anglican Church of North America. Here is the story of two of the men who founded the school. 

Bishop Jackson Kemper (1789-1870) was the first missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church. He was born in the Hudson River Valley of New York, where his parents had taken temporary refuge during a smallpox outbreak in New York City. Baptized David Jackson Kemper by Dr. Benjamin Moore, the assistant rector of Trinity Church, NYC. He eventually dropped the name “David.” His father was Colonel Daniel Kemper, a former aide-to-camp to General George Washington at the battles of Germantown and Monmouth during the American Revolution. His mother, Elizabeth (Marius) Kemper, descended from well-known families of the Dutch New Amsterdam era.

At Columbia College, he studied theology under Dr. Henry Hobart and graduated in 1809 as valedictorian of his class. Having moved to Philadelphia, he was ordained a  deacon in 1811 and priest in 1814. In 1835, the Episcopal Church decided to consecrate missionary bishops to preach the gospel west of the settled areas. Kemper was chosen and he promptly headed west. He found that clergy who had lived all their lives in the East were slow to respond to the call to join him on the frontier. So he recruited priests from among men already in the West and established a college in St. Louis for that very purpose. He went on to found Nashotah House and Racine College in Wisconsin and founded the mission parish that became the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Milwaukee. 

Kemper constantly urged a more extensive outreach to the Native American peoples and the translations of the Bible and services of the Church into their languages. His first official act as Missionary Bishop, in what would become Wisconsin, was laying the cornerstone for a new frame building for Hobart Church, Duck Creek, which served the Oneida Indian Mission. But more importantly, it was at that church that he ordained William Adams and James Lloyd Breck, two of the men who would assist him in establishing Nashotah House on October 9, 1842. He also ordained a member of the Ottawa tribe, Emmagahbowh, as deacon in 1859. These were the first ordinations in what would become Wisconsin. 

Kemper supported the Oxford Movement, although he maintained the importance of separation from the Catholic Church. In 1846, he purchased a property adjacent to Nashotah House and spent the rest of his life there. From 1847 to 1854, he served as provisional bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Wisconsin, and then served as its diocesan bishop from 1854 until his death in 1870. He also supported the creation of a new diocese, though he did not live to see the formation of the Diocese of Fond du Lac come to fruition. Kemper is honored on May 24th in the Episcopal Church.

James Lloyd Breck (1818-1876) was a priest, educator and missionary of the Episcopal Church. Born in Philadelphia County, he went to high school at the Flushing Institute, founded by William Augustus Muhlenberg, who inspired him to resolve at the age of sixteen to devote himself to missionary activity. He received his bachelors from the University of Pennsylvania in 1838 and a B.D. from the General Theological Seminary in 1841.

In 1842, now a deacon, he went to the Wisconsin frontier, with two of his classmates under the direction of Bishop Kemper, to found Nashotah House as a monastic community, seminary and center for theological work. It continues today as a seminary. Breck was ordained into the priesthood by Kemper later that year. 

In 1850, he moved to Minnesota, where he founded a school for boys and girls such as Breck School in Golden Valley, MN and the Seabury Divinity School at Fairbault, MN. He also started missionary work among the Ojiibwa. On June 23, 1850, on top of Grandad Bluff, Breck celebrated the first Episcopal eucharist in the La Crosse area. 

In 1867, he moved to Benicia, California to build another two institutions. Breck was known as “The Apostle of the Wilderness.”

Breck died in Benecia in 1876. He was buried beneath the altar of the church he served as rector but later his body was removed and reinterred on the grounds of Nashotah House in Wisconsin. The recommittal service there had 14 bishops, around 100 priests and numerous lay people in attendance. As legacy, Breck School was established in 1886 in Wilder, Minnesota. 

Nashotah House considers itself to be within the orthodox Anglo-Catholic tradition. Overall, the faculty support traditional theology and conceptions of Christian doctrine in opposition to liberal theologies. Graduates themselves come from a variety of jurisdictions both inside and outside of the Episcopal Church. Nashotah House sees its mission to form priests and church leaders from all over the Anglican Communion, including several international students.

Nashotah began as a community inspired by traditional monastic life of prayer, work and study. James Lloyd Breck‘s vision was to create a center for Christian formation in the (then) wilderness that would also be movement to propagate other communities for the purpose of evangelizing the frontier. Today, much of this vision remains intact and students still live a Benedictine cycle of prayer,work and study. The life of the Seminary seeks to form the character of priests and leaders into the image of Christ. Various students have been involved in mission work around the Anglican Communion as well.

“Seminarians are invited to participate in an ascetic, disciplined, prayerful season of spiritual growth in Christ” in which they “practice the Benedictine Rule of daily prayer, labor, and study.” Daily routine includes Morning Prayer, Mass, breakfast, classes, lunch, and Solemn Evensong.

172 years later, the mission founded Kemper and Breck continues today and the impact of the House continues to impact the world for Christ. These two men would be pleased to see that.