... Holy Days this month
(from Parish Pump, UK)
High Days and Holy Days for September 2021
High Days and Holy Days for September
Note - The items with an asterisk appear this year for the first time…
1st Sept Drithelm - vision of the afterlife
1st Sept St Giles of Provence - helping those damaged by life
2nd Sept The New Guinea Martyrs of 1942
2nd Sept St William of Roskilde - standing up for social justice
3rd Sept St Gregory the Great - man who saved the ‘angels’
4th Sept St Birinus – apostle of Wessex
5th Sept Laurence Giustiniani - the saint who knew how to help a beggar
6th Sept Allen Gardiner – founder of the South American Missionary Society
8th Sept The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
9th Sept St Peter Claver - compassion for slaves
11th Sept St Protus and St Hyacinth - victims of mindless violence
11th Sept St Deiniol of Bangor - bringing disagreeing bishops together
13th Sept St John Chrysostom - living a public faith
14th Sept Holy Cross Day
15th Sept St Adam of Caithness - the way NOT to tithe
16th Sept Ninian, Bishop of Galloway – Apostle of the Picts (Scotland)
16th Sept Cornelius – the saint who had mercy on sinning Christians
18th Sept St Joseph of Copertino - the awkward saint
20th Sept The Martyrs of Korea
21st Sept St Matthew
23rd Sept When the sun goes edgewise – and daytime equals night
24th Sept St Gerard Sagredo – church planting in the 11th century
25th Sept St Ceolfrith - baking and Bibles
*NEW 26th Sept Wilson Carlile, founder of the Church Army
27th Sept Vincent de Paul – devotion to the poor and oppressed
28th Sept St Lioba - a memorable woman
29th Sept Michael and All Angels
29th Sept Angels Unawares
29th Sept Enter all the angels, led by Michael
1st September: Drithelm - vision of the afterlife
Drithelm is the saint for you if you have ever wondered what lies beyond death, or if you have had a near-death experience. He was married and living in Cunningham (now Ayrshire, then Northumbria) in the 7th century when he fell ill and apparently died. When he revived a few hours later he caused panic among the mourners, and was himself deeply shaken by the whole experience.
Drithelm went to pray in the village church until daylight, and during those long hours reviewed the priorities of his life in the light of what he had seen while ‘dead’. A celestial guide had shown him souls in hell, in purgatory, in paradise and heaven. Suddenly the reality of God and of coming judgement and of what Christ had done in redeeming mankind became real to him, and his life on earth could never be the same again.
Next day he divided his wealth into three: giving one third to his wife, one third to his sons, and the remainder to the poor. He became a monk and went to live at Melrose, where he spent his time in prayer and contemplation of Jesus.
Drithelm’s Vision of the afterlife is remarkable in that it was the first example of this kind of literature from England. It was SO early: seventh century Anglo-Saxon England! Drithelm has even been seen as a remote precursor of Dante.
On a lighter note, Drithelm can also be a saint for you if you didn’t get abroad this summer, but ventured to swim instead off one of our beaches: he used to stand in the cold waters of the Tweed for hours, reciting Psalms.
1st September: St Giles of Provence - helping those damaged by life
St Giles was an immensely popular saint in the Middle Ages, and no wonder: he was the patron saint of cripples. In those days, there were many people who, once injured, were never really whole again. Even today, a serious injury – either physical or mental or emotional, can leave us damaged for months, years or even longer. At such times, we, too, find inspiration in others who, though also damaged by life, have not been overwhelmed.
St Giles was probably born in Provence, southern France early in the 7th century. The 10th century Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend) tells us he lived as a holy hermit deep in the forest of Nimes, near the mouth of the Rhone. A hind, or Red Deer, was his only companion. Then one day, while out hunting, King Wamba spotted the deer, and pursued it. The hind fled back to St Giles for protection. King Wamba shot an arrow which missed the deer but pierced the saint who was protecting it. Thus the king encountered the saint. The saint’s acceptance of his injury, and his holiness greatly impressed the king, who conceived a great admiration for St Giles.
In the end, much good came out of the original harm of the encounter, for the king then built St Giles a monastery in his valley, Saint-Gilles-du-Gard. The little monastery was put under the Benedictine rule and became a source of blessing for the area roundabout. In later years, St Giles’ shrine would become an important pilgrimage centre on the route for both Compostela and the Holy Land, as well as in its own right.
There is a further story connected with St Giles. Another legend tells how an emperor sought forgiveness from him for a sin so terrible he dared not even confess it. While St Giles said Mass, he saw written for him by an angel the nature of the sin in question. But his prayers for the emperor were so efficacious that the letters naming the sin faded away. As Christians, we know that the Bible urges us to pray for others, no matter how hopelessly bad they seem, because Christ’s mercy and forgiveness are extended to everyone who truly turns to Him and repents.
No wonder then, that St Giles, the crippled saint who helped others find wholeness with God, became patron saint of cripples, lepers and nursing mothers. In England 162 ancient churches are dedicated to him, as well as at least 24 hospitals. The most famous of these are St Giles in Edinburgh and St Giles in Cripplegate, London. In art, St Giles is represented as either a simple abbot with staff, or protecting the hind, or saying the Mass, and thus interceding for the emperor.
2nd September: The New Guinea Martyrs of 1942
The Anglican Church in Australia still honours the New Guinea Martyrs of 1942. These brave men and women, 10 Australians and two Papuans, refused to leave their missionary work on the island as the Japanese military forces advanced. As one tribute to them put it: ‘They knowing full well the risk, elected to stay with their flock.’
The missionaries were serving the people of Papua New Guinea as Christian priests, teachers, workers and medical nurses. All twelve were unarmed as they were going about their normal missionary work. They were probably killed for no reason at all, other than to pre-empt any possibility that they might be a danger to the Japanese in the future. Or perhaps they were killed out of some vague Japanese hatred of Australian Christians, who were poles apart from the then fanatical Emperor-worship that enveloped the whole military strategy of Japan.
The martyrs were:
In Gona, on the NE coast of Papua: May Hayman (medical sister), and Mavis Parkinson (teacher): both bayoneted to death.
In villages inland from Gona: Vivian Redlich (priest), Margery Brenchley (medical sister), Lillar Lashmar (teacher), Henry Holland, (priest), John Duffill (carpenter): all beheaded. Also, Lucian Tapiedi, an indigenous Papuan: axed to death. (A statue of Tapiedi now stands as a memorial above the West Door of Westminster Abbey.)
Outer islands: John Barge (priest), Bernard Moore (priest), boat sunk.
In open sea: Henry Mathews (priest), Leslie Gariadi (Papuan assistant): boat sunk and men machine-gunned in water.
Today the Church also remembers the more than 300 church workers of all churches who were killed in 1942, during the Japanese occupation of Papua New Guinea.
2nd September: St William of Roskilde - standing up for social justice
Here is a saint for anyone who thinks Christian leaders should stand up for justice – even at the risk of angering secular powers.
It all began when William was an English priest serving as chaplain to Canute, king of England, (1016-35), who decided to visit Scandinavia. William went along, and was so shocked by the ignorance, idolatry and superstition that he stayed on to help preach the Gospel. Eventually he became bishop of Roskilde (Zeeland), working tirelessly among the people as a beloved pastor.
But William’s main challenge came in his determination to improve the conduct of the king, Sweyn Estridsen. The king had had some criminals killed without trial and in a church, violating sanctuary. William then forbade him to enter the church next day until he was absolved from the guilt of shedding blood unjustly. Courtiers drew their swords, and William showed himself ready to die. Instead, Sweyn confessed his crime and donated land to Roskilde church as a peace-offering. Thenceforward, until the king’s death, Sweyn and William worked together to foster Christianity in Scandinavia.
3rd September: St Gregory the Great – the pope who saved the ‘angels’
Pope Gregory never called himself ‘the Great’, but instead ‘the Servant of the Servants of God’. Nevertheless, Gregory was one of the most important popes and influential writers of the Middle Ages. The son of a very rich Roman senator, he left the service of the State upon his conversion as a young man. Gregory then sold off his tremendous estates to found six monasteries in Sicily and a seventh in Rome, and gave generously to the poor. He became a monk and adopted an austere lifestyle. But he was destined to be a frustrated monk, because successive popes kept appointing him to jobs with major public responsibilities.
Christians in England owe him a great deal. When Gregory came across some English slaves for sale in Rome, he asked who they were, and was told, “They are Angles.” Moved with compassion for these humiliated and despised men, he replied, “They are not Angles, but angels!” He wanted to lead a band of missionaries to England to evangelise the Angles, but then plague broke out in Italy, and during this time he was elected Pope.
Reluctantly he accepted, and then sent to work to deal with the crises facing Christendom: plague, floods, famine, and a Lombard invasion. But busy though Gregory was, he did not forget the Angles. He sent Augustine to England, and so indirectly became the apostle of the English.
4th September: St Birinus – apostle of Wessex
Did you ever feel that God was calling you to do something big for Him, even though you were not quite sure of the details? If so, Birinus is the saint for you.
He was a French Benedictine monk who in 634 was made a bishop at Genoa, and sent by Pope Honorius 1 to extend the evangelisation of England. (Augustine had arrived in Canterbury about 35 years before.)
Birinus landed at Hamwic, near Southampton. His original plan was to evangelise Wessex and then penetrate up into the Midlands, where no preacher had ever yet reached. But Birinus soon found the West Saxons so pagan that he decided to concentrate just on them.
Birinus had little to help him become the apostle to Wessex. So, he simply used what he did have: his own two feet and his voice. He wandered around preaching at every opportunity, trusting in God to help him. And He did: Birinus became known and respected, and soon a big breakthrough occurred: for political reasons the King of Wessex, Cynegils, wanted to convert to Christianity, and he asked Birinus to help him.
So Birinus instructed and baptised King Cynegils, who was then able to marry the Christian king of Northumbria’s daughter, Cyneburg, and in due course Birinus baptised their family as well.
In return, Cynegils gave Birinus the town of Dorchester (upon Thames) to be his diocesan see. It was a perfect location: a Romano-British town right on a road and a river, in the midst of a populated area.
During his 15 years as Bishop of Dorchester, Birinus baptised many people and built churches all over the area, with the king’s blessing.
Before he died in 650, Birinus dedicated a church at Winchester. It was a glimpse of the future: for Winchester’s growing importance made it inevitable that in time it would also become the ecclesiastical centre of the kingdom.
5th September: Laurence Giustiniani - the saint who knew how to help a beggar
You are walking down the road when a beggar approaches you for money. What do you do? If, instead of giving money, you buy him/her coffee or a meal, then you are in good company: you are following in the steps of the first ever Bishop of Venice.
Laurence Giustiniani (1381 – 1455) was born of a noble Venetian family, but he chose the austerity of the Augustinian monastery of San Giorgio on island of Alga. He became a priest in 1406, Prior in 1407, Bishop of Castello in 1433 and then in 1451 the first ever Bishop of Venice.
By then, Laurence had seen a lot of human nature, and was wise as well as good. Frugal in his private life, and happy to help the poor, he made sure that he gave wisely as well as generously. Hence the poor who came to him for help were given food and clothing - but only very occasionally small amounts of money. Bishop Laurence also devoted himself to peace-making and other pastoral work, for which his contemporaries held him in high esteem. As he lay dying on a bed of straw, very many clergy, laity, beggars and destitute folk came to grieve: he was greatly respected and loved. Wise giving and peace-making – Laurence’s example still shines true today.
6th September: Captain Allen Gardiner – founder of SAMS
Captain Allen Gardiner is a saint for anyone who refuses to give up on their calling. For this courageous and indominable man founded what became the South American Mission Society, though he sacrificed his own life in the process.
Gardiner had not started out to be a missionary. Born in 1794, he had left Berkshire to embark on a naval career which took him to Cape Town, Ceylon, India, Malaysia and China. But the death of his first wife in 1834 caused him to turn back to Christianity. He left the navy and became a missionary.
With his second wife, Elizabeth, Allen Gardiner felt called to South America. But from 1838 onwards he faced implacable opposition from the authorities there, both secular and religious. His efforts to evangelise among the Chilean Mapuches - which included a family journey of 1,000 miles overland by pack mule from Buenos Aires to Santiago and Concepción - met with hostility. So, in 1842 he settled on the Falklands, and tried to reach the Patagonian Indians. By 1844 he had founded the Patagonian Mission, because no other British Christian society felt able to take on responsibility for his work.
Next, Gardiner reached out to the Bolivian Indians of the Gran Chaco. But again, he was repulsed. So, he then decided on a bold attempt to evangelise the Indians of Tierra del Fuego.
He tried to raise the funds for a 120-ton schooner, which would have provided him with a secure base near Picton Island. But in the end, he could only manage two 26-foot launches, the Pioneer and Speedwell. Nevertheless, in December 1850 Gardiner and six other men sailed to Picton Island. But again, nothing went well. Fierce weather, Indian hostility, a series of errors and logistical problems led to disease and finally disaster. By March 1851 the group had had to flee for their lives. They sailed eastwards to Spaniard Harbour, a bay at the mouth of Cooks River. Here they waited in vain for fresh stores to arrive, and by September all six men had died of starvation.
Gardiner's journal, water-damaged but readable, was found in his hand the following year by the crew of HMS Dido, and includes the plea to God, "Let not this mission fail", and this prayer:
"Grant O Lord, that we may be instrumental in commencing this great and blessed work; but should Thou see fit in Thy providence to hedge up our way, and that we should even languish and die here, I beseech Thee to raise up others and to send forth labourers into this harvest…”
The work of the South American Missionary Society in the subsequent 160 years and the growth of the Anglican Churches of South America are God’s answer to that prayer. Gardiner had to face many failures in his life, but his solid, resolute faith is an inspiration.
8th September: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In both eastern and western Churches, Mary has always been held as pre-eminent among all the saints. The unique, extraordinary privilege of being the mother of the One who was both God and Man, makes her worthy of special honour. Thomas Aquinas believed she was due hyperdulia, or a veneration that exceeds that of other saints, but is at the same time infinitely below the adoration, or latria, due to God alone.
The gospels of Matthew and Luke give Mary most mention. Luke even tells the story of Jesus’ infancy from Mary’s point of view. Her Song, or Magnificat appears in Luke 1:46-55.
The virginal conception of Christ is clearly stated in the gospels. But after Jesus’ birth, Mary fades quietly into the background. During Jesus’ public life, she is mentioned only occasionally, as at the wedding at Cana. She reappears at the foot of the Cross (John’s Gospel), and is given into John’s care. In the early chapters of Acts, Mary is with the Apostles, and received the Holy Spirit along with them on Whitsunday. But her role was not the active one of teaching and preaching.
Mary’s significance grew with the centuries. By the fifth century she was called Theotokos, The Mother of God, and from the seventh century onwards, she was given four festivals: the Presentation in the Temple (2nd February), the Annunciation (25th March), the Assumption (15th August) and her Nativity (8th September).
Marian devotion has played an enormous role in the church down the years. Mary has been the object of countless prayers, accredited with performing many miracles, and the subject of thousands of artistic endeavours. She has had hundreds of chapels or parish churches named after her. During the Reformation many images of Mary were destroyed. The Second Vatican Council 1962 made an extended statement on her, stressing her complete dependence on her Son, and regarding her as a model of the Church.
Principal Marian shrines of today include Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), Walsingham (England), Loreto (Italy), Czesochowa (Poland) and Guadalupe (Mexico).
9th September: St Peter Claver - compassion for slaves
Here is a saint for anyone with a social conscience. Claver was born in 1581 near Barcelona at Verdu, and at 20 became a Jesuit. He went as a missionary to New Granada and worked to alleviate the terrible suffering of the slaves who arrived from West Africa, caged like animals. (It was said that you could smell the stench of a slave ship while it was still seven miles from shore.) Claver helped the poor wretches who survived long enough to reach dry land. He gave them food and medicine as well as spiritual comfort. He is said to have cared for and baptised 300,000 slaves. What a difference one life can make to thousands of people!
11th September: St Protus and St Hyacinth - victims of mindless violence
On this, the 19th anniversary of the Twin Towers, we remember two innocent people who also met their death in the flames of mindless violence. These were Roman martyrs mentioned in the 4th century list of martyrs. Hyacinth’s tomb was discovered in the cemetery of Basilla, with his name and the date of his burial (11th September). Inside were charred bones, indicating death by fire. An inscription by Damasus says Protus Hyacinth were brothers, and another ancient source called them ‘teachers of the Christian law’.
11th September: St Deiniol of Bangor - bringing disagreeing bishops together
St Deiniol was a 6th century monk of Wales who came to be the ‘first bishop of Bangor’. And a mighty bishop he was, too: Deiniol founded the two monasteries of Bangor Fawr (on the Menai Straits) and Bangor Iscoed (Clwyd), which, according to Bede, became the most famous monastery of British Christianity and came to number over 2,000 monks. Sadly, they were defeated at the battle of Chester by the pagan Aethelfrith, king of Northumbria. Deiniol is also remembered for his skill in getting disagreeing bishops to come and talk things over at a Synod… surely a skill which his 21st century successors have had to put to great use! He died about 584 AD.
13th September: St John Chrysostom - living a public faith
John Chrysostom (347 – 407) is the saint for anyone who applies their Christianity to public life, and also for anyone who hates travelling in bad weather. Chrysostom did both, and had trouble both times.
Born into a wealthy home in Antioch, John Chrysostom studied both oratory and law. In 373 he became a monk, where his talents were soon spotted by the bishop, who put him in charge of the care of the many poor Christians in the city.
Chrysostom’s oratorical skills made him a popular preacher, even when he spoke out against the riots against the emperor’s taxes. The emperor, in fact, liked him so much that he had him made Archbishop of Constantinople in 397. Then the trouble began: because Chrysostom had firm moral views, and wanted to reform the corrupt morals of the court.
Nobody at court liked that at all – especially the Empress, whose make-up, clothes and behaviour were all criticised by Chrysostom. (It’s as if Justin Welby began calling the Queen’s dress sense or Kate’s lipstick immoral.) When his enemies claimed that he had gone on to call her a ‘Jezebel’, the emperor had to exile him – until an earthquake scared everyone into recalling this strict Archbishop – just in case God was trying to tell them something. Even the Empress was shaken – for a while.
A few years later, Chrysostom was exiled again over another false charge – and forced to travel for many miles in appalling weather. If you’ve been stranded in any heat-waves or thunderstorms this summer, imagine walking up the M6 in that – for weeks on end. In the end, Chrysostom died in September, on the road to Pontus.
His body was later brought back to Constantinople, and over the ensuing centuries, the Church came to see him as having been a great church leader, in fact, one of the Four Greek Doctors (with Athanasius, Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus).
14th September: Holy Cross Day
On Holy Cross Day the Church celebrates the Cross as a symbol of triumph, as the sign of Christ’s victory over death. Holy Cross Day goes right back to 14 September 335, and we have the mother of a Roman Emperor to thank for it.
Helena was a devout Christian, and after her son, Constantine, was converted, they agreed that she should travel from Rome to Israel, to seek out the places of special significance to Christians.
Of course, much of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans around 135 AD. But even so, Helena finally located what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (and modern archaeologists think she may well be correct). The sites were so close together that she built one large church over them - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
That church, built in honour of the Cross, was dedicated on 14 September 335.
The sign of the Cross has been used by Christians since early times. Tertullian, writing his De Corona (3:2) around AD 211, noted that Christians seldom did anything significant without making the sign of the Cross.
What is its significance? Well, people often put their initials or some sort of personal mark on something to show that it belongs to them. The Cross is the personal mark of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to him. Even in the book of Revelation, we read that the servants of God are ‘sealed’ or ‘marked’ on their foreheads as a sign that they are His.
A preacher once put it this way: if you were explaining to someone how to make a cross, you would say: "Draw an I.” That is you, standing before the Lord, saying, ‘here I am’. Then cancel that vertical stroke with a horizontal stroke – as if to say: “Lord, I abandon my self-will and make You the centre of my life instead. I abandon myself to Your love and service.”
On Holy Cross Day, we recall Jesus’ wonderful promise: “And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)
15th September: St Adam of Caithness - the way NOT to tithe
Teaching people to ‘tithe’ can be a delicate matter. Some clergy teach ‘tithing’ well, and inspire their people to great generosity of spirit. Other clergy teach ‘tithing’ at least well enough, and get their people’s sluggish cooperation.
But – there are clergy who teach ‘tithing’ badly – and then, watch out! St Adam (bishop 1213 – 22) is a good example of how NOT to do it.
Adam was a young Cisterian monk who became abbot of Melrose. Then in 1213 William, king of Scotland, appointed him as bishop in a remote area where his own kingly power was weak and that of the Norse earls was strong.
Adam attempted to enforce law and order, including canon law, and particularly the payment of tithes. The people sullenly obeyed most of his teaching about the law and order, and didn’t care a fig one way or another about Canon Law. But tithing was a subject on which they had passionate views!
The customary offering at this time was a span of butter to the clergy for every twenty cows that a person owned. Adam said this was not enough. He wanted more butter. He increased the tithe to one span for every fifteen cows. Then one span for every twelve cows. Then one span for every ten cows that a person owned.
And so Adam managed to double his butter income. But any modern-day Diocesan Board of Finance who is thinking of doubling the parish share should beware what happened next.
For the people revolted. One night they forced their way into his bishop’s house at Halkirke, and burnt him and his followers to death.
The only good news was that his body, although ‘roasted with fire and livid with bruises, was found entire under a heap of stones, and buried honourably in the church.’ Thus ended Adam, and the people kept all their butter tithe – presumably spreading it on toast?
16th September: Ninian, Bishop of Galloway – Apostle of the Picts (Scotland)
Ninian was a Celt who was born about 360, in southern Scotland. He was remarkable for two things: he was almost certainly the first man in Scotland to live in a little white stone house, and also the first to preach the gospel to the Scots. Just as remarkable: becoming the apostle to the Picts was intimately connected to him even having a white-washed stone house, instead of the usual wooden hovel.
For Ninian had not always stayed in Scotland, but had travelled to Rome to study, and then on to Gaul, where he had spent time with St Martin of Tours. Martin’s monastery was called Loco Teiac (little white house), and it seems that when Ninian returned to Scotland to preach the gospel, he wanted something similar. And so it was that Ninian built his little white house, called Ad Candidam Casam, and began sharing the Gospel with the Picts who lived in Whithorn and Galloway. This was the region north of the old Roman wall – where Roman rule had never been established.
Ninian seems to have been very effective, for it is said that, like Patrick (a generation later) and Columba (a century and a half later), he helped form the character of Celtic Christianity. Throughout southern Scotland, there are still many churches who bear his name.
16th September: Cornelius – the saint who had mercy on sinning Christians
Have you ever sinned since you became a Christian? Really sinned – or in other words done something that was SO wrong and totally ‘out of line’ with being a Christian that you are still ashamed when you think of it now. If so, and if you went on to ask God’s forgiveness for it, and have resolved never to do it again, then Cornelius is a good saint for you. He fought for Christians who had failed miserably to be given a second chance.
The time was 251, and Cornelius had just become Bishop of Rome. The Church at this time was struggling with what to do about Christians who had lapsed, and who now wanted to come back. Novation, a powerful Roman priest, argued that the Church had no power to pardon and welcome back any Christian who had caved in under persecution, or who had committed adultery or murder or similar serious offences.
Cornelius disagreed, and said that if a Christian truly repented and did the appropriate penance to prove it, then they should eventually be admitted back into the Church. The argument might sound over-earnest to modern ears, but it reflects how seriously the early Christians took their commitment to follow Jesus in leading a holy life, and in being willing to die for Him. In the end, that is exactly what Cornelius did – accepted death as the next persecution began, rather than deny Him.
18th September: St Joseph of Copertino - the awkward saint
Joseph of Copertino (1603 – 63) should be the patron saint of all awkward people who mean well, but who drive those around them to distraction – especially their church leaders.
Joseph began life in a garden shed, because his father had sold the house to pay debts. Then he grew up wandering about open-mouthed – his mother despised him and called him ‘the Gaper’.
Young Joseph’s intense devotion to God led him to try and join the Capuchin monks – but he drove them crazy: forgetting to do what he was told, dropping piles of plates on the kitchen floor, and neglecting to tend the all-important kitchen fire. He was finally accepted by the Franciscans as a servant, and grew so religiously fervent that he was accepted as a novice in 1625, and ordained a priest in 1628.
As a priest he was devout, but apt to do anything – much to the irritation of his superiors. One problem was his repeated levitations, of which there were 70 reported instances. The most spectacular stories are of his flying to images placed high above the altars and helping workmen to erect a Calvary Cross 36 feet high by lifting it into place while he was hanging in mid-air himself. Such feats earned him the name of ‘the Flying Friar’ by admiring locals, but gave his superiors headaches. They were also disturbed by his habit of going into states of ecstasy, from which nothing could wake him.
Joseph’s reputation for flying about and for occasional ecstasy drew the crowds: they were all eager to see what would happen next. What did happen next was that his superiors kept him in virtual isolation for many years, eager to contain this intensely emotional and erratic priest. In 1767 he was canonised, not for his levitations, but for his extreme patience and humility.
20th September: The Martyrs of Korea
Korea is known for its thriving Christian Church. But it was not always so – in fact no Korean had been baptised there as late as 1784. Christianity arrived in Korea through Christian books sent from China, and the Koreans responded warmly as soon as they heard the Good News. A Chinese priest who visited in 1794 found 4,000 Christians. This despite hard times: the Chinese priest was killed in 1801, and the Koreans were left without a priest for 30 years. Then Pope Pius VII sent a bishop, Laurence Imbert, who arrived in disguise in 1837, who worked with two other priests of the same Paris Missionary Society. Christianity was strictly forbidden by this time, and so the missionaries worked in complete secrecy, rising at 2.30 am and ministering at unusual times in conditions of extreme poverty.
And the Korean Church grew! Soon there were 9,000 Christians, who could not remain secret forever. Violent persecution broke out, and the three French priests allowed themselves to be taken, in order to avert massacre and apostasy. There were beheaded at Seoul on 21 September 1839. 78 Korean Christians died in the same persecution, among them Agatha Kim and John Ri. The first Korean priest to be martyred was Andrew Kim, in 1846. These shining Christians of the Korean Church were beatified in 1925 and canonised in 1984.
21st September: St Matthew
Matthew was one of 12 apostles. But he began as a publican i.e. a tax-collector of Jewish race who worked for the Romans, before he left all at the call of Christ. From earliest times, he was regarded as the author of the first of the four Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew is in correct, concise style, very suitable for public reading.
His usual emblem as an evangelist is a man, because his genealogy emphasised the family ties of Christ. In art, he has been represented as either an evangelist or as an apostle. As an evangelist, he has been depicted sitting at a desk, writing his gospel with an angel holding the inkwell. In the Middle Ages he was even given a pair of spectacles.
Matthew was martyred by a sword or a spear, some think in Ethiopia.
23rd September: When the sun goes edgewise – and daytime equals night
23rd September is the autumnal equinox (if you live in the northern hemisphere) or the vernal (Spring) equinox (if you live in the southern hemisphere) The equinoxes occur in March and September, when the Sun is ‘edgewise’ to the Earth’s axis of rotation, so that everywhere on earth has twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness.
24th September: St Gerard Sagredo – church planting in the 11th century
It’s amazing how little some things change down the centuries. Take the life of Gerard Sagredo, for instance. He left his ‘comfort zone’ of home and church because he felt God’s calling on his life. He travelled abroad and taught in order to earn his living in a non-Christian country. In his spare time he shared his faith with the people he met, and gradually some were converted. Soon he had ‘planted’ a little church.
Gerard’s life sounds like that of a western missionary in parts of the developing world today. In fact, he was an 11th century monk from Venice. He was the prior of San Giorgio Maggiore, but gave up the security in order to attempt the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But God stopped Gerard when he reached Hungary, for King Stephen not only welcomed him, but pressed him to become tutor to his son.
Gerard agreed, and soon he had converted a group of people around him. In those days monks didn’t just plant churches – they planted entire ‘sees’ of the church, and so the see of Csanad was established, with Gerard as its first bishop.
But the problems of then and now seem surprisingly similar. Gerard Sagredo worked in the face of growing hostility from local people of other faiths, and half-hearted commitment from some of his own converts. Nearly 1,000 years later, Christian missionaries all over the world are still facing the same two struggles.
Sadly, the next bit of the story is also all too familiar: King Stephen died, and the new people in power hated Christians. In 1038 persecution began. In 1046 Gerard was attacked in the street, and stoned. A lance was thrust through him. His body was then hurled into the Danube. Gerard Sagredo had become a martyr of the Persecuted Church.
The non-Christians killed Gerard that day, but they did not kill Christianity. In the years to come many more thousands of Christians would die, while the church grew, not shrank. Meanwhile, Venice paid homage to her first ever martyr by translating some of his relics back to the island of Murano in 1333.
25th September: St Ceolfrith (d 716) - baking and Bibles
Ceolfrith is a good patron saint for anyone who has studied hard for their profession, is strong in the face of tragedy, and who can also offer some homely care to others in need.
This well-loved abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow came from a noble Northumbrian family, and was ordained at Ripon when he was 27. He travelled to Canterbury and Icanho (in East Anglia) where he studied ecclesiastical and monastic practices. But back at Ripon the monks soon came to appreciate him for another good reason: Ceolfrith was an outstanding cook. They asked him to be the monastery’s baker, and he agreed.
In time, Ceolfrith was moved on to Wearmouth, and then in 682, when the monastery at nearby Jarrow was founded, Ceolfrith became abbot. It was here that disaster struck, when a plague killed all of the monks who could sing or read. Only Ceolfrith and the boy Bede were left alive. It would have been so easy to flee that empty house of death, but instead, Ceolfrith and the young Bede faithfully stayed on, because they believed God had called them to be there. Soon Jarrow prospered once more, and by 689 Ceolfrith was made abbot of both Wearmouth and Jarrow.
Ceolfrith seems to have been a kindly and energetic leader. During his rule 600 monks joined the monastery, the library was doubled, and the endowments increased. He died in 716. Ceolfrith’s biggest legacy to history came when he commissioned from his own scriptoria three Pandects (complete Bibles in single volumes) in uncial script. One still survives today, as the Codex Amiatinus, an enormous volume in the Bibiloteca Laurenziana in Florence. It is the oldest surviving complete Latin Bible in one volume.
A kindly baking abbot who also happened to leave us the earliest complete Latin Bible – not a bad combination of skills!
*NEW 26th Sept Wilson Carlile, founder of the Church Army
Wilson Carlile was born in Brixton in 1847, and did not set out to become an evangelist. Instead, he was brilliant at both languages and music, and excelled as a businessman. That is, until an economic recession and serious illness brought him crashing down and finished his career, aged only 31.
Not surprisingly, a serious breakdown followed, when Carlile questioned everything that he had been attempting in life. This search for a new meaning brought him to faith in Jesus Christ, and so turned his world upside down. He later wrote:
I have seen the crucified and risen Lord as truly as if He had made Himself visible to me bodily sight. That is for me the conclusive evidence of His existence. He touched my heart and old desires and hope left it. In their place came the new thought that I might serve Him and His poor and suffering brethren.
Wilson approached two Christians whose passion for ministry was already well known: the Americans evangelists Moody and Sanky, who were at that time in England. Wilson attended their meetings and supplied music via his harmonium. In return, he learned a lot about effective outdoors evangelism.
Carlile then prepared himself for a life of ministry. He was confirmed into the Church of England, studied at the London College of Divinity, ordained in 1880 and served his curacy at St Mary Abbots in Kensington. But Carlile wanted more than comfortable parish life, and soon began outdoor preaching again. He wanted to reach the poor, unchurched, of the community.
Carlile left Kensington to work in a slum mission, and by 1882 he was busy uniting the local Anglican parish missions into one organisation. Here his business skills in planning and organising proved invaluable, and soon he had founded the ‘Church Army.’ He then founded two training colleges, to train both men and women evangelists. After slight hesitation, the Church of England agreed to incorporate the Church Army into its structure, and even created the office of Evangelist for the Church Army captains and sisters.
In the years that followed, Church Army has done great work in evangelism, as well as in social and moral welfare. It helped support the troops during World War 1. Carlile remained honorary chief secretary until retirement in 1926. He died in 1942.
27th September: Vincent de Paul – patron of all charitable societies
Very few people stand out as being incredibly good, but Vincent de Paul was one of them. His life touched thousands of people, who were helped and inspired by his love and kindness.
Vincent de Paul was born in 1581 to a Gascon peasant family at Ranquine. Educated by the Franciscans and then at Toulouse University, he was ordained a priest very young, at only 19. He became a court chaplain, and then tutor to the children of the Gondi family. In 1617 he was made parish priest of Chatillon-les-Dombes.
From here, Vincent de Paul ministered both to the rich and fashionable, and also to the poor and oppressed. He helped prisoners in the galleys, and even convicts at Bordeaux.
In 1625 Vincent de Paul founded a congregation of priests who renounced all church preferment and instead devoted themselves to the faithful in smaller towns and villages. In 1633 they were given the Paris priory church of Saint-Lazare, and that same year Vincent founded the Sisters of Charity, the first congregation of ‘unenclosed’ women, whose lives were entirely devoted to the poor and sick, and even providing some hospital care. Rich women helped by raising funds for various projects, which were an immense success.
Even in his lifetime, Vincent became a legend. Clergy and laity, rich and poor, outcasts and convicts all were warmed and enriched by his charisma and selfless devotion. Vincent was simply consumed by the love of God and of his neighbour. His good works seemed innumerable – ranging from helping war-victims in Lorraine, and sending missionaries to Poland, Ireland and Scotland, to advising Anne of Austria at Court during the regency.
No wonder that after his death at nearly 80, the Pope named him as patron of all charitable societies. Even today, the Vincent de Paul Society is working with the poor and oppressed.
28th September: St Lioba - a memorable woman
What really gets a woman remembered? Loved? Respected? Lioba the abbess of Bischofsheim is the patron saint for any woman who wants to make the most of her life.
Lioba was born in Wessex early in the 8th century. Her family was noble, her mother was a relative of the monk Boniface (the Billy Graham of the day, in that he was the apostle and then archbishop of Germany).
Lioba was educated first at the nunnery of Minster-in-Thanet and then at Wimborne, Dorset. She became a nun. After some years of correspondence with Boniface, he invited her to Germany to help him evangelise the people by establishing convents. Convents were sort of the ‘Fresh Expressions’ of church in those days.
And so Lioba left Dorset with 30 nuns and went to Tauberbischofsheim, where she established a convent. She was a wonderful ‘ambassador’ of Christianity, for people found her both beautiful and accessible, intelligent and patiently kind. She became so highly esteemed that soon her advice was sought by magnates of both Church and State.
Lioba’s convents followed the Rule of St Benedict: all her nuns learned Latin as well as manual work in scriptorium, kitchen, bakery, brewery, and garden. Above all, the regular public prayer of the Church was upheld.
Learning, hard work, and love of God: those were the factors that made Lioba who she was. Her walk with God was evident in her inner strength and dignity, her goodness and kindness. No wonder that even 50 years after her death in 782, the local people were still talking of her with great affection.
29th September: Michael and All Angels
St Michael is an archangel, whose name means ‘who is like unto God?’ He makes various appearances throughout the Bible, from the book of Daniel to the Book of Revelation. In Daniel, he is ‘one of the princes’ of the heavenly host, and the special guardian of Israel. In Revelation, he is the principal fighter of the heavenly battle against the devil.
From early times, St Michael’s cult was strong in the British Isles. Churches at Malmesbury (Wiltshire), Clive (Gloucestershire) and Stanmer (East Sussex) were dedicated to him. Bede mentions him. St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall was believed to commemorate a vision there in the 8th century. By the end of the Middle Ages, St Michael had 686 English churches dedicated to him.
In art St Michael is often depicted as slaying the dragon, as in the 14th century East Anglican Psalters, or in Epstein’s famous sculpture at Coventry cathedral. Or he is found (in medieval art) as weighing souls, as at Chaldon (Surrey), Swalcliffe (Oxon.), Eaton Bishop (Hereford and Worcester), and Martham in Suffolk. St Michael’s most famous shrine in western Europe is Mont-Saint-Michel, where a Benedictine abbey was founded in the 10th century.
The ‘All Angels’ bit of this feast-day was added in 1969 when Gabriel and Raphael were included in with St Michael.
29th September: Angels Unawares
By Canon David Winter
One of those surveys which some newspapers love to publish claimed recently that a large number of British people believe in angels – almost as many, in fact, as claimed to believe in God. They didn’t tell us what people meant by ‘angels’. I suspect quite a few were thinking of young children who die, who are often now said to be ‘angels’ ‘up there’. They’re not, of course. They are transformed human beings. Be that as it may, when Christians celebrate the feast of St Michael and All Angels later this month, there will be many of us, inside and outside churches, who will wonder exactly what or who we are celebrating.
Most simply, the word in the New Testament means ‘messenger. An ‘angel’ is a being who brings to us God’s message or his help. In the Bible angels are variously described. The familiar notion of wings and flight comes from a vision given to Isaiah in the Temple when he was being called as a prophet. The angel Gabriel, who told Mary that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, is not described at all, but his words are recorded in detail. Angels speak to people in dreams (Joseph, the husband of Mary, for instance) and Jesus spoke of ‘angels’ who particularly care for children (‘guardian angels’).
Most people, even very devout ones, have never knowingly encountered an angel, I guess. However, the New Testament tells us that in ‘showing hospitality to strangers’ some of us have ‘entertained angels without knowing it’. Clearly wings and eyes of flame are not obligatory. Just human care. ‘Oh, go on, be an angel and make me a cup of tea!’
29th September: Enter all the angels, led by Michael
By Canon David Winter
What is an angel? Easy, people think: a shining figure with glorious wings, who appears from time to time to do some mighty work for God or bring a very special message from him.
Well, that’s right in one sense (apart from the wings, which owe more to stained glass windows than the Bible). But the fact that not all ‘angels’ in the Bible are ‘glorious’ or ‘shining’ should make us hesitate to categorise them in this spectacular way. After all, the three apparently ordinary men who visited Abraham and Sarah to tell them that she would have a son even though she was long past child-bearing age had none of those outward embellishments. Nevertheless, Abraham recognised them as divine messengers.
The Bible is full of angels, from the early chapters of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation, and often they had a key role in crucial events. It seems, from just two instances, that Michael was their leader, an ’archangel’. In many stained glass windows he’s seen with a sword, because in a vision in Revelation he led the angelic host who fought and defeated Satan and his army.
In the Gospels, an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah in the Temple, to tell him that his elderly wife was to have a son, the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist. An angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God. An angel appeared ‘in a dream’ to Joseph, the village carpenter in Nazareth, to tell him to go ahead and marry his fiance, Mary, and later - also in a dream - warned him not to go back to Bethlehem. A ‘young man’, whom we take to have been an angel, was sitting in the empty tomb on Easter morning, waiting to tell the startled women that Jesus wasn’t there - He had risen (Mark 16:5).
Without going into every biblical reference to angels, those should be sufficient to show that the word covers an enormous diversity of experience. So the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of those who practice hospitality as sometimes ‘entertaining angels unawares’. Sometimes people recognised angels for who they were, and sometimes they didn’t. Angels, quite simply, are God’s agents or emissaries, messengers and ministers of His will. Sometimes they are human; sometimes they seem to be spiritual beings.
Perhaps we could even say that anyone, in any situation, who is at that moment God’s ‘messenger’ to us, or serves us graciously, is an ‘angel’. So, when we say, ‘Oh, be an angel and pop up to the chemist for my prescription’, we may be nearer the heart of the matter than we think!