Today is the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The founder of the Society of Jesus. The religious order (community) more commonly known as the Jesuits (you may have heard of them!), St. Ignatius was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. As a young man, Ignatius was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood and dreamed of doing great deeds. But, in 1521, Ignatius was gravely wounded in a battle with the French. While recuperating, Ignatius experienced a conversion, an encounter with Christ. And, reading the life of Christ and of the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused new desires to do great deeds. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.
His personal motto and that of the Jesuits is “For the greater glory of God.” Ignatius died in Rome on July 31, 1556, of malaria. This prayer is attributed to him:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Thursday is the feast day of William Wilberforce, a Christian, politician and crusader for social justice.
Wilberforce was born in England in 1759. He earned a reputation for a hedonistic life style at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Nonetheless, he earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.
Then he became a Christian and Member of Parliament. For him, Parliament was a platform for putting Christian principles into action and serving God.
His efforts resulted in the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which diminished, but did not stop, the slave trade, a lucrative one for British merchants. He allied with Quakers and others to pursue his efforts. He is credited with the first grass-roots campaign in history, encouraging writing of letters, publishing of pamphlets and fiery speeches denouncing the practice.
Not satisfied with that, he kept working until the Slave Abolition Act was passed in 1833.
Neither completely eradicated the practice of slave trading and slavery. But they began a movement that ultimately resulted in the end of the trade in the British Empire. He also founded the Society for Suppression of Vice, the Church Missionary Society and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (later re-named the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Wilberforce died three days after passage of the 1833 Act. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
During the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic (1930-1961), government forces killed tens of thousands of people inside and outside the country. One of them was Charles Raymond Barnes, an American shot to death on July 26, 1938.
Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1920, Barnes served in the dioceses of Harrisburg and British Honduras (now Belize) before arriving in the Dominican Republic in 1936 to serve as vicar of Epiphany Church in the capitol, Santo Domingo. Poverty was rampant across the island of Hispaniola, and many Haitians had fled to the Dominican Republic to work in the fields. After harsh deportation measures proved unsuccessful, Trujillo ordered the immigrants to be killed. Barnes wrote about these atrocities, hoping that international pressure would bring them to an end.
Upon leaving the country, a friend of his was found in possession of what he had written. Soon the dead body of Barnes was discovered at his home. Regarded as the martyr of the Dominican Episcopal Church, he is buried in the chancel of his former parish, now the Cathedral of the Epiphany. By faith he still speaks to us.
Today’s Kalendar commemorates William Reed Huntington, Priest. Born in 1838 he died on July 27, 1909. He was for many years a leader in the House of Deputies at General Convention and was influential in the revision of the American Prayer Book that was adopted in 1892. Here is a beautiful collect that he composed; one that remains in our current Prayer Book:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into joy before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Huntington also was an advocate for reunion among the separated Christian communions. At the General Convention in Chicago in 1886 his proposal for a resolution on reunion was adopted, with the following preface: “Christian unity . . . can be restored only by the return of all Christian communions to the principles of the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence.” What followed were four foundational principles for reunion: the Bible, the Creeds, the Sacraments, and Episcopal Ministry. These principles, with the wording that follows, were adopted in 1888 at the Lambeth conference of all bishops in the Anglican Communion. The statement is now known as the “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral:”
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as
"Containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being
the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the
Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself --
Baptism and the Supper of the Lord -- ministered with unfailing
use of Christ's words of Institution, and of the elements
ordained by Him.
(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the
methods of its administration to the varying needs of the
nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of the Church.
Sadly, reunion has not yet taken place, nor is this likely to happen soon. But we can hope for it and act now in love and concern for our fellow Christians. Let us pray for growth toward unity in the words of this collect from the Prayer Book (BCP 255): Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our Epistle reading for Sunday is Paul’s letter to the Roman 8:26-39.
It may be the perfect prayer for our times. Who among us does not need help with our weakness during this troubled time? Sighs too deep for words (tears in some versions of the Bible, groaning in others) are all too familiar these days.
But the reading exhorts us to have faith, because all things work together for those who love God. If God is for us, who can be against us? Paul reminds us that God gave up his only Son for all of us. How can we imagine such love – to give up your only Son?
We can imagine it. Because we know it happened. And we know that Christ intercedes for us, from the right hand of God.
And we know, in one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture, that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Paul then describes all the things that cannot separate us from the love of God: death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth – not anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Reading this passage aloud gives it special resonance and meaning.
Christ loves us. He will intercede for us, even in the most troubled times. And the Holy Spirit is with us always.
Thanks be to God.
Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the most prominent disciples
of Jesus. Eastern Christianity recognizes her as equal to the apostles. Unfortunately the Western churches often downplay her significance. While
she is sometimes depicted in art as a penitent prostitute, there is no basis for identifying her with the “sinful woman” of Luke 7:37.
In her fine book, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault asserts “that we see all four gospels witness to Mary Magdalene as the premiere witness to the resurrection—alone or in a group, but in all cases by name. Given the shifting sands of oral history, the unanimity of this testimony is astounding.” She is the first witness to Christ’s resurrection and the first to announce it publicly.
As Bourgeault observes, “when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene stands firm. She does not run; she does not betray or lie about her commitment; she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching, perhaps both.”
How can we stand firm as witnesses to the resurrection?
Today’s Kalendar commemorates as “liberators and prophets” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Ross Tubman. Stanton and Bloomer were white women and Truth and Tubman were African American women. All were powerful advocates of justice and of hope for reform in 19th C. America. They were compelling public speakers, first engaging in the movement to abolish slavery and later in helping to found the movement for women’s rights, including rights to property, to the value of one’s labor, and to the right to vote. All of these had been denied by law to women as well as being denied to the African American slaves. Each of these women faced opposition—indeed derision—and each was a deeply committed Christian. They saw their work for human dignity and freedom as action on behalf of God’s desire for right relationships among God’s people. Their example from the past continues to inspire us in our own day.
Here is the collect for today’s commemoration:
O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today the Church remembers William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania, who died on this day in 1836 at the age of 88. Born in Philadelphia in 1748, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1772 at the age of 24. In addition to ministering to the United Parishes of St. Peter’s and Christ Church in Philadelphia from his ordination until his death, he was the chaplain to the Continental and Constitutional Congresses and the Senate from 1777 to 1801.
On February 4, 1787, in Lambeth Chapel, London, he was ordained bishop by John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury. After his ordination, he immediately returned home and became the first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. White served as Presiding Bishop for 67 days in 1789, and again from 1795 until his death in Philadelphia in 1836, the longest term of any Presiding Bishop.
Bishop White was known to be a prayerful and scholarly man and earned the confidence of prominent leaders in both America and England. He worked tirelessly and effectively to establish an autonomous American Episcopal Church, one that was manifestly the Body of Christ, free of ties perceived to be national or political. As a shepherd, White’s prayer led to action. He demonstrated a commitment to serving the poor. He was president of the Philadelphia Dispensary, an organization that supplied medical aid to those in need; of the Pennsylvania Institute for the Deaf; and of the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. He was an advocate for religious education and was instrumental in the formation of the first Episcopal Sunday school in America.
Let us pray with him this day, as he did in closing a sermon he gave in Christ-Church, Philadelphia, on June 21, 1787:
Come Divine Spirit, the author of all grace! pour into our hearts that most excellent grace of all, which "believeth, hopeth, and endureth all things![i]" May this thy blessed unction flow down upon us from the High Priest of our profession, and may it spread its delicious scent over every part of his mystical garment! Thus shall it be "like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down unto the beard, even unto Aaron's beard, and went down to the skirts of his clothing[ii].
[i] I Corinthians 13:7
[ii] Psalm 133:3
This part of our liturgical year is Ordinary Time. “Ordinary,” from the Latin word ordinals, refers to the fact that Sundays are numbered after Pentecost. It begins with the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, the first Sunday after Pentecost, which closes the Christmas season. Ordinary Time continues for 33 or 34 Sundays (depending on the date of Easter, which varies). It’s the longest season in our liturgical year.
Though it’s called Ordinary, it’s really an extraordinary opportunity. As Trinity Church Wall Street puts it, it’s the time when “Christ walks among us and transforms our lives.”
Jonathan Edwards, New England preacher, president of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University (and grandfather of Aaron Burr), exclaimed in a sermon “how much good opportunity [the season] presents to do good.”
During Ordinary Time, we’re invited and encouraged to learn about Jesus’ discipleship, and the lessons he teaches us through the Gospels. In last week’s Gospel, in this week’s,
and next, there are parables of seeds and sowers.
Seeds – things that grow. Growth that sustains us with food, surrounds us with beauty and hope. We, too, can be things that grow during this season. Let us mediate on the Gospels. Let us ruminate on the meanings of Jesus’ teaching. Let us draw closer to him through prayer.
In these extraordinarily difficult times, it may seem as if our prayers are not answered. That was a question asked during Mother Sarah Coakley’s “Deepening Prayer during a time of Pandemic and Social Unrest” last Sunday. Fr. Martin Smith responded with tapestry. Threads go from the front of a tapestry to behind it. Then they emerge in a very different, beautiful place. He said that our prayers are like those threads. We offer them to God, who uses them to create his beautiful works – sometimes in very different places. God can do extraordinary things with our prayers.
Thanks be to God.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington