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About this commemoration
In 1855, an aggressive yellow fever epidemic swept through tidewater Virginia. Many of the region’s wealthy citizens were able to escape the area to avoid exposure and contamination. In most cases the physicians and clergy who served them departed as well. This left the area’s poor bereft of doctors, caregivers and, in some cases, the basic provisions of food and water to sustain life.
James Chisholm sent his family away to safety, staying behind to provide whatever care for the sick he could. Chisholm provided food, amateur medical assistance, and pastoral care. He was even known to have dug graves for those who had died.
As the ravages of the plague were beginning to subside, Chisholm, weary to the point of exhaustion from his faithful priestly service, contracted the yellow fever and died.
An account of Chisholm’s sacrifice, written only months after his death, marvels at the inner strength that Chisholm discovered that enabled him to stay behind and serve the people many of whom were only waiting to die. Before the crisis, Chisholm was not thought of as a particularly strong man in body, and was described as having been retiring to the point of bashfulness, delicate, weak, and lacking much fortitude. When faced, however, with the call of these priestly duties in the face of great hardship, Chisholm showed a strength and courage few knew he possessed.
Merciful God, who didst call thy priest James Chisholm to sacrifice his life in working to relieve his parishioners and the people of his city during a yellow fever epidemic: Help us remember that in giving up our lives to thy service, we win the eternal crown that never fades away in that heavenly kingdom where, with Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit, thou reignest, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Merciful God, you called your priest James Chisholm to sacrifice his life in working to relieve his parishioners and the people of his city during a yellow fever epidemic: Help us remember that in giving up our lives to your service, we win the eternal crown that never fades away in that heavenly kingdom where, with Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit, you reign, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:9–17
2 Corinthians 1:3–11
Preface of God the Son
Text From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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