June 5: Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz, Missionary to Germany, and Martyr, 754

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St. Boniface Baptising and Martyrdom in 754 from the 11th c. Sacramentary of Fulda

About this commemoration

Boniface is justly called one of the “Makers of Europe.” He was born at Crediton in Devonshire, England, about 675, and received the English name of Winfred. He was educated at Exeter, and later at Nursling, near Winchester, where he was professed a monk and ordained to the presbyterate.

Inspired by the examples of Willibrord and others, Winfred decided to become a missionary, and made his first Journey to Frisia (Netherlands) in 716—a venture with little success. In 719 he started out again; but this time he first went to Rome to seek papal approval. Pope Gregory the Second commissioned him to work in Germany, and gave him the name of Boniface.

For the rest of his days, Boniface devoted himself to reforming, planting, and organizing churches, monasteries, and dioceses in Hesse, Thuringia, and Bavaria. Many helpers and supplies came to him from friends in England. In 722 the Pope ordained him a bishop, ten years later made him an archbishop, and in 743 gave him a fixed see at Mainz.

The Frankish rulers also supported his work. At their invitation, he presided over reforming councils of the Frankish Church; and in 752, with the consent of Pope Zacharias, he anointed Pepin (Pippin) as King of the Franks. Thus, the way was prepared for Charlemagne, son of Pepin, and the revival of a unified Christian dominion in western Europe.

In 753 Boniface resigned his see, to spend his last years again as a missionary in Frisia. On June 5, 754, while awaiting a group of converts for confirmation, he and his companions were murdered by a band of pagans, near Dokkum. His body was buried at Fulda, a monastery he had founded in 744, near Mainz.

Collects

I  Almighty God, who didst call thy faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering didst raise up a people for thine own possession: Pour forth thy Holy Spirit upon thy Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many thy holy Name may be glorified and thy kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II  Almighty God, you called your faithful servant Boniface to be a witness and martyr in Germany, and by his labor and suffering you raised up a people for your own  possession: Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many your holy Name may be glorified and your kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 115:1-8

Lessons 

Micah 4:1–2

Acts 20:17–28

Luke 24:44–53

Preface of Apostles

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

June 4: [John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), Bishop of Rome, 1963]

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About this commemoration

“Good Pope John” changed the landscape of twentieth century Christianity.

Born in Northern Italy in 1881, Angelo Roncalli was trained in Roman Catholic schools from an early age. After military service, Roncalli was ordained a priest in 1904. His passion for social justice for working people and for the poor was formed early and remained an important commitment of his ministry.

Roncalli often received complicated assignments. He was made an archbishop in 1925 and sent as the papal envoy to Bulgaria where he was responsible for reducing the tensions between Eastern Rite and Latin Rite Catholics during a difficult period.

Some years later, he was the papal representative to Greece and Turkey when anti-religious sentiments were running high. His leadership in Turkey anticipated on a local scale some of the developments of later decades on a universal scale: putting the liturgy and the official documents of the church in the language of the people, and opening conversations with the Eastern Orthodox and those of other faiths. Near the end of the Second World War, he was made the papal nuncio to Paris with the task of trying to heal the divisions caused by the war. In 1953, at the age of 72, he was made a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice, the first time he had ever been the bishop ordinary of a diocese.

In 1958, Cardinal Roncalli was elected Pope and took the name John XXIII. After the long pontificate of Pius XII, it was widely

The body of John XXIII under an altar in St. Peter's Basilica (Copyright: Diana from de.wikipedia.org)

assumed that John XXIII would be a brief “placeholder” pope of minor consequence. During the first year of his pontificate, he called the Second Vatican Council for the purpose of renewing and revitalizing the church. The work of the Council transformed the church of the twentieth century, not only for Roman Catholics, but for all Christians. With its emphasis on liturgical renewal, ecumenism, world peace, and social justice, the legacy of the Council continues to inspire the mission of the church among Christians of all traditions.

Collects

I  Lord of all truth and peace, who didst raise up thy bishop John to be servant of the servants of God and bestowed on him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church: Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son, and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II  Lord of all truth and peace, you raised up your bishop John to be servant of the servants of God and gave him wisdom to call for the work of renewing your Church: Grant that, following his example, we may reach out to other Christians to clasp them with the love of your Son, and labor throughout the nations of the world to kindle a desire for justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Psalm  50:1–6

Lessons

Joel 2:26–29

1 Peter 5:1–4

John 21:15–17

Preface of a Saint (1)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

June 3: The Martyrs of Uganda, 1886

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Charles Lwanga (in the center) and his 21 followers. Albert Wider (1962)

About this commemoration

June 3, 1886, thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by fire or spear for their faith.

These martyrdoms totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by a handful of Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries after 1877, the Christian faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885 (including Bishop Hannington and his Companions: see October 29th). Mwanga first forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out Christianity.

The Namugongo martyrdoms produced a result entirely opposite to Mwanga’s intentions. The example of these martyrs, who walked to their death singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond the court. The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man’s religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily. Uganda is now the most Christian nation in Africa.

Renewed persecution of Christians by a Muslim military dictatorship in the 1970’s proved the vitality of the example of the Namugongo martyrs. Among the thousands of new martyrs, both Anglican and Roman Catholic, was Janani Luwum, Archbishop of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda, whose courageous ministry and death inspired not only his countrymen but also Christians throughout the world.

Collects

I  O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before thee the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  O God, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even to death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 138

Lessons

Habakkuk 2:9–14

Hebrews 10:32–39

Matthew 24:9–14

Preface of Holy Week

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

May-June: The First Book of Common Prayer

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About this commemoration

This feast is appropriately observed on a weekday following the day of Pentecost.

The first Book of Common Prayer came into use on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI. From it have descended all subsequent editions and revisions of the Book in the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Though prepared by a commission of learned bishops and priests, the format, substance, and style of the Prayer Book were primarily the work of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1533–1556. The principal sources employed in its compilation were the medieval Latin service books of the Use of Sarum (Salisbury), with enrichments from the Greek liturgies, certain ancient Gallican rites, the vernacular German forms prepared by Luther, and a revised Latin liturgy of the reforming Archbishop Hermann of Cologne. The Psalter and other biblical passages were drawn from the English “Great Bible” authorized by King Henry VIII in 1539, and the Litany was taken from the English form issued as early as 1544.

The originality of the Prayer Book, apart from the felicitous translations and paraphrases of the old Latin forms, lay in its simplification of the complicated liturgical usages of the medieval Church, so that it was suitable for use by the laity as well as by the clergy. The Book thus became both a manual of common worship for Anglicans and a primary resource for their personal spirituality.

Collects

I  Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, did restore the language of the people in the prayers of thy Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 33:1–5,20–21

Lessons

1 Kings 8:54–61

Acts 2:38–42

John 4:21–24

Preface of Pentecost

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

June 2: Blandina and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Lyon, 177

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Maturus, Sanctus, Blandina, and a youth from Pontus, most miserably tormented, on the River Rhone, about the year 172. Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

About this commemoration

In the second century, after a brief respite, Christians in many parts of the Roman empire were once again subjected to persecution. At Lyons and Vienne, in Gaul, there were missionary centers which had drawn many Christians from Asia and Greece. They were living a devout life under the guidance of Pothinus, elderly Bishop of Lyons, when persecution began in 177.

At first, the Christians were socially excluded from Roman homes, the public baths, and the market place; insults, stones, and blows were rained on them by pagan mobs, and Christian homes were vandalized. Soon after, the imperial officials forced Christians to come to the market place for harsh questioning, followed by imprisonment.

Some slaves from Christian households were tortured to extract public accusations that Christians practiced cannibalism, incest, and other perversions. These false accusations roused the mob to such a pitch of wrath that any leniency toward the imprisoned Christians was impossible. Even friendly pagans now turned against them.

The fury of the mob fell most heavily on Sanctus, a deacon; Attalus; Maturus, a recent convert; and Blandina, a slave. According to Eusebius, Blandina was so filled with power to withstand torments that her torturers gave up. “I am a Christian,” she said, “and nothing vile is done among us.” Sanctus was tormented with red-hot irons. The aged Pothinus, badly beaten, died soon after. Finally, the governor decided to set aside several days for a public spectacle in the amphitheater.

On the final day of the spectacle, writes Eusebius, “Blandina, last of all, like a noble mother who had encouraged her children and sent them ahead victorious to the King, hastened to join them.” Beaten, torn, burned with irons, she was wrapped in a net and tossed about by a wild bull. The spectators were amazed at her endurance.

Eusebius concludes: “They offered up to the Father a single wreath, but it was woven of diverse colors and flowers of all kinds. It was fitting that the noble athletes should endure a varied conflict, and win a great victory, that they might be entitled in the end to receive the crown supreme of life everlasting.”

Collects

I  Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of thee, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II  Grant, O Lord, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of you, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Psalm 34:1-8

Lessons

Jeremiah 12:1–3a

1 Peter 1:3–9

Mark 8:34–38

Preface of a Saint (3) 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

June 1: Justin, Martyr at Rome, c.167

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About this commemoration

Toward the middle of the second century, there came into the young Christian community a seeker for the truth, whose wide interests, noble spirit, and able mind, greatly enriched it.

Justin was born into a Greek-speaking pagan family about the year 110 in Samaria, near Shechem. He was educated in Greek philosophy. Like Augustine after him, he was left restless by all this knowledge. During a walk along the beach at Ephesus, he fell in with a stranger, who told him about Christ. “Straightway a flame was kindled in my soul,” he writes, “and a love of the prophets and those who are friends of Christ possessed me.” He became a Christian as a result of this encounter, and thereafter regarded Christianity as the only “safe and profitable philosophy.”

About 150, Justin moved to Rome. As philosophers did in those days, he started a school—in this case, a school of Christian philosophy—and accepted students. He also wrote. Three of his works are known to us: a dialogue in Platonic style with a Jew named Trypho, and two “apologies.” (An apology in this sense, of course, is not an excuse, but a spirited defense.) Justin’s First and Second Apologies defend Christianity against the Greek charge of irrationality and the Roman charge of disloyalty to the empire. These two works provide us with important insights into developing theological ideas and liturgical practices of early Christianity. In the Dialogue with Trypho, Justin defends the Church against the Jewish charge of distorting the Old Testament. He interprets the Old Testament as the foreshadowing of the New.

While teaching in Rome, he engaged in a public debate with a philosopher of the Cynic school named Crescens, accusing him of ignorance and immorality. Angered, Crescens preferred legal charges against him. Justin and six of his students were arrested and brought before the prefect Rusticus. As the custom was, Rusticus gave them an opportunity to renounce their faith. All steadfastly refused to do so. Justin and his companions were put to death about the year 167.

Collects

I  Almighty and everlasting God, who didst find thy martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and didst reveal to him the sublime wisdom of thine eternal Word: Grant that all who seek thee, or a deeper knowledge of thee, may find and be found by thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Almighty and everlasting God, you found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and you revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word: Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and be found by you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 15:5-11

Lessons

Deuteronomy 7:7–9

1 Corinthians 1:18–25

John 12:44–50

Preface of a Saint (3) 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

May 30: Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), Mystic and Soldier, 1431

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Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was born the daughter of peasant stock in France in 1412. Called the “Maid of Orleans,” she was a religious child, and at a young age she began to experience spiritual visions, which she described as voices emerging from a powerful flash of light. She believed that Saint Michael and Saint Catherine, among other saints, called her to save France from the civil war between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy. At first, her visions were looked upon skeptically, but she eventually convinced King Charles VII, the not yet consecrated King of France, of the genuineness of her visions.

In consultation with several of his theologians, Charles decided to allow Joan to lead an expedition to Orleans. According to legend, she wore a suit of white armor and carried a banner bearing the symbol of the Trinity and the words “Jesus, Maria.” Charles’ troops were inspired and won the battle for their city. She convinced Charles to proceed to Reims for his coronation and she stood at his side throughout the ceremony.

Joan was eventually taken prisoner by Burgundian troops and sold to the English. In 1431, she returned to France, appeared before the Bishop of Beauvais, and was tried at Rouen on charges of witchcraft and heresy. Her visions were declared “false and diabolical” and she was forced to recant. Later that year, however, she was tried and condemned as a relapsed heretic and burnt to death and Rouen. In 1456, following an appeal of her trial, Pope Callistus III declared her to have been falsely accused. She was Canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

Although her efforts were unsuccessful in ending civil war in France, she inspired later generations with her faith, her heroism, and her commitment to God and to her King. She is today one of the patron saints of France.

Collects

I.   Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor thy calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear thy standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of thy saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II.    Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor you for the calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lessons

Psalm 144:1–12

Judith 8:32–9:11

2 Corinthians 3:1–6

Matthew 12:25–30

Preface of the Epiphany

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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May 28: John Calvin, Theologian, 1564

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John Calvin was the premier theologian and leader of the Reformed wing of the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin was born in France in 1509 and reared in a devout Roman Catholic family. He excelled at his studies and by the age of 19 he had earned a master’s degree. His father wanted him to study law, which he did for a time, but Calvin’s own passions were theology, languages, rhetoric and the literary sciences. Around 1534, he underwent a major conversion experience, left the Roman Church, and devoted the rest of his life to the evangelical cause of the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin’s greatest work is The Institutes of the Christian Religion, first published in 1536, but repeatedly updated and revised until its final edition in 1559. Unlike Luther and Zwingli, whose theological writings were “situational” in the sense of addressing particular conflicts, Calvin’s Institutes were a more systematic treatment of the whole of Reformed evangelical theology. By taking up his reforming agenda fifteen years after Luther and Zwingli, Calvin was able to write in a more reflective and considered mode, beyond the crossfire and immediacy of the early years of the Reformation. Standard themes in Reformed theology—the sovereignty of God, election and predestination, the true nature of the Christian life, and the proper understanding of the authority of Scripture—even now bear strong Calvinist qualities. The Institutes continue to be an accessible window into the Reformed theology of the sixteenth century.

Calvin was also interested in theological principles controlling the civil state by imposing moral discipline on the people. His efforts in Geneva to establish such a theocratic moral code enjoyed periods of modest success but were met with resistance as well. Positively, Calvin’s theocratic principles of public life led to the creation of hospitals, care for the poor, orphans, widows and the infirm, provisions for better sanitation, and the creation of new industries to employ the people. Calvin’s Geneva was also a safe haven for John Knox and other Protestants of the Reformed tradition during times of unrest and exile.

Collects

I.    Sovereign and holy God, who didst bring John Calvin from a study of legal systems to understand the godliness of thy divine laws as revealed in Scripture: Fill us with a like zeal to teach and preach thy Word, that the whole world may come to know thy Son Jesus Christ, the true Word and Wisdom; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, ever one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

II.    Sovereign and holy God, you brought John Calvin from a study of legal systems to understand the godliness of your divine laws as revealed in Scripture: Fill us with a like zeal to teach and preach your Word, that the whole world may come to know your Son Jesus Christ, the true Word and Wisdom; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, ever one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Lessons

Psalm 119:1–8

Joel 2:1–2,12–14

Romans 9:18–26

John 15:1–11

Preface of Trinity Sunday

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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May 27: Bertha and Ethelbert, Queen and King of Kent, 616

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Christianity had been known in Britain among the Celts since the third century, but in the fifth century the southeast was invaded by pagan Anglo-Saxons who drove the Celts north and west into Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Ethelbert succeeded his father as Saxon king of Kent in 560. He was, according to the Venerable Bede, a fair ruler and the first English King to promulgate a code of law. Brisk cross-channel trade with France exposed Ethelbert to Roman customs and luxuries. His admiration for the Frankish ways led him to marry a French Christian princess, Bertha.  Although not a Christian himself, Ethelbert promised Bertha’s father that she could practice her faith. Good to his word, he welcomed her chaplain and granted him an old Christian mausoleum to convert into the Church of St. Martin, which still stands today.

In 597, the Roman mission to England under Augustine arrived. When he first heard the Gospel, Ethelbert was cautious and unconvinced. However, his fair-mindedness and hospitality were evident in his welcome to Augustine: “The words and promises you bring are fair enough, but because they are new to us and doubtful, I cannot accept them and forsake those beliefs which I and the whole English race have held so long. But as you have come on a long pilgrimage and are anxious, I perceive, to share with us things which you believe are true and good, we do not wish to do you harm; on the contrary, we receive you hospitably and provide what is necessary for your support; nor do we forbid you to win all you can to your faith and religion by your preaching.”

The following Pentecost, Ethelbert was baptized, becoming the first Christian King in England. Though he helped the missionaries and founded cathedrals and churches throughout southeastern England, including Canterbury Cathedral, he never coerced his people, or even his children, into conversion. Bertha’s kind and charitable nature and Ethelbert’s respect for law and the dignity of individual conscience represent, to this day, some of the best of the English Christian spirit.

Collects

I.    God our ruler and guide, we honor thee for Queen Bertha and King Ethelbert of Kent who, gently persuaded by the truth of thy Gospel, encouraged others by their godly example to follow freely the path of discipleship; and we pray that we, like them, may show the goodness of thy Word not only by our words but in our lives; through Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

II.    God our ruler and guide, we honor you for Queen Bertha and King Ethelbert of Kent who, gently persuaded by the truth of your Gospel, encouraged others by their godly example to follow freely the path of discipleship; and we pray that we, like them, may show the goodness of your Word not only by our words but in our lives; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Lessons

Psalm 144:9–15

Wisdom 9:7–12

1 Timothy 4:6–10

Luke 10:21–24

Preface of a Saint (1)

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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May 26: Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605

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Although Christianity had existed in Britain before the invasions of Angles and Saxons in the fifth century, Pope Gregory the Great decided in 596 to send a mission to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. He selected, from his own monastery on the Coelian hill in Rome, a group of monks, led by their prior, Augustine. They arrived in Kent in 597, carrying a silver cross and an image of Jesus Christ painted on a board, which thus became, so far as we know, “Canterbury’s first icon.”

King Ethelbert tolerated their presence and allowed them the use of an old church built on the east side of Canterbury, dating from the Roman occupation of Britain. Here, says the Venerable Bede, they assembled “to sing the psalms, to pray, to say Mass, to preach, and to baptize.” This church of St. Martin is the earliest place of Christian worship in England still in use.

Probably in 601, Ethelbert was converted, thus becoming the first Christian king in England. About the same time, Augustine was ordained bishop somewhere in France and named “Archbishop of the English Nation.” Thus, the see of Canterbury and its Cathedral Church of Christ owe their establishment to Augustine’s mission, as does the nearby Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul, later re-named for Augustine. The “chair of St. Augustine” in Canterbury Cathedral, however, dates from the thirteenth century.

Some correspondence between Augustine and Gregory survives. One of the Pope’s most famous counsels to the first Archbishop of Canterbury has to do with diversity in the young English Church. Gregory writes, “If you have found customs, whether in the Roman, Gallican, or any other Churches that may be more acceptable to God, I wish you to make a careful selection of them, and teach the Church of the English, which is still young in the faith, whatever you can profitably learn from the various Churches. For things should not be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things.”

This counsel bears on the search for Christian “unity in diversity” of the ecumenical movement of today.

Augustine died on May 26, probably in 605.

Collects

I.    O Lord our God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst call thine apostles and send them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations: We bless thy holy Name for thy servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating thy Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom thou dost call and send may do thy will, and bide thy time, and see thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II.    O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ you called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations: We bless your holy Name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today; and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, and bide your time, and see your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Psalm 66:1–8

Tobit 13:1,10–11

2 Corinthians 5:17–20a

Luke 5:1–11

Preface of Apostles

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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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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