Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey:
I love the Church calendar and believe it is a powerful tool for learning and teaching the faith. On many days of the church year we commemorate Saints - some long past, others more contemporary. Reading their stories is both educational and inspirational. This past week we observed a rich array of these heroes of the faith.
On Monday, August 10, the Church calendar called for the observance of Laurence of Rome, a deacon and martyr who died in 258 A.D.
Holy Women, Holy Men (New York: The Church Pension Fund - Church Publishing Group, Inc. 2010) describes him as "one of the most popular saints of the Roman Church." He was martyred during a persecution under the Emperor Valerian. According to accounts of his life, after Laurence was arrested, the Prefect of Rome demanded the treasures of the church. As
Holy Women, Holy Men notes, Laurence "assembled the sick and poor to whom as archdeacon he had distributed the church's relief funds, presenting these persons to the Prefect, saying, "These are the treasures of the Church." Tradition holds that he was roasted alive on a gridiron.
On Tuesday, August 11, we observed Clair of Assisi. Clair lived in the latter half of the 12th century and was a devoted friend and follower of St. Francis of Assisi. Like Francis, she came from a well-to-do family. She was moved by a sermon of his and, following his example, renounced her wealth and possessions, desiring to become a member of his order. Francis had her placed in a Benedictine Convent and later, under his guidance, she established the Poor Ladies of St. Damian, which was known for its austerity and holiness, giving their lives to begging and to caring for the poor and sick. Clair was Superior of the Order for 40 years.
On Wednesday, August 12, the Church remembered Florence Nightingale, Nurse and Social Reformer, who was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820 and trained as a nurse in Kaiserwerth and Paris. As
Holy Women, Holy Men reports, "In response to God's call and animated by a spirit of service, in 1854 she volunteered for duty during the Crimean War and recruited 38 nurses to join her. With them she organized the first modern nursing service in the British field hospitals of Scutari and Balaclava." According to
Holy Women, Holy Men, "By imposing strict discipline and high standards of sanitation she radically reduced the drastic death toll and rampant infection then typical in field hospitals." She was a devout and prayerful Anglican, and upon her return to England helped develop nursing into a strong profession.
On Thursday, August 13, Jeremy Taylor was commemorated. Taylor was one of the so-called Caroline Divines - a group of theologians and writers who lived during the time of Charles I and the Restoration under Charles II. Taylor is most famous for his work
Holy Living and Holy Dying
Holy Women, Holy Men
notes that his work,
Liberty of Prophesying
"proved to be a seminal work in encouraging the development of religious toleration in the seventeenth century."
As I write to you, I am in Montgomery, Alabama to observe the 50th Anniversary of the martyrdom of Jonathan Myrick Daniels who is observed on the Church calendar on August 14. Daniels, of Keane, New Hampshire, was a seminarian at Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts when he heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. call upon Christian leaders to come to Selma to join in the protests for voting rights. On August 14, 1965, he was jailed along with other protesters. The group was soon released without explanation. Four of them walked to a local store. As they approached the store, a man with a 12-gauge shotgun appeared, aiming the gun at 16-year-old Ruby Sales. Jonathan stepped in front of her as the man fired. He was killed by the blast. A Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Richard Morrisroe was also seriously wounded. The shooter was eventually arrested but a jury refused to convict him of the killing.
Five very different people, five very different stories of faith, but all inspiring in their own ways and all witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Keeping track of the Church calendar and the lives of the saints it commemorates is a wonderful and enriching spiritual discipline I commend to you. You might consider purchasing your own copy of
Holy Women, Holy Men
for use at home. You can order this from the
Trinity Cathedral Bookstore.
You can also refer to the Calendar of the Church Year at the
Episcopal Church Online
. Here you will find a brief biography of each of the saints.
Of course, Saturday, August 15th is the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I pray you will be observing this day. It demands a reflection all its own, but that will have to wait for another time.
The Right Reverend William H. (Chip) Stokes, D.D.
XII Bishop of New Jersey