Archive for the ‘A Four-Year Lectionary (Humes) Year A’ Category

Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.), Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Healing of Ten Lepers, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Gratitude

NOVEMBER 28, 2019

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 150

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

Too often we forget to be grateful.  Too often we are like the nine lepers in Luke 17:11-19 who neglected to thank Jesus for healing them.  Too seldom we are like the sole former leper who expressed gratitude to Jesus.

I refrain from reducing piety to more good manners, but good manners, expressed to God, are healthy spiritual practices.  Certainly thanking God throughout each day will improve one’s life in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/gratitude-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 29, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Christ the King

NOVEMBER 24, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

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Christ the King Sunday, originally established in the Roman Catholic Church opposite Reformation Sunday, was the creation of Pope Pius XI in 1925.  The rise of fascism and other forms of dictatorship in Europe between World Wars I and II was the context for the creation of this feast.  The feast, in full,

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe,

has been the Sunday preceding Advent since Holy Mother Church revised its calendar in 1969.  The feast became part of many Lutheran and Anglican calendars during the 1970s, as part of liturgical revision.  In much of U.S. Methodism Christ the King Sunday used to fall on the last Sunday in August, at the end of the Season after Pentecost and leading into Kingdomtide.  Christ the King Sunday, set immediately prior to Advent, has become ubiquitous in Western Christianity.

The term “Christ the King” works well for me, for Jesus was male.  I have seen the alternative term “Reign of Christ,” an example of unnecessary linguistic neutering.  I have also wondered about the use of the language of monarchy in a world with few monarchs than before, and about how many citizens of republics might relate to such terminology.  I have also noted that “Reign of Christ” does not allay any concerns related to the language of monarchy.

God is the king in Psalm 100, and Jesus is the king in Ephesians 1 and Matthew 25.  We read of negligent Hebrew kings in Ezekiel 34.  There we also read of the promised Messianic sovereign.  In Matthew 25 we read that the Son of Man (an apocalyptic term for, in this case, Jesus) expects us to take care of each other and will mete out both judgment and mercy.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Most of the readings for this Sunday are apocalyptic in tone.  Matthew 25:31-46 belongs to an apocalyptic section (set immediately prior to the crucifixion of Jesus) in that Gospel.  Ephesians (whoever wrote it) is probably from the 90s C.E., about the time of the composition of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The promise of the Second Coming of Christ hangs over Ephesians 1:15-23.  The promise of a Messianic king in Ezekiel 34 is apocalyptic on its face.  The readings also fit well at the end of the Season after Pentecost and before Advent, when many of the readings are apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic literature is inherently hopeful, for it affirms that God will end the current, sinful, exploitative age and usher in a new age of justice–of heaven on Earth.  If one studies the Bible carefully, one recognizes the pattern of pushing dashed apocalyptic hopes forward in time–from the end of the Babylonian Exile to the time after Alexander the Great to the time of Jesus to the end of the first century C.E.  One, studying history, might also find this pattern since the end of the New Testament.  The list of times Jesus was allegedly supposed to have returned, according to a series of false prophets, is lengthy.

Nevertheless, Christ remains the King of the Universe, despite all appearances to the contrary.  God remains faithful to divine promises, and the apocalyptic hope for God to set the world right remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/christ-the-king-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 28, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

Active Faith

NOVEMBER 17, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Nahum 1:1-9, 12-15 or Isaiah 66:10-14

Psalm 38:1-4, 9-15, 21-22

1 Corinthians 16:1-9, 13-14, 20-24

Matthew 25:14-30

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A talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer.  In the Parable of the Talents all the stewards were honest men, fortunately.  Unfortunately, one gave into fearful inactivity while the other two were active.  The parable, set amid apocalyptic texts in the context of the build up to the crucifixion of Jesus, cautioned against fearful inactivity when action is necessary.

St. Paul the Apostle was certainly active, maintaining a travel schedule, writing to churches and individuals, and raising funds for the church at Jerusalem.

Fearful inactivity is not the only sin that provokes divine wrath.  To that list one can add institutionalized exploitation and violence (read Nahum).  When oppressors refuse to change their ways and to cease oppressing, deliverance for the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors.  One might think also of the fate of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

Back to individual sins, we have Psalm 38, a text by an ill man shunned by alleged friends.  He also has enemies who plot violence against him.  And he is aware of his sins.  The psalmist prays for deliverance.

Confession of sin is a requirement for repentance.  Sin can be active or passive, as well as collective or individual.  May repentance and active faith marked by justice and mercy define us, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/active-faith-v/

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Devotion for Proper 27, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

A Faithful Response

NOVEMBER 10, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Haggai 2:2-9 or Isaiah 62:6-12

Psalm 37:1-11

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Matthew 25:1-13

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God is powerful, just, merciful, and trustworthy.  We know this because the mighty acts of God indicate those qualities.  These acts of God include ending the Babylonian Exile and resurrecting Jesus.

Such grace demands a faithful response.  God is with us; are we with God?  While you, O reader, ponder that, think about this, also:  “you” in Matthew 25:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 is plural.  If we are to interpret these passages correctly, we must assign the proper weight to collective responsibility.

As we labor faithfully in God’s service, may we never lose hope; our work is not in vain, regardless of appearances sometimes.  One might think, for example, of the prophet Jeremiah, who had just one follower–Baruch the scribe.  Yet the Book of Jeremiah continues to speak to many people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/a-faithful-response-part-xi/

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Devotion for Proper 26, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Respecting God

NOVEMBER 3, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Haggai 1:1-13 or Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 36

1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Matthew 23:1-39

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We can never repay God, upon whom we are completely dependent and who extends justice and demands it of us.  We can, however, revere and love God.  We can follow God and use spiritual gifts for the building up of faith and civil communities.  We, collectively and individually, can–and must–never overlook the weightier demands of divine law–justice, mercy, and good faith.  Many of these issues exist in the purviews of governments and corporations, of societal institutions.

I have not kept count of how often I have written of the moral relevance of how we treat our fellow human beings and of how my North American culture overemphasizes individual responsibility to the detriment of collective responsibility.  I choose not to delve into these points again here and now.

I choose, however, to focus on respect.  If we respect God, we will take care of our church buildings.  If we respect God, we will also respect the image of God in other people, and seek to treat them accordingly.  If we respect God, we will be social and political revolutionaries, for the ethics of Jesus remain counter-cultural.  If we respect God, we will be oddballs at best and existential threats at worst, according to our critics.

Do we dare to respect God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/respecting-god/

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Devotion for the Feast of All Saints, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

The Communion of Saints

NOVEMBER 1, 2019

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

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Gendered language does not bother me.  Gender is, after all, a reality of human life.  Besides, neutering language frequently blurs the divide between the singular and the plural, hence my objections to the singular “they,” “them,” “their” and “themselves.”  One can–and should–be inclusive linguistically in such a way as to respect the difference between the singular and the plural.  I do understand the issue of clarity, however.  I know that how members of one generation, in a particular cultural context, perceive a gendered term, such as “sons,” differs greatly from how others elsewhere, at another time, do.  Certain modern English translations of the Bible, in an admirable attempt to be inclusive, obscure subleties of gendered terms sometimes.  However, translating a text literally does not make those subtleties clear, either.  Commentaries are necessary for that.

Consider, for example, Romans 8:14-17, O reader.  In that passage the Greek for “sons of God” often comes across in modern English as “children of God.”  Likewise, we read “children” when the Greek word means “sons.”  The cultural context, in which sons, but not daughters, inherited, is vital to understanding that portion of scripture, in which Christians, whether they are biologically sons or daughters, inherit, via Jesus.  Thus “sons of God” includes daughters.  None of that is superficially evident, however.

In contrast, “children,” as in “children of God, as opposed to “children of Satan,” in 1 John 3:1 and 3:10 is a literal translation from the Greek; the Greek word is not gender-specific.  That fact is not superficially evident, however, given the recent tendency to gloss over gendered language.  A commentary is necessary to understand that aspect of 1 John 3:1 and 3:10.

Our societies condition us in ways that frequently do not apply to the cultural contexts that informed ancient texts.

In 1929 Lesbia Scott wrote:

They lived not only in ages past,

There are hundreds of thousands still,

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,

For the saints of God are just folk like me,

And I mean to be one too.

The apocalyptic hope present in Daniel 7, the community focus of Psalm 34, and the counter-cultural values of the Beatitudes should encourage us to persist is fidelity to God, to do so in faith community, and without resorting to serial contrariness, to lead lives that reject those cultural values contrary to the message of the Beatitudes.  We must do this for the glory of God and the benefit of people near, far away, and not yet born.  And, when our earthly pilgrimage ends, others will take up the cause we join what Hebrews 12:1 calls

a great cloud of witnesses.

Members of that great cloud of witnesses are sons and daughters of God–inheritors of the promise, by the grace of God.  Certain cultures restrict inheritance rights according to gender, but God does not.  Each of us, by grace and faith, can be among the sons of God and the children of the light.

And I mean to be one, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/the-communion-of-saints-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 25, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Feast of Esther, by Jan Lievens

Image in the Public Domain

Hesed

OCTOBER 27, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 or Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 35:1-3, 9-18

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 22:34-46

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Today’s readings from the Hebrew Bible reflect danger and divine deliverance.  In Esther and Isaiah the agents of divine deliverance are human beings.

The appeal for divine deliverance is the request for hesed, or loving kindness, steadfast love, keeping of faith.  That is a form of love that is covenantal and beyond sentimentality.  That is the human love in 1 Corinthians 13.  That is the love for God and neighbor in Matthew 22:34-40, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and sounding much like the then-fairly recently deceased Rabbi Hillel.

Two words I often hear misused are “love” and “friend.”  I like chocolate, not love it.  In the age of social media “friend” has taken on superficial and shallow connotations.  Regardless of how many “friends” one has on any given social media website, one is fortunate if one has a few friends face-to-face–people who will proverbially go through hell for one.  I mean no disrespect to Joseph Scriven (1820-1886), author of the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  Yet the passage,

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

is inaccurate.  If we define a friend as an individual who behaves as a friend, those alleged friends in the hymn are actually enemies.  If one has “friends” such as those, one joins the company of Job, afflicted by four enemies by the time the final author of that book wrote.

May we be agents of hesed to one another.  May we have hesed for God.  After all, God has hesed for all of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/hesed-part-iii/

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