Archive for the ‘Image of God’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 26, Year A (Humes)   2 comments

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 Proper 17, Year A (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  The Blind and Mute Man Possessed by Devils, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Fruit

SEPTEMBER 1, 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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Genesis 39:1-21 or Isaiah 43:16-25

Psalm 20

1 Corinthians 8

Matthew 12:22-37

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The timeless principle behind St. Paul the Apostle’s advice regarding food sacrificed to false gods in 1 Corinthians 8 is that Christian believers must conduct themselves so as to glorify God and distinguish themselves from unbelievers.  This need not devolve into Puritanical-Pietistic serial contrariness, such as that regarding “worldly amusements,” but does entail drawing people to God, who ended the Babylonian Exile.

Our Lord and Savior’s critics in Matthew 12:22-37 could not deny his miracles, some of which they had witnessed.  They sought to discredit Jesus, though.  They accused him of performing miracles via the power of Satan, prompting Christ to announce the one unpardonable sin:  blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is actually quite simple to grasp.  When one cannot distinguish between good and evil, one has placed oneself outside the grasp of forgiveness.  One has rejected God.  One bears bad fruit.

There can be a fine line between telling the truth and committing the sin of judging others falsely.  One must be aware of one’s sinful nature, and therefore proceed cautiously and humbly.  Nevertheless, one has a duty to issue moral statements at times.  One simply must not pretend to know everything or more than one does, at least.

Ego and social conditioning can warp one’s perspective.  I know this from harrowing historical-theological reading, such as theological defenses of chattel slavery then Jim Crow laws.  (I refer to primary sources.)  The desire to preserve one’s self-image has long led to perfidy, active and passive.

I am not immune from the negative influences of ego and social conditioning, the latter of which is not inherently all bad.  I too must pray for forgiveness for my moral blind spots.  I do so while seeking to recognize the image of God in others, especially those quite different from me.  I do so while acknowledging the obvious:  the Bible orders us hundreds of times to care for strangers.  I do so while seeking to define my ethics according to the standard of the Golden Rule.  In doing so I find that I must call violations of the Golden Rule what they are.  Therefore, people who support those violations of the Golden Rule are on the wrong side of it.  Yet they need not be.

May we bear good fruit for the glory of God.  May we, like Joseph in Genesis 39, do what is correct, especially when that is difficult and has negative consequences–in the case, incarceration.  May we bear good fruit for the glory of God, in all circumstances, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/good-and-bad-fruit-part-iii/

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday, Year A (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Little Less Than Divine

JUNE 16, 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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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is the creation of Bishop Stephen of Liege (in office 903-920).  The feast, universal in Roman Catholicism since 1334 by the order of Pope John XXII, is, according to the eminent Lutheran liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher, author of the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), not so much about a doctrine but

the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

–page 301

Famously the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and no single verse or passage gives us that doctrine.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the result of much debate, some fistfights, ecumenical councils, Roman imperial politics, and the pondering of various passages of scripture.  The conclusion of 2 Corinthians and Matthew are two of those passages.  Perhaps the best summary of that process in the fourth chapter in Karen Armstrong‘s A History of God (1994).

I, being aware that a set of heresies has its origin in pious attempts to explain the Trinity, refrain from engaging in any of those heresies or creating a new one.  No, I stand in awe of the mystery of God and affirm that the Trinity is as close to an explanation as we humans will have.  We cannot understand the Trinity, and God, I assume, is more than that.

The great myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, itself a modified version of the Enuma Elish, affirms, among other key theological concepts, (1) the goodness of creation and (2) the image of God in human beings.  We are not an afterthought.  No, we are the pinnacle of the created order.  These themes carry over into Psalm 8.  The standard English-language translation of one verse (which one it is depends on the versification in the translation one reads) is that God has created us slightly lower than the angels.  That is a mistranslation.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane passage as

little less than divine.

The Anchor Bible (1965) translation by Mitchell J. Dahood reads

a little less than the gods.

The Hebrew word is Elohim, originally a reference to the council of gods, and therefore a remnant of a time before Jews were monotheists.  An alternative translation is English is

a little lower than God,

which is better than

a little lower than the angels.

Studies of religious history should teach one that Elohim eventually became a synonym for YHWH.

“Little less than divine” seems like an optimistic evaluation of human nature when I consider the past and the present, especially when I think about environmental destruction and human behavior.  But what if Pfatteicher is correct?  What if the work of salvation is complete?  What if the image of God is a great portion of our nature than the actions of many of us might indicate?

In Christ we can have liberation to become the people we ought to be.  In Christ we can achieve our spiritual potential–for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May we, by grace, let the image of God run loose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/little-less-than-divine/

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Devotion for Proper 23 (Ackerman)   4 comments

Above:   God Speaks to Job

Image in the Public Domain

Testing and the Image of God

OCTOBER 13, 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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Job 40:15-41:11

Psalm 119:121-128

2 Corinthians 13:5-10

John 8:48-59

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Testing God by violating commandments is a sin, as is accusing Jesus of being demon-possessed.  Yet, as in the case of Job, complaining while innocent yet suffering is not (see Job 42:7-8).  Nevertheless, one ought not to misinterpret the titular character of that book as being devoid of error.  The error of Job and his alleged friends (who obviously misunderstood the course of his suffering) is also an error:  presuming to know how God acts or should at least act.  The test for us is the same as the test for Job:  to have proper perspective.

Here is another test, one from St. Paul the Apostle:  Are we living the life of faith?  The answer key for that test is recognizing that Christ is among us.  That is certainly a proper perspective!  If we see Christ in others, we will treat them as we should.  But do we recognize Christ in ourselves?  The Golden Rule does command us to love others as we love ourselves.  Each human being carries the image of God.  Do we recognize it and act accordingly?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/testing-and-the-image-of-god/

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This is post #900 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

The Good Society

NOVEMBER 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-good-society/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 23, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses Prays for Miriam To Be Healed

Above:   Moses Prays for the Healing of Miriam

Image in the Public Domain

Inclusion and Exclusion

OCTOBER 12, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The word “leprosy,” in the Bible, has a broad definition, applying to a variety of diseases of the skin.  Such conditions also fall under the heading of ritual impurity (consult Numbers 5:2a) and require a time of isolation before one returns to one’s community and to a state of ritual purity (consult Leviticus 13).

In Numbers 12 Miriam spoke negatively of Moses.  Her punishment was a bad case of snow-white scales, which usually would have caused her to go away for two weeks.  It became seven days, however, due to the intercession of her esteemed brother.  The rabbinical name for her condition was metzora, from motzi’ shem ra’, or “uttering an evil name.”  Her sin was slander, but the object of that offense pleaded to God on her behalf.  A time of removal from the community was inevitable, but the goal of the leadership of that community was always restoration.

In Luke 5 Jesus healed a man with some kind of skin disease.  It was not leprosy, in the narrow, clinical definition of that term, but it was enough to render the man ritually impure and to isolate him from his community.  Then Jesus commanded him to obey the requirements of Leviticus 14 and not to tell anyone (other than the priest, per Leviticus 14).  Perhaps the man went to the priest, but he certainly spread the word, causing crowds to deny Jesus as much solitude as he needed.

Salvation was Christ’s primary task on the Earth; healing was something he did.  Did crowds come to him mostly to hear the words of salvation or to seek healing?  Quite often they flocked to him for the latter purpose.  There was nothing wrong with seeking wholeness and restoration, of course, but there was much more to Christ’s mission than individual wholeness and restoration.  There was, for example, collective wholeness and restoration.

A community cannot be at its best when people who should be part of it are not.  Such people might be outsiders by their choice or the decisions of others.  Many people are outsiders because self-identified insiders exclude them, often wrongly.  Frequently we human beings define ourselves negatively–according to who or what we are not.  This practice harms us and those we exclude improperly.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson says, one message in the Gospel of Mark is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  And, as Edmond Browning, a former Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, writes, in Christ there are no outsiders.

May we who follow God (or at least attempt to do so) identify as children of God who bear the divine image and respect the image of God in our fellow human beings.  Theological and personality differences will persist, of course, but we need not seek to define ourselves negatively and, by extension, others in the same way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/inclusion-and-exclusion/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Vegetables

Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

Nobility and Love

AUGUST 29 and 30, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/nobility-and-love/

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