Saturday, November 18, 2017

November 18 - Romanus of Caesarea, Martyr, Encourager, Proclaimer

Romanus was a deacon at the church in Caesarea. He was also a thorn in the side of the Roman rulers and leaders. He had encouraged the Christians in Caesarea to constantly remember their first allegiance was to God and not to Rome. This attracted the kind of Imperial attention that was generally avoided by the Roman populace. Romanus was not afraid of whatever the Empire might threaten or do but was still sent to another congregation--this one in Antioch--when persecutions increased in Caesarea. As he arrived in Antioch, he met a congregation that was gripped by dread of the Emperor's legions and power. They knew all too well what happened to people like Romanus and the people that Romanus led.

The governor of Antioch--Asklepiades--had made it known that he was considering the destruction of the Christian house of worship. Romanus spoke tenderly to the people of his congregation and called them to stand in support of one another and their common bond in brotherhood and sisterhood as the Body of Christ. "If we deter the governor from this evil, then the Church everywhere will join with us in celebration," he said, "and if we fail and he slaughters us in our defense of the Church, then the heavenly Church will welcome us in as sons and daughters of God baptized again in blood." The people joined Romanus in protesting the governor's plans and prepared for the expected retaliation. Instead, the governor was deterred by their unwavering solidarity and commitment.

A little while later, Romanus was shocked to see that there was yet another festival being held in the streets of Antioch. Idols lined the streets and enthused worshipers were prostrate before many of them. The festival was in high gear when Romanus took up a position on a corner to preach the Gospel. Along with the Gospel, he denounced the idols as sinful distractions from the one true God. The crowds railed against him and threatened him yet he did not cease his preaching. Eventually, he was arrested to keep the peace. When the governor realized who had had finally seized, he took his opportunity to put an end to this annoyance. He had him bound and tied to a stake in the middle of the city. They whipped and beat him in the sight of the many people there. Finally, they prepared to burn him alive at the stake. As they were setting the fire, a harsh rain storm descended upon the city and the fire was extinguished. Romanus laughed loudly--though bleeding and beaten from the torture--and continued to proclaim the Gospel to the angry crowd. "Could your idols not keep away a single storm?" he asked the crowd. The governor had his tongue ripped out.With wordless utterances he sang hymns and continued to preach as he bled yet more profusely. Finally, he was strangled to death with the words of the Gospel and hope upon his blood-stained lips.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November 17 - Hilda of Whitby, Nun, Abbess, Mother

The Venerable Bede wrote about Hilda: "All that knew her called her Mother." Raised by a foster father of power and influence, Hilda eventually found her way to the monastery as a nun. She had followed in the footsteps of her widowed sister and after the calling that God was placing on her life. She expected the life of a monastic to be a pleasing one that gave her time for prayer, reflection, and intimacy with the God she loved. All of this was while growing up among leaders who did not follow the faith that gripped her. When her father and protector was slain in battle, she planned to go to her sister. While on the way, however, she received a letter from Aidan of Lindisfarne. He asked her to come to Northumbria and help found a monastery there. She went because she heard the voice of God speaking through Aidan's letter.

When she arrived, she was comforted in her decision by a calm assurance that she was doing what God had called her to do. As nun and monastic in Northumbria, she learned quickly about the life of one devoted to prayer and service. So quickly that soon she was appointed abbess of a local convent. She wore the pectoral cross of the abbess and led her sisters in Christ in lives of prayer to and adoration of God. The sisters loved her and fittingly called her "Mother." It seems likely that this monastery was a "double monastery" in the Celtic tradition and would have involved both men and women living in separate houses but worshiping together.As most of the Celtic monasteries, it was not uncommon for the abbess of the nuns to lead both houses in worship. After a year or so, she was called away and appointed abbess of the new monastery at Whitby.

The monastery at Whitby was, most definitely, a double monastery and it is known that many of the young men found Hilda to be a spiritual mentor of incredible gifts and leadership. Five of the monks who she was "mother" to became bishops and several became saints. It seems that the monastic life that she had been called to by her Lord and equipped with by Aidan gave her room to be a mother to those who hoped to serve God in prayer and leadership. These young monks and nuns named Hilda as their mother as they went out into the world to lead and shepherd the flocks of the Church. By extension, Hilda became mother and grandmother to many Christians in the West in the 8th century. Years later, after her painful and slow death from disease and exhaustion, Bede would write a history of her for she had become a type of mother to him, as well. She offered hospitality and guidance to any who asked and taught those under her tutelage to do the same. In so doing, she shared the Faith that had gripped her and saved her from a young age while the foster child of a foreign king. Nursing leaders and shepherds was her calling and she did so gladly and ably. Indeed she was truly called "mother."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 16 - Hugh of Lincoln, Bishop, Monk, Reformer

Hugh hadn't asked for power. He had been content in his positions of leadership within the Carthusian monasteries of England. He had been born in France and raised in a Christian family. He loved to tend to the garden near his monastic cell and to live the life of prayer and reflection that characterized the Carthusian life. As people recognized the natural leader within him, he was appointed prior of a monastery and, eventually, prior of a larger monastery. It became increasingly clear that Hugh had been set apart to lead but Hugh never sought power for the sake of power--he was content to be a monk and follower of Jesus and didn't feel any need to dictate, command, or control.

Henry II was still doing penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. As part of his penance, he was ordered to establish a Carthusian monastery in England but it had experienced quite a bit of trouble in getting started. The first prior had retired without building the monastery and the second had recently died. Henry knew that he was expected to find a prior who would establish and strengthen the group so he sent a group to go and bring Hugh to England to lead this group of unorganized monks. Hugh and the Carthusians knew that this was a dangerous thing--to go to the country that had murdered Thomas and lead a monastic movement--but it was agreed that Hugh could do great work for the Kingdom so Hugh went willingly with a touch of anxiety.

Hugh found that there had been negligible leadership at Lincoln before he arrived. Not only was there not a monastery building but there were no plans to build one. He organized the monks to work together and campaigned with Henry to provide money to them. He insisted that if Henry truly wanted a Carthusian monastery in Lincoln, then he would have to help support them as they established themselves. Realizing that this was the kind of leader he had recruited, Henry supplied an official charter to the Carthusians and helped to fund their endeavors. Further, he was known to attend their worship services when he was nearby.

Eventually, Hugh was elected bishop of Lincoln by the king and the king's people. He thanked the king but refused to accept it until he could meet with his colleague and they could vote. Hugh wasn't keen on allowing a king to command the affairs of the Church. Hugh's colleagues agreed and Hugh became bishop of Lincoln. As bishop, he was not afraid of the king, however. He remained convinced that the king had no room to command or dictate Church policy and did not hesitate to exact Church discipline upon errant members who were connected to the king.Their relation to the king of England did not absolve them from their sins, he insisted. He resisted the king's appointments to ecclesial positions and even refused some of the king's direct orders. All of this was done in a culture that keenly remembered the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Hugh had no fear, however. Further crusading against the culture, Hugh was known to condemn violence against the Jewish people of Lincoln and England. The Jewish people soon learned that they were safe with Hugh.

By the end of his life, Hugh had made it very clear that he wasn't the average bishop. He had resisted the commands of a king and a kingdom that had shown no hesitation in murdering people like him before. He stood by his commitments because they were his calling. Indeed, he had not asked for power but when given the yoke of leadership, Hugh did not balk or hesitate. He understood that leadership and power were not things to be sought for selfish gain but things to be used for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and in service to the will of God.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 15 - Elisabeth of Hungary, Princess, Caretaker of the Poor, Victim of an Inquisitor

She had done it again. Ludwig loved his wife and admired the Christian practices she had learned from the Franciscans and engaged in openly within the kingdom. It was a good thing--most of the time--and inspired greater acts of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness within the kingdom. As king, this was clearly a good thing. Yet, sometimes Elisabeth went too far by Ludwig's standards. One of his trusted servants had come to him and said that Elisabeth had brought a leper into their home and taken the leper to rest and sleep in their shared bed. Ludwig couldn't help but think of the open sores and bodily fluids that were coming into contact with his sheets. He shuddered and cringed as he ran to the room. When he arrived, he saw the mass of flesh under the sheets and blankets and cried, "No no no no no!" He ripped back the covers and sheets to expose the leper and order him out of the bed Elisabeth had offered him. He fell back surprised. He didn't see a leper. He saw Jesus stretched out as if being crucified and bleeding on his sheets. He stared. He didn't know what to do. He covered over Jesus with the sheets and blankets again and backed out of the room.

Elisabeth had been betrothed to Ludwig at the age of four or five. It had been a political maneuver by the Hungarian royalty to promise the princess in marriage to the German prince. When Elisabeth turned fourteen, she was married to Ludwig and began a life as a member of the German people. While learning her way around the German world and learning who her new husband really was, she had the opportunity to meet some Franciscan monks.From them, she learned about love and sacrifice and the power of a committed and devoted life to impact the world. She would often relate to her personal confessor--Konrad--that this has been such an important moment in her life.

Ludwig died only seven years into his marriage with Elisabeth. He died while traveling to participate in war. His remains were returned to his widow and a funeral was held. Then, twenty-one-year-old Elisabeth was put into the care her confessor Konrad. This was not a good day in the life of Elisabeth. She was restrained from practicing her radical charity. She was punished severely for lapses in character no matter how small. Konrad ordered her to be physically beaten for some sins yet was also keen to stop her from going forth and practicing the faith she had learned from the Franciscans.Konrad--who would one day become an inquisitor--stopped her one day to look in the basket she was carrying.Elisabeth was frightened by the surprise inspection and knew that Konrad would be displeased by the loaves of bread she was secreting from the residence to the poor. When he opened the basket, however, miraculously he found only roses. Shaking his head in confusion, he allowed her to leave and when she arrived among the poor, the loaves were bread again and she distributed them to the people.

Konrad's treatment and abuse of Elisabeth shortened her life substantially. She died four years after her husband at the age of twenty-five. She likely had contracted disease from the people she ministered to and she was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted by Konrad's rigors and "disciplines." Her death was mourned by the people of Germany and by anyone anywhere who has suffered under a restrictive religious leader while wanting to serve and heal those close to Jesus' heart.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 14 - Philip, Apostle, Martyr, Guide

Philip found it hard to keep quiet about something that he thought other people should know about. It wasn't a part of his personality to find something out and keep it to himself. Once he had become a follower and disciple of Jesus, this tendency led him to guide others to God and introduce them to the Lord he had met and become devoted to. It had all began with Nathaniel. "Nathaniel," Philip called, "you must meet the man whom I met and know him as I am coming to know him." Of course, Nathaniel had taken the opportunity to be introduced and followed shortly thereafter in Philip's footsteps as a disciple of Jesus. It was second nature for Philip to share Jesus with Nathaniel and he never thought twice about it.

As Philip followed after Jesus he had another opportunity to introduce people to Jesus in a grander and more impressive way. Philip spoke Greek fluently and was able to use this skill for the Kingdom when Jesus and his disciples found themselves among a community of Greek-speaking Jews. A group of them approached Philip at the perimeter of the crowd and said, "Sir, we want to meet Jesus." Philip was instantly excited about being able to make this important introduction again. He tapped Andrew on the shoulder and said, "These men want to meet Jesus!" Andrew and Peter ushered them through the crowd and introduced them to the man who was ushering in a Kingdom founded on forgiveness and redemption through the power of love. Because of Philip's eagerness and gifts, he was able to introduce them to Jesus and his Kingdom. Philip had, once again, been a guide for the wandering.

We don't know what Philip did specifically when Jesus was arrested and crucified. We know that like the other disciples, he fled and avoided the punishment that he and the others anticipated for associating with the condemned Lord. Further, we know that he was present when Jesus appeared again unto the twelve and when the Holy Spirit descended upon them all at Pentecost. Through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection Philip--the great guide--was introduced to the power of sacrificial love and redemptive forgiveness for the broken and the sinful. It was this introduction that had the greatest impact.

Philip himself traveled to Greece, Syria, and Phrygia to share the news. While there, he began preaching the Gospel of love for enemies and forgiveness for sinners that he had been introduced to by Jesus. He began the process of slowly introducing more and more people to the one who had come, died to forgive sins and inaugurate a new Kingdom, and had promised to come again. He did miracles and attracted a good deal of attention. All of this went reasonably well for some time until he introduced the wife of the proconsul of Hierapolis to Jesus. For this offense, he was arrested and crucified upside down as a deterrent to any other who would dare try to tell the same story of a God who became human and died to reintroduce the lost sheep of the flock to life and truth.

Monday, November 13, 2017

November 13 - Eugene Bossilkov, Martyr, Blessed, Enemy of the State

The trial was for show. Eugene knew it. The judge knew it. Everybody knew it. Yet, it allowed the Soviets to varnish over their fear and hatred with a thin patina of justice. While everybody watched, Eugene was paraded into the court and sat before a crowd hungry to condemn this enemy of the Party. Or, at least, they were hungry to move the Party's intense focus and hatred toward a sacrificial and innocent victim. Eugene was asked to testify on his behalf but Eugene was not allowed to tell his story.

Instead, a story was suggested to him where he was a revolutionary and a spy for Western Imperial powers. He insisted that this was a lie but the trial was never about finding out the truth and so it continued on as if he had said nothing or perhaps agreed with them. They paraded out evidence of guns and incriminating artifacts and papers. All of these items pointed even more strongly at the story that said Eugene was an insurrectionist and criminal. Of course,the guns were returned to the museum that they had been lifted from at the end of the day and nobody really cared much for the evidence--after all, they had already agreed on a verdict and sentence.

What nobody bothered to find out was how he had been born Vincent Bossilkov in Bulgaria and had pursued a calling as a Passionist monk. Nobody bothered to consider how joyous he had felt when he was ordained in 1926 and how his passion was to bring life and light to the Bulgarian people. They noticed that he had spent time studying in Rome and insisted that he had been trained to combat communism but they failed to point out that his personal passion had been taking care of the laity within the diocese he returned to. He had opportunities to exercise power and influence but was more interested in caring for the flock. Further, Eugene had not fled the Soviet conquest of Bulgaria after World War II and had, instead, remained to take care of those who were left behind. While the Soviets began implementing laws and directives designed to curtail, hinder, and eventually eliminate religion in Bulgaria Eugene was appointed Bishop. It was this appointment that hastened his arrest, trial, and death sentence.

Eugene was martyred on November 13, 1952 as an enemy of the State and opponent of the Party. Yet, he never raised a weapon in resistance and his only crime was loving a people he was ordered not to associate with.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12 - Margaret of Scotland, Queen, Friend of the Poor

"Come in! You are welcome here my brothers and sisters. Come, eat, and rest."With words like these, Margaret began a practice that would continue for the rest of her life. The poor around the royal residence had come there because there was a slightly better chance of receiving alms when near the king and queen--not because people were more merciful or generous but because people could hardly bear to look upon the sick and destitute without offering something to salve their consciences. The homeless were--and often are--very used to playing this dehumanizing game to survive. They sell their dignity for a crust of bread--their confidence for a cup of water. So, when Margaret flung the doors open and invited them in, they hesitated. It didn't make sense to these people so used to being objects of pity and scorn.But, then, the seven or eight that were there slowly ventured through the grand doors.

They knew Margaret and much of her history. She had been one of the last Anglo-Saxon royals that had fled England after the Norman conquest. She had been twenty-one years old when she fled with her family and had been unmarried. When she arrived, she was noticed by king Malcolm and three-years-later, she was the queen-consort of the king of Scotland by marriage. Nearly every Scot could tell the story of her impact upon the king and Scotland. It was clear that Malcolm was devoted to his beautiful young wife and her values and faith had influenced him enough to change his life and attitude. Scotland was finding Christendom in the loving embrace of Margaret.

She brought the beggars and homeless into the dining room and sat them at her own lavishly appointed table.Each of them must have gasped in awe of the beautiful settings and luxurious furniture. She sat the first of them down in a chair worth more than all his possessions and brought a bowl of water and towel out from underneath it. Without a word, she lifted his foot and washed it with the water and the towel. On her knees before a beggar, the queen offered love in a wordless and powerful way. One by one, she washed the feet of each of her beloved and esteemed guests.

Then, they sat at the table and were served as if they were foreign dignitaries. At first, they took only a few small pieces of food and a little to drink. They were worried about taking advantage of Margaret's hospitality and so Margaret jumped from her seat and personally heaped more food onto their plates. "Eat," she said to them, "there is plenty to go around for my beloved brothers and sisters." So, they ate until they were full and could eat no more. Margaret herself waited until all had begun eating before joining them in the meal. She found sustenance in serving the least of Scotland's people. In the faces of those she served, she saw the face of her Lord and in the footwashing bowl she saw the dirty water that had fallen from her Savior's feet as she had washed them.

This was the practice that Margaret kept for most of her life as she was able. During Lent and Advent, she held great parties and invited hundreds of people into her home and fed and cared for them. She died in 1093 after a life of devoted service to Scotland, Malcolm, and the poor. Having passed on, she left Scotland forever remembering the queen who had been a friend of the poor because of the great love she had for Jesus.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November 11 - Martin of Tours, Soldier, Defector, He Who Clothed Jesus

Upon his horse, Martin was clearly visible to the crowd through which he rode. The people knew a little about this man who had been raised in a military family of high regard. They knew that his father and father's father were respectable men. They knew that his cloak and symbols designated him as powerful and influential. Some even knew that he had been meeting with Christians in one of the churches that had been recently been legalized. Martin was legally allowed to attend but it caused a degree of uncertainty in so many of the common citizens of the Empire. These thoughts traveled through the minds of the crowd as they looked to see what this powerful and influential man would do in their presence. Martin's eyes and mind were in an entirely separated location--on a man who seemed to have fallen on terrible times.

The beggar barely had enough clothing to cover his nakedness. He looked weak from hunger and exhaustion. Most people in the crowd passed over him quickly because he made them uncomfortable. He was "somebody-else's-problem" and they felt he probably had more problems than they could count or determine.They salved over their discomfort with rationalizations that allowed them to avoid this destitute beggar in mind and sight. Yet, Martin couldn't look away. His heart burned at the sight of the nakedness of the man and he wondered if there wasn't something he could do.He was astounded at the way people ignored and avoided the man and wondered if itwasn't possible that he was seeing things since it seemed that this man was invisible to the crowd. The words of his Christian friends echoed in his mind and he was moved to help. He dismounted his horse, drew his sword and cut his cloak in half. He gave half of the split cloak to the man. The man accepted it wordlessly but with a smile.Not knowing what else to do, Martin mounted the horse and rode off wondering what he had just done.

That night, while he slept, he had a vision of Jesus standing among the angels wearing the given half of the cloak that Martin had split. Jesus pointed at Martin and said to the angels, "See, this is Martin. He is the Roman soldier who hasn't been baptized but who has clothed me." Martin woke with a start and considered what he had seen. It had an immediate impact upon him that he couldn't shake. He shared it with his Christian friends and they reminded him of the passage of scripture that insisted that Jesus would be among the poor, the sick, the prisoners, and the naked. He rejoiced with them in his encounter with their Lord. He was slowly being changed. He finally requested to be baptized and his Christian brothers and sisters did so gladly and with much joy. As the glow of his vision and baptism began to fade slightly, however, he soon began to be burdened by his profession of soldier. He struggled with this for nearly two years before the call was made for all soldiers to prepare to go to battle the Gauls. Martin went to his commander and dropped his sword in the dirt and said, "I am a Christian. I cannot do as you command. I cannot fight."

The commander ordered him jailed and mocked him before the other soldiers. He questioned what kind of faith Martin held that would prevent him from fighting for the Empire. The commander didn't understand a faith that wanted to love enemies and promote peace even at the cost of death. He jeered at Martin and tried to undermine the calling that Martin felt. As people labeled him a coward and questioned his courage, he responded:"I'm not afraid to die. I'm afraid to kill. Send me into battle unarmed--even at the front lines--and I will go gladly but I will not kill my enemy. I am called to love them." His commander responded with a sickly smile and agreement to send Martin forward on what was clearly a suicide mission. Yet, that night the opposing army changed its mind and sued for peace. The battle never happened and Martin was released from his bondage as a soldier. He went from there to become a monk and lead others along the path of faith that he followed.

Friday, November 10, 2017

November 10 - Leo the Great, Theologian, Pope, Diplomat

Sure, Leo was a highly accomplished theologian. After all, it is no accident that he was the first pope to receive the title of "the Great." Leo's Tome was a theological masterpiece that confronted heresy, championed orthodoxy, and insisted upon the fully humanity and divinity of Jesus.Great theologians dedicated their works to Leo out of appreciation for the inspiration that he had been to them. His resistance against heresy brought many who had erred back within the bounds of the Church. This was accomplished by an insistence upon the unity of the Church and a precise argument for what is considered orthodox teaching.

Sure, Leo was a highly accomplished leader. He had been selected to be an emissary of the Church in brokering peace between leaders in Gaul before becoming the pope. While Leo was traveling, the pope died and Leo was selected as the next pope in the intervening time.When he became pope, he was a leader unlike many others by helping to calm and comfort a Rome that was quickly and painfully falling apart. His leadership involved having the power to speak powerfully and truthfully to those who erred in their dogma and doctrine. His letters were received by his audience with a heart nearly as heavy as the one that Leo had in writing them.These letters offered rebuke and called upon the audience to return again to their calling as part of the one Church.

But, when Atilla came to Rome and was preparing to sack and loot it, Leo proceeded out from the city with two assistants and met the mighty warrior on the field of battle. Leo brought a ransom from the vaults of Rome and appealed to Atilla's greed. With the money, Leo also brought an argument against the destruction and violation of the city. He was keen to point out that there were many innocent and uninvolved people in the city that would suffer simply so that Atilla could take home more of the wealth he had already been stripping from the Roman Empire. Atilla was impressed by Leo's demeanor and quiet confidence. Further, he was enticed by the money offered since it came with no risk of life or time. He took Leo's words and money and left Rome.Regrettably, Leo was unsuccessful in negotiating with the Vandals a few years later. They sacked the city but Leo accomplished something else in his negotiations. The Vandals agreed not to burn the city down or murder non-resisting citizens. Though Rome was sacked, its people were offered mercy because of Leo's pleas. Leo died shortly thereafter.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

November 9 - Kristallnacht - Reichspogromnacht

Not all stories that matter are especially flattering to the people involved. In fact, some of our most important stories are the ones that speak truthfully but poorly about us. We must remember to tell these stories, as well, because they serve an essential role within our collective storybook: they don't allow us to be comfortable with the good in us and continue to confront us with the bad in us. For Christians, this can be a challenge because we have a tendency to gloss over travesties and atrocities within Christendom by labeling the perpetrators as "not really Christians." Indeed, they may not have been but there were, most assuredly, real followers of Christ who stood idly by and watched such things as the Inquisition and the Crusades for example. One of these stories is Kristallnacht--the Night of Broken Glass.

The Jews were ordered to leave Germany in October of 1938. 12,000 Jewish people of Polish descent were gathered up by the Gestapo and left at the border of Germany and Poland. 4,000 were admitted into Poland as refugees but 8,000 were left on the border to suffer and struggle as outcasts. Word was passed by letter and postcard and soon a Jewish relative of one of the 8,000 refugees--Herschel Grynszpan--who was living in Paris decided that he would exact revenge. He went to the Germany embassy in Paris on November 6th and shot the diplomat in the chest while claiming it to be "in the name of 12,000 persecuted Jews." Herschel had struck back but had also unknowingly given the German leaders a rationale for atrocity. Kristallnacht soon followed.

Clothing themselves in indignity and the cover of "self-defense," they censored all Jewish publications on November 8th. This represented a severing of the ties between disparate Jewish groups and silenced the voice of the Jewish people prior to Germany's atrocity. This move was the gag that made travesty more palatable in the days to come. Jewish children were expelled from their German schools and it soon became very clear that trouble was building like a thunderhead and would soon break.

On the night of November 9th, 1938, the German leaders executed a series of attacks, seizures, and crimes that are now know as Kristallnacht--the name given to it by the perpetrators--or Reichspogromnacht--the name given to it by those who recognize the atrocity therein. Over two hundred synagogues were looted, ransacked, and burned to the ground.Thousands upon thousands of Jewish businesses were broken into. The broken glass from the storefronts covered the sidewalks in so many places that it gave the name to this event--the Night of Broken Glass. These shops were shut down. Ninety-two Jews were killed on the night of Kristallnacht as some resisted the evil that was being perpetrated. Somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews were gathered together at gunpoint by secret police, loaded onto trains, and shipped to concentration camps.

The reaction in the days to follow? Despicable for sure. Some clergy applauded the actions of the German leaders and the people who had rioted. They commended the people for their anti-semitism and used Luther's birthday as an additional point of celebration. The German people who had rioted and broken into stores had also been the ones who had killed some of the Jews who died that night. Yet, there was little outrage.There was little resistance. It seemed that the Church who claimed to follow after a tortured, persecuted, and Jewish savior did not see or want to see what was happening. They did not want to consider their complicity in this atrocityThey did not see how atrocious it truly was.
The "success" of Kristallnacht for the German leaders paved the way for greater tragedy. The relative lack of outrage and resistance convinced them that it was entirely possible to perpetrate worse evil since they had seen that the Church would not resist or exercise its prophetic voice en masse. The continued evil that followed may have been lessened or limited by an appropriately horrified response--yet, it didn't happen and the Nazi war machine continued on fueled by the lives of the outcasts it consumed.

Kristallnacht should not ever be forgotten. In fact, it is best for us to adopt new language and call it Kristallnacht no longer--let us join with others who recognize the evil in the night and call it for what it is: Reichspogromnacht. The story should be--must be--told and remain an irritant in the Church's eye. Awful things were done and the Church watched them happen.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 8 - Demetrius of Thessaloniki, Martyr, Child of Privilege

To say that there were very high expectations for Demetrius might be a grand understatement. Demetrius had succeeded by most of the Imperial rubrics of success. He was a soldier of distinction. He had risen to leadership within the legions. He had the ear of influential and important members of Roman society. Overall, he had a comfortable and secure life. All of this was largely because he was the son of a Roman senator.Though the Senate was not as powerful as it once had been it was still a force to be reckoned with under the leadership of Diocletian. The strength of the emperors and leaders had weakened the influence of the Senate for sure but it had not stripped this illustrious body of its power and influence within Roman society.

Because of his status as a child of privilege, Demetrius was held to exceedingly high standards and expectations both at home and in the larger society. Even Roman peasants--who were not the subject of any expectation--knew that Demetrius should be doing more, knowing more, and saying more. In so many ways, his status condemned him to living in the gap between success and failure never truly knowing if he could ever do enough to please his father, his family, or his society.

All of this is part of the reason it came as such a shock when Demetrius was accused by the Emperor's men of being a Christian. In Diocletian's Rome, this was an unforgivable offense. Assuredly, Demetrius' father was surprised. It seems that Demetrius had given up seeking after success as the Empire described it. Instead, he was following after Jesus whom had been executed only a few hundred years previous.Even more surprising to everybody with their high imperial expectations was that Demetrius refused to deny his faith even when threatened with the loss of everything or promised great rewards to recant his faith. It seemed that Demetrius wasn't even working from the same system of thought.They ran him through with spears because he wouldn't live up to their standards and expectations and insisted on following an executed God.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 7 - Herculanus of Perugia, Martyr, Bishop, Trickster

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of living in besieged city is the slow and unrelenting nature of your downfall. Each passing of the sun overhead exacts a cost from everybody who is besieged: another day means less food, less water, less supplies, and less hope.A siege slowly bleeds a city until it can no longer stand up before the besieging army or until the city surrenders everything for the hope of eating again. As fear and panic rip through you and your friends and family, you can see your enemies outside the wall eating well and waiting. Like vultures they wait and watch and see how long it is that you can last. You covet their supplies. You wonder who will be the next among your loved ones to die. You fear that you'll survive long enough to be put to the blade by the enemies at your gate. The siege is often effective and exacts a type of slow unrelenting terror that weakens even the strongest will.

As the bishop of Perugia, Italy, when Totila and the Ostrogoths camped outside their gates, Herculanus could feel the terror and panic in his flock. As a leader in the city, he was privy to more information than the average citizen and knew well that their food was nearly gone. The siege had started out as a terrifying oddity and had become a life-draining reality in a short time. Prayers seemed to focus entirely upon daily bread and fear of the soon coming conflict. Herculanus found it extremely difficult to comfort those who were clearly marked for suffering. Yet, this is what he did. While he comforted his flock, however, he was devising a plan. There are only two ways for the besieged city to overcome a siege: military victory and persuasion. Besieging armies could often be persuaded to leave with large sums of money. This wasn't an option for the Perugians since they didn't have nearly enough money to dissuade Totila. Other cities had escaped sieges by remaining supplied secretively as Jersualem did in the book of the prophet Isaiah.Regrettably, there was no way for Perugia to do this. Their only hope was either to attack and repel the army or convince Totila that continuing the siege would be too costly. This meant convincing him that Perugia could play the waiting game longer than his army. Herculanus wasn't comfortable going to war and shedding the blood of his enemies so he devised a ruse.

He carried the last bag of grain that they had. He led the small remaining flock of sheep out into the grass near the walls of the city. Though they would have enjoyed killing the flock and thereby further depleting the supply of food for the city, they didn't want to risk ambush or arrow-fire from the Perugians. The army would not attack him immediately--not unless he tried to run or tried to arrange for some food or other supplies. Instead, Totila and his army waited to see what Herculanus would do. With a prayer, he openedthe bag of grain and began spreading it around carelessly for the little lambs to eat. He hoped that the Ostrogoths would look on and see the littlest lambs being fed and deduce that Perugia has so much extra food that they could afford to lavishly feed even the weakest and tiniest creatures in their midst. If they deduced this, then surely they would give up the siege. After waiting and trying to look unconcerned, Herculanus returned to the relative safety of the city walls. The city waited expectantly to see if Totila would lead his army elsewhere. With each passing hour, their dread deepened as they saw no signs that Totila would lift the siege. Totila hadn't fallen for the trick.

A few days later, Perugia surrendered and the Ostrogoths claimed it as their own. The people were sickly and diseased but some would recover when food was given to them again. Of course, Totila made sure that his soldiers ate first and ate well from the supplies. Totila remembered the bishop's trick and ordered Herculanus flayed for trying to dissuade him. Herculanus had resisted the temptation to fight or resist. He had not fought evil with evil. His reward was an order to have the skin stripped from his body. Somewhat mercifully, his executioner decided rather to decapitate him. In this, the resourceful and loving Herculanus died at the hands of a man who cared little for mercy. He had fought for his people in the only way he felt he was allowed--the way of peace and the way of the shepherd.

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 6 - Ignacio Ellacuria and Companions, Enemies of the State

Ignacio was rarely alone since moving to El Salvador. As a Jesuit, he understood the power and importance of community in his life. As he crouched in the building at the college, he wasn't alone. He had five of his Jesuit colleagues with him and two women who had sought refuge from the gunfire outside. Little did they know that they were running toward the reason for the assault by the soldiers. As the soldiers swept through the campus with guns ready to murder any who would resist them, Ignacio huddled with his peers and colleagues and reflected back upon a life focused on liberation--a life that constantly pushed him closer and closer to this place and these executioners.

Ignacio had received a stellar education and ended up in El Salvador because of his commitments to the Jesuits and their passion for education and mission work. Ignacio was a professor of theology and philosophy--a high honor among the Jesuits who had a high regard for and prioritized education. While in El Salvador, he began teaching at the "Universidad Centroamericana 'José Simeón Cañas.'" He was known for teaching Central American Liberation theology. This course of study gathered the attention of those who stood to lose something if release was truly granted to captives and sight was truly given to the blind.

Consequently, the elite soldiers had been given orders to take care of a communist sympathizer and organizer named Ignacio who taught at the University. Along with him there were the five other Jesuit sympathizers. They had likely received their training from the American CIA and were well prepared to crush those who could be labeled communists. Of course, the tricky part was labeling Ignacio a communist but with enough time and enough insistence, Ignacio went from being a professor of theology to being one of the much feared communist agents. The soldiers crept onto the campus and people scattered in front of them. It was clear that the soldiers had death in mind for somebody. A housekeeper and her daughter fled to a nearby building for safety and soon found themselves among those slated for death.

When the soldiers found Ignacio and his companions, they dragged them from the building and forced them to lie on the ground. Ignacio and his Jesuit colleagues had made the error of making the State their enemy.They had proclaimed a story that undermined the story of the powers and would now not even be given an opportunity to explain themselves. While they were prostrate on the ground, they were shot in the head and body at close range with submachine guns. All eight died as martyrs for a story and message that made them enemies of the State.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5 - Joseph Bernardin, Cardinal, Falsely Accused, Champion of Life

The 1990s included revelations concerning sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. Justifiably, people were outraged that trusted clerics had abused and taken advantage of children and youth. Cardinal Bernardin--though advanced in age--was one of the leaders of the group of priests who developed a system to deal with priests under accusation. In his archdiocese, he labored to develop a way of handling the tragedy and atrocity of what was fomenting and growing within the greater culture--a well earned distrust of clergy. His strong yet loving response to the brokenness of those close to him became a model for many priests and leaders throughout the United State of America. Yet, in 1993 Joseph Bernardin was accused of molesting a seminarian in Cincinnati.

A metaphorical bomb went off in Joseph's life as he was raked over the coals by the media. He strongly denied all the charges but also refused to assault the character of his accuser. The story spun by the media and the culture was one of a powerful and influential leader fallen from grace into the pit that he had hoped to regulate.Joseph was abandoned by many who had been close to him. Yet, he still refused to retaliate against his accuser. Three months after the accusation, his accuser admitted that things were not as had been suggested. It seems that he had "recovered" the memories while working with an unlicensed hypnotist and had since deemed these memories to be fabrications and completely unreliable. Joseph went to his accuser--Stephen--as he lie dying from AIDS in a hospital bed. He was quick to forgive the accusations and became immediately concerned with the progress of the disease through Stephen's body. Ironically, it was Joseph who had spent years campaigning for Church support for those who suffered and died at the hands of Stephen's murderer. Joseph knew Stephen's plight all too well and Stephen died with Joseph's forgiveness and blessing.

Joseph spoke of a "seamless garment" of life that the Church must be quick to endorse. He raised the question of what it could mean to the world if the Church would advocate a "consistent ethic of human life." This meant repudiating abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, violence, and negligence to poverty and other murderous forces.Joseph challenged other Christians--as he had been challenged as a younger man--to step out and be a Christian first and foremost and a member of the Church only by consequence. Joseph's success in his clerical career had led him to power in the Church but a stunted spiritual life that he worked through for the rest of his life. One of the ways he expressed this commitment was his pursuit of the "seamless garment" of life for the Church he was a member of by consequence or his commitment to the Lord of Life. By Joseph's estimation, it made no sense to oppose abortion yet support violence or capital punishment. If life was valuable and sacred, then its value could not be forfeited by some set of actions. We cannot endeavor to protect some lives but not others while pretending to follow after an executed Lord who teaches love for enemies and mercy for all.

Before Joseph died he shared his sincere hope born out of the reflection that accompanies a slow death: "My final hope is that my efforts have been faithful to the truth of the gospel of life and that you...will find in this Gospel the vision and strength needed to promote and nurture the great gift of life God has shared with us."

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November 4 - Soren Kierkegaard, Philosopher, Christian Opponent of Christendom

Soren was born to a wealthy man and his maid in Copenhagen, Denmark in the early 19th century. Soren's mother had an indubitable effect upon his outlook yet is conspicuously absent from his later writings. Perhaps this is because Soren's father--Michael--was such an enigmatic and powerful figure.Michael had an incredible impact upon Soren and would enter into his later writings with force and a distinct voice as Soren struggled with the hardest questions he could find armed only with ink and paper. Michael clearly felt that he had lived a life worthy of punishment and fully expected the punishment for his own sins to be visited upon his children. It is likely that he suffered under this feeling for most of his life and remained haunted by it even as his wife and some of his children died before expected. The effect that this had on Soren must not be underestimated and it brought a fierce passion into his writing and analysis. Further, it filled him with an existential dread that likely helped to launch a whole system of philosophical thought.

Soren received an excellent education because of his father's wealth yet this only happened because it was a sizable inheritance left to him and his family after Michael's death. As Michael lie dying on his bed, he expressed to Soren that his great wish was that Soren might become a pastor and serve the people of God as a leader and minister. Indeed, Soren felt obligated to acquiesce to his father's desire and attended school and studied Latin, history, and theology. Yet, it became increasingly clear that God had another calling for Soren. Soren would be a Christian leader but would do so by attacking the Church he alternately loved and despised even as his older brother became a pastor (later, a bishop). Carrying the burdenthat his father had carried, Soren was overwhelmed with angst and confusion brought about by the disparity between the ideal and the real.

He met a beautiful woman named Regine and was immediately struck breathless by her. Apparently, she was attracted to him as well. They courted for some time before Soren enthusiastically proposed to her. She gladly accepted and they began planning a wedding. It seemed that Soren was never as happy as when he was with his beloved Regine. Yet, he was haunted by a feeling that he was unfit for such happiness. The high calling of the ideal made his melancholy even more bitter and he broke off the engagement a little over a year after he proposed. He regretted it for the rest of his life. Soren felt himself unfit for marriage and perhaps unfit for happiness. Consequently, he became so.

Soren's philosophical career is especially notable. His works have had an inestimable impact upon all of Western philosophy and countless students who become enamored with the ideas he laid out in his meticulously clear writing. His devotion to "what should be" in the face of "what is" constantly drew his vision upward and he guided countless others to look skyward as they considered calling and the way things should be. He sparred with the likes of Hegel and Socrates with little fear but much trepidation. His work was appreciated in his lifetime and his thoughts laid the groundwork for all of existential psychology.

Soren was a vocal critic of Christendom as the end of his life approached. It was not Christianity that he lampooned with his pen but churches that operated as morgues and social clubs. His fury with the Danish State Church can be felt fresh and hot as one reads over his critiques and outrage. He insisted that there was no value in community if the individuals were dehumanized. In other words, simple communion of faceless people was worthless. Rather, community found value in uniting the separate and different without stripping them of their uniqueness. Soren cringed at the thought of a Church that expected everyone to look the same and sound the same. Soren saw this for what it was--conversion to another gospel and conversion away from Jesus who proclaimed release for captives and sight for the blind. An indifferent group of people was no community but, rather, a collection of those who had turned over their selves to escape their dread and anxiety. As Soren lanced his opponents, he lanced himself. He was painfully aware of his own dread and melancholy and the burden it was to him. Yet, he continued to push forward and look upward for "that which should be" instead of settling for "that which is" and mediocrity of spirit.

Soren died in 1855 and was buried by the Church he had opposed and railed against.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November 3 - Martin de Porres, Dominican, Almoner, Devotee of Love

Martin was the child of Spain's domination and conquest of the Peruvian people. His father was a Spanish nobleman who denied any connection to young Martin. His mother was an black former slave who had been taken advantage of by Martin's father. She raised Martin and his sister Juana in poverty and to the best of her meager abilities. Though there was often a lack of money and food in the family, there was never a lack of love among those who shared a roof with each other. Their poverty was influential and therefore Martin became a servant boy to the local group of Dominicans. He was of mixed race and they were hesitant to accept him (and it would be many years before they would accept him fully) but he steadily rose through their system and was eventually the almoner of the monastery. As almoner, it was his duty to disburse the alms and funds of the monastery to the local poor. When it became clear that Martin had a gift for hospitality, he was also put in charge of the infirmary. Martin didn't try to do great things but instead focused on loving people. He brought a cup of water to the poor and to the sick with the intention of relieving a need but in the cup of water they often found healing. It wasn't Martin's intention to do great things but his loving spirit effected great changes. It was this same loving spirit that came out as the primary force in his life time and time again. His devotion to love is what made him saintly.

When he was young, he truly was a servant at the Dominican monastery. The priory that he was associated with underwent some considerable financial distress when he was still the servant of the monastery and not fully a member. The debts that they had accrued became an unmanageable burden for the brothers. As the brothers gathered to discuss the serious and precarious situation they were surrounded with, Martin intruded upon them and said, "I am only a poor mulatto, sell me. I am the property of the order, sell me please!"The brothers were shocked that he had come in and offered his freedom to purchase their own.In Martin they saw that the ethic of love and sacrifice was more primary than his desire to be free. They did not choose to accept Martin's offering and found another way to avert their disaster but Martin's words echoed in their heads for years to come as a testimony of the primacy of love over freedom.

Martin had a habit that wasn't expressly forbidden but was not smiled upon by his fellow Dominicans. His love of the poor and the disenfranchised seemed to extend beyond that of his brothers. In fact, one evening he was stopped by a brother after he had been observed escorting a sick and dirty person into his own room and giving him rest and comfort in his own bed. As he entered again into the hallway to go and fetch some food and water, the brother said that he had gone too far. "That man will dirty whatever he touches--including your own bed." He looked loving into the eyes of his brother and responded, "Compassion, my dear Brother, is preferable to cleanliness.Reflect that with a little soap I can easily clean my bed covers, but even with a torrent of tears I would never wash from my soul the stain that my harshness toward the unfortunate would create.” Without saying another word, the brother walked away with Martin's words echoing in his ears, again. Martin had made it clear that, for him, love was more important than preference,cleanliness, or comfort. The brother walked away wishing he could say the same for himself.

In many of the places where Spain conquered, disease followed in their footsteps. Peru was no exception. Martin's heart was broken for the sick and the needy in the streets. He understood that the monastery doors were locked for a rational reason: to protect those inside from the contagion that crept through the air to lay low the rich and the poor. Yet, the rationale was not enough for Martin who would unlock the doors so that he might take care of the sick. In doing so, he was being disobedient to his superiors even though he had vowed obedience. This was no little matter and eventually his superior approached him to say that this must stop. He was ordered to stop being disobedient. To this, he replied in a small and humble voice:“Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.” In doing so, he was not being passive-aggressive to his superior but, rather, articulating the implications of what his superior was teaching. He was willing to be obedient as long as it did not require him to subvert his calling to love. His superior withdrew the request to stop and insisted that love was, in fact, more important than obedience to superiors.

Martin died in Lima, Peru, in 1639. He was widely acclaimed as blessed and a healer of the sick and unfortunate. His life had proclaimed the power of love and in death he was united with the God that is Love.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

November 2 - All Souls' Day - Bruce Hopson

On this day every year, the Church all over the world takes time to look back upon the people whose influence on our lives is still felt. Yesterday, was All Saints' Day, when we give thanks for those whose lives have given us a glimpse of what it looks like to follow Jesus, but few of us have ever met any of the people that might have been remembered yesterday. What of those everyday influences? What of those saints of our own lives whose words and actions have left an indelible mark our own souls? Their day is today--All Souls' Day--and today I remember a man who changed my life.


It was my distinct privilege to walk alongside Bruce for about six of his sixty-one years. He reminded me upon occasion that his years in community were his favorite years, even if some of our habits irritated him. Bruce was a punctual person deep down and it took him a long time to grow accustomed to our way of saying “we’ll get started at 6ish” or “let’s wait a few more minutes to see if Deborah shows up for prayers.” He coined a term for our way of approximate time and hospitable delays: “Grace and Main time.” But even if it had been a while since you told him you were coming, Bruce still had a smile for you when you pulled up to his place. He might be aggravated—community doesn’t mean never being frustrated with the people you love—but the bonds of love are so much stronger than momentary irritations. And Bruce had a heart full of love, hard won through sixty-one years of struggle mixed with celebration that all too often seemed mixed too strongly toward struggle.  Regardless of when you pulled up and whether you were operating by the clock or on “Grace and Main time,” Bruce was ready.
Bruce came to dinner the first time because we pestered him until he showed up. His friend, Robert, helped us out with the pestering until Bruce eventually told him, “If you’ll shut up about it, I’ll go once.” Of course, Bruce ended up going much more than once. A few months after he shared that first meal with us, Bruce told me: “that first time I came, I didn’t believe that yall loved me; but I could tell that you loved each other and it was nice to be near that.” Bruce had burned every bridge he’d ever had and the match he used to set the fire was alcohol. It was a fateful meal with a four-year-old (that we’ve written about before) that provided the impetus for Bruce to dare to hope that our love could include him. With grilled chicken on his fork and with gentle trust in the heart of his four-year-old friend, something changed for Bruce. He called the next day and said he wanted to get clean. We promised that we’d make sure he had food to eat, a place to stay, and work to do when he got out of rehab. He’d end up keeping that promise for good. He was a little scared, in the moment, but Bruce was ready.
Though he was trained as a carpenter and evidence to his skill abounds around our community, Bruce had an innate gift for hospitality and welcome. Third Chance Ministries hired him as our Associate Missionary to the Northside because of his deft combination of practiced skill and natural gift. Bruce worked alongside LindaJoann, and Robert in a little house on North Main Street for quite some time. They started a breakfast together that eventually welcomed 80+ people to share a meal on the porch, grass, and curb of that house. Bruce rebuilt a rotted-out tool shed, that once served as temporary shelter for him, into our first tool library. Bruce planted some of our first gardens that became the impetus for our Urban Farm. Dozens of people got clean and sober, citing Bruce’s influence and loving support. Bruce made countless urns of coffee and coolers of lemonade to share with anybody who might want it. When he moved into his own home, he stocked his candy bowl not with peppermints or butterscotch, but with candy bars, packs of gum, whole rolls of lifesavers, and whatever else struck his fancy on his most recent shopping trip. When somebody needed a place to talk, eat, or rest, Bruce provided it. When it came to hospitality, Bruce was ready.
Bruce was integral to our establishment of the Urban Farm and he was the founding leader behind our community’s Tool Library. Bruce was one of four people in our city who received a certificate in permaculture design and sustainable gardening practices. Because of Bruce, dozens of people got thousands of hours of work through the tool library and through the connections that Bruce forged working around town. There were some things that Bruce loved to do: working at the farm, repairing tools, building things with his hands, cooking breakfast, and going out for ice cream. There were other things that Bruce didn’t love doing, but did because he loved us: paperwork and reports, long meetings, Mexican food, and talking about money. For so much of our shared work, both loved and unloved, Bruce was ready.
Once Bruce got clean and committed himself to the life and work of our community, his life was marked by prayer in a special way. Wherever Bruce landed, whether it was the house on North Main, an apartment nearby, or his eventual home on Moffett St next to the Urban Farm, Bruce soon carved out a special place for a Bible, a prayer book, a pair of reading glasses, and a chair. Bruce was quiet, but steady in his prayers for each of us and so many of you. To ask Bruce to pray for somebody or something was to know that it would be remembered and thoughtfully considered, even if only rarely mentioned. He gave himself to wrestling with scripture and the teachings of Jesus. He lived them out in front of our eyes, often drawing us deeper into the path of mercy or grace. On one occasion, Bruce reminded us of the wisdom and cost of love in practice, when a man attacked him with a baseball bat. With tears in his eyes for having punched the man in self-defense, Bruce offered forgiveness and love to his enemy in a way that left me awed. Bruce chose the path of love and his attacker joined him there, choosing to get clean shortly thereafter and take up the work of ministry in our neighborhoods. By the prayers of his heart, his mouth, and his actions, Bruce was ready.
When Bruce was admitted to the hospital this past August, I dreaded to find out what was wrong. So many concerning symptoms were wrapped up with my dear friend’s life that I feared our shared story would soon have a tragic turn. On August 14, 2017, shortly after I left his hospital room to pick up my daughter from school, Bruce had a stroke. It took him a long time to come off of the ventilator in the ICU and a little longer to come back to himself. We found out that, in addition to his stroke, he had cancer and it had spread. He was scared and we were heartbroken. He decided to fight and for several days he got stronger, even getting up and walking a little bit for a few days in a row. But, the cancer he had was relentless and he soon weakened and knew that he was facing death. In those weeks, the community gathered round him and prayed earnestly with him. The medical staff was astonished at how deep was the love for Bruce. They googled him, the said, because surely he must be a special man to have so many who love him so much. When he was given the option, Bruce insisted that he wanted to go home for the last few steps of the journey. He wanted to die in his home, and Bruce was ready.
So, they carried him to his home next to the Urban Farm and the Tool Library. They laid our dear brother in a borrowed, hospital bed in the living room of the house he had made a home. He looked out over the garden and the tool library. He scratched his cat, Booboo, behind the ears. He talked on the phone with friends who could not make it into town quickly enough. He consoled us in our grief and loved us through our tears. We did what he asked us to do: we waited nearby, we sang songs, we played cards, and we told jokes. Nearly two dozen of us took time to make that living room a holy place full of the things and people that Bruce loved so dearly. Then, late on Friday, September 8, 2017, Bruce slipped away into glory.
Bruce was ready. We weren’t. But we’re accustomed to Bruce teaching us how to do things.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1 - All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day is a holy day of the Church wherein we remember all saints who have passed on from this life to rest in God with Christ. It is a holy day not because it is unique to honor the dead but because it is held as special by those who place their loyalty in another Kingdom altogether. It has been the tradition and practice of the Church to tell the stories of its people for as long as there has been a Church. It is this practice that I hope to incorporate into my life by telling the stories that matter. I trust that it is true that as we conform our lives to our stories, we will find that we are transformed. In many ways, All Saints' Day is the day that best sums up this project: telling the stories that matter.

I offer to you some of the quotes that I meditate on as I engage in this spiritual discipline of remembrance and reflection.

"It can be said, as a general rule, that the greatest saints are seldom the ones whose piety is most evident in their expression when they are kneeling at prayer, and that the holiest men in a monastery are almost never the ones who get that exalted look, on feast days, in the choir. The people who gaze up at Our Lady’s statue with glistening eyes are very often the ones with the worst tempers." ~Thomas Merton

"This is the standard New Testament designation for saints: the forgiven, who know it, act upon it and live by grace without angling for stained-glass-window status." ~F. Dean Lueking

"Being a Christian is one of the few things in life you cannot or should not try to do alone; we need help from all the saints--dead and alive, crazy and normal, known and unknown, and especially the everyday, ordinary believers." ~Daniel Clendenin

"In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a pocket handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints." ~Frederick Buechner

"In our era many believe you can be a Christian without the church, and perhaps you can be a better Christian without the hypocritical complications of church life. But the saints urge us to be in the church, engaged with other Christians in prayer, worship, and service. The church has a book, a set of prayers and practices, and its saints; it is our privilege to be shaped by its treasury. The church is a place where we can stand. The church supports us, ennobles, and encourages us." ~James C. Howell

"Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground." ~Oscar Wilde
"Holiness is the very principle of eternal life, the very beginning of eternal life in the heart, and that which will certainly grow up to eternal life." ~Jeremiah Burroughs