Archive for the ‘Saint’s Days’ Category

St. Joseph of Arimathea


Today in the Anglican Breviary we mark the feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea.  He was, according to all four canonical Gospels, the man who assumed responsibility for the burial of Jesus after Jesus’ crucifixion. A number of stories that developed during the Middle Ages connect him with both Glastonbury, where he is supposed to have founded the earliest Christian oratory, and also with the Grail legend.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake

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For some reason, my Ordo Kalendar omitted this most important day dedicated in the Anglican Breviary to the Martyrs and Missionaries of Africa. The day seems to be commemorated in various ways on various calendars of the Eastern and Western Church.

Among the martyrs and missionaries of nearly 2,000 years, today we mark in particular the life, work, and awe-inspiring witness of Bernard Mizeki, who was born in Portuguese East Africa in about 1861. His legend is set out in the supplemental saints section of the Anglican Breviary. His legend recounts that he attended classes at an Anglican school. Under the influence of his teachers from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE, an Anglican religious order for men, popularly called the Cowley Fathers), he became a Christian and was baptized on 9 March 1886. Besides the fundamentals of European schooling, he mastered English, French, high Dutch, and at least eight local African languages. In time he would be an invaluable assistant when the Anglican church began translating its sacred texts into African languages.

After graduating from the school, he accompanied Bishop Knight-Bruce to Mashonaland, a tribal area in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to work there as a lay catechist. In 1891 the bishop assigned him to Nhowe, the village of paramount-chief Mangwende, and there he built a mission-complex. He prayed the Anglican hours each day, and eventually opened a school, and won the hearts of many of the Mashona through his love for their children.

He moved his mission complex up onto a nearby plateau, next to a grove of trees sacred to the ancestral spirits of the Mashona. Over the next five years (1891-1896), the mission at Nhowe produced an abundance of converts.
During an uprising in 1896, Bernard was warned to flee. He refused, and he would not desert his converts or his post. On 18 June 1896, he was fatally speared outside his hut.

His wife and a helper went to get food and blankets for him. They later reported that, from a distance, they saw a blinding light on the hillside where he had been lying, and heard a rushing sound, as though of many wings. When they returned to the spot his body had disappeared. As recounted by our music master here at St. Alban’s. Mr. Bernard Riley who is a South African who has visited the place of Mizeki’s death, it has become a focus of great devotion for Anglicans and other Christians. On Easter morning, thousands gather at the place to sing, pray and rejoice over the Resurrection.


Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of Thy love in the heart of thy holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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Thursday After Ash Wednesday and Holy Martyrs of Japan

I have resolved that, by the help of God, I will pray and strive for the fulfilment of His will concerning me. I want to make a new start; to begin afresh, as though I had newly come to the service of God.

If so, I shall have to begin with quiet, thoughtful, self-examination; and then I must humbly acknowledge my faults. And if I am to do this aright, I need the new and contrite heart for which we are taught to pray during Lent. The very word “contrition” carries with it the idea of sorrow, but it is reasonable and manly if we have done wrong to be sorry for it, and to acknowledge it. This, then, is my first point; I need to have the evil of my past life blotted out, that free and unburdened I may make a new beginning in my endeavour to serve God, to make glad the heart of my father and mother, to gratify the good wishes of my friends, and to do credit to myself. For it would be of little avail to lay the confession of my past sins before Him who bore our sins in His own body on the cross, if I did not hope and intend to go forward in His service for the time to come.

I must be good if I would do good. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” If I am to live a new life, I need. a new heart.” A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” This new creation within us, like all the works of God, is gradual. I must take my part therein. As I must work with God in order to the maintenance of my bodily life, and the development of my physical strength, using food, sleep, and exercise, the means which He has provided; so also I must work with Him in the maintenance and development of my spiritual life. He who calls me to this work will Himself work with me, that it may at length be brought to a successful issue.


Yea, O Almighty God, send upon me, I pray Thee, the Holy Spirit from on high, and create in me a new and contrite heart, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Today, I learned of a great Irish saint, St. Ita of Kileedy (Ite ingen Chinn Fhalad) (d. 570/577).  She was an early Irish nun and patron saint of Killeedy. She was known as the “foster mother of the saints of Erin”. The name “Ita” (“thirst for holiness”) was conferred on her because of her saintly qualities. I missed her feast day on 15 January, but will keep it next year.  I sent for her icon today, which has just been released for purchase.

Her legend is worth noting today.  Called the “Brigid of Munster”, Ita was born in 480 in the present County Waterford.  Her father was Cennfoelad or Confhaola (try pronouncing that) and her mother was Necta.

An account of Ita’s life in the Codex Kilkenniensis, follows the example of Brigit in describing the opposition Íte meets in pursuit of her vocation. She was baptised as Deirdre and grew up in Drum, County Waterford. Ita was said to embody the six virtues of Irish womanhood – wisdom, purity, beauty, musical ability, gentle speech and needle skills. She is also reported to have rejected a prestigious marriage for a life as a consecrated woman religious.

At the age of sixteen she moved to Cluain Credhail, a place-name that has ever since been known as Killeedy – meaning “Church of St. Ita” – in County Limerick, where she founded a small community of nuns and resided for the remainder of her life, in community with other consecrated women. Bishop Declan of Ardmore conferred the veil on her.

Legend has it that Ita was led to Killeedy by three heavenly lights. The first was at the top of the Galtee mountains, the second on the Mullaghareirk mountains and the third at Cluain Creadhail, which is nowadays Killeedy. Her sister Fiona also went to Killeedy with her and became a member of the community.

A strongly individualistic character is glimpsed in the stories that surround her life. When she decided to settle in Killeedy, a chieftain offered her a large grant of land to support the convent. But Ita would accept only four acres, which she cultivated intensively. The community group seems to have had a school for little boys where they were taught “Faith in God with purity of heart; simplicity of life with religion; generosity with love”. Her pupils are said to have included Saint Brendan the Navigator, whom Bishop Erc gave to Ita in fosterage when he was a year old. St. Ita kept him until he was six.  He later visited her between his voyages and always deferred to her counsel. Brendan is believed to have asked her what three things God loved best. “True faith in God and a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit and open-handedness inspired by charity,” she answered.

She noted at one point the three things God most detested: a scowling face, obstinacy in wrongdoing, and too great a confidence in the power of money. She dedicated herself to prayer, fasting, simplicity and cultivating a gift for spiritual discernment. She was also endowed with the gift of prophecy and was held in great veneration by a large number of contemporary saints, men as well as women.

Ita was said to have a gift for guiding people in holiness. She was much sought after as a spiritual director. During this period of Christianity, the Celtic Church was more advanced than other churches at the time in recognizing qualities of spiritual leadership in women and in encouraging women in this role. It is thought that Ita may have been abbess of a double monastery of men and women.

Her legend places a great deal of emphasis on her austerity, as told by St. Cuimin of County Down, and numerous miracles are recorded of her. She is also said to be the originator of an Irish lullaby for the infant Jesus, an English version of which was set for voice and piano by the American composer Samuel Barber. She probably died of cancer, though contemporary chroniclers describe how her side was consumed by a beetle that eventually grew to the size of a pig. When she felt her end approaching she sent for her community of nuns, and invoked the blessing of heaven on the clergy and laity of the district around Kileedy. Ita died sometime around 570.

Her grave, frequently decorated with flowers, is in the ruins of Cill Ide, a Romanesque church at Killeedy where her monastery once stood. It was destroyed by Viking invaders in the ninth century. A Romanesque church was later built over its ruins, but that too failed to survive. The site, however, remains a place of pilgrimage today. A holy well nearby, almost invisible now, was known for centuries for curing smallpox in children and other diseases as well.  Another village in County Limerick, Kilmeedy (In Irish – Cill m’Ide, or church of my Ita) has links with the saint as well – having first set up a church in Kilmeedy before the one in Killeedy.

Not only was St. Ita a saint, but she was the foster-mother of many saints, including St. Brendan the Navigator, St. Pulcherius (Mochoemog) and Cummian. At the request of Bishop Butler of Limerick, Pope Pius IX granted a special Office and Mass for the feast of St. Ita, which is kept on 15 January. Although not on the Roman calendar of saints, her feast is celebrated as an optional memorial in Ireland.

St Ita is the patron saint of Killeedy, Ireland,[4] and along with St. Munchin is co-patron of the Diocese of Limerick. She is reportedly a good intercessor in terms of pregnancy and eye illnesses.

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Today marks our parish’s patronal day.  We are privileged to have under our altar a stone from the road at Verulamum, and, it is reputed, a relic of the first class in the mensa (altar stone).  The paver from the road trod by the saint on his way to martyrdom was a gift from St. Alban’s Abbey which our family visited just a year ago last week and from which the text below is “borrowed”.  The photographs are ours.

St Alban’s story and this place built in his honour takes us back to the beginning of the Christian faith in Britain.

Alban is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the third century in the Roman city of Verulamium, in the valley below the present Cathedral. The earliest versions of his history say that he gave shelter to a stranger fleeing from persecution. This was a Christian priest, originally un-named but later called Amphibalus in the re-telling of the story. Alban was so moved by the priest’s faith and courage that he asked to be taught more about Christianity, then still a forbidden religion.

Before long the authorities came to arrest the fugitive priest. But Alban, inspired by his new-found faith, exchanged clothes with Amphibalus, allowing him to escape. Instead Alban was arrested and brought before the city magistrate. Alban refused to sacrifice to the emperor and the Roman gods. When asked to identify himself he declared: ‘I am called Alban and I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things’.

The magistrate ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest. He was brought out of the town and up the hillside to the site of execution where he was beheaded. Despite escaping, Amphibalus too was later arrested and martyred at Redbourn, a few miles away.

Alban was probably buried in the Roman cemetery now located by modern archaeological digs to the south of the present Cathedral. Alban is honoured as the first British martyr, and his grave on this hillside quickly became a place of pilgrimage.

The first churches here were probably simple structures over Alban’s grave, making this the oldest continuous site of Christian worship in Great Britain. Recent finds suggest an early basilica over the spot and in 429 St Germanus recorded his visit to this church. In the early eighth century the historian Bede told the story of St Alban and described ‘a beautiful church, worthy of his martyrdom’.

Matthew Paris, the celebrated medieval historian and most famous of the Abbey’s monks, produced a beautifully illustrated Life of St Alban in the 13th century. This is now at Trinity College in Dublin.


The shrine of St Alban can be seen here today. Its Purbeck marble base of 1308 supports a modern red and gold canopy under which rests a shoulder-blade said to come from the original relics of the saint’s body. The canopy is embroidered with English wildflowers, commemorating Bede’s description of Alban as ascending a hill “adorned with wild flowers of every kind.” The red rose, in particular has come to be a special symbol of the saint reflecting the words of an ancient prayer: ‘Among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines Saint Alban.’

DSCN2248Watching Gallery Above the Shrine

Alban is a saint of the undivided church, a saint for all Christians. His welcome to a persecuted stranger was a powerful example of courage, compassion and hospitality. St Alban is still with us in the Communion of Saints, and in this sacred place we worship God with him and ask his prayers.


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I have had a number of requests for my homily from Christ the King Sunday.   I rarely post my homilies for three basic reasons.  First, I have always thought it prideful to do so.  Second, there are much better preachers from whom to learn. And, third, sermons and homilies are (or had better be) a work of the Holy Spirit in the preacher who has prayed and read into the works, particularly of the Fathers.  They are for a moment in God’s time, and may not have a permanence to them.

I offer the text with the following caveats. I rarely stick to any text and, indeed, have been known to preach ex tempore if I am so led. I also prepare texts more as notes, so that there likely will be typographical errors and emphasis marks within the notes.   If you use the text or (Heaven forbid) have a desire to quote from it, you can do so freely in this case. If you’d like to include an attribution, that’s fine.

SERMON FOR CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY-2016 (Given at St. Alban’s, Richmond, Virginia)

“We give thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” –Colossians i:12

Today is Christ the King Sunday–almost the last Sunday after Whitsunday-the Pentecost. We are drawing close to the end of those many, many “green” Sundays in Trinitytide and all of the moral teachings that have led us through the summer and early fall. Soon (and it doesn’t seem possible) we will begin anew with the First Sunday of Advent. But here we are, still in Trinity and preparing to commemorate All Saints Day and the solemn remembrance of All Souls.

Christ the King is not universally commemorated these days. But here in this parish, a part of the traditional Anglican-Catholic expression, I think that we do well to pause think a little bit about kings and kingship.

I had always imagined that the feast day of Christ the King came out of the medieval history of the Church, from a time when kingship was common and all the images of royalty would have been vibrant and meaningful for common Christians. I thought it might have arisen as a grand Feast Day.

Instead, I was surprised to read that the feast didn’t really did come to be generally celebrated until after 1925 when was formally placed on the calendar. Were there any powerful kings left in the world in 1925? I don’t know. Perhaps there were a few, but the feast came to be formally celebrated at a time when the governments of nations, particularly newly Communist Russia and our neighbor Mexico, were grossly abusing power and their people.

In Mexico, for example, a totalitarian regime gained control, and it tried vigorously to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, “Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!” They called themselves “Cristeros,” the most famous being a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, the good father Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally, though the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution. The president of Mexico (the improbably-named Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the international press to the execution.

The priest did not plead for his life, but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey.” At that moment the soldiers fired their deadly volley. It is a moment frozen in time, captured in the photographs of the journalists. If you look up “Padre Pro” or “Saint Miguel Pro” on the Internet, you can see that picture.

As in the Gospel today, Padre Pro died acknowledging Jesus as King. Hopefully you and I will die with the name of Jesus on our lips and in our hearts. But, more importantly, we will live today, this day, acknowledging Christ as our King.

This might seem the Church is just not “with it” or “up to date” celebrating a holy day based upon symbols and images that seem out of date, images of kings and royalty. But, you know, I suppose we could say it is the Church at hers best when even something as seemingly anachronistic as feast day about kings has the power to teach and inspire. Christ the King Sunday does teach and it does inspire.  It speaks to the practical point of our life in Christ.

My beloved, if a government overreaches itself, if it demands a submission that we as Christians cannot give, we have a simple, direct response: Jesus is our king. He is the King over all kings.  We follow his teachings and submit to his rule.

But it is puzzling, isn’t it?  “King” is a word we might not normally use to describe Jesus.  We associate the word “king” and all of its trappings with power and majesty, but Christ Jesus did not display that kind of power or majesty. In fact, if you were a contemporary and heard someone describing Jesus as king you might reply, “but he was born in a stable,” or isn’t he the carpenter’s boy?

It is true. Jesus was not the kingly, majestic type. Recall the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. When Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said they could all be his if Jesus worshiped him (Luke 4:5-7), Jesus replied that only God is to be worshiped (Luke 4:8). Satan offered a temptation to display power. But Jesus resisted that temptation always. He avoided the shows of earthly power and authority.

Beloved in Christ, the irony is that Jesus was a king because he has a kingdom, but his kingdom is totally at odds with any display of power in this world. Some people like to dominate others, they abuse their power, and they manipulate others through lies and even violence. Oh, how we see this in this mean season, this electoral season!

But those behaviors have no place in Jesus’ kingdom. Those with power can and do unfortunately abuse their power in so many ways. We see that each and every day.  But Jesus?  Jesus is totally powerless on the cross; he cannot, it seems, even save himself. Remember the mocking words, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23:35)

The values in Jesus’ kingdom are service and humility. If we want to be great, then we must be like children (Luke 18:17). We are to carry our cross after Jesus every day (Luke 14:27). There is no place for violence or retribution in Jesus’ kingdom. There is no place for abuse of power. There is no place for deceit and manipulation.

Jesus, King of Kings, certainly did not abuse His power, and he is our model. Jesus, the humble king, stands as an example and a stern rebuke to those who abuse or thirst for power of any sort. It just has no place in the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ kingdom. In fact, if we follow Christ’s example, there is no envy or greed or lust for power in us.

So, in many ways we see that Jesus’ kingdom is totally at odds with any display of power in this world, particularly political power. Christ kept company with tax-collectors, sinners and prostitutes, so much so that the authorities, political and religious, described Jesus as “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners.” (Luke 7:34)

You would expect kings to receive important people and dignitaries but Jesus received the lowly and rejected people of his time. You might expect a king to receive a gifts but Jesus gave gifts: he restored health to those who were sick, he raised the dead, he gave the gift of Eternal Life. Jesus was not the kingly type according to our understanding of king; he is a seemingly powerless king!

But, kings wear crowns.  The King of Kings too wore a crown. What sort of crown did Jesus wear? It was a crown of thorns. And, kings have thrones?  Jesus had a throne here on earth. What throne do we see Jesus sitting on in the Gospel today? (Luke 23:35-43) Look there.  It is the cross. Kings have armies don’t they? Knights, and soldiers, archers and standard bearers.  Yet, instead of an army, there were people beneath his cross asking him to come down if he was indeed the Son of God (Luke 23:35). So Jesus’ idea of king and power is totally opposite to the world’s idea of a king and power. That is why the preface to one Eucharistic Prayer describes Jesus’ kingdom as

a kingdom of truth and life

a kingdom of holiness and grace

a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

So it is that (Luke 23:35-43) we will find Jesus sitting on the most unusual throne of the Cross. “King of the Jews” was written over it.  It is there on the superscription.  But that moment of pain and humiliation was passing, and then Jesus assumed his real throne at the right hand side of his Father.

Beloved in Christ, this can teach us something-to bring about the kingdom of God we may have to abandon what the world considers important.  We may even have to be prepared to be ridiculed as Jesus was on the cross. We may even have to give all.   We may have to give our lives.

It was not easy for Christ to begin establishing His kingdom with values at odds to those of the world; it cost him his life. It certainly is not easy for the Church now trying to establish that kingdom in a society growing daily more secular and pagan. It is not easy for those of your who would dare to carry the Cross.  But for those who die to themselves, who truly open themselves to Jesus, the reward is a share in Jesus’ kingdom.  It is the promise to the penitent thief, “Indeed I promise you, today, you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Particularly as we approach another national election, this feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority of any kind to compare their use of power or authority with Jesus Christ. Indeed, we pray this in the second prayer for the President and those in Authority in Morning and Evening prayer.  When you have a moment this week, open the Prayer Book and read that prayer on page 18 with an accent on the word “thy”.

“Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear;”

Here’s the litmus test. Are those in authority using their power to serve others or to manipulate? Are these people using their power for the building up of a more just society or simply to feather their own nests? Are they using their power in any way that might cause pain to others or in a way that could help to alleviate pain?  Are they seeking the things of Christ?

In the prayer Jesus taught us, we pray, “thy kingdom come.” Jesus has shown how to bring about that kingdom. Let us pray that nations and individuals will be humble enough to look at how Jesus used power and bring about the kingdom of God.

As for us, we have our own questions this day. Will we crown this most unusual King to be our Lord? Will we grant him the authority and power to rule in our lives?  Will we acknowledge the authority of one who gave his life for ours? Will we submit to the power of one whose rule is one of love and reconciliation? Will we give up service to earthly powers and serve the one who is
King of heaven?

If so, crown him as your king.  Grant him power and  authority in your life, so that he may rule and guide your hearts and your minds and your souls. In the words of the hymn, “Crown him with many crowns!”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. 

The Rev. Canon Charles H. Nalls, Obl.S.B.


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December 24th
Nine Lessons and Carols-4:00 p.m. This service will include the blessing of the Christmas Crib. Our thanks to Mr. Bernard Riley, the choir and musicians who have been working so hard to help us lift our voices in a welcome to our Lord!
Christmas Vigil-10:00 p.m.-Sung Mass.
December 25th
Sung Matins-8:00 a.m.
Feast of the Nativity-10:00 a.m.-Sung Mass of Christmas Day
December 26th
Sung Matins-8:00 a.m.
Feast of St. Stephen-12:00 Noon-Said Mass
December 27th
Sung Matins-8:00 a.m.
Feast of St. John-12:00 Noon-Said Mass
December 28th
Morning Prayer-8:30 a.m.
Bible Study-9:30 a.m.-Study of the Gospel of St. Mathew
Holy Eucharist-11:00 a.m. (Hospitality follows in Parish Hall)

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