Faithful Educator

Today the church remembers a Deacon of the faithful, Alcuin, Abbot of Tours.

Alcuin was a companion of Charlemagne, and founded organized learning in France. He was known as a monk, teacher, author, but primarily as one who practiced Word and Service in the world.

After being called as a deacon he became the head of the York school. In that service, he visited Rome and the Frankish court, and was convinced by Charlemagne to stay in the court and help to revive education in the Frankish territories.

He eventually left the court and became the Abbot of St. Martin’s at Tours, and is buried there still today.

In a day where the church was expanding, he was instrumental in incorporating Gelasian and Roman sacramentary practices together, allowing the church budding in Gaul to see parts of themselves in the practices of the church.

The Alcuin Club, a group dedicated to the study of Christian liturgy, continues his work.

He is a reminder that education has always been a focus of the faith, and that anti-intellectualism is incompatible with those who seek after the Truth that we claim God is.

Honoring, training, and listening to teachers is a part of our call, especially in times of crisis.

He is also a reminder for the faithful that some are called to practice the faith in ways other than just sacramental ministry. Although Alcuin never consecrated an element, he certainly influenced sacramental practice and the liturgy. The voices of pastors and priests are not the only voices to be heard.

Tweak Evil’s Nose

Today the church honors an oft-forgotten saint, but one with a funny story: 10th Century Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Saint Dunstan is largely regarded as the person behind introducing the Benedictine Rule to Britain. After the Viking raids had largely decimated the churches and demoralized the clergy to the point of disrepair, he brought back the Rule of St. Benedict to the Island (as he had previously been exiled to Belgium for criticizing King Edward’s conduct) at the invitation of King Edgar in 957, and slowly but surely began the rebuilding process.

He retrained the clergy, re-established the liturgy, and with the protection of King Edgar, began movements among the people to free them from indentured servitude, the landlord system of organization, and provide for better education for lay people and clergy alike.

But that’s not the funny story.

Dunstan was said to have been a keen metal worker, and was rumored to have cast bells and built organs in his time as a priest. One day while working in his foundry, the devil apparently showed up in the form of a townsperson. Dunstan saw through the ruse, though, and as he was attending to his work, he turned around, clasped the nose of the devil with the metal tongs he was working with, and tweaked it until the demon ran off.

This is why, in iconography, Dunstan is often depicted holding tongs.

He is a welcome reminder for the church, and all of us, that initial defeats will not, in the end, define our lives. After all, how many people have been fired from their job, forced out of work, been the victim of office politics, or spoken up and paid the consequences for right action, and yet remain resiliant and continue to make a difference? Dunstan’s exile to Belgium was political, but he stuck to his convictions, his Rule of St. Benedict, and eventually returned to change the lives, hearts, and situation of many.

He is also a reminder that, if you get the chance to tweak evil’s nose, don’t hesitate.

Good Ambition

Attention to all my Swedish friends out there!

Today the church remembers the 12th Century Saint: Erik IX Jedvardsson, King and Martyr.

St. Erik (you may call him King) ruled over a great bit of what is now Sweden, and is remembered as an advocate for the faith throughout Scandinavia. He became the subject of quite a bit of legend and lore, outgrowing his brief moment in history to live on in perpetuity.

St. Erik had, in his royal and religious zeal, the idea that the Finns needed both a ruler and a new way of being in the world. He and St. Henry (Jan 19th) set out to do so, with St. Henry becoming the de facto founder of the Finnish church through that quest of 1155.

Though St. Erik was obviously ambitious, he was known more-so for being just and kind, especially to those who called him king. He instituted salutary laws and, in response to his faith, ordinances that meant to help the poor, the sick, and the infirm, creating an ancient version of the “social safety-net,” almost unheard of for the day.

The lore around St. Erik’s martyrdom is legion, most of them having him fall at the hands of a pagan Danish prince. A prominent story goes that, as St. Erik was celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, he got word that a Danish army was nearby intending to kill him. Not wanting to abandon the service mid-Mass, he is noted as saying, “We’ll finish the Eucharist and then keep the feast elsewhere.” The Danish army was not on the same timetable and, before Mass was over, rushed the church and beheaded the goodly king.

Or, so the story goes.

Though many saints compete for the hearts of the Swedes, St. Erik came to be chief amongst them. Along with St. Henry of Finland and St. Olaf of Norway, he stands as one of the iconic symbols of not just the faith of the land, but the people there.

St. Erik is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that ambition does not always mean abuse of power. He was ambitious, yes, but he used his power to watch over the last and the least.

Let those with ears to hear, hear.

-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations

Let the Law Catch Up

Today I would lobby hard that the larger church adopt a calendar option that our Episcopal siblings have done, and honor on this day Justice Thurgood Marshall, Warrior for Equality and Trailblazer.

Born in 1908 to former slaves, this Baltimore son was raised hearing court cases as a form of informal education. He attended Frederick Douglass High School, graduated a year early, and entered Lincoln University, an HBCU, where he sat in classes with Langston Hughes and excelled on the debate team.

After graduating and marrying, he went on to Howard University to study law. In his law practice he partnered with the NAACP and became chief council for the organization, arguing a number of historic cases in the pursuit of civil rights, most notably arguing before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

JFK appointed Brother Marshall to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but he was prevented from officially taking the chair by a group of Senators (led by Mississippi Democrat James Eastman) who didn’t love the idea of a Black man serving that high in system. Marshall took the seat by recess appointment and, when offered the chance, LBJ elevated him to U.S. Solicitor General, making him the highest-ranking Black government official of his day.

When Justice Tomas Clark left the court, LBJ put Thurgood Marshall’s name forth as the justice to replace him. He was confirmed by the Senate, and described his political philosophy as, “You do what you think is right and you let the law catch up.”

Marshall served on the court for 24 years.

In 1991 he retired from the court, citing failing health, and in 1993 he died of heart failure. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It is his personal Bible that Vice President Kamala Harris used in her swearing-in ceremony.

Brother Marshall was not perfect, and nor would he claim to be. But he was fair and sought to champion the rights of those who had few champions with political power at the time. He is a reminder for me, and should be for everyone, that sometimes, well:

“You have to do what’s right and let the law catch up.”

-historical bits from public source materials
-icon written by Christopher Davis

The Navigator

Today the church remembers an Irish saint who honors the ancient truth that the Celts love the word “story” within “hiSTORY”: Saint Brendan the Navigator, Abbot and Pioneer.

Saint Brendan was born around the year 484 in County Kerry. He was trained by those ancient Irish monks and, at the age of 26, ordained a priest. He then began to travel the island, founding monastery after monastery as he went. He was known for being kind and adventurous, and from his early life longed to answer the siren call that the sea had placed on his heart.

Believing that the Garden of Eden could be found just somewhere off the coast of Ireland (most of us of Celtic ancestry believe this to be true because you’d be hard to find a more perfect spot of land, right?), he took to the sea.

And this is how legend about him grew and grew. His sea adventures were passed down through oral tradition, and the first written accounts of it date around the 900’s, though the voyages themselves took place in the early 6th Century.

Saint Brendan was said to have fought with sea monsters in his boat of eager monks. One legend has him finding an island of lush vegetation, only to discover it was the back of a great monster all along!

Tales of his travels mark Irish bookshelves and drip from Celtic tongues, not because these voyages actually happened, but because they are all true.

Saint Brendan eventually grew tired of the sea voyage life and, after visiting the holy island of Iona in Scotland, retired to the monastery he founded at Annaghdown, though his “retirement” was simply more rounds of travel around Ireland and Britain, visiting this community or that. He died in 577 in Annaghdown while visiting his sister, and fellow monastic, Brigid.

Some actually think (and provide some shaky, but present, evidence to the idea) that Saint Brendan made it as far as Greenland, or even the coast of Canada in his voyages. Others think he made it to the Azores or the Canary Islands. Regardless of how far he made it, though, his tales of faith and voyage have sparked, and continue to spark, the imagination of so many. Like all good saints, he refuses to die.

Saint Brendan is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes very true things just never happened.

They happen.

-historical bits from publicly available sites

-icon written by Theophilia, and can be purchased at

A Forest of Junipers

Today the church remembers an unusual 13th Century Saint of the church, Saint Juniper, Fool and Friend.

Juniper was a companion of St. Francis of Assisi, but may have been even more extreme than him when it came to eccentricities. Juniper was known as a “fool for Christ,” and, like your aunt with an unending purse in church, was known for continually giving away all of his possessions and living in such a publicly exuberant way that he was constantly in trouble with authorities.

Eventually his monastic superiors ordered him to no longer give away his outer robe to beggars, which he had a habit of doing. Moments after the directive, he encountered a beggar and is supposed to have said, “I have been told not to give you my clothing, but if you decide to take it off of my back, I will not put up a fight.”

Juniper is a winsome saint who reminds the church, and all of us, that everything we have is always on loan, and in living that way we learn to better enjoy not only what we have, but also the moment we give it away.

-icon written by Brenda Nippert (

The First Month of Summer

For the ancient Celtic Christians, May was the first month of summer. It may feel strange to think of the rhythm of the year in this way, mostly because we’ve been conditioned by society to see May as still part of “spring,” but for those Celts who paid attention to how things look and feel, rather than acquiescing to what others told them to feel, they knew that the change of May meant the beginning of summer.

Their wheel for the year was:

November-December-January: Winter (the cold would set in, ground would freeze, and things took a dormant nature…which is why in the middle of December you’d celebrate the undying light of Christ, reminding yourself that the sun/Son always shines)

February-March-April: Spring (things start to break through the ground, thaws happen, tulips push up and animals stir and mate…which is why Easter is the capstone to the season, the eternal “emergence”)

May-June-July: Summer (heat sets in, you start to do all things out-of-doors, you plant and tend, and the midpoint is the celebration of John the Baptizer/Summer Solstice where you remember that St. John the Baptizer said, “I must decrease so that Christ may increase”…and the sun starts setting a little earlier each day)

August-September-October: Autumn (you celebrate the waning heat, you harvest, you prep and store, and prepare for the winter, with the capstone of the season being All Hallow’s Eve where you give thanks for the harvest and the faithfully departed, knowing winter is coming where nature reminds us that all things die)

This cycle was the year life, but imbued into all of this was the sense of death and regeneration.  It was an Easter life. 

In our modern days where we’re so tossed back and forth between this event and that event, seeing so much of it all as isolated incidences that rock our boats, we forget the golden thread, the rhythm, or as the ancient Celts would call it, the “heartbeat of the Divine” running through it all. 

If we tilt at every windmill, we never stand up straight.  The ancient Celts understood this, and so they were able to weather most any storm knowing what season it was. 

Now? Now is the start of summer. The season of “out-of-doors.” Take advantage, live into the newness around you, and breathe deeply into the now. 

Because now it’s about living life. 

Patron Saint of Victims of Sexual Assault

Today parts of the church, especially those of Frankish origin, remember a 9th Century saint whose story is all too familiar: Saint Solange, Patron Saint of Sexual Assault Victims and Resistor of Rape.

Saint Solange was the daughter of poor vineyard workers in central France. She eventually took on the role of shepherdess, tending her sheep in the fields of the area. She was raised devout in the faith.

Her beauty attracted the attention of a local nobleman. She rebuffed his advances, even though he continually sought her out, especially while she was doing her work in the fields, alone.

Yet, she persisted.

Frustrated by her lack of interest in him, he snuck up on her one night and, using brute force, kidnapped her. In the moments after being taken Saint Solange struggled violently and, as a result, fell from the horse he had tied her to as they were crossing a stream. Her abductor was so angry at her reluctance to do what he told her to and give up her body to him, he killed her on the spot.

The year was 880 A.D.

But it was also this year. And last. And every year before it.

She is remembered as a strong woman who, when accosted by the wealthy and powerful men who thought they could do what they wanted to her and with her, resisted. Her tale is one of bravery, fear, and one all too often repeated in this life.

She is a reminder to me, and should be for the whole church, that patriarchal systems of power must never be reinforced, must never be taught and, where they are found, must be resisted and fought against.

And we need to teach this to all our children, regardless of gender.

Let those with ears to hear, hear.

-information gleaned from public sources as well as Daily Magic by Judika Illes

More than Just Cookies

Today the church remembers an obscure, but important saint, especially for those of us who find ourselves Lutheran in the Carolinas.

Today we honor Nicolaus Ludwig, Count von Zinzendorf, who may be considered the founder of the modern Moravian Church.

Zinzendorf was raised in an Austrian Lutheran family, and trained at Wittenberg University. Being of noble heritage, he took up a post in the court of King August the Strong of Saxony.

While there, he opened his home to Austrian Protestant immigrants, mostly of Bohemian descent. His hospitality, and the colony growing under his care, flourished, and he resigned his political post to attend to “the Lord’s watch,” as it came to be known.

He was a little too pious even for the Lutherans, but all the same was considered a Lutheran theologian. He was exiled from Saxony for his extreme piety, and founded communities in the Baltics, the Netherlands, England, the West Indies, and North America.

In 1737 he was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Czech Brethren, a branch of the church that John Hus followers formed after his death. Because the church was founded around Moravia, it became known as the Moravian Church.

Zinzendorf also had great concern for social justice, a streak which continues in the Moravian Church to this day.

In the United States, and particularly Pennsylvania and the Carolinas, the Moravian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America maintain a special relationship. Here in Carolina it’s not unusual for families to have both Lutheran and Moravian members, and for churches close to one another to work together in mission. We are close theological cousins, and though there are certainly differences, we share pastors and are in full communion.

While many might know Moravians for their thin, wafer-like sweet cookies (and a pretty good thing to be known for!), they should be known more-so for their continued care for the poor and the oppressed around the world.

Mother of Mystics

As Mother’s Day dawns, I’m compelled to note that today the church honors the mothering mystic 15th Century icon: St. Julian of Norwich, Enigma and Anchoress.

We know little about St. Julian, though she left us a treasure trove of writings from which to grow from. She became an anchoress of St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, a statement which means little to our ears, but explains that she lived in a shack adjacent to a particular church, in exile and voluntarily alone. She sought the contemplative life without distraction, and at the time this was seen as a benefit to her and her insights. We would later know it was certainly a benefit for our collective knowledge, but may have done her personal harm in the long run.

St. Julian called her insights “showings,” and she has recorded fifteen of them for the world. She was only around thirty years old when these visions happened to her, and they show both her admiration for the Divine and what she believes the Divine was showing her. In these experiences she recounts a God who is close, intimate, and “homely,” according to her description. She draws upon scripture and other medieval writings of the time to extrapolate on these extraordinary experiences.

St. Julian (sometimes called Dame Julian) was sought out for her wisdom. Though she lived as a recluse, others traveled far to hear her thoughts and seek her guidance.

St. Julian of Norwich died in the year 1417, and has long been honored on May 7th or May 8th by much of the church.

My favorite quote of hers, which was scribed while she was on her death bed, is, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

She is a reminder to me, and should be for the whole church, that insight into the Divine can happen to anyone, anywhere. And sometimes the most feeble amongst us holds the most acute lens.

-historical bits taken from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations

-icon written by Marcy Hall of Rabbitroomarts: