Attention my Finnish friends! Attention!
Today the church remembers a Finnish Bishop who studied under Martin Luther himself: St. Mikael Agricola, Bishop of Turku, Renewer of the Church, and Mystic.
Born in Uusimaa (the Fins think “why use one vowel when you can use two?), he went to school in Viipuri and then Turku. He was a good student and due to his scholarly achievements, he was sent by his Bishop to Wittenberg to study under Luther and Malanchthon.
After his graduation, Luther wrote him a letter of recommendation (apparently those have been necessary in the schola forever) and he became Assistant to the Bishop at Turku, eventually succeeding him in the bishopric without seeking Papal approval (a big no-no).
As Bishop St. Mikael undertook extensive Lutheran reforms throughout Finland, encouraging greater participation and catechesis of the laity. Toward this end, he developed an orthography, the basis for modern Finnish spelling, and prepared a book of ABC’s, a prayer book, a New Testament translation, a translation of the Mass, and a collection of Finnish hymns.
Truly, he was an educator as well as a theologian.
After being sent to Russia as part of a delegation to negotiate a peace between Russia and Sweden, he fell ill on the return trip. He died the night of Palm Sunday in 1557 after having been Bishop for only three years.
Though much of his work was in the practical changes needed for an informed church, he was a deeply spiritual person who held ancient mysticism in high regard.
He is widely commemorated in Finland to this day.
St. Mikael is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that you don’t have to be in a position for very long to make a huge difference.
-historical bits gleaned from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations