About Timothy Brown

A pastor. A writer. A dreamer. Occasionally a beer brewer.

The Lifeblood

Today the church remembers the valiant and instrumental work of three early-church saints, a yin to the yang of yesterday’s offering: St. Lydia, St. Dorcas, and St. Phoebe, Deacons and Entrepreneurs.

St. Lydia was a European industrialist, a maker of purple-dyed goods which, in the ancient world, required quite a bit of capital. After her baptism she invited Paul and his fellow travelers to stay in her house, which was an instrumental blessing for them, as they didn’t have to earn their support while in her care. St. Paul was known to have a special affection for the church at Philippi, the community founded around Lydia’s hospitality.

St. Dorcas or Tabitha (her name means “gazelle” which is a far cry from the English use of that name, right?) was from Joppa who worked hard for the poor. Her devotion for helping the poor was known and respected by all, and when Peter brought her back to life it was at the urging of those who knew her good work. Dorcas has the distinction of having the feminine form of “disciple” applied solely to her in Acts of Apostles.

St. Phoebe (whose name means “radiance”) was a Deaconess at the church in Cenchreae near Corinth. She was Paul’s patron in many ways, and her example led to the regular order of Deaconesses founded in the 3rd and 4th Centuries. Paul commends her to the church in Rome, suggesting that she was an integral aid who went to assist and advise struggling communities.

St. Lydia, St. Dorcas, and St. Phoebe are the folks who make up the offering difference at the end of the fiscal year by virtue of their generosity and ability. They are the visitation ministers who assist the dying over Jordan, the carpenter who creates an art installation in the Narthex, and the folks who organize the food drive that feeds thousands. They are the ministers who, in their unassumingly powerful ways, make ministry happen day in, and day out in a parish.

They are a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that women have been integral, foundational to the movement, and are the pumping lifeblood of the church today despite the reluctance of many to fully accept that fact.

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

Behind the Scenes

Today is the feast day of my name sake, St. Timothy, who shares it with his companions St. Titus and St. Silas, Compatriots of Paul and Behind the Scenes Apostles.

These three Saints are remembered the day after the Conversion of Paul is honored as a reminder for the church that community counts, not just one lone-wolf Rockstar. In a world of celebrity, Timothy, Titus, and Silas are less entourage and more worker bees of the church in its infancy. St. Paul notes he could not have done his work without them, and they, for their part, are kind of like the dedication page of his ministry.

What do we know about these saints? Very little. Timothy accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (recounted in the letters to the church at Thessaloniki), and was apparently one of Paul’s first converts on his visit to Lystra. Timothy, by virtue of his name, was born to a Greek father, but his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois are remembered as early Christians and get a worthy shoutout by St. Paul in 2 Timothy.

Timothy had the distinction of being acceptable to both Jewish and Greek Christians, something that Paul used for missional advantage. These apostles were kind of like preludes for church visits: they prepared the church for Paul to arrive.

St. Timothy delivered the letter of 1 Corinthians to the church at Corinth.

St. Titus delivered Paul’s second letter to that church (though, honestly, the ordering is messed up in the scriptures, and there appears to have been another letter somewhere in there that is lost to history). Titus, too, was born to Gentile parents, perhaps in Antioch, and was apparently eventually charged with starting a church on Crete. Tradition says he went on to become the first Bishop there, of Gortyna, and died at the age of 93.

St. Silas (or Silvanus) was a leader of the church in Jerusalem. He replaces John Mark on Paul’s second missionary journey when John Mark and Barnabas set out on their own. Silas was one of the first Christian missionaries to venture into Europe. Some contend that Silas was the one who delivered the letter of 1 Peter, and maybe was even the actual author of that letter (or at least a redactor of it). Legend has it that he became the Bishop of Corinth and died in Macedonia.

These three saints are like the crew that sets up the Fellowship Hall. They are the kitchen team, prepping and serving the meal. They are the tech team, splicing the video and overlaying the audio. They are the ones who hear the small confessions of the faithful as they labor together mowing the church lawn or planting the church flowers.

They are a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that the community may be brought together by some Rockstar, but they are built and kept together by the prelude saints who make it all happen, weekly.

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

-icons by various writers in the Orthodox tradition

Keep Working for the Poor

Today the church honors not a saint, but rather an event: The Conversion of Saint Paul.

This conversion story is thrice told (I just wanted to use the word “thrice”) in the Scriptures, and Paul also references it three times in his letters. This repetition actually makes it one of the most oft-repeated events in the stories of the early church.

Paul, a zealous persecutor of Christians in ancient Palestine, is struck by a blinding vision and, reportedly, the voice of God, which leads him to become a follower of Christ.

This event may be the most influential event for the early church because Paul’s active conversion work (and theology) spread like wildfire throughout the ancient world, especially amongst Gentile communities.

It’s worth noting that this Feast Day also marks the end of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” It is not an accident that the “Week of Prayer” starts with the Confession of St. Peter and ends with the Conversion of St. Paul, as the two of them did not get along at all. They had different ideas of what the faith should be and do, who should be included in the circle of believers, and yes, it appears they even had different working theologies (of which, I would argue, St. Paul’s ideas won out, for better or for worse).

The one thing they did agree on? To continue working on behalf of the poor.

The church longed for these two pillars of the faith to be reconciled so much that they put them on the same feast day, believing that if they couldn’t be friends in life, they would be companions in death.

The conversion of St. Paul is honestly a feast day I struggle with, mostly due to a long history of colonialism and forced conversions winding through the church’s past. Yet, there is something honest about the fact that Paul, on his own, had an experience with the Divine that made a shift in him, and that can be a force for good, by God.

Christian unity feels a bit like a dream most days. This feast day isn’t even celebrated in the Eastern Church. But, perhaps if we all had a conversion we all might just agree to do that one thing that Paul and Peter agreed on: work on behalf of the poor.

For that to be the case, a lot of the church will have to be converted in the process…

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

-icon written by He Qi

All You Need is Love

Today the church remembers a 17th Century Saint who was as stubborn as he was prolific: St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Thwarter of Assassins.

Born in Chateau de Sales and educated in the grand cities of France, this St. Francis was ordained a priest (despite his father’s displeasure with the profession), and served for twenty-nine years amidst the uneasy marriage of the Catholics and Calvinists in the Chablais countryside.

He was known around the area for great love for all the people in the land, regardless of their faith. Unfortunately, many others did not regard him with such love, and he had to contend with a few assassination attempts by those who took issue with his Catholicity.

His effective love and preaching did turn many hearts on to the Roman Catholic expression of the church, much to the chagrin of the Calvinists who had worked hard to evangelize in the area.

In 1602 he was appointed Bishop of Geneva, and through this same outlook of love began to slowly change and restructure the diocese, known for being quite difficult and unruly. He gave away almost all of his private money, and lived a simple life. The King of France tried to persuade him to move to Paris, but he opted to skip the pomp of the huge city and remain where he was.

Children are said to have adored him. He took great pains to teach the laity of the church about the faith, something often overlooked by other clergy who preferred to focus on their own scholarly pursuits.

He wrote a number of books, including his twenty-six volume tome, The Love of God.

With Jane de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610 which worked to instruct young women in the faith.

He was stubborn in his love for all people, stubborn in his refusal to live the “high life,” stubborn in his ability to keep living despite the attacks on his life, and stubborn in his belief that God is best known through the eyes of the heart rather than the cold eyes of the head.

Unfortunately St. Frances de Sales died of a stroke at the age of fifty-five. After his death a local Calvinist minister remarked, “If we honored any man as a saint, I know no one since the days of the apostles more worthy than Bishop Frances.”

That kind of love, the love that shines bright enough to cut through animosity and political tension, is rare…and much needed in this world.

St. Frances de Sales is a reminder for me, and can be for the whole Church, that doctrine without love is little more than trite moralism and vacuous philosophical games on parade. Perhaps St. Paul and St. John (and St. George and St. Ringo) were correct: All you need is love.

St. Frances de Sales might have agreed.

-history helped along by Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-Icon written by Theophilia

Mother of Outcasts

Today the church remembers the 19th Century Patron Saint of Hawaii: Saint Marianne Cope of Molokai, Mother of Outcasts and Healer.

While the church normally honors saints on the days of their death, Saint Marianne is the rare exception, being honored today, the day of her birth.

She entered the Franciscan order at a young age, and worked as a teacher and hospital administrator early in her life. In 1883 Sister Marianne answered the call of King Kalakaua, the Merrie Monarch of the good island kingdom, asking for desperate help to tend to lepers on the island.

Armed with a warm heart and experience organizing hospitals, she took charge of the mission, founding the first general hospital in Oahu. When the government changed policies, ended the forced exile of lepers, and closed the specialty hospitals, St. Marianne saw that those living with leprosy, and their children, were still being ostracized and demonized by those who didn’t understand the disease.

She stayed to personally care and accompany them .

Because of this care and concern, especially of those who are ostracized, she is seen as the modern matron Saint of not only those who live with leprosy, but also those who live with HIV/AIDS, and those who identify as outcasts.

In these days, many have evoked her name in association with this current pandemic, especially because her oft repeated mantra to her nurses and doctors is echoing in our halls these days, “Wash your hands!”

St. Marianne Cope is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that we are called to tend to those who are cast out by the world and, even after the powers say the work is done, continue on working with them until ”justice rolls down like a river to wash all oppression away!”

-historical bits gleaned from Illes, Daily Magic.

-icon written by Sister Rosaire Kopczenski, OSF

A Team Effort

Another 4th Century Saint marks our days on the 22nd of January, and this one is especially dear to those with Spanish heritage: Saint Vincent of Saragossa, Deacon, Martyr, and Voice of the Divine.

St. Vincent is the most celebrated of Spanish martyrs, and he, like St. Agnes of yesterday’s note, died in the Diocletian persecution in 304 A.D.

St. Vincent, though not the Bishop of Saragossa, did the work of a good Deacon in regularly preaching for Bishop Valerius, who suffered from a speech-debilitating stammer. Both Vincent and Valerius were imprisoned for their faith, and while Valerius received the sentence of exile, Vincent received the sentence of torture and death.

Starvation, held in stocks, and tortured by fire, St. Vincent who so regularly preached on behalf of the Divine offered his final sermon to the world with his body, and the world listened. In the Middle Ages, a number of churches throughout England were built in his honor and named for him.

St. Vincent is a reminder for me, and can be for the whole church, that community is a team effort that will threaten powerful people who would rather dominate alone.

-historical helps by Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations

-icon written by Aiden Hart

Lambs of God

Today the church remembers an ancient Saint of the early church: Saint Agnes, Martyr and Life-Giver.

Not much is known about St. Agnes. She died during the Diocletian persecution in the year 304 AD, and she is listed in that very first catalogue of saints that was drawn up by the early church around the year 354 AD. We know she was well-known and well-remembered in that ancient church because Constantine’s daughter (or maybe his granddaughter) built a church in her honor.

Here’s the thing about St. Agnes: although we don’t know much about her life, we do know something about her death. When Diocletian was terrorizing the fledgling Christian church, St. Agnes offered herself up to the authorities to be captured and killed. The thought was that, once enough Christians were killed to be shown as “an example,” the persecution would stop.

After all, Diocletian was not killing Christians out of spite or real fear, but rather as a political tool. With this motivation, he largely follows all politicians in power who use religion as a sword or a shield rather than as a food trough for conviction. Perhaps St. Agnes thought that, in volunteering her body, she might bring a quicker end to the rampage and save some lives.

Her offer also stands in stark contrast to the number of Roman Christians who were renouncing the faith in order to save their lives (and could you blame them?). Perhaps her willingness was an effort to keep them from having to do such renunciations as well.

Because St. Agnes is so close in name to “agnus” or “lamb,” today two lambs will be presented at the altar of St. Agnese fuori le Mura. They will be blessed by the priest, shorn, and then cared for by the nuns of Santa Ceclia in Trastavere. The wool from these lambs will be used for the white cloth of pallium that the Holy Father gives to archbishops of the church as a sign of affection.

St. Agnes is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that when religion is used for political points no one wins.

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

Lambs of God

Today the church remembers an ancient Saint of the early church: Saint Agnes, Martyr and Life-Giver.

Not much is known about St. Agnes. She died during the Diocletian persecution in the year 304 AD, and she is listed in that very first catalogue of saints that was drawn up by the early church around the year 354 AD. We know she was well-known and well-remembered in that ancient church because Constantine’s daughter (or maybe his granddaughter) built a church in her honor.

Here’s the thing about St. Agnes: although we don’t know much about her life, we do know something about her death. When Diocletian was terrorizing the fledgling Christian church, St. Agnes offered herself up to the authorities to be captured and killed. The thought was that, once enough Christians were killed to be shown as “an example,” the persecution would stop.

After all, Diocletian was not killing Christians out of spite or real fear, but rather as a political tool. With this motivation, he largely follows all politicians in power who use religion as a sword or a shield rather than as a food trough for conviction. Perhaps St. Agnes thought that, in volunteering her body, she might bring a quicker end to the rampage and save some lives.

Her offer also stands in stark contrast to the number of Roman Christians who were renouncing the faith in order to save their lives (and could you blame them?). Perhaps her willingness was an effort to keep them from having to do such renunciations as well.

Because St. Agnes is so close in name to “agnus” or “lamb,” today two lambs will be presented at the altar of St. Agnese fuori le Mura. They will be blessed by the priest, shorn, and then cared for by the nuns of Santa Ceclia in Trastavere. The wool from these lambs will be used for the white cloth of pallium that the Holy Father gives to archbishops of the church as a sign of affection.

St. Agnes is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that when religion is used for political points no one wins.

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

On Unlikely Bishops

Today the church honors an unlikely Bishop, perhaps only second in unlikeliness to St. Peter himself: Saint Fabian, Bishop of Rome, Martyr, and Snow White Prodigy.

St. Fabian was not clergy. He didn’t even live in Rome, proper. But one day, early in the third Century, he wandered from his farm into the city just as the gathering clergy were meeting to elect a new bishop for the young, fledgling church.

Several names were being tossed about, mostly powerful people within the Christian movement who had gained popularity and notoriety. No consensus could be found, though, until the gathering was interrupted by a descending avian.

A dove flew into the crowd and, like a scene out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, alighted upon the head of Fabian.

The gathered clergy saw this as a sign, and they immediately ordained him and elevated him to the role of Bishop by unanimous acclamation.

Fabian set about doing the work of Bishop from a farmer’s mindset. He divided the city into seven plots, or districts, and set deacons in charge of each area so they could respond to practical and charitable needs as they arose. He took to remembering the ancestors of the faith, the martyrs, venerating them in their catacombs. All of these practices would shape the church forever, even unto today.

For fourteen years Fabian led the church in Rome, eventually dying at the hands of Emperor Decius in the year 250 AD. In his death he was remembered by fellow Bishops as being “incomparable,” and on his grave to the day you can see inscribed in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, “Fabian, Bishop, Martyr.”

St. Fabian is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes the most qualified persons aren’t the richest, the most powerful, from the best schools, or who are the most well known.

Sometimes the most qualified persons are those who just appear, almost out of nowhere…kind of like, you know, Jesus. And Fabian.

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