JOANNA, MARY AND SALOME
Known in some traditions as “the faithful women,” the visit of these three persons and other women to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning is noted in the Gospel records of (Matthew 28:1), (Mark 16:1), and (Luke 24:10). Joanna was the wife of Cuza, a steward in Herod’s household (Luke 8:3). Mary, the mother of James (the son of Alpheus), was another of the women who faithfully provided care for Jesus and His disciples from the time of His Galilean ministry through His burial after the crucifixion. Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56), joined with the women both at the cross and in the bringing of the spices to the garden tomb. These “faithful women” have been honored in the church through the centuries as examples of humble and devoted service to the Lord.
DOMINIC, TEACHER AND MONK, died 1221
Dominic was a Spanish priest who saw the wealth of the clergy as a stumbling block for the church, so he formed a movement, the Order of Preachers (commonly called Dominicans) devoted to itinerant preaching and living in poverty.
LAWRENCE, DEACON AND MARTYR, died 258
Early in the third century A.D., Lawrence, most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Lawrence to produce the “treasures of the church.” Lawrence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of his death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.
CLARE, TEACHER AND NUN, died 1253
Clare (1110? – 1253) was a noble lady of Assisi and accepted the reforms of Francis. She founded a similar society for women called the Order of Poor Ladies (also known as the Poor Clare’s) focusing on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, obedience, chastity, and poverty. Love for creation, care of animals, and service to the poor are other spiritual hallmarks of the Franciscan piety that Clare promoted.
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, died 1910; CLARA MAASS, died 1901; RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH
Nightingale was born in England, and horrified her wealthy family by deciding to become a nurse. She led a group of nurses in ministering in the midst of the Crimean Way, and worked for hospital reform. Maass, a native of New Jersey, who was also a war nurse, and volunteered as a subject for research on yellow fever. She died of the disease.
MAXIMILLIAN KOLBE, MARTYR, died 1941
Maximillian Maria Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. During World War II, he provided shelter to refugees from greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanow. On February 17, 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On May 28, he was transferred to Auschwitz and volunteered to die in place of a stranger.
KAJ MUNK, MARTYR, died 1944
A Danish Lutheran pastor and playwright, Munk strongly denounced the Nazis who occupied Denmark in the Second World War. His sermons and articles helped to show the anti-Christian nature of the movement.
MARY, MOTHER OF OUR LORD
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is present throughout the life of our Lord. From the annunciation of the angel, to her visitation to Elizabeth, her giving birth in the humble manger (Luke1 – 2), from her standing beside His cross and horrific death (John 19) to praying with the disciples before Pentecost (Acts 1), Mary is present humbly treasuring all in her heart. Mary’s song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46 – 55), is part of the Evening Prayer liturgy. Tradition differs on whether Mary died in Ephesus with the Apostle John (the Dormition of Mary) or whether she was taken into heaven just like Enoch and Elijah of old (the Assumption of Mary). An early Ecumenical Council declared Mary is Theotokos, bearer of God. Luther describes her as the best evangelical faithfully trusting and pointing to her Son to the very end.
Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1 – 14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19 – 26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite – and eldest – son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28 – 29).
JOHANN GERHARD, TEACHER AND HYMNWRITER, died 1637
Johann Gerhard (1582 – 1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522 – 1586) and the most influential of the 17th century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (12 large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of 15 he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the Superintendent of Heidelberg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read.
BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, MONK AND MARTYR
Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche, son of a Swiss Lutheran minister and a French mother, was born in 1915. He entered France on foot after the country’s defeat by Nazis Germany in 1940 intent on founding a religious community dedicated to peacemaking and healing the divisions in the Church. The Taize community grew with dozens of monks from 30 different countries and Christian denominations, developed Taize chant with Jacques Berthier, and became a place of pilgrimage for young Christians. At the entrance of the Church of the Reconciliation in Taize is the sign: “Let all who enter here be reconciled, brother with brother, sister with sister, nation with nation.” He was stabbed to death by a mentally ill pilgrim during Evening Prayers.
BERNARD, ABBOT OF CLAIRVAUX, TEACHED, died 1153
A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born to a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of 22. After two years he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses. Bernard is remembered for his charity and political abilities, but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by Saint Bernard.
Samuel, last of the Old Testament judges and first of the prophets (after Moses), lived during the 11th century B.C. The child of Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his wife Hannah, Samuel was from early on consecrated by his parents for sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh by Eli the priest. Samuel’s authority as a prophet was established by God (1 Samuel 3:20). He anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king (10:1). Later, as a result of Saul’s disobedience to God, Samuel repudiated Saul’s leadership and then anointed David to be king in place of Saul (16:13). Samuel’s loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel’s great leaders.
Bartholomew is included in the lists of Jesus’ twelve apostles in all but John’s Gospel where the name Nathaniel (thought to be the same person) is present. Little is known about him. There is a tradition that Bartholomew was martyred for sharing the good news of Jesus in Armenia by being flayed alive and then beheaded.
A native of North Africa, Monica (A.D. 333 – 387) was the devoted mother of Saint Augustine. Throughout her life she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son, Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some church year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4.
AUGUSTINE, BISHOP AND TEACHER, died 430
One of the great teachers of the Church, Augustine (364 – 430) was born in North Africa. His mother Monica tried without success to raise her son as a Christian. He studied at Carthage where he lived with a woman who bore him a son. In 384, influenced by the gospel teaching of Ambrose of Milan, Augustine became a follower of Christ and was baptized on Easter in 387. In 391 he was chosen by Christians in Hippo to be their pastor. His Confessions, On the Trinity and the City of God are foundations of Western thought.
MOSES THE BLACK, MONK, MARTYR, died around 405
Converted from life as a thief and a robber to Christianity, Moses was an Ethiopian who became a desert monk at Skete. His conversion had a great impact in his native country. Wearing a white habit, he said, “God knows I am black within.” He was murdered during an attack by Berbers.
JOHN BUNYAN, TEACHER
Bunyan (1628 – 1688) was a Baptist preacher who suffered in jail for his gospel preaching. Pilgrim’s Progress is his fictional allegory of the Christian life.