Collect: “O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Monday, February 4: St. Cornelius
In Acts 10 and 11, we are told of a Roman centurion, a God-fearing Gentile, named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea. An angel of the Lord appears to Cornelius while he is praying and tells him to send a messenger to Joppa to bring back Peter. Meanwhile, the next day, Peter is praying and has a vision of clean and unclean animals (symbolizing Jews and Gentiles) being let down from heaven in something like a large sheet. A voice commands, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat,” but Peter replies “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the Lord says, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” After this happens three times, and Peter is completely perplexed, the Spirit tells him to go with the three men who are looking for him. When Peter returns with the men to Cornelius, he realizes that “God shows no partiality” and recounts the Gospel of Christ. As he is speaking, the “Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” and they are baptized at Peter’s command, thus becoming the first Gentile Christians. Tradition says that Cornelius became the second bishop of Caesarea.
Tuesday, February 5: The Martyrs of Japan
In 1549, Francis Xavier was the first Christian missionary to Japan. Fifty years later, the Japenese Christians, several thousand in number, began to be persecuted by the ruler Hideyoshi. In 1597, twenty-six men and women had their left ears cut off, were paraded in shame through Nagasaki, and then were beheaded. The most famous of the martyrs was Paul Miki, who was a Jesuit. These were his last words:
“As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no route to salvation except the one that Christians follow. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the emperor and all who have brought about my death, and I beg them to seek Christian baptism.”
After this, persecution continued for thirty-five years, with many Japanese martyrs being added. * Until 1858, no Christian missionaries were allowed into Japan, but when they returned, they found thousands of underground Christians who had kept the faith without priests or sacraments for over 200 years.
Wednesday, February 6: St. Titus
Titus, a Gentile Greek, was a companion of Saint Paul who became the bishop of Crete. Paul called him “my true-born son in the faith which we share.” They went together to the Jerusalem Council around 50 AD, which decided to not make Gentile converts follow the Jewish Law. Titus was the reason that Paul opposed compulsory circumcision for Gentiles. Paul also sent him to Corinth to deal with the scandals and dissension in that church. Then he was left on Crete to establish the church there. St. John Chrysostom said, “We may judge from the importance of the charge, how great esteem Saint Paul had for his disciple [Titus].” He died peacefully in Gorytna, which was then the capital of the island nation.
Thursday, February 7: St. Anskar (or Ansgarius)
St. Anskar, also called Angarius in Latin, is the patron saint of Denmark and is also called “the apostle of the north.” He was born to a noble family in Picardy around 801 and at the age of 4, he was entrusted to the monastery of Corbie near Amiens. At age 13, he became a Benedictine monk. Three years later, he became a missionary to Denmark, where he won many to the faith and started a Christian school. He then traveled to preach the Gospel in Sweden and built the first Christian church there. Then, for fourteen years, Anskar and his companions worked out of Hamburg to manage missions in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and North Germany. But, in 845, the Vikings overran these countries and burned Hamburg. When Anskar was told of the destruction of everything he had worked for, he responded quietly, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken, blessed be the name of the Lord.” He continued his work in Northern Germany — one of his main achievements was slowing the thriving slave trade of the Vikings and eventually was given permission to return to Sweden. Though he had always desired martyrdom, he died peacefully in 865 at the age of 64.
* Silence by Endo Shusaku is a sobering and thought-provoking fictional work about this time of persecution.
- This was posted a day late, but for next year: Michelle Abernathy made a coloring page printable of her lovely St. Brigid!
- Looking ahead to St. Valentines Day, check out this lovely free printable from Bley: A Valentine for Parents with the prayer for children from the BCP.
- We are starting to look ahead to Lent. We’re going to get a post together with Lenten reading suggestions. What are you planning to read? What have you read in the past and would recommend?