Easter, Saints, weekly post
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The First Week After Easter

Collect: Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth, through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Saints of the Week

Monday, April 29: St. Mark the Evangelist (transferred from the 25th)

John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, was a Jew and was related to Barnabas. He was the son of Mary, a woman householder in Jerusalem, who may have hosted the Last Supper. During Jesus’s arrest in Gethsemane, it’s thought that Mark was the “young man with nothing on but a linen cloth” who fled. Mark accompanied St. Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, but Mark turned back at Pamphylia (Acts 12:25; 13:13). Because of this, when Barnabas requested that Mark come on the second journey, Paul and Barnabas had a sharp dispute that led to their splitting ways and Mark went to Cyprus with Barnabas. Peter took Mark with him to Rome and then, Mark stayed with Paul after Peter’s death (Colossians 4:10). Mark composed his Gospel there in Rome, drawing from Peter’s accounts. Papias of Hierapolis wrote: “When Mark became Peter’s interpreter, he wrote down accurately, although not in order, all that [Peter] remembered of what the Lord had said or done.” Tradition says that Mark died in 68 AD, martyred by being dragged through city streets with a rope around his neck until he died.

Tuesday, April 30: St. Catherine of Siena

Born in 1347, Catherine of Siena is called a “Doctor of the Church” (one of only 36 named in the Roman Catholic Church) because she is a saint who also substantially contributed to theological thought. Devout from a very early age, Catherine refused to marry and as a teenager, upheld extreme asceticism (which she would later criticize, saying, ‘Perfection does not consist in mortifying one’s body, but in destroying perverse self-will.”). Her visions, which had started at age six, continued as she grew older. At age sixteen, Catherine was accepted as a Third Order Dominican and she began her public life at age twenty-one. During these years, drawn by Catherine’s devotion, brilliance, and leadership in serving the poor, disciples called the “Caterinati” assembled around her. When she was around 28, she received the stigmata. Around the same time, her ministry shifted from primarily caring for the poor to political counseling. Among other dramatic events, she counseled Pope Gregory to return to Rome from Avignon. After he returned, she  kept exhorting him to reform the Church: “Don’t be a fearless baby; be a man. God orders you to deal strictly with the excess of depravity of all those who gorge themselves in the garden of the Holy Church. Rip out the evil-smelling flowers. I mean the bad bishops and administrators who are poisoning this garden. Bishops should seek God instead of living like pigs.” After Pope Gregory died, more turmoil ensued, leaving the church with two popes: one in Avignon, the other in Rome. Catherine supported Pope Urban VI in Rome. When she came to join him, she truly worked herself to death, dying in 1380. Her last words were: “I have not sought vainglory, but only the glory and praise of God.”

Wednesday, May 1: St. Philip and St. James, Apostles

Though we do not know much about St. Philip or St. James (and though they are easy to confuse with the other Philips and Jameses in the New Testament), both are listed as part of the Twelve in the synoptic Gospels. In the Gospel of John, Philip is the third disciple Jesus calls, who brings his friend Nathaniel to Jesus. At the feeding of the five thousand, he pragmatically questions Jesus –“Two hundred days’ wages would not buy enough loaves for each of them to have a little” (John 6:4-7). Last, his conversation with Jesus leads into the “Farewell Discourses” (John 14:8-9). James, the son of Alphaeus, is known as “James the Less” or “James the Younger” to tell him apart from James the brother of John. Tradition says that he was martyred in 62 or 63. These two apostles have been celebrated together because the Roman church which was originally dedicated to St. Philip and St. James but which came to be called “The Church of the Apostles”  was dedicated on this day.

Thursday, May 2: St. Athanasius

Born to Christian parents around 295 in Egypt, Athanasius was educated at the famous catechetical school in Alexandria. While still young, he was influenced by the Egyptian desert fathers, especially developing a close relationship with Saint Antony, of whom he later wrote his famous biography. When he was only 19 or 20, he wrote On the Incarnation. Ordained a deacon at age 21, he accompanied his bishop Alexander (whom he would later succeed) to the council of Nicaea, where Athanasius began his long opposition to the Arian heresy. When he was not yet 30, in 328, he became the Bishop of Alexandria. From that point on, he was deposed and restored back and forth from his see five times in his episcopacy. Because in his day, there were times he almost seemed to stand alone in defense of Orthodoxy, it began to be said of him “Athanasius contra mundum,” or, “Athanasius against the world.” He was left in peace for the last seven years of his life, when he wrote his Life of Saint AnthonyHe died on this day in 373.

Friday, May 3: St. Justin Martyr

Justin was born at the beginning of the 2nd century in Samaria (near where Jesus had met the woman at the well). He was by blood a Greek and received an excellent classical education. Determined to learn about God, Justin explored many different philosophies — Stoicism, Peripatetism, Pythagorianism, Platonism — before encountering the Old and New Testaments and embracing Christianity. He still wore the academic garb of the philosopher as he became a great Christian apologist; his writings include the First and Second Apologia and the Dialogue with Trypho. A Cynic philosopher named Crescens, whom Justin had publicly debated, denounced Justin and his companions as Christians. In 165, he and his companions were beheaded and the account of their martyrdom, based upon the official court reports of Rusticus, have passed down to us.

Saturday, May 4: St. Monica

St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine and is known for her example of holy motherhood and intercession. Born in North Africa in 332 to Christian parents, Monica was given in marriage to Patricius, a pagan man with whom she had three children. Monica’s devout life won over both her mother-in-law and her husband to the faith; Patricius was baptized one year before he died, leaving Monica a widow at age 40. Augustine attributed his conversion to his mother’s prayers, saying “She never left me out of her prayers that you, O God, might say to the widow’s son ‘Young man, I tell you arise.’ ” Soon after Augustine’s baptism at Easter in 387, Monica, Augustine, his younger brother, and some other companions started a journey back home to North Africa. But, on their way, at the seaport of Ostia, Monica became sick. Before she died, though she had desired to be buried next to her husband, she said “Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.” She died at the age of 56. Her feast day is celebrated by Anglicans on May 4th, the day before Augustine’s conversion.

Homely (and Other) Links

  • How are you still celebrating Eastertide? I’ve been thankful for Tamara of A Sacramental Life’s encouragement to “Practice Resurrection.” You can read more here. I love this quote that she shares from N.T. Wright:

“If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. . . The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.


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