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August Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

8/6: John Mason Neale, hymnwriter, 1866

Neale was born in London, January 24, 1818. He studied classics at Cambridge and was associated there with the movement for church renewal. Ill health prevented him from being rector of a parish and so his life was spent as warden of Sackville College in East Grinstead. He was the founder of the Sisterhood of St. Margaret's. He is remembered today for his translations of the great hymns of Christian antiquity, making them available to English-speaking churches. He died on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1866.

John Mason Neale

8/10: Lawrence, deacon, martyr, 258

Lawrence was born, probably of Spanish parents, early in the third century. As a young man he went to Rome and was made chief of the seven deacons of Rome, responsible for handling the charities of the church and the properties used in worship. In an attempt to gain the treasures of the church, the emperor arrested, tortured, and killed Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome, and Lawrence. Lawrence's behavior in prison is said to have led to the con-version and baptism of his jailer and his family. Lawrence was killed by being roasted on a gridiron. The torture and execution of a Roman citizen by Roman authorities made a deep impression on the young church, and his martyrdom was one of the first to be observed by the church. St. Lawrence's day and those of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Michael were the three feasts dividing the Pentecost season.

8/13: Florence Nightingale, 1910; Clara Maass, 1901; renewers of society

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 to an English family in Florence, Italy, from which she received her name. She was interested in nursing from an early age and began regular hospital visiting, c. 1844. When she decided to become a nurse, her family was horrified. In the early 1800s nursing was done by people with no training and no other way to earn a living. She studied nursing at Alexandria, and in 1851 at Kaiserworth, Germany with a Lutheran order of deaconesses. Nightingale returned home and worked to reform hospitals in England. In 1854 she led a group of thirty-eight nurses to serve in the Crimea to organize the care of wounded English soldiers. They worked in appalling conditions. She returned to England in 1856 in weakened health, but she and her nurses had made nursing respected. In 1860, she laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world, and is now part of King's College London.

Clara Maass was born in New Jersey to German immigrants. The family were devout Lutherans. In 1895, she became one of the first graduates of Newark German Hospital's Christina Trefz Training School for Nurses. By 1898, she had been promoted to head nurse at Newark German Hospital, where she was known for her hard work and dedication to her profession. She served as a nurse in the Spanish-American War, where she encountered the horrors of yellow fever and other infectious diseases. She was discharged in 1899, but volunteered again to serve with the Eighth U.S. Army Corps in the Philip-pines from November 1899 to mid-1900. She contracted dengue in Manila and was sent home. Maass later responded to a call for subjects in research on yellow fever. During the experiments, which included receiving bites from mosquitoes, she contracted the disease and died. The commemora-tion of these women invites the church to give thanks for all who practice the arts of healing. 

Florence Nightingale, c. 1860

Clara Maass

8/14: Maximilian Kolbe, martyr, 1941

Father Kolbe was a Franciscan priest, born Raymond Kolbe. After spending some time working in Asia, he returned in 1936 to his native Poland, where he supervised a friary that came to house thousands of Polish war refugees, mostly Jews. The Nazis were watching, however, and he was arrested. Confined in Auschwitz, Kolbe gave generously of his meager resources, and finally volunteered to starve to death in place of another man who was a husband and father. After two weeks, he was executed by a lethal injection. 

Father Maximilian Kolbe

8/15: Mary, Mother of Our Lord

The church honors Mary with the Greek title Theotokos, meaning "God-bearer." Origen first used this title in the early church and the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon upheld it. Luther upheld this same title in his writings. (She was venerated by St. Maximilian Kolbe, above. A saint in the RMC, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.) The honor paid to Mary as Theotokos and mother of our Lord goes back to biblical times, when Mary herself sang, "from now on all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). Mary's life revealed the presence of God incarnate, and it revealed God's presence among the humble and poor. Mary's song, the Magnificat, speaks of reversals in the reign of God: the mighty are cast down, the lowly are lifted up, the hungry are fed, and the rich are sent away empty-handed. According to the Scriptures, Mary was present at all of the important events of her Son's life: in the birth cycle, at the first miracle at Cana, at the cross, at the tomb, with the apostles after the ascension waiting for the Sprit. Except for traditions, nothing is known of her parentage or the place or date of her death. August 15 has been observed since early times as the day of what the Eastern church calls her "falling asleep," i.e., her death. Luther retained a special affection for Mary and wrote a splendid exposition of the Magnificat.

Young Middle Eastern woman with child

8/20: Bernard, Abbot, 1153

"The honey-sweet teacher" (doctor mellifluous) was born near Dijon in 1090, one of the six brilliant sons of a Burgundian nobleman. In 1113 Bernard joined a new monastery at Citeaux, and two years later he was sent to start a new house at Clairvaux. It prospered, grew, and established some 68 daughter houses. Bernard was characterized by charity and attractive-ness; nonetheless he attacked luxury among the clergy, the persecution of the Jews, and abuses of the Roman Curia. He was renowned as a great preacher. Sometimes called "the last of the Fathers," he brought the pre-scholastic era to an end.

8/24: St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Bartholomew is included in the lists of the apostles in all but John's gospel (where the name Nathanael replaces Bartholomew). He was probably from Cana, whose citizens disdained Nazareth, hence his comment, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Beyond this nothing is known of his life. His day has been on Western calendars since the eighth century.

8/24: Augustine, Bishop, 430

Augustine, one of the great teachers of the church, was born in North Africa in 364. His mother, Monica, was a Christian and she tried without success to raise her son to be a Christian. Augustine studied at Carthage where he lived with a woman who bore him a son. In 384 he went to Milan to teach. There, under the influence of Bishop Ambrose, he was baptized on Easter 387. In 391, on a visit to the city of Hippo, North Africa, he was chosen by the Christians there to be the pastor. He spent the rest of his life there in a community with his cathedral clergy under strict rule. His monastic rule has been adopted by numerous orders of men and women; Luther was a member of the Augustinian order.

8/31: John Bunyan, teacher, 1688

Bunyan is one of the most remarkable figures in seventeenth century literature. Born in 1628, he was the son of a poor English tinker. He received only meager schooling and learned his father's craft. His Grace Abounding To the Chief of Sinners, which tells of his conversion, is described as one of the most enthralling autobiographies in the English language. Following his con-version in 1653, he joined a Baptist group and became a preacher. He spent many years in jail because of his dis-senting religious views. A prolific and skilled writer, his Pilgrim's Progress is the most successful allegory in English literature and was, for centuries, stand-ard religious reading.