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July Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

7/6: Jan Hus, martyr, 1415

Hus was born of peasant parents in Bohemia, probably in 1371. Ordained a priest in 1401, in the following year Hus was named preacher in the Chapel of the Holy Innocents, a large church in which the preaching was in the Czech language. Deeply influenced by the writings of Wycliffe, Hus increasingly began to consider church abuses. His doctrinal statements were largely on matters of church discipline rather than on basic theological issues, but he was excommunicated in 1409. In 1414 he was summoned to the Council of Constance. There he refused to recant and was burned at the stake July 6, 1415. He is honored by Lutherans, Moravians, and Presbyterians.

Jan Hus

7/11: Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, 540

The patriarch of Western monasticism was educated at Rome where the licentiousness of society led him to retire to a cave to live as a hermit. A community gradually grew around him, and he moved to Monte Cassino. There he elaborated plans for a reform movement and wrote his famous Rule. It seems that he was not ordained nor did he contemplate founding an order for clergymen. The Roman Catholic and Episcopal calendars have moved his commemoration from the traditional March 21 to July 11 to avoid conflict with Lent.

7/12. Lars Olof Jonathan "Nathan" Soderblom, Archbishop, 1931

Soderblom was born in 1866 at Trono. He studied at Uppsala and was ordained in 1893. He was chaplain to the Swedish legation in Paris and studied comparative religion in that city. In 1901 he became professor at Uppsala, lecturing also in Paris and Leipzig. In 1914 he was appointed archbishop and continued his efforts to achieve an evangelical catholicity among Christian communions through a practical approach. He supported the cause of ecumenism, advocated practical cooperation of Christians on social questions, and encouraged the liturgical movement. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930. His work as archbishop was directed toward the intellectuals and the working classes who were alienated from the church.

Archbishop Nathan Soderblom

7/15: Vladimir, first Christian ruler of Russia, 1015

After much hesitation, Prince Vladimir of Russia was baptized, c. 989. His life had been brutal, bloodthirsty, and dissolute, but he took his new religion seriously and sought to impose it upon his people. Despite his forced conver-sions, he was respected for the change in his life, his kindness toward criminals, his generosity toward the poor and his support of Greek missionaries.

7/22: St. Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene has been identified (probably mistakenly) with the repentant sinner who anointed Jesus feet (Luke 7:36-50) and with the sister of Martha and Lazarus of Bethany. What is more certain is that Jesus cured her of possession by seven demons, that she was present at the crucifixion and burial, and that she was a principal witness to the resurrection. In the gospels of Mark and John she is the first one to see the risen Christ. July 22 is observed by both the East and the West.

7/23: Birgitta of Sweden, 1373

Birgitta (born c. 1303) was married at 13. Her father and her father-in-law were governors of provinces, important positions in the government of the country. Birgitta, therefore, moved easily in the highest circles of the royal court, where she denounced the wickedness she found. Her criticisms and warnings to kings and popes continued, and she tried to make peace between warring rulers. She founded the Order of the Holy Savior at Vadstena, an order consisting of both monks and nuns governed by an abbess. The cloister was one of the most important cultural and religious centers of Sweden during the Middle Ages. She made many pilgrimages to the principal shrines of Christendom, and while returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Birgitta died in Rome on July 23, 1373. Her feast day has traditionally been October 8, the date of her canonization in 1391, but the Roman Catholic calendar commemorates her on July 23.

Birgitta of Sweden, altarpiece in Salem church, Södermanland, Sweden

7/25: St. James the Elder, Apostle

James, a fisherman, son of Zebedee and brother of John, is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in Scripture (Acts 12:2). He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa near Easter in 43 or 44 and in the Eastern churches he has been commemorated on dates near Easter. In the 9th century his relics were believed to have been moved to Campostella in Spain, and this shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, as it still is today.

7/28: Johann Sebastian Bach, 1750; Heinrich Schütz, 1672; George Frederick Handel, 1759, musicians

This day is given to the commemoration of the makers of music in the church, specifically three German musicians. Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685. By the age of 18 he already had a con-siderable reputation as a composer, organist, and violinist. In 1708 he became organist in Weimar, and after 1723 he worked in Leipzig at the famous St. Thomas school. There he practiced his art of proclaiming the gospel through music. Bach remains one of the greatest figures in music and a principal ornament of the church of the Reformation. He is buried in St. Thomas Church, Leipzig. Schütz, the greatest German composer of his century and a prophetic figure in the history of music, was born in Koestritz a century before Bach, October 8, 1585. He studied in Venice and served a Kappelmeister at the court of the Elector of Saxony in Dresden. His choral settings of biblical texts show a mastery never surpassed. He also introduced the opera to the German language. He died on November 6, 1672. Handel, a contemporary of Bach, was born in 1685 at Halle, Germany. He studied law and music, and in 1710 he was appoint-ed Kappelmeister to the Elector of Han-over. In 1712 he was invited to London where he remained for the rest of his life. Though his music is not church music in the strictest sense, his oratorios are memorable proclamations of the Scriptures. His special signifi-cance lies in his ability to unite perfect artistry with the element of popularity, depth with sensuous beauty. He died April 14, 1759.

Heinrich Schütz by Christoph Spetner, Leipzig, around 1650/1660

7/29: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

The members of this little family of Bethany were the friends of Jesus who provided a home for him where he found refreshment, especially before the passion. Their names, on differing dates, appear on lists of martyrs of the seventh and eighth centuries. Mary is identified in the Fourth Gospel as the woman who anointed Jesus before the passion. Traditionally, following the characterization drawn by Luke (Luke 10:38-42), Martha typifies the active life and Mary the contemplative. Lazarus, raised from the dead by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, is a sign of the eternal life possessed by those who believe. The Roman Catholic calendar commemorates Martha alone on July 29 and Mary, together with Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary the mother of James, on May 25. The Episcopal church commemorates Mary and Martha together on July 29.

7/29: Olaf, King of Norway, 1030

Olaf Haraldsson (born c. 995) while still young went on Viking raids with his foster father. After a dream and baptism (or confirmation) in France in 1015, Olaf sailed for Norway and in the next year had made himself king of his country. From this time on, Christianity was the dominant religion of the realm. He revised the laws of the nation, and his "Laws of St. Olaf" became the basis of all later Norwegian jurisprudence. He enforced the laws with strict impartiality and thereby alienated some of the aristocracy. He was driven from the country by the combined forces of Den-mark and Sweden. In 1030, during an attempt to regain the kingdom, Olaf was killed in the battle of Stiklestad. He was buried in Trondheim where a splendid cathedral now rises over his burial place. Soon after his death, Olaf was recognized as patron and "eternal king of Norway," and his deeds were celebrated in saga, painting, and sculpture.

7/31: Bartholome de las Casas, Missionary, 1566

Originally a lawyer, las Casas, the apostle of the Indies, accompanied the Spanish governor to Hispaniola in 1502. In 1510 he was ordained a priest, probably the first person ordained in the New World. He became a missionary and defended the interests of the Indigenous peoples against exploitation by the Spanish settlers, despite the resentment of his fellow countrymen. He was made Bishop of Chiapa, Mexico, in 1543, but in 1551 he retired to Valladolid where he continued to champion the Indian cause in his writings. He died at the age of 93.

Bartholome de las Casas