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March Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

3/1: George Herbert, priest, 1633

Born in 1593, Herbert was orphaned at a young age. The death of his patron, James I, together with the influence of his friend, Nicholas Ferrar, led him to the study of theology, though he excelled in classical scholarship and music at Cambridge and seemed destined for high political office. He was ordained a priest in 1630 and served as rector of Fugglestone with Bemerton, near Salisbury, for three years. He rebuilt the church from his own funds and known as "holy Mr. Herbert," he was respected throughout the region. His poems breathe a gentle freshness and grace with a profound love of virtue, and some of his hymns are still sung ("Teach me, my God land King," "The King of love my shepherd is," "Let all the world in every corner sing"). He also wrote A Priest to the Temple: or the Country Parson, which describes the clergyman as well read, temperate, given to prayer, and devoted to his flock. Herbert died of consumption March 1, 1633, at the age of 40.

3/2: John Wesley, 1791; CharlesWesley, 1788

John was ordained a priest in the Church of England. Having gathered around him at Oxford a group of scholarly Christians, he became a central figure in the rise of Methodism. In 1735, with his brother Charles, he went to Georgia; their preaching against the slave trade and gin alienated the colonists, and in 1736 he returned home. On May 24, 1738, John heard a reading from Luther's Preface to Romans at a meeting in Aldersgate Street, and he had the experience of religious conversion. He spent the rest of his life in evangelistic work, traveling widely. In the course of this ministry an increasingly independent organization grew up that was less and less a part of the Church of England. Charles was ordained in 1735; he experienced conversion on May 21, 1738, and entered upon an itinerant ministry. He was a gifted and indefatigable hymn writer. Charles remained faithful to the Church of England. The Wesley brothers helped to revitalize Christianity in 18th century England. Charles died March 29, 1788.

Charles and John Wesley

3/7: Perpetua and her

companions, martyrs, 202

In 202 Lucius Septimus Severus, Roman emperor, forbade conversions to Christianity. Perpetua and other African catechumens were imprisoned and, after their baptisms, were con-demned to execution at the arena in Carthage. According to the contempor-ary account of the martyrdom, Perpetua and Felicity survived the wild beasts and were killed by the sword, having first exchanged the kiss of peace.

3/7: Thomas Aquinas, teacher, 1274

Thomas was a brilliant and creative theologian and philosopher. When he decided to enter the Dominican order, his family opposed his intention and held him prisoner for 15 months; his vocation persisted and he joined the order in 1244. He taught in Italy and Paris during his relatively short life. He was an incarnation of the Dominican ideal of transmitting the fruits of contemplation to others, which Thomas said was a far greater thing than simply contemplating. His prodigious writings put his stamp on the scholastic tradition of theology, making him one of the most influential of the theologians of the Western church. Certain Eucharistic hymns have generally been ascribed to him; his Eucharistic collect has been used among Lutherans on Maundy Thursday. He died at the age of 49 while traveling to the Council of Lyons.

3/10: Harriet Tubman, Renewer of Society, 1913; Sojourner Truth, Renewer of Society, 1883

Tubman, born Araminta Ross, was born into slavery, eventually escaping. She became an abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the Civil War. Known as "Moses", she made about thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. After the war, she participated in the struggle for women's suffrage.

Harriet Tubman, about 1885

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883), was born into slavery in Swartekill, NY. Her parents, James and Elizabeth Baumfree, had been taken captive and sold by slave traders. After being sold several times and experiencing the murder of the man she loved at the hands of his master, who objected to the relationship solely on the grounds that her master rather than he would own any children who resulted from the union, Truth escaped with her infant daughter in 1826. In 1828 she sued to recover her five year old son, Peter, who had been sold to a cruel slave holder in Alabama. She became the first black woman to win this type of case against a white man. Born Isabella Baumfree, she gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 in response to God's call on her life. Truth was an abolitionist, women's rights activist, persuasive preacher and speaker, singer/ songwriter, and mother of five children. At the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, OH in 1851, she gave her best-known speech, delivered on the spot and from the heart. It has become known by the title "Ain't I a Woman?" However, originally the speech had no title. The supposed title was added to a variation of the speech promulgated by a white women's rights activist in what was meant to be Southern black dialect. The northern born Ms. Truth's first language was Dutch; so her English, which she didn't learn to speak until she was nine years old and sold to an English speaking white man, would have been more likely to be Dutch accented, not southern American. (The white activist also added to the speech. Although she undoubtedly meant no ill will, today we understand such behavior as an egregious act of White Privilege and an infringement on Ms. Truth's intellectual property rights.) The theme of this speech, as in all her speeches and sermons, was equal rights for all women and all Black people, who she pointed out again and again were just as capable as white males of intelligent reasoning, hard work and self-governance. During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth helped to recruit black troops for the Union Army. After the war, she tried to secure land grants for former slaves, but this was rejected by the federal government. Starting in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Sojourner Truth's image was supposed to begin appearing on the U. S. $10 bill. Systemic racism is still alive and all too healthy in the 21st century.

Sojourner Truth, 1864

3/12: Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604

Gregory was an important and wealthy political figure until he decided to sell his vast property, give the proceeds to the poor, and enter one of the seven monasteries he had founded. He accepted election to the papacy only after great inner struggle and was a tower of strength to the church in a time of famine, flood, pestilence, invasion and political struggle. He sent Augustine of Canterbury to England as a missionary, wrote on theological topics, and effected important changes in the liturgy. His description of his role as pope was "servant of the servants of Christ." The Roman calendar has moved his commemoration to September 3 to avoid conflict with Lent; the Lutheran and Episcopal calendars retain the traditional March 12 date.

3/17: Patrick, bishop, missionary, 461 or 493

Today we remember St. Patrick, bishop and missionary, who lived in the 5th century. Two Latin works survive which are generally accepted as having been written by St. Patrick. These are the Declaration (Latin: Confessio) and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (Latin: Epistola). In The Declaration Patrick gives a short account of his life and his mission. Patricius was born to a Romano-British Christian family and was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16. He was taken to Ireland where he was sold and enslaved, toiling as a herdsman under harsh conditions. After six years he escaped and returned home. Before his enslavement, he hadn't taken the faith of his family particularly seriously. Having come to love and trust in God during his bitter experience in Ireland, he studied to become a priest and was ordained. Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland. For instance, Ciarán of Saigir lived in the later fourth century (352 C.E.–402 C.E.) and was the first bishop of Ossory. In Patrick's time, there were others preaching and working in Ire-land, too, such as Palladius, made a bishop of Ireland by Pope Celestine, as was Patrick, and probably sent to serve "the Irish believing in Christ" before Patrick. The followers of the various leaders of the faith could be quite partisan. In any case, at some point, possibly 432 C.E., Patrick went back to Ireland where he preached and estab-lished churches and religious commun-ities. There are many stories of Bishop Patrick's gift for making the gospel clear and his courage. Though probably not written by Patrick himself, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate (Lorica) is a wonderful example of early Celtic devotion (probably from the 8th century).

Saint Patrick stained glass window from Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA; 2009 by Sicarr 

3/19: Joseph, earthly father and guardian of our Lord

The husband of the Virgin Mary was a carpenter who is portrayed in Scripture as a devout and honest man, concerned for his wife and Child. It seems that he was no longer living when Jesus began his ministry. The special remembrance of Joseph appears to have begun in the East and developed comparatively late in the West, the earliest commemoration being held in the ninth century. The major emphasis on his commemoration was during the 15th century.

Joseph and Jesus, contemporary interpretation

Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, martyr, died 1980

Romero is remembered for his advocacy on behalf of the poor in El Salvador, though it was not a characteristic of his early priesthood. After being appointed as archbishop of San Salvador, he preached against the political repression in his country. He and other priests and church workers were considered traitors for their bold stand for justice, especially defending the rights of the poor. After several years of threats to his life, Bishop Romero was assassinated while pre-siding at the Eucharist. During the 1980s thousands died in El Salvador during political unrest.

3/25: The Annunciation of our Lord

The angelic announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus was observed in the East in the fifth century. By the eighth century the observance had become general in the West. The date is determined by Christmas, being exactly nine months before the Feast of the Nativity. Read: Luke 1:26-38. Prayer: Almighty God, you announce your will for us in mysterious and troubling ways. We pray that, as Mary once heard and accepted the angel's message of your will, we too may hear your call and respond with full faith and willing-ness to serve; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

3/29: Hans Nielsen Hauge, 1824

Hauge was a lay preacher who left a deep mark on Norwegian church life and piety. He had a religious experience on April 5, 1796, which convinced him of God's call to arouse his sleeping countrymen. He began preaching in his own parish, then preached throughout the country. Itinerant preaching was against the law, and he was frequently arrested. Eventually he settled on a farm near Oslo and gained the respect of many church leaders. In his writings he emphasized a person's vocation as a service to God, warned against separatism, and urged his followers to remain faithful to the national church.

3/31: John Donne, Priest, 1631

Born in 1573 and raised in a Roman Catholic family, John Donne later became a member of the Church of England. After leading the life of a courtier, he lived in great poverty after his marriage. Following intense strug-gles of conscience, he gave in to the urging of the king and was ordained in 1615. In 1621 he was named Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and be-came the most celebrated preacher of his day. He was, in addition, a remark-able poet who mixed sensual passion, intellectual austerity, and fervent devotion.

John Donne, after a miniature by

Isaac Oliver, c. 1616