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November Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

11/1: ALL SAINTS' DAY celebrated

The custom of commemorating all the martyrs of the church on a single day goes back at least to the third century. When the festival was introduced in the West it was kept first on May 13, the date of the dedication of the rebuilt Roman Pantheon to St. Mary and all Martyrs. In modern practice, All Saints' Day commemorates not only all the martyrs, but all the people of God, living and dead, who form the mystical Body of Christ, as the Prayer of the Day makes clear. The feast is, in effect, a feast of the Church.

11/4: Soren Aabye Kierkegaard, teacher, 1855

The father of the existentialist school of philosophy and theology was born in 1813 and lived a secluded and unhappy childhood. He passed his theological exam in 1840 but was never ordained. In 1854 he began his assault upon the established church, accusing it of accommodating the Christian revelation to human desires. His thought, deeply original and ascetic in mood, reveals his Lutheran heritage in its basic concerns and emphases. Many of his writings are of great devotional value and reveal a profound understanding of the redemptive work of Christ and the significance of the cross. he died at the age of 42.

Soren Kierkegaard, unfinished sketch by Niels Christian Kierkegaard, c. 1840

11/7: John Christian Frederick Heyer, missionary, 1873

Father Heyer was born in Helmstedt, Germany, in 1793. Because of the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars he was sent, after his confirmation, to stay with an uncle in Philadelphia, where he delivered his first sermon at Zion Church in 1813 as a lay-man. He studied theology in Philadelphia and then in Goettingen, returning to the United States to be licensed as a missionary. Ordained a pastor by the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, he did work in the Telegu speaking region of India, establishing mission stations that became the basis of the Lutheran Church there. In 1857 he returned to America to evangelize and reorganize parishes and schools in Minnesota. In 1869 Father Heyer, as he was now called (the title was not uncommon for respected Protestant clergy in those days), returned to India for two years. He came home to Philadelphia for the last time to serve as chaplain at Mt. Airy Seminary, and died November 7,1873, at age 81.

11/11: Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397

Martin of Tours was born in 316 of a pagan family in the Roman province in what is now Hungary. He grew up in Lombardy and at the age of 10 decided to become a catechumen. He served as a soldier in the Roman army but found it increasingly difficult to reconcile Christianity with the military life. Leaving the army (not without accusations of cowardice), he became a hermit. In 360 he went to Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, and lived in a sort of monastic community. He was consecrated Bishop of Tours in 371, and chose to live not in the episcopal palace but in a cave, with his office in a nearby hut. He traveled widely, evangelizing rural Gaul and founding monasteries. He died at a distant outpost of his diocese, and was buried November 11, 397. Martin Luther was baptized on St. Martin's day and given the name of this saint. St. Martin was one of the first people who was not a martyr to be publicly honored as a saint, and his influence was felt from Ireland to Africa and Asia.

11/17: Elizabeth of Thuringia, 1231

Elizabeth, daughter of King Andrew 11 of Hungary, was born in the summer of 1207. At the age of 14 she was married to Louis IV, the Landgrave of Thuringia, to seal a political alliance. The marriage was a happy one and the parents lived with their three children in the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. Elizabeth was generous to the poor and, with her husband, she founded two hospitals and sought work for the unemployed. Louis died of the plague on September 11, 1227, while going to a crusade. Elizabeth left the Wartburg and, having provided for her children, formally renounced the world on Good Friday, 1228, joining the third order of St. Francis. She submitted wholly to the orders of a confessor, whose care of her was ruthless, and she lived her last years in unnatural austerity. She died November 17, 1231, at the age of 24, and is buried at Marburg. Elizabeth has been one of the most beloved saints of the German people, and countless hospitals have been named for her.

St. Elizabeth spinning wool for the poor; Marianne Stokes, c. 1895

11/23: Clement, Bishop of Rome, 100 AD

Very little is known of the life of Clement, sometimes considered the third successor of Peter as leader of the church at Rome. Irenaeus reports that Clement "had seen and consorted with the blessed apostles," but there is no proof of this. He is famous for the letter he sent as head of the church at Rome to the church at Corinth when some Corinthian Christians were in revolt against the leaders of their church. The letter is a model of pastoral concern and was well received by the Corinthians, read in their religious meetings for many years. On the strength of this letter, Clement is accounted the first of the Apostolic Fathers. According to tradition, he died a martyr's death.

11/25: Isaac Watts, hymnwriter, 1748

The father of English hymnody was born in Southhampton in 1674. He attended the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington from 1690 to 1694 and became a private tutor for a time. While pastor of the Independent congregation in Mark Lane, London, his health deteriorated and, in 1712, he resigned and spent the rest of his life at Abby Park. His hymns, most of them based on the Psalms, reflect a strong and serene faith, and they firmly established hymn singing in the English church.

Isaac Watts; portrait by an

unknown artist

11/30 St. Andrew, Apostle

Andrew was born in Bethsaida, a village in Galilee. He was a fisherman, the brother of Simon Peter, and the first apostle to follow Jesus (John 1:35ff). He then brought his brother to Christ. Tradition claims that he was martyred at Patras in Achaia on Nov. 30. The tradition that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross seems to be no older than the 14th century. St. Andrew is held in particular honor in Scotland, Greece, and Russia.