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October Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

10/4: Francis of Assisi, renewer of the Church, 1226

"The one saint whom all succeeding generations have agreed in canonizing" was born in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. Francis assisted his father until the age of 20 when, during a border dispute, he was taken prisoner. Upon his return to Assisi he became seriously ill and dissatisfied with worldly life. After an inner struggle, he decided to devote himself to prayer and the service of the poor. He gathered followers and drew up a simple rule of life. Francis traveled widely, preaching. He died on October 3, 1226. Francis' generosity, simple and unaffected faith, passionate devotion to God and humanity, his love of nature and his deep humility have made him one of the most cherished saints in the history of the church.

10/4: Theodor Fliedner, renewer of society, 1864

Fliedner (FLEED-ner), the renewer of the diaconate, was born in 1800. His first parish (1822) was a small and poor congregation at Kaiserwerth near Dusseldorf. While on tours through Holland and England to collect funds for his parish, he came in contact with Mennonite deaconesses. (The female diaconate had died out nearly every-where by the seventh century.) In 1826 he founded the Rhenish-Westphalian Prison Society, in 1833 the Magdalen Home for unwed mothers, and in 1835 the first German nursery school. He founded the Rhenish-Westphalian Deaconess Society, and on October 13, 1836, the first motherhouse was opened. By 1849 Fliedner was able to devote himself fully to deaconess work. Other motherhouses followed in France and Germany; his nurses served the public hospital in Berlin. He brought four deaconesses to the United States and founded the Pittsburgh motherhouse in 1849. In 1851 he laid the groundwork for a hospital and nurses' training school in Jerusalem. He died at Kaiserworth October 4, 1864.

Theodor Fliedner

10/6: William Tyndale, translator, martyr, 1536

Tyndale studied at Oxford and Cambridge. He conceived the project of translating the Bible into English. The Bishop of London refused support, so Tyndale settled in Hamburg. His translation of the New Testament was published in 1525. The Pentateuch followed in 1530 and the Book of Jonah in 1531. He spent the rest of his years in the English House at Antwerp, revising the translations. His translations from the Greek and Hebrew were in straight forward, vigorous English; they remain the basis of the AV and the RSV. He was arrested as a heretic in 1535, imprisoned, strangled, and burned at the stake near Brussels in 1536. It is reported that his last words were, "Lord, open the eyes of the King of England."

10/7: Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Missionary to America,1787

Muhlenberg was born in Einbeck, Germany, in 1771. He graduated from Goettingen, studied at Halle, and was sent to America in response to the requests of congregations there for a pastor. He labored 45 years in America, traveling incessantly, corresponding widely, keeping a valuable journal, and setting the course of Lutheranism for generations to come. He established the first Lutheran Synod in America, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, in 1748; he submitted a liturgy to the synod which was ratified and remained the only authorized American Lutheran liturgy for 40 years. The pastoral concern of the patriarch of the Lutheran church in America enabled Lutherans to make the transition from the state churches of Europe to the independent churches of America.

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg 

10/17: Ignatius, Bishop, martyr, 115

Ignatius of Antioch was probably of Syrian origin and became the second or third bishop of Antioch. Sentenced to death, he was sent to Rome for execution. During his journey to Rome, he wrote his celebrated letters which shed light on Christian faith and practice less than a century after Jesus' ascen-sion. He urges his readers to unity and to faithfulness to the Eucharist. He was thrown to the beasts in Rome, probably in the colosseum, but the details of his death are not known. A gentle, patient man, he was passionately devoted to Christ, anxious to imitate him in death.

10/18: St. Luke, Evangelist

Luke was either a Gentile or Jewish convert to Christianity, a physician, and a companion of Paul. Little else is known of his life. The two-volume work, Luke and Acts is attributed to him. His writing is sophisticated and indicates that there was a highly educated, erudite mind at work. His symbol is the winged ox, suggested by Ezekiel 1:1-10 and 108-14. Prayer: Almighty God, you inspired your servant Luke the physician to reveal in his gospel the love and healing power of your Son. Give your church the same love and power to heal, to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

St. Luke depicted as a winged bull, Book of Kells, c. 800 C.E.

10/23: James of Jerusalem, martyr

St. Paul and the Book of Acts both testify to James' presence in the Church at Jerusalem, and his diplomatic resolution of the dispute between Jew and Gentile at the Council of Jerusalem (Galatians 2; Acts 15). According to church traditions and the Jewish historian Josephus, James was stoned to death in 62AD.

10/26: Philipp Nicolai, 1608; Johann Heerman, 1647; Paul Gerhardt, 1676; Hymnwriters

Nicolai was born in 1556 in a parsonage in Mengeringhausen, Germany. After studying theology at Erfurt and Wittenberg, he became pastor in Herdeke, where his father had introduced the Reformation. He was called to Unna, in Westphalia, and ministered there amid the plague which killed 1300 of his parishioners. During this dreadful time he wrote a book of meditations based on St.Augustine which included in an appendix "Wake, awake for night is flying" and "How brightly beams the morning star." His tunes for these texts have been called the king and queen of chorales. In 1601 he became pastor of St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg, and was a skilled preacher. Heerman, the greatest hymnwriter between Luther and Paul Gerhardt, was born in 1585 at Raudten, Silesia. He showed interest in poetry while in school and published some poetic works in 1609. He became pastor at Koeben in 1611, contracted TB in 1634, and resigned his pastorate in 1638, moving to Lissa in Poland. His hymns are marked by a pastoral and mystical warmth which some have called "Jesus mysticism." His finest work is his "Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended." Gerhardt, after studying theology at Wittenberg, was pastor at St. Nikilaikirche in Berlin from 1657 until his resignation in 1666. In 1669 he became archdeacon at Luebben. A thoroughgoing Lutheran in theology, he nevertheless was influenced by Catholic mysticism. He combined deep piety and trust in God with love of nature, and he ranks as one of the greatest hymnwriters of the Lutheran tradition.

10/28: St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

Simon and Jude are paired in the apostolic lists in Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13. Luke calls Simon a Zealot; beyond that, nothing is known of them. A tradition says that Simon and Jude Labored together in Persia and were martyred there on the same day.


This is the anniversary of Luther's posting of his 95 theses concerning the sale of indulgences. In the 16th century various dates were suggested in various places for an annual commemoration of the reform of the Church. The Thirty Years' War disrupted these observances and provoked anti-Roman Catholic sentiment. In 1667, Elector Johann Georg of Saxony reestablished the festival and appointed it for October 31. The celebration of the day spread among the Lutherans, but the observance is not widely kept by Protestant Christians, nor is it universal among world Lutherans. It is the only day in the calendar peculiar to the Lutheran church.

Luther's Rose depicted in stained glass