Sunday, September 11th: The Rector’s Study Group will continue to meet at 9:30 Sunday mornings for a six or seven week discussion of the virtues. All are welcome!
Sunday, September 18th: we will celebrate our church’s feast of title: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I hope you will all be able to join this solemn celebration. We will include a procession at mass, and we will adjourn to drinks and a potluck luncheon in the parish hall. Please do come, and bring a dish and your appetite – and maybe a friend!
Sunday, September 25th: The Vestry meeting will be held after mass.
September 9: Constance and her Companions: the Martyrs of Memphis
During the 19th century Memphis Tennessee suffered from periodic outbreaks of Yellow Fever. In 1878 the worst of these outbreaks began. Over 5,000 residents lost their lives. Five years previously, a community of Anglican nuns, from the Sisterhood of St. Mary, had relocated to Memphis to take over the Cathedral School for girls. As the epidemic grew worse, most of the residents of Memphis who were able, fled. However a number of Christians, knowing that they were likely to be killed, stayed behind to feed the hungry, to care for the sick and dying, to bury the dead, and tend to children who had been orphaned by the disease. Among those who stayed were the Sister Superior, Sister Constance, along with three of her nuns (Sister Thecla, Sister Ruth, and Sister Frances), and two priests (Father Charles Parsons, rector of Grace Church in Memphis, and Father Louis Schuyler, assistant rector of Holy Innocents Church in Hoboken NY). All five succumbed to the fever, giving their lives in loving obedience to the Lord’s summons. In testimony of their self-sacrifice, Sister Ruth had written to a friend, as she set out from the mother house in Peekskill, heading to her death in Memphis: “The telegram came, asking for more helpers, before I had time to offer myself; but the Mother [Superior] has chosen me, and you know how gladly and unreservedly I give myself to our dear Lord. Pray for me, that in life, in death, I may be ever His own.” Today is also the anniversary of Fr Will’s ordination to the priesthood.
September 13: St. Cyprian
Cyprian was born in the early 200’s AD in North Africa. He was born a pagan, but was converted to faith in Jesus by a priest named Caesilius. After his baptism, he gave away much of his wealth to relieve the poor. He was soon ordained to the diaconate and then the priesthood, and not long afterward was consecrated bishop of Carthage (in modern Tunisia). During the persecutions under Emperor Decius, especially severe at Carthage, Cyprian took a moderate position on the reconciliation of those who had renounced the faith in the face of persecution. St. Cyprian himself fell into error when he opposed Pope Stephen on the question of baptism by heretics. Cyprian maintained that baptism by heretics was utterly null and void, and baptized as for the first time heretics who became Catholics. Pope Stephen maintained that baptism was valid even if ministered by a heretic, and this has been the teaching of the Church every since (even non-Christians or atheists may validly baptize, so long as they use the Trinitarian formula – “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” – and they intend to do what the Church does when she baptizes). In Cyprian’s day, this question was a matter of discipline and not of dogma. During the persecutions under Valerian, Pope Stephen and his successor Sixtus II were martyred. Seeing the hand writing on the wall, St. Cyprian strengthened his flock for the coming ordeal, writing “An Exhortation to Martyrdom” (a work which, along with many others, survives), and set an example when, brought before the Proconsul, Cyprian resolutely professed faith in Jesus and refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. He was banished to the wilderness, along with many other Christians, where Cyprian comforted and ministered to them as best he could. There Cyprian had a vision of his impending fate. He was summoned back to Carthage when in 258 AD an imperial edict arrived commanding the execution of all Christian clerics. Cyprian was interrogated for the last time, and when he refused to renounce Jesus, he was condemned to die by the sword, to which the saint responded only “Thanks be to God!” The sentence was carried out immediately. Cyprian was led to an open place where he removed his garments without help, knelt in prayer, blindfolded himself, and was beheaded. His body was buried by his disciples, and his tomb held in veneration. When the persecutions came to an end, a basilica was built over his tomb. Charlemagne later removed Cyprian’s relics to France, where they were distributed and kept and venerated to this day at Lyons, Arles, Venice, Compiegne, and Roenay.
September 14: (The Exaltation of the) Holy Cross
On this day we remember the instrument whereby God manifested his love for the world in a total, irrevocable, and definitive way: the cross of Christ. On the cross, Jesus Christ, who is the only Son of God, and himself God, offered his divine life to us, and his human life acceptably to God the Father, thereby making peace between God and man, and opening for mankind a route back to our heavenly home. Because the cross was the instrument of this offering, Christians have venerated it and held it in honor for as long as there are records of Christian veneration. In the year 326, Christianity had just been made legal in the Roman Empire, and Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Lands that had been confiscated from Christians around the turn of the first century were returned to the Church, and during excavations directed by Saint Helena at the place where Jesus was buried, three crosses were discovered. After touching one of these crosses, a woman with a terminal illness was instantly healed, and the gathered Christians concluded that this cross was the very one on which our Lord suffered and died. A church was built on the spot (the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, still standing – though much changed through the years – at Jerusalem today), and this day is the anniversary of the two-day festival celebrating the consecration of that church – September 13 – 14, in the year 335. Pieces of the Cross were sent to churches throughout the empire, including to a church in Rome built for the purpose: Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (still standing in Rome). This piece, years later, was sent to St. Peter’s Basilica, where it remains. And a piece from this piece, was given to a monk in the early 1900’s named Philip Salmone, who in turn gave it to a parishioner of Holy Cross, Dallas. This relic of the true Cross remains in our care to this day.
September 15: Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This day marks our remembrance of the suffering Mary had to endure in virtue of her love for her divine Son, and her faith in him. In Luke 2.34, after prophesying about the sufferings of Jesus, the aged priest St. Simeon, prophesied to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also”. This prophecy was fulfilled in many ways during Mary’s lifetime, and her suffering culminated on calvary, where she had to stand helplessly and watch as her only Son was tortured and murdered in front of her. The seven sorrows traditionally associated with Mary are: 1) the prophecy of Simeon, 2) the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt (Matthew 2.13), 3) the loss of the child Jesus for three days (Luke 2.43), 4) the encounter between Mary and Jesus as Jesus carried the cross (Luke 23.26), 5) the crucifixion of Jesus (John 19.25), 6) the descent from the cross, when the dead body of Jesus was laid in Mary’s arms (Matthew 27.57), and 7) the burial of Jesus (John 19.40). In this feast, we can see the salutary nature of devotion to our Lady, because Mary always leads us to Jesus. In the Gospels, we see Mary holding on to Jesus in faith and love at every stage of his life, and even in his death, though it often meant that Mary had to suffer. In this we learn what it means to be a Christian. In prayer, when we say, “Mary,” her response is always, “Jesus.”