Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Tag

Images of Gods   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26

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The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-29-year-c-humes/

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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Caesar’s Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace,

that they may be cleansed from all their sins,

and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 221

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Proverbs 16:1-20

Psalms 126 and 129

Ephesians 5:1-16

Matthew 22:15-22

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The Synoptic Gospels tell many of the same stories, but not identically.  That is how oral tradition works; the core remains consistent yet the margins are variable.  Identifying the constant and the variable elements of repeated stories from one Synoptic Gospel to another is easy.  One may, most simply, see them in parallel columns in books of Gospel parallels.  I have two such volumes–Gospel Parallels (Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr.) and Synopsis of the Four Gospels (Kurt Aland).

Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26, and Mark 12:13-17 are parallel to each other.  The question was superficially about taxes in general in Luke 20.  In Mark 12 and Matthew 22, however, the tax in question was a census/poll/head tax of one denarius per year.  A denarius, a worker’s wage for one day, at the time bore the image of Emperor Tiberius,

son of the divine Augustus.

A denarius was, therefore, an idol.  Why did Pharisees carry idols around with them?  The tax, which started in 6 C.E., led to the zealot movement.  Jesus avoided alienating zealots on one side and Romans on the other.  Those who sought to entrap Jesus retreated in humiliation (Psalm 129).

We belong to God.  We depend entirely on God.  Most of Ephesians 5:1-16 consists of commentary or advice consistent with the first two sentences of this paragraph:

Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, in offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

–Ephesians 5:2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Value wisdom more than gold and silver.  Seek to build up each other, not to entrap and tear down each other.  Forgive one another as God has forgiven one.  Live generously.  All this advice is consistent with Ephesians 5:2.

Living this way may require one to surrender the idol of wanting to be right, of not want wanting to admit error.  A rare saint may not struggle with this temptation.  I am not part of that company.  I report accurately, however, that this struggle has decreased within me during the last few years.  Do not praise me, O reader; God has caused this change.

Anyhow, those who confronted Jesus in the Gospel story for today wanted to be right.  They sought to prove that they were right by placing Jesus in greater peril than he was in already.  He evaded their trap and showed them up, however.  They still refused to admit error.

Psychological defense mechanisms are powerful.  Many people, although confronted with objective evidence of their error or an error, refuse to admit being wrong.  They have leaned on ego instead.  Such defense of ego is destructive, both individually and collectively.  It contributes to the polarization of politics, whereby factions argue about what constitutes objective reality.  This ego defense also prevents individuals from maturing in their thinking and in their spiritual lives.

How much better would society be if more people were trying to build up each other, not beat each other into political, intellectual, and theological submission?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Perplexing Readings   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/devotion-for-proper-23-year-c-humes/

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Abundance, Overabundance, and Scarcity   3 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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1 Samuel 3:1-20 or Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 104:1-6, 14-24

Romans 7:12-25

Luke 12:13-21

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Abundance is of God.  Scarcity is a human creation.

The society in which Jesus lived consisted mostly of poor people.  A small portion of the population controlled most of the wealth.  The middle class was very small.  The society in which Jesus lived resembled many contemporary societies in these ways.  The rich fool in the parable hoarded much more food than he needed; he should have kept what he needed for himself and shared the rest.  That was his moral obligation to the poor, according to the Law of Moses and the testimony of the Hebrew prophets.  The rich fool was not bereft of teaching of the law and the testimony of the prophets.  He chose to disregard them.

Assuming that one (1) recognizes the voice of God, and (2) understands what that voice tells one to do, obeying that voice may prove challenging, as St. Paul the Apostle knew.  Temptation is strong, after all.  The temptation to trust in that which is tangible is hardwired into human psychology.  Human psyches frequently stand between us and our potential in God.  This overarching problem is both psychological and spiritual.  It holds back individuals and societies, to common detriment.  However, assuming that one does not recognize the voice of God or what that voice tells one to do, one is like the rich fool in the parable.  Obliviousness to God is a spiritual and societal affliction.

In Augustinian terms, sin is disordered love.  God is worthy of the most love.  People, hobbies, et cetera, are worthy of less love.  To love anyone or anything more than one ought to do is to have disordered love and to commit idolatry, to draw love away from God.  Hoarding, as in the parable, is a psychological and a spiritual ailment.

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions, Jesus teaches us.I know hoarding when I see it, based on other people’s houses in which I have been present, as well as on some reality television programs.  I have never been a hoarder.  Nevertheless, I know the negative consequences of having collected too many possessions.  I also know the joys of downsizing.  I know the sensation of having become the possession of the inanimate objects, as well as the joys of removing many of them, revealing walls and floors.  I rejoice in seeing uncluttered surfaces and walls with a few, spaced-out pictures on them.  I understand that overabundance is antithetical to abundant life.  Overabundance leads one to serve possessions and to swear fealty to them, not to God.

Abundance is of God.  There is enough of everything for all people to have what they need.  Scarcity is a sinful, human creation.  It is the inevitable result of overabundance, rooted in idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/devotion-for-proper-18-year-c-humes/

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Reaping What One Sows II   Leave a comment

Above:  Harvest

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants:

and, that they may obtain their petitions,

make them to ask such things as shall please thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 199

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Ezekiel 14:1-11

Psalm 44:1-6, 18-26

Galatians 6:1-10

Matthew 5:38-48

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One reaps what one sows.  Galatians 6:7 provides the language.  The concept exists in Psalm 44 and Ezekiel 14:1-11.  Given that we reap what we sow, we should sow goodness, an ethic consistent with all four readings.

Ezekiel 14:1-11 contains a subtlety that does not translate into English, at least not well.  The text condemns idolatry, or, as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), renders the Hebrew word, “fetishes.”  The literal translation, however, is “dung balls.”  That gets to the point!

Let us never tire of doing good, for if we do not slacken our efforts, we shall in due season reap our harvest.

–Galatians 6:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Do we want to harvest goodness or dung balls?  What kind of people do we want to be?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “PASTOR OF THE REFORMATION”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN X, KING OF DENMARK AND ICELAND; AND HIS BROTHER, HAAKON VII, KING OF NORWAY

THE FEAST OF MARION MACDONALD KELLARAN, EPISCOPAL SEMINARY PROFESSOR AND LAY LEADER

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Building on the Rock   Leave a comment

Above:  Heavy Black Clouds of Dust Rising Over the Texas Panhandle, March 1936

Photographer = Arthur Rothstein

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-fsa-8b27276

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For the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who hast prepared for them that love thee

such good things as pass man’s understanding;

pour into our hearts such love toward thee,

that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 192

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Jeremiah 16:14-21

Psalm 26

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Matthew 7:24-29

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Three of the four readings refer to idolatry.  Psalm 26 is a defense against a false charge of idolatry.  Jeremiah 16:14-21 lists idolatry as a sin that led to exile.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 lists idolaters as one of the groups excluded from the Kingdom of God.  Why not?  They build their houses on sand, not rock.

Storms can be literal or metaphorical.  Without minimizing the destruction natural disasters cause, perhaps the most devastating storms are metaphorical.  One must deal with the spiritual and psychological consequences of a literal storm.  One experiences a financial crisis.  A relationship ends.  A friend or a relative dies.  A professor terminates one’s advanced degree program unfairly.  One has legal difficulties.  One feels alone and abandoned.  Sheltering in place during a pandemic takes its toll on one’s emotional, spiritual, and/or mental health.  Idols can be tangible.  They can also be purely in one’s mind.  Whatever our idols are, they distract us from God, the rock.  And storms come, inevitably.

What is your foundation, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THURSDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR 

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Character, Part I   3 comments

Above:  Jephthah

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Judges 11:1-8, 30-40 or Jeremiah 7:1-15

Psalm 90:1-10, 13-17

Romans 2:13-29

Luke 9:51-62

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Judges 11, in which we read of the judge Jephthah, is certainly absent from books of Bible stories for children.  I wonder if Jesus had the fate of Jephthah’s unnamed daughter in mind when he taught not to swear an oath, but to let yes be yes and no be no (Matthew 5:33-37).  Tammi J. Schneider is correct; in the story of Jephthah we read of a man who had

no qualities, no deeds, no crisis, no God.

We also read of a man who reaped what he sowed.  Unfortunately, we read that his daughter reaped it, too.

The Hebrew Bible describes the character of God mostly by recounting what God did and had done.  By the same logic, we are like what we do and have done.

What do we do?  Do we seek wisdom?  Do we practice idolatry?  Do we practice and/or condone economic injustice?  Do we oppress aliens?  Do we deal fairly with each other?  Do we make excuses for not following God?  Is the law of God written on our hearts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/devotion-for-proper-11-year-c-humes/

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