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Holy Days in July

Henry, John, and Henry Venn the younger (1st July)
If the anglo-catholic movement takes its name from Oxford, the evangelical revival ought to be named Cambridge, where almost all its leaders were educated - including the Venns. Instead, a geographical quirk has bequeathed us 'the Clapham sect.' The elder Henry Venn (1725-1797) was the son of a high church parson, and became an evangelical only after his marriage in 1750. He was a curate at Clapham from 1754, then vicar of Huddersfield from 1769 till 1771, when he moved to Yelling in Huntingdon. His son, John Venn (1759-1813), was rector of Clapham from 1792 until his death, and was a central figure in the Clapham sect which gathered round his famous parishioner William Wilberforce. He played an active part in the anti-slavery campaign, and was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society in 1797. Henry Venn junior (1796-1873) continued the family business. After holding various livings, including St John's Holloway 1834-46, he resigned in 1846 to work for the CMS, and was its honorary secretary for 32 years of significant growth and development. He encouraged trade in West African goods rather than slaves, and brought Africans to Britain to study methods of production.

Thomas the Apostle (3rd July)

Thomas More & John Fisher (6th July)
Sir Thomas More (later canonized St. Thomas More) is famous for his book Utopia (1515) and for his martyrdom. As Chancellor to Henry VIII he refused to sanction Henry's divorce  of Queen Catherine. More was imprisoned, tried and executed. Bishop John Fisher studied theology at Cambridge. Priest. Gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. Chancellor of Cambridge. Bishop of Rochester at age 35. He worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see.. When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry VIII's marriage, he became the target of Henry's wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry's claim to be head of the Church in England. Spent 14 months in prison without trial before execution for treason.

Benedict (11th July)
Roman nobility. Twin brother of Saint Scholastica. Studied in Rome, but was dismayed by the lack of discipline and the lackadasical attitude of his fellow students. Fled to the mountains near Subiaco, living as a hermit in a cave for three years; reported to have been fed by a raven. His virtues caused an abbey to request him to lead them. Founded the monastery at Monte Cassino, where he wrote the Rule of his order. His discipline was such that an attempt was made on his life; some monks tried by poison him, but he blessed the cup and rendered it harmless. He returned to his cave, but continued to attract followers, and eventually established monasteries. Had the ability to read consciences, prophesy, and forestall attacks of the devil. Destroyed pagan statues and altars, drove demons from groves sacred to pagans. At one point there were over 40,000 monasteries guided by the Benedictine Rule. A summation of the Rule: "Pray and work."

John Keble (14th July)
He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1831 to 1841, and from 1836 until his death thirty years later he was priest of a small parish in the village of Hursley near Winchester. On 14 July 1833, he preached the Assize Sermon at Oxford. (This sermon marks the opening of a term of the civil and criminal courts, and is officially addressed to the judges and officers of the court, exhorting them to deal justly.) His sermon was called "National Apostasy," and denounced the Nation for turning away from God, and for regarding the Church as a mere institution of society, rather than as the prophetic voice of God, commissioned by Him to warn and instruct the people. The sermon was a nationwide sensation, and is considered to be the beginning of the religious revival known as the Tractarian Movement (so called because of a series of 90 Tracts, or pamphlets addressed to the public, which largely influenced the course of the movement) or as the Oxford Movement (not to be confused with the Oxford Group -- led by Frank Buchman and also called Moral Re-Armament, or MRA - which came a century later and was quite different). Because the Tractarians emphasized the importance of the ministry and of the sacraments as God-given ordinances, they were suspected by their opponents of Roman Catholic tendencies, and the suspicion was reinforced when some of their leaders (John Henry Newman being the most conspicuous) did in fact become Roman Catholics. But the movement survived, and has profoundly influenced the religious thinking, practice, and worship of large portions of Christendom. Their insistence, for example, that it was the normal practice for all Christians to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion every Sunday has influenced many Christians who would never call themselves Anglicans, let alone Tractarians. Keble translated the works of Irenaeus of Lyons (second century). and produced an edition of the works of Richard Hooker, a distinguished Anglican theologian who died in 1600. He also wrote more books of poems, and numerous hymns.

Swithun (15th July)
Raised in an abbey. Priest Chaplain to Egbert,  King of the West Saxons. Tutor to Prince Ethelwolf. Bishop of Winchester. Miracles associated with his relics. His shrine was destroyed during the Reformation. Almost 60 ancient British churches were named for him. His patronage of the weather arose when monks tried to translate his body from an outdoor grave to a golden shrine in the Cathedral in 871. Swithun apparently did not approve as it started raining for 40 days. The weather on the festival of his translation indicates, according to an old rhyme, the weather for the next forty days: Saint Swithun's day, if thou dost rain, For forty days it will remain; Saint Swithun's day, if thou be fair, For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.  

Bonaventure (15th July)
Healed from a childhood disease by the prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi. Joined the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor at 22. Studied theology and philosophy in Paris. Friend of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Doctor of Theology. Friend of King Saint Louis. General of the Franciscan Order at 35. Bishop of Albano. Cardinal. Spoke at the Council of Lyons, but died before its close. Writer. Biographer of Saint Francis. Doctor of the Church. A man of eminent learning and eloquence, and of outstanding holiness, he was known for his kindness, approachableness, gentleness and compassion.

Osmund (16th July)
Osmund's background is obscure. He was the son of Count Henry of Seez but also appears to have been a close relation of the Conqueror, traditionally his mother was Lady Isabella of Normandy, one of King William's many half-siblings. Already Lord of Seez, Osmund, was supposedly created Earl of Dorset or Somerset after the Conquest. He became Castellan of Old Sarum, but subsequently embraced the ecclesiastical life - possibly in order to receive the bishopric for which his noble birth and unusual learning especially qualified him. He became a Royal Chaplain before being promoted to Chancellor in 1072. Six years later, he was made Bishop of Salisbury. As Bishop, Osmund compiled the Consuetudinarium, or "Ordinal of Offices," for use at Sarum. This arrangement was rendered necessary by the variations introduced by the numerous foreign ecclesiastics who settled in this country after the Conquest and subsequently became the model throughout the south of England. The original ritual is still preserved in the Cathedral at Salisbury. Bishop Osmund seems to have been a somewhat severe prelate. "Rigid in the detection of his own faults," says William of Malmesbury, "he was unsparing towards those of others." He was present at the Council of Rockingham in 1094, in which, influenced perhaps by his blood-ties, he took the side of William Ruffus against Anselm of Canterbury, for which he afterwards received absolution from the Archbishop. Bishop Osmund died in 1099 and was buried in the Cathedral at Old Sarum. His tomb and remains were removed to the new cathedral after its completion.

Elizabeth Ferard (18th July)
Elizabeth Catherine Ferard was encouraged by Bishop Tait of London to visit deaconess institutions in Germany and, in November 1861, she and a group of women dedicated themselves 'to minister to the necessities of the Church' as servants in the Church. On 18th of July in 1862, Elizabeth Ferard received the first deaconess licence from Bishop Tait.  She went on to found a community of deaconesses within a religious sisterhood, working first in a poor parish in the King's Cross area of London and then moving to Notting Hill in 1873. When her health failed, she passed on the leadership to others and died on Easter Day 1883.

Gregory (19th July)
St. Gregory the Theologian (also known as St. Gregory Theologos) lived from 329 to 390 CE in what's now known as Turkey. Since he lived before the Great Schism of 1054, both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches regard St. Gregory as a Father of the Church. In addition the Roman Catholic Church has honoured him with the title, Doctor of the Church. Both churches have also accorded him the title, Theologian, although the Roman Catholic Church often doesn't employ this title, referring to him as St. Gregory of Nazianzus or St.Gregory of Nazianzen instead.

Margaret (20th July)
Lived during the 4th Century. Her father was a pagan priest in Pisidian, Antioc, Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Her mother died when Margaret was an infant, and the child was raised
 by a Christian woman. Her father disowned her, her nurse adopted her, and Margaret converted, consecrated herself and her virginity to God. A Roman prefect saw the beautiful young woman tending sheep, and tried to get her into his bed. When she refused, he denounced her as a Christian, and she was brought to trial. When she refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods, the authorities tried to burn her, then boil her in a large cauldron; each time her prayers kept her unharmed. She was finally martyred by beheading.

Bartolome de las Casas (20th July)
Las Casas' father sailed with Columbus in 1492 and Bartolome made the third voyage in 1498. He settled in Hispaniola in 1502, ready to seek his fortune in the New World. He was deeply moved toward a sympathy toward the Amerindians by a Dominican priest in 1509, and gave up his slaves. From 1509 until his death in 1566 he was the great champion of the Amerindians. Las Casas did not campaign against slavery itself. His primary battle was to encourage, and demand, the practice of conversion and control of the Amerindians by peaceful means, not violence, war and cruelty. He had uncanny success in persuading the Kings of Spain, but their humanizing laws were constantly ignored in the colonies. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1510, became a member of the Dominican order in 1522 and was consecrated the bishop of Chiapas, Cuba in 1543. He wrote extensively of the horrible conditions of the Amerindians under Spanish rule, constantly pleading for peaceful and humane relations with them. Ironically, this great and sincere humanitarian, convinced that the fast disappearing Arawak Indians could not physically tolerate the hard labour expected by the Spanish, recommended the importation of African slaves to do the hard labour. de las Casas believed that the Africans were constitutionally more fit for hard labour than were the Amerindians. Thus he was importantly, though indirectly, responsible for the growth of one of humanities greatest horrors - black slavery in the New World.

Mary Magdalene (22nd July)

Bridget (23rd July)
Daughter of Birger Persson, the Governor and provincial Judge of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her father was one of the greatest landowners in the country, her mother was known widely for her piety, and the family were descendants of the Swedish royal house. Related to Saint Ingrid. Bridget began receiving visions, most of the Crucifixion, at age seven. Her mother died c 1315 when the girl was about twelve years old, and she was raised and educated by an equally pious aunt. In 1316, at age thirteen, she wed  Prince Ulfo of Nercia in an arranged marriage. Mother of eight children. Friend and counsellor to many priests and theologians of her day. Chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Blanche of Namur in 1335 from which position she counselled and guided the Queen and King Magnus II. After Ulfo's death in 1344 following a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, she pursued a religious life, for which she was harassed by others at the court. She eventually renounced her title of Princess. Franciscan tertiary. Cistercian. Mystic, visionary, and mystical writer. She recorded the revelations given her in her visions, and these became hugely popular in the Middle Ages. Founded the Order of the Most Holy Saviour (Bridgettines) at Vadstena in 1346.  It received confirmation by Pole Urban V in 1370 and survives today, though few houses remain. Pilgrim to Rome, Italian holy sites, and the Holy Lands. Chastened and counselled kings and Popes
Clement VI, Urban VI, and Gregory XI, urging them to return to  Rome from Avignon. Encouraged all who would listen to meditate on the Passion, and of Jesus Crucified.

James the Apostle (25th July)

Anne and Joachim (26th July)
Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Brooke Foss Westcott (27th July)
1825–1901, English prelate and scholar. From 1870 to 1890 he was regius professor of divinity at Cambridge. With F. J. A. Hort, he published The New Testament in the Original Greek (2 vol., 1881). From 1890 until his death he was bishop of Durham. He was known for his many scriptural commentaries.

Mary, Martha and Lazarus (29th July)
Companions of Our Lord

William Wilberforce (30th July)
Wilberforce's early years in Yorkshire held few hints of the man he was to become. Sickly and a poor student, his one skill seemed to be oratory. In his teens, Wilberforce, by now independently wealthy, pursued his pleasures. His years at St John's College, Cambridge, later filled him with "unfeigned remorse" that he had not studied more and harder. Yet it was at Cambridge that Wilberforce began a lasting and important friendship with the former prime minister, William Pitt the Younger. In 1780 Wilberforce was elected to the House of Commons from Hull and from Hull and Yorkshire in 1784. It was also in 1784 that Wilberforce became an Evangelical Christian, a step that changed his life and behaviour completely. A meeting in 1787 with dedicated abolitionist Thomas Clarkson was to alter the social fabric of the British Empire and, in time, the western world. For 18 years, from 1788 onwards, Wilberforce - with Pitt's support - annually introduced anti-slavery motions in Parliament. But Wilberforce and his supporters had only limited success against the planters in the colonies who relied on slaves for cheap labour. It was not until 1807 that Parliament abolished slavery and it was not until August 1833 - a month after Wilberforce's death - that the slave trade was abolished throughout the Empire. (Thirty years were to pass before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the United States.) Wilberforce's other efforts to 'renew society' included the organisation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1802. He also worked with the reformer, Hannah More, in the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday; its goal was to provide all children with regular education in reading, personal hygiene and religion. It is appropriate that Wilberforce is buried near his friend, Pitt the Younger, in Westminster Abbey.

Ignatius Loyola (31 July)
St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball and a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he read the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith. Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After travelling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. There are 38 members of the Society of Jesus who have been declared Blessed, and 38 who have been canonized as saints. He died at the age of 65.

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