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Holy Days in April

Frederick Denison Maurice (1st April)
F. D. Maurice was born in 1805, the son of a Unitarian clergyman. He studied civil law at Cambridge, but refused the degree in 1827 rather than declare himself an Anglican. However, he was later converted, and in 1834 was ordained to the priesthood. In 1838, he published his major work, 'The Kingdom of Christ', a discussion of the causes and cures of divisions within the Christian Church. He was much concerned with the role of the Church in speaking to social questions. Together with his friends John Ludlow and Charles Kingsley, he organized the Christian Socialist Movement. Soon after his ordination Maurice became Professor of English Literature and History at King's College, London, and in 1846, Professor of Theology as well. However, his book Theological Essays, published in 1853, was regarded by many readers as doubtfully orthodox, and the resulting furore cost him his professorships. In 1854, he founded the Working Men's College, and became its first head. He was professor of Moral Theology at Cambridge from 1866 until his death in 1872.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (9th April)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - along with his twin sister, Sabine - was born on February 4, 1906, in Breslau, Germany. Later a student in Tubingen, Berlin, and at Union Theological Seminary in New York.  He assumed his post as a lecturer in theology at the University of Berlin in August 1931. His authorization to teach on the faculty of the University of Berlin was withdrawn on August 5, 1936. Bonhoeffer served as a curate for a German congregation in Barcelona during 1929-1930.  Ordained at St. Matthias Church, Berlin, in November 1931, he assumed the pastorate of the German Evangelical Church, Sydenham, and the Reformed Church of St. Paul in London. Bonhoeffer returned from England in the spring of 1935 to assume leadership of the Confessing Church's seminary at Zingst by the Baltic Sea - a school relocated later that year to Finkenwalde in Pomerania. He was opposed to National Socialism and an advocate on behalf of the Jews. He was arrested and imprisoned for helping Jews to escape to Switzerland in 1943. He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenburg on April 9th. 1945

William Law (10th April)
Born in 1686, became a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1711, but in 1714, at the death of Queen Anne, he became a non-Juror: that is to say, he found himself unable to take the required oath of allegiance to the Hanoverian dynasty (who had replaced the Stuart dynasty) as the lawful rulers of the United Kingdom, and was accordingly ineligible to serve as a university teacher or parish minister. He became for ten years a private tutor in the family of the historian, Edward Gibbon (who, despite his generally cynical attitude toward all things Christian, invariably wrote of  Law with respect and admiration), and then retired to his native King's Cliffe. Forbidden the use of the pulpit and the lecture-hall, he preached through his books. These include Christian Perfection, the Grounds and Reasons of Christian Regeneration, Spirit of Prayer, the Way to Divine Knowledge, Spirit of Love, and, best-known of all, A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life, published in 1728.

William of Ockham (10th April)
Fourteenth-century Scholastic philosopher and controversial writer, born at or near the village of Ockham in Surrey about 1280; died probably at Munich, about 1349. He is said to have studied at Merton College, Oxford. At an early age he entered the Order of St. Francis. Towards 1310 he went to Paris, where he may have had Scotus for a teacher. About 1320 he became a teacher (magister) at the University of Paris. During this portion of his career he composed his works on  Aristoteliean physics and on logic. In 1323 he resigned his chair at the university in order to devote himself to ecclesiastical politics. In the controversies which were waged at that time between the advocates of the papacy and those who supported the claims of the civil power, he threw his lot with the imperial party, and contributed to the literature of the day a number of pamphlets and treatises.  He was cited before the pontifical Court at Avignon in 1328, but managed to escape and join John of Jandun and Marsilius of Padua, who had taken refuge at the Court of Louis of Bavaria. Ockham's attitude towards the established order in the Church and towards the recognized system of philosophy in the academic world of his day was one of protest. He has, indeed, been called "the first Protestant”.  Nevertheless, he recognized in his writings the authority of the Church in spiritual matters and did not diminish that authority in any respect.

George Augustus Selwyn(11th April)
Selwyn was born in London in 1809, educated at Eton and Cambridge and ordained in 1833. In 1841, he was made first Bishop of New Zealand. He diligently studied the Maori tongue on his long sea voyage, and was able to preach in it on his arrival. He laid the foundations of the Church, not only in New Zealand, but throughout the islands of Melanesia. (This was the result of a clerical error. The northern boundary of his diocese was supposed to be the parallel of latitude 34 degrees south of the equator. The official document read "north" instead of "south," and Selwyn cheerfully accepted responsibility for the vast Pacific regions of the Melanesian and Polynesian islands as well as New Zealand. In 1957 the Islands became a separate Province of the Anglican Communion.) In the ten-year war between the Maoris and the European colonists, Selwyn managed to keep the confidence of both sides, and ultimately at the first general synod of the Church in New Zealand in 1859 to secure the adoption of a Constitution that established the principle of full participation by Maori Christians at all levels of Church government. In 1867 Selwyn was pressured to accept appointment as Bishop of Lichfield. Reluctantly, he returned to England, where he died eleven years later.

Isabella Gilmore (16th April)
Born in 1842, Isabella Gilmore, the sister of William Morris, was a nurse at Guy's Hospital in London and in 1886, was asked by Bishop Thorold of Rochester to pioneer deaconess work in his diocese. The bishop overcame her initial reluctance and together they planned for an Order of Deaconesses along the same lines as the ordained ministry. She was ordained in 1887 and a training house developed on North Side, Clapham Common, later to be called Gilmore House in her memory. Isabella herself retired in 1906 and, during her nineteen years of service, she trained head deaconesses for at least seven other dioceses. At her memorial service, Dr Randall Davidson predicted that "Some day, those who know best will be able to trace much of the origin and root of the revival of the Deaconess Order to the life, work, example and words of Isabella Gilmore." She died in 1923.

Alphege (19th April)
Archbishop and "the First Martyr of Canterbury." He was born in 953 and became a monk in the Deerhurst Monastery in Gloucester, asking after a few years to become a hermit. He received permission for this vocation and retired to a small hut near Somerset. In 984 Alphege assumed the role of abbot of the abbey of Bath, founded by St. Dunstan. Many of his disciples from Somerset joined him at Bath. In that same year, Alphege succeeded Ethelwold as Bishop of Winchester. He served there for two decades, famed for his care of the poor and for his own austere life. King Aethelred the Unready used his abilities in 994, sending him to mediate with invading Danes. The Danish chieftain Anlaf converted to Christianity as a result of his meetings with Alphege, although he and the other chief, Swein, demanded tribute from the Anglo-Saxons of the region. Anlaf vowed never to lead his troops against Britain again. In 1005 Alphege became the successor to Aleric as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He returned to England in time to be captured by the Danes pillaging the southern regions. The Danes besieged Canterbury and took Alphege captive. The ransom for his release was about three thousand pounds and went unpaid. Alphege refused to give the Danes that much, an act which infuriated them. He was hit with an axe and then beaten to death. 

Anselm (21st April)
The father of medieval scholasticism and one of the most eminent of English prelates was born at Aost Piedmont in 1033. Anselm died at Canterbury on April 21, 1109. When he was about twenty-three Anselm left home to live in Burgundy. After three years he went to Bec in Normandy, Here he became a monk (1060). He succeeded Lanfranc as prior in 1063, and became abbot in 1078. He was the general choice for archbishop of Canterbury when Lanfranc died (1089). However, the king, William Rufus, preferred to keep the office vacant, and apply its revenues to his own use. In 1093 William fell ill and, literally forced Anselm to receive an appointment at his hands. He was consecrated on December 4 of that year. The next four years witnessed a continual struggle between king and archbishop over money matters, rights, and privileges. Thought a mild and meek man, Anselm had adopted the Gregorian views of the relation between Church and State, and adhered to them. The king, though inclined to be conciliatory, was equally firm from motives of self-interest. He had a high regard for Anselm, always treated him with much consideration, and personal relations between them were generally friendly. Nevertheless there was much disputing. Several fruitless embassies were sent to Rome, and Anselm himself went there in 1103, remaining abroad till 1106. His quarrel with the king was settled by compromise in 1107 and the brief remaining period of his life was peaceful. He was canonized in 1494.

George  (23rd April)
Martyr, Patron Saint of England c.304

Mellitus (24th April)
Bishop of London and third Archbishop of Canterbury, d. 24 April, 624. He was the leader of the second band of missionaries whom St. Gregory sent from Rome to join St. Augustine at Canterbury in 601. It is thought he may have been Abbot of the Monastery of St. Andrew on the Coelian Hill, to which both St. Gregory and St. Augustine belonged. The consecration of Mellitus as bishop by Augustine took place soon after his arrival in England, and his first missionary efforts were among the East Saxons. Their king was Sabert, nephew to Ethelbert, King of Kent, and by his support, Mellitus was able to establish his see in London, the East Saxon capital, and build there the church of St. Paul. On the death of Sabert his sons, who had refused  Christianity, gave permission to their people to worship idols once more. Moreover, on seeing Mellitus celebrating Mass one day, the young princes demanded that he should give them also the white bread which he had been wont to give their father. When the saint answered them that this was impossible until they had received Christian baptism, he was banished from the kingdom. Mellitus went to Kent, where similar difficulties had ensued upon the death of Ethelbert, and thence retired to Gaul about the year 616. After an absence of about a year, Mellitus was recalled to Kent by Laurentius, Augustine's successor in the See of Canterbury. Matters had improved in that kingdom owing to the conversion of the new king Eadbald, but Mellitus was never able to regain possession of his own See of London. In 619, Laurentius died, and Mellitus was chosen archbishop in his stead. Mellitus was buried in the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul, afterwards St. Augustine's, Canterbury.

Mark the Evangelist  (25th April)

Christina Rossetti (27th April)
Christina Georgina Rossetti was born in London December 5, 1830, to Gabriele and Frances (Polidori) Rossetti. In 1848 she became engaged to James Collinson, one of the minor Pre-Raphaelite brethren, but the engagement ended after he reverted to Roman Catholicism. When Professor Rossetti's failing health and eyesight forced him into retirement in 1853, Christina and her mother attempted to support the family by starting a day school, but had to give it up after a year or so. Thereafter she led a very retiring life, interrupted bya recurring illness. From the early '60s on she was in love with Charles Cayley, but according to her brother William, refused to marry him because "she enquired into his creed and found he was not a Christian." All three Rossetti women, at first devout members of the evangelical branch of the Church of England, were drawn toward the Tractarians in the 1840s. They nevertheless retained their evangelical seriousness. Maria eventually became an Anglican nun. After rejecting Cayley in 1866, according one biographer, Christina lived vicariously in the lives of other people. Although pretty much a stay-at-home, her circle included her brothers' friends, like Whistler, Swinburne, F. M. Brown, and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). She continued to write and in the 1870s to work for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. She was troubled physically by neuralgia and emotionally by Dante's breakdown in 1872. The last 12 years of her life, after his death in 1882, were quiet ones. She died of cancer December 29, 1894.

Peter Chanel (28th April)
The first martyr of the South Seas, St. Peter Chanel was born in 1803 at Clet in the diocese of Belley, France. Entering the diocesan Seminary, Peter won the affection and the esteem of both students and professors. After his ordination he found himself in a rundown country parish and completely revitalized it in the three years that he remained there. However, his mind was set on missionary work; so, in 1831, he joined the newly formed Society of Mary (Marists) which concentrated on missionary work at home and abroad. To his dismay, he was appointed to teach at the seminary at Belley and remained there for the next five years, diligently performing his duties. In 1836, the Society was given the New Hebrides in the Pacific as a field for evangelization, and the jubilant  Peter was appointed Superior of a little band of missionaries sent to proclaim the Faith to its inhabitants. On reaching their destination after an arduous ten month journey, the band split up and  Peter went to the Island of Futuna accompanied by a lay-brother and an English layman, Thomas Boog. They were at first well received by the pagans and their king Niuliki who had only recently forbidden cannibalism. However, the kings jealousy and fear were aroused when the missionaries learned the language and gained the people's confidence; he realized the adoption of the Christian Faith would lead to the abolition of some of the prerogatives he enjoyed as both high priest and sovereign. Finally, when his own son expressed a desire to be baptized, the king's hatred erupted and he dispatched a group of his warriors to set upon the missionaries. On April 28, 1841 Peter was seized and clubbed to death by those he had come to save. His death brought his work to completion as within five months the entire island was converted to Christianity.

Catherine of Siena (29th April)
Catherine Benincasa, born in 1347, was the youngest children of a wealthy dyer of Sienna. At the age of six, she had a vision of Christ in glory, surrounded by His saints. From that time on, she spent most of her time in prayer and meditation, and at the age of sixteen she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic where she became a nurse, caring for patients with leprosy and advanced cancer whom other nurses disliked to treat. She began to acquire a reputation as a person of insight and sound judgement, and many persons from all walks of life sought her spiritual advice, both in person and by letter. She persuaded many priests who were living in luxury to give away their goods and to live simply. In her day, the popes, officially Bishops of Rome, had been living  at Avignon in France, where they were under the political control of the King of France. Catherine visited Avignon in 1376 and told Pope Gregory XI that he had no business to live away from Rome. He heeded her advice, and moved to Rome. She then acted as his ambassador to Florence, and was able to reconcile a quarrel between the Pope and the leaders of that city. She then retired to Sienna, where she wrote a book called the 'Dialog', an account of her visions and other spiritual experiences, with advice on cultivating a life of prayer. After Gregory's death in 1378, the Cardinals, mostly French, elected an Italian Pope, Urban VI, who on attaining office turned out to be arrogant and abrasive and tyrannical. The Cardinals met again elsewhere, declared that the first election had been under duress from the Roman mob and therefore invalid, and elected a new Pope, Clement VII, who established his residence at Avignon. Catherine worked tirelessly, both to persuade Urban to mend his ways and to persuade others that the peace and unity of the Church required the recognition of Urban as lawful Pope. Despite her efforts, the Papal Schism continued until 1417. It greatly weakened the prestige of the Bishops of Rome, and thus helped to pave the way for the Reformation a century later.

Pandita Mary Ramabai (30th April)
Mary Ramabai was born in 1858, the daughter of a Sanskrit scholar, who believed in educating women. She became well known as a lecturer on social questions, becoming the first woman to be awarded the title 'Pandita'. She spent years working for the education of women and orphans, founding many schools and homes. She lived in great simplicity and was a prominent opponent of the caste system and child marriage. She died in 1922

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