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Holy Days in August

Jean-Baptiste Vianney (4th August)
French parish priest, popularly known as the Cure d'Ars, born Dardilly, near Lyons. He came of poor, peasant stock and received scant education until, as a youth, he struggled through the seminary. As a young curate he was sent to the little village of Ars. Vianney found that the people there had lost their faith, and he vowed to make the community "the property of God." He beautified the church, lived like the poorest of the poor, and fasted and prayed for the people. His skill as a confessor drew people from outside his parish, and neighbouring priests complained and sought to have him removed. Vianney himself signed their petitions. He began an orphanage for girls that served as a model throughout France. Many miracles were attributed to him during his lifetime, and in his last years thousands from all over France came annually to his confessional. He was canonized in 1925. In 1929 he was made universal patron of parish priests.

Oswald (5th August)
Born in 604, Oswald was the son of Ethelfrith King of Northumbria. His father, however, was deposed and killed by his uncle, Edwin, in 616. Oswald then fled to Scotland. Whilst there he was converted to Christianity at St Columba's great Celtic monastery on the Scottish island of Iona. Following the death of Edwin in battle in 633, Oswald returned to Northumbria and was crowned king of Northumbria. In 635, he defeated and killed Cadwallon, King of the Welsh, at the battle of Heavenfield just north of Hexham. Oswald persuaded St Aidan, one of St Columba's disciples, to move down from Iona in order to found a monastery at Lindisfarne - an island off the coast of Northumbria. From this new base, St Aidan set about converting Oswald's subjects to Christianity with the king's blessing. Oswald is not just notable for his religious influence, however. St. Bede, in his great chronicle the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, claimed that Oswald established himself as overlord of the almost the whole of England during his reign. In 642, Oswald was killed at the battle of Maserfeld near Oswestry by the pagan King Penda of Mercia who then ordered the body of his adversary to be dismembered. Oswald's head, however, was recovered and sent to the monastery at Lindisfarne where it became a holy relic. During the Viking raids of 875, the monks of Lindisfarne fled for safety. They carried with them St Oswald's head together the monastery's other great treasures such as the body of St Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels. Eventually, the descendants of the Lindisfarne monks founded a great new monastery at Durham where the head of St Oswald, buried in St Cuthbert's tomb, remains to this day. Oswald was canonised some fifty years after his death.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord (6th August)

John Mason Neale (7th August)
John Mason Neale was born in London in 1818, studied at Cambridge, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1842. He was offered a parish, but chronic ill health, which was to continue throughout his life, prevented him from taking it. In 1846 he was made warden of Sackville College, a position he held for the rest of his life. Sackville College was not an educational institution, but an almshouse, a charitable residence for the poor. In 1854 Neale co-founded the Sisterhood of St Margaret, an order of women in the Anglican Church dedicated to nursing the sick. Many Anglicans in his day, however, were very suspicious of anything suggestive of Roman Catholicism. Only nine years earlier, John H. Newman had encouraged Romish practices in the Anglican Church, and had ended up joining the Romanists himself. This encouraged the suspicion that anyone like Neale was an agent of the Vatican, assigned to destroy the Anglican Church by subverting it from within. Once Neale was attacked and mauled at a funeral of one of the Sisters. From time to time unruly crowds threatened to stone him or to burn his house. He received no honour or preferment in England, and his doctorate was bestowed by an American college (Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut). However, his basic goodness eventually won theconfidence of many who had fiercely opposed him, and the Sisterhood of St Margaret survived and prospered. Neale translated the Eastern liturgies into English, and wrote a mystical and devotional commentary on the Psalms. However, he is best known as a hymn writer and translator.

Dominic (8th August)
Born of wealthy Spanish nobility. His mother was Blessed Joan of Aza who, when pregnant, had a vision that her unborn child was a dog who would set the world on fire with a torch it carried in its mouth; a dog bearing a torch in its mouth became a symbol for the Dominicans. At his baptism, his mother saw a star shining from his chest. Studied theology at Palencia. Canon of the church of Osma. Priest. Augustinian. Lifelong apostolate among heretics, especially Albigensians, and especially in France; worked with Blessed Peter of Castelnau. Founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215, a group who live a simple, austere life, and an order of nuns dedicated to the care of young girls. Visionary. Friend of Saint Amata of Assisi. At one point Dominic became discouraged at the progress of his mission; the heresies remained. He received a vision  who showed him a wreath of roses, and told him to say the rosary daily, and teach it to all who would listen. Eventually the true faith won out. Dominic is often credited with the invention of the rosary, but it predates him. He is also reported to have raised four people from the dead. Legend says that Dominic receiveda vision of a beggar who, like Dominic, would do great things for the Faith. Dominic met the beggar the next day. He embraced him and said, "You are my companion and must walk with me. If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us." The beggar was Saint Francis of Assisi.

Mary Sumner (9th August)
Born Mary Heywood in 1828 near Manchester, Mary Sumner grew up in the beautiful surroundings of Hope End, in Herefordshire. The Christian atmosphere of her family home meant daily scripture and prayers formed the basis for her life in service to others. She met and fell in love with George Sumner, the youngest son of the bishop of Winchester when they met in Rome where she was completing her musical education and they married in July 1848. In 1876, when she became a grandmother, she decided that a new organisation was needed in the parish and the first branch of the Mothers’ Union was begun. She believed that motherhood involved more than providing for the physical needs of children. The primary responsibility of mothers was to raise their children in the love of God with their lives firmly rooted in prayer. A historic decision was made by Bishop Ernest Wilberforce of Newcastle in 1885 when he called on Mary to speak at the Portsmouth Church Congress. The meeting responded to her passion and conviction with a rousing ovation and so was born the diocesan organisation we know today.

Laurence (10th August)
Laurence (or Lawrence) was chief of the seven deacons of the congregation at Rome. The seven men who were in charge of administering the church budget, particularly with regard to the care of the poor. In 257, the Emperor Valerian began a persecution aimed chiefly at the clergy and the laity of the upper classes. All Church property was confiscated and meetings of Christians were forbidden. The bishop of Rome, Sixtus II, and most of his clergy were executed on 7 August 258, and Laurence on the 10th.  The accounts recorded about a century later by Ambrose and the poet Prudentius report that the Roman prefect, knowing that Laurence was the principal financial officer, promised to set him free if he would surrender the wealth of the Church. Laurence agreed, but said that it would take him three days to gather it. During those three days, he placed all the money at his disposal in the hands of trustworthy stewards, and then assembled the sick, the aged, and the poor, the widows and orphans of the congregation, presented them to the prefect, and said, "These are the treasures of the Church." The enraged prefect ordered him to be roasted alive on a gridiron. Laurence bore
 the torture with great calmness, saying to his executioners at one time, "You may turn me over; I am done on this side." The spectacle of his courage made a great impression on the people of Rome, and made many converts. Laurence's emblem in art is (naturally) a gridiron.

Clare (11th August)
Daughters of a count and countess. Her father died young. After hearing Saint Francis of Assisi preach in the streets, she confided to him her desire to live for God, the two became close friends. On Palm Sunday 1212 the bishop presented her with a palm, which she apparently took as a sign. Clare and her cousin Pacifica ran away from her mother's palace during the night. She eventually took the veil of religious profession from Francis at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi. Founded the Order of Poor Ladies (Poor Clares) at San Damiano, and led it for 40 years. Everywhere the Franciscans established themselves throughout Europe, there also went the Poor Clares, depending solely on alms, forced to have complete faith on God to provide through people; a lack of land-based revenues was a new idea at the time. Clare's mother and sisters later joined the order, and there are still thousands of members living lives of prayer in silence. Clare loved music and well-composed sermons. She was humble, merciful, charming, optimistic, and chivalrous. She would get up late at night to tuck in her sisters who'd kicked off their covers. She daily meditated on the Passion. When she learned of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco in 1221, she tried to go there to give her own life for God, but was restrained. Once when her convent was about to be attacked,she displayed the Sacrament in a monstrance at the convent gates, and prayed before it; the attackers left. Toward the end of her life, when the was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would display on the wall of her cell; thus her patronage of television. She was ever the close friend and spiritual student of Francis, who apparently led her soul into the light.

John Henry Newman (11th August)
John Henry Newman was born in London, February 21, 1801. Going up to Oxford at sixteen, he gained a scholarship at Trinity College, and after graduation became fellow and tutor at Oriel, then the most alive, intellectually, of the Oxford colleges. He took orders, and in 1828 was appointed vicar of St. Mary's, the university church. In 1832 he had to resign his tutorship on account of a difference of opinion with the head of the college as to his duties and responsibilities, Newman regarding his function as one of a "substantially religious nature." Returning to Oxford the next year from a journey on the Continent, he began, in co-operation with R. H. Froude and others, the publication of the "Tracts for the Times," a series of pamphlets which gave a name to the "Tractarian" or "Oxford" movement for the defence of the "doctrine of apostolic succession and the integrity of the Prayer Book." After several years of agitation, during which Newman came to exercise an extraordinary influence in Oxford, the movement and its leader fell under the official ban of the university and of the Anglican bishops, and Newman withdrew from Oxford, feeling that the Anglican Church had herself destroyed the defences which he had sought to build for her. In October, 1845, he was received into the Roman Church. The next year he went to Rome, and on his return introduced into England the institute of the Oratory. In 1854 he went to Dublin for four years as rector of the new Catholic university, and while there wrote his volume on "The Idea of a University," in which he expounds with wonderful clearness of thought and beauty of language his view of the aim of education. In 1879 he was created cardinal in recognition of his services to the cause of religion in England, and in 1890 he died.

Jeremy Taylor (13th August)
Jeremy Taylor, a native of Cambridge, was educated at the Perse School and the College of Gonville and Caius. He caught the attention of Archbishop Laud, who presented him to the living of Uppingham in 1637. Today, Jeremy Taylor is known throughout the Anglican world, famous for his devotional writings and especially for the two works Holy Living and
 Holy Dying, which quickly established themselves as classics of Anglican spirituality as well as being amongst the finest examples of English prose. Indeed, Jeremy Taylor is known as the 'English Chrysostom'. At Uppingham Taylor married and settled down to the work of a country priest; but such was his reputation as a spiritual guide and director that people came to him from far a field for advice and counsel. Whilst in Rutland, Taylor completed his work 'Episcopy Asserted', for which Charles I awarded him a doctorate of divinity 'by royal command'. He left Uppingham to join the King as a Chaplain the Crown, an act which resulted in his property being forfeit, his wife and children ejected from the Rectory and the church plate being sequestered and the living forfeited with the defeat of the King. On the death of the King, Taylor retreated to Golden Grove, the country estate of the Earl of Carberry in West Wales where he stayed until moving to Ireland to become chaplain to Lord Conway and, at the Restoration, Bishop of Dromore.

Florence Nightingale (13th August)
Florence Nightingale is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. For most of her ninety years Nightingale pushed for reform of the British military health-care system and with that the profession of nursing started to gain the respect it deserved. Unknown to many, however, was her use of new techniques of statistical analysis, such as during the Crimean War when she plotted the incidence of preventable deaths in the military. She developed the "polar-area diagram" to dramatize the needless deaths caused by unsanitary conditions and the need for reform. She was an innovator in the collection, tabulation, interpretation, and graphical display of descriptive statistics.
 Florence Nightingale's two greatest life achievements - pioneering of nursing and the reform of hospitals - were amazing considering that most Victorian women of her age group did not attend universities or pursue professional careers. It was her father, William, who believed women, especially his children, should get an education. So Nightingale and her sister learned Italian, Latin, Greek, history, and mathematics. She in particular received excellent early preparation in mathematics from her father and aunt, and was also tutored in mathematics by James Sylvester. In 1854, after a year as an unpaid superintendent of a London "establishment for gentlewomen during illness," the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert, recruited Nightingale and 38 nurses for service in Scutari during the Crimean War. During Nightingale's time at Scutari, she collected data and systematized record-keeping practices. Nightingale was able to use the data as a tool for improving city and military hospitals. Nightingale's calculations of the mortality rate showed that with an improvement of sanitary methods, deaths would decrease. In February 1855, the mortality rate at the hospital was 42.7 percent of the cases treated. When Nightingale's sanitary reform was implemented, the mortality rate declined. Nightingale took her statistical data and represented them graphically.

Octavia Hill (13th August)
In 1864 Octavia Hill was able to interest John Ruskin (artist and art critic) in her schemes to improve dwellings for the poor. One of her very first schemes, started in 1864 at the age of 26, was the collection of rents in Paradise Place which was one of London's most notorious slums. John Ruskin also advised Octavia Hill that if she could run her schemes on a business footing providing a rate of return of 5 per cent on Capital, then she should never be short of funds. This proved to be the case and she was never short of funds for expansion. She proved that it was possible to provide adequate living conditions for the disadvantaged poor whilst maintaining a reasonable rate of return to the owners of the property, a situation that was advantageous to everyone. The Ovtavia Hill Trust's current operation can be traced back to 1899 when Octavia Hill was invited by a vicar in Notting Hill to take over five houses in St Katherine's Road in what was then the notorious neighbourhood known as the Notting Dale Special Area. By the year of her death, 1912, Octavia Hill was managing about 100 houses in Notting Hill. This number proved to be sufficient to allow the organisation to survive and over the years the total number of properties owned has grown until now the Octavia Hill Housing Trust now manages about 1,500 properties

Maximilian Kolbe (14th August)
St. Maximilian was born Raymond Kolbe in Poland, January 8, 1894. In 1910, he entered the Franciscan Order. He was sent to study in Rome where he was ordained a priest in 1918. Father Maximilian returned to Poland in 1919 and began spreading his Militia of the Immaculata movement of Marian consecration, which he founded on October 16, 1917. In 1927, he established an evangelisation centre near Warsaw called Niepokalanow, the "City of the Immaculata." By 1939, the City had expanded from eighteen friars to an incredible 650, making it the largest Catholic religious house in the world. To better "win the world for the Immaculata," the friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques. This enabled them to publish countless catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Maximilian started a short-wave radio station and planned to build a motion picture studio - he was a true "apostle of the mass media." He established a City of the Immaculata in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1930, and envisioned missionary centres worldwide. Maximilian was a ground breaking theologian. In 1941, the Nazis imprisoned Father Maximilian in the Auschwitz death camp. There he offered his life for another prisoner and was condemned to slow death in a starvation bunker. On August 14, 1941, his impatient captors ended his life with a fatal injection. Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian as a "martyr of charity" in 1982. St. Maximilian Kolbe is considered a patron of journalists, families, prisoners, the pro-life movement and the chemically addicted.

The Blessed Virgin Mary (15th August)

Bernard (20th August)
French nobility. At age 22, fearing the ways of the world, he, four of his brothers, and 25 friends joined the abbey of Citeaux; his father and another brother joined soon after. Benedictine. Founded and led the monastery at Clairvaux which soon had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. Revised and reformed the Cistercians. Advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young. Attended Second Lateran Council. Fought Albigensianism. Helped end the schism of anti-Pope Anacletus II. Preached in France, Italy and Germany. Helped organize the Second Crusade. Friend and biographer of Saint Malachy O'More. Spirtual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. First Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius VIII.

William and Catherine Booth (20th August)
William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, devoted their lives to serving the industrial urban poor of London. In 1864, William began a mission in one of London's worst districts which became a tightly knit, selfless, zealous military organization. Their unconventional methods - open air meetings held in the streets with drums and musical instruments - encountered violent opposition. Members were often arrested for "disturbing the peace." Catherine, a powerful public speaker, was effective in reaching and caring for women. Reading Song of Songs 6:4, "Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners," Catherine Booth realized that it was the Church's destiny to be an army of reformers. Her brilliant preaching and writing affected hundreds of thousands. Her temperance tracts, written under an assumed name, were widely distributed throughout Europe. William Booth published 'In Darkest England and the Way Out' in 1890 describing the economic, social and moral problems of London. The book prescribed rescue homes for prostitutes, a farm colony, suburban villages, a poor man's bank and preventative homes for girls. The book was a blueprint for the rehabilitation of an entire nation, a grand social reconstruction plan a century ahead of its time. The works of Christian social compassion and practical concern launched by this holy army are legendary. Almost every type of outreach and care for the poor and downtrodden imaginable were both attempted and usually successfully implemented by this radical band.

Bartholomew the Apostle (24th August)

Monica (27th August)
Mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo, whose writings about her are the primary source of our information. A Christian from birth, she was given in marriage to a bad-tempered, adulterous pagan named Patricius. Prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband (who converted on his death bed), and of her son (who converted after a wild life). Spiritual student of Saint Ambrose of Milan.

Augustine (28th August)
His father was a pagan who converted on his death bed; his mother was Saint Monica, a devout Christian. Trained in Christianity, he lost his faith in youth and led a wild
life. Lived with a Carthaginian woman from the age of 15 until he was 30. Fathered a son whom he named Adeotadus, which means 'the gift of God'. Taught rhetoric at Carthage and Milan. After investigating and experimenting with several philosophies, he became a Manichaean for several years; this taught of a great struggle between good and evil, and featured a lax moral code. A summation of his thinking at the time comes from his Confessions: "God, give me chastity and continence - but not just now."Augustine finally broke with the Manichaeans and was converted by the prayers of his mother and the help of Saint Ambrose of Milan, who baptized him. On the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and founded a monastery. Monk, Priest and Preacher. Bishop of Hippo in 396. Founded religious communities. Fought Manichaeism, Donatism, Pelagianism and other heresies. Oversaw his church and his see during the fall of the Roman Empire to the Vandals. Doctor of the Church.

The Beheading of John the Baptist (29th August)

John Bunyan (30th August)
Bunyan was born in 1628 near Bedford, in the agricultural midlands of England. He was the son of a tinker (a maker and mender of metal pots). He had little schooling. During the English Civil War, he served in the Parliamentary Army. He underwent a period of acute spiritual anxiety, and finally found peace in a Baptist congregation. He became a lay preacher, while earning his living as a tinker. After the Restoration in 1660, Bunyan (under suspicion for having fought on the anti-Anglican side) was ordered to preach no more, and, since he refused to desist, he was several times sentenced to jail, where he spent his time studying, preaching to his fellow prisoners, and writing. His first substantial work was an autobiography, 'Grace Abounding To the Chief of Sinners'. This was followed by other works, of which by far the most read and most loved is his  The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come', usually called 'Pilgrim's Progress'. The work recounts in allegorical form the experience of a person
 (called Christian), from his first awareness of his sinfulness and spiritual need, to his personal conversion to Christ, to his walk as a believer. He is shown as a pilgrim in this world on his way to the "Celestial City," which will be his true home forever. The work was an immediate sensation, and its popularity endured. For a century and more thereafter, there were many English-speaking Christians who were thoroughly familiar with only two books, The Bible and Pilgrim's Progress.

Aiden (31st August)
Monk at Iona, Ireland. Studied under Saint Senan at Inish Cathay. Bishop of Clogher by Ware and Lynch. Resigned the see to became a monk at Iona c.630. Evangelising bishop in Northumbria at the behest of his friend the king, Saint Oswald of Northumbria. Once when pagans attacked Oswald's forces at Bambrough, they piled wood around the city walls to burn it; Saint Aidan prayed for help, and a change in wind blew the smoke and flames over the pagan army. Known for his knowledge of the Bible, his eloquent preaching, his personal holiness, simple life, scholarship, and charity. Miracle worker. Trained Saint Boswell. Founded the Lindesfarne monastery that became not only a religious standard bearer, but a great storehouse of European literature and learning during the dark ages. The Venerable Bede is lavish in his praise of the episcopal rule of Aidan.

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