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Holy Days in March

David (1st March)
Bishop and Confessor, patron of Wales. From time immemorial the Welsh have worn a leek on St. David's day in memory of a battle against the Saxons at which, it is said, they wore leeks in their hats, by St. David's advice, to distinguish them from their enemies. The earliest mention of St. David is found in a tenth-century manuscript of the "Annales Cambriae" which assigns his death to A.D. 601. Many other writers  hold that he died about 544. Little else that can claim to be historical is known about St. David.

Chad  (2nd March)
Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop successively of York and Lichfield date of birth uncertain, died 672. He had two other brothers, Cynibill and Caelin, who also became priests. Probably Northumbrian by birth, he was educated at Lindisfarne under St. Aidan, but afterwards went to Ireland, where he studied with St. Ecgberht in the monastery of Rathmelsige  (Melfont). There he returned to help his brother St. Cedd to establish the monastery of Laestingaeu, now Lastingham, in Yorkshire. On his brother's death in 664, he succeeded him as abbot. In 669 to become Bishop of the Mercians. He built a church and monastery at Lichfield, where he dwelt with seven or eight  monks, devoting to prayer and study time he could spare from his work as bishop

Perpetua, Felicity and their Companions (7th March)
On March 7th 203 Perpetua and Felicity were martyrs at Carthage together with three companions, Revocatus, Saturus,and Saturninus. All imperial subjects were forbidden under severe penalties to become Christians. In consequence of this decree five catechumens at Carthage were seized and cast into prison. Vibia Perpetua, a young married lady of noble birth; the slave Felicitas, and her fellow-slave Revocatus, also Saturninus and Secundulus. Soon one Saturus, who deliberately declared himself a Christian before the judge, was also incarcerated. The trial of the six confessors took place, before the Procurator Hilarianus. All six resolutely confessed their Christian Faith. On 7th March, the five confessors were led into the amphitheatre. At the demand of the pagan mob they were first scourged; then a boar, a bear, and a leopard, were set at the men, and a wild cow at the women. Wounded by the wild animals, they gave each other the kiss of peace and were then put to the sword. Their bodies were interred at Carthage.

Edward King (8th March)
Edward King was born in 1829, son of a clergyman. He was educated at home by his father and a private tutor, and when he was 19, he went to Oxford and entered Oriel College, the headquarters of the Oxford (or Tractarian, or Anglo-Catholic) Movement. Academically, he was at best an average student. In 1854 he was ordained and made curate of Wheatley, a village near Oxford. There he began to be known as a remarkably effective pastor and counsellor. In 1862-3 he was appointed Principal of Cuddesdon, a recently founded (1854) theological college near Oxford. He served there for ten years, and under his pastorship the college became a worshipping community where individual and communal spiritual life flourished. In 1885, he was appointed Bishop of Lincoln, succeeding Christopher Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth, and himself the author of several hymns that are still in general use). He noted with satisfaction that it was the original home of John Wesley, whom he greatly admired. He sought out those whom the Church had failed to reach, and spoke with them about the Good News of God's love declared in Jesus Christ. Whenever possible, he did the work of a prison chaplain, speaking with everyone from pickpockets to murderers.

Felix (8th March)
Felix was born at the end of the sixth century in Burgundy in what is now eastern France. As a young man he became a monk and priest, perhaps under the influence of the Irish monastery of St Columban at Luxeuil in Burgundy. It was here that he met a royal exile from East Anglia, Sigebert, to whom Felix introduced Christianity and was then baptised. When in 630 Sigebert returned to East Anglia, he asked Felix to come and evangelise his kingdom and Felix was duly consecrated, apparently by Honorius, the saintly Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Felix set about missionary work all over East Anglia. Suffolk lore says that it was he who taught local people how to build churches with flint that lies so abundantly on Suffolk fields. Apart from his Cathedral and a school which we believe were at Dunwich, and his activities in and  near the Felixtowe peninsula, for example at Hollowtree and near Sutton Hoo, he was also active in the north of the county. Here at Beccles and in the village of Flixton (believed like Felixtowe to have been named after St Felix), he preached the Faith.  Also he seems to have sailed up the Stour and been active in the south of the county, at Sudbury as well as in central Suffolk, founding with the future St. Sigebert, a monastery at what is now Bury St. Edmunds. 
 Outside Suffolk St Felix is also said to have founded the oldest church in Norfolk at Babingley, near Sandringham. The nearby villages of Shernborne and Flitcham, which is said to have been named after St Felix, also retain links with St Felix. The holy bishop also preached near Swaffham at Saham Toney and perhaps at Cockley Cley where a very ancient church still stands. The saint was also present near Yarmouth at Loddon and Reedham and in this area he worked closely with an Irish missionary, St Fursey. Finally tradition tells that Bishop Felix founded a monastery at Soham in Cambridgeshire.

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy (8th March)
Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, the seventh of nine children, was born in Leeds on 27th June, 1883. His parents were Jeanette Anketell and William Studdert Kennedy, the vicar of St Mary's Quarry Hill, Leeds. Educated at Leeds Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin. Studdert Kennedy graduated in classics and divinity in 1904. After a year's training at Ripon Clergy College, he became a curate in Rugby and in 1914 the vicar of St. Paul's, Worcester. On the outbreak of the First World War Studdert Kennedy volunteered to become an a chaplain to the armed forces on the Western Front. Given the nickname Woodbine Willie, for his habit of distributing cigarettes to soldiers, he was loved and respected by the men for his bravery under fire. In 1917 Studdert Kennedy won the Military Cross at Messines Ridge after running into No-Mans-Land to provide comfort to those injured during an attack on the German frontline.He wrote several poems about his experiences. His experiences during the war had converted him to Christian Socialism and pacifism and he worked for the Industrial Christian Fellowship (ICF) and this involved him in public speaking tours of Britain. In 1928 a newspaper reported that his sermons were so emotional that at his packed meetings "women wept and men broke down". Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy was taken ill during an ICF crusade in Liverpool and died on 8th March, 1929

Patrick (17th March)
It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice, which he believed to be God's, spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation, an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission—to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)  

Cyril (18th March)
Cyril was born in Jerusalem around 315, and became bishop of that city in about 349. The years between the Council of Nicea (325) and the Council of Constantinople (381) were troubled years, in which the Church, having committed itself at Nicea, over the strenuous protests of the Arians, to the proposition that the Son is "one in being" (homo-ousios) with the Father, began to backtrack and consider whether there was some other formula that would adequately express the Lordship of Christ but not be "divisive." Experience with other ways of stating what Christians believed about the Son and his relation to the Father finally led the Church to conclude that the Nicene formulation was the only way of safeguarding the doctrine that Thomas spoke truly (John 20:28) when he said to Jesus, "My Lord and My God!" But this was not obvious from the beginning, and Cyril was among those who looked for a way of expressing the doctrine that would be acceptable to all parties. As a result, he was exiled from his bishopric three times, for a total of sixteen years, once by the Athanasians and twice by the Arians. He eventually came to the conclusion, as did most other Christians of the time, that there was no alternative to the Nicene formula, and in 381 he attended the Council of Constantinople and voted for that position. 

Joseph of Nazareth (19th March)

Cuthbert (20th March)
Cuthbert was probably born in Northumberland circa 634. He was educated by Irish monks at Melrose Abbey. At various times in his life, Cuthbert was a monk, a solitary, and - briefly -  a bishop. He died on Farne Island in 687.

Thomas Cranmer (21th March)
Thomas Cranmer was born in Nottinghamshire in 1489, the son of Thomas Cranmer Senior and his wife, Agnes (Hatfield). He was educated at Cambridge from the age of fourteen and, in 1530, became Archdeacon of Taunton. The course which he advocated with regard to the divorce of Queen Catherine brought him into favour with King Henry VIII and, in 1533, he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. The servility with which Cranmer lent himself to the accomplishment of Henry's lawless desires, the timidity which made him acquiesce in deeds of tyranny and violence, from which his conscience revolted, remain as a blot on his memory. Yet, it was in great measure due to him that the English Church emerged from the fierce ordeal retaining, unimpaired, her ancient Faith and Apostolic succession. The Book of Common Prayer is the lasting memorial of the religious spirit of that time, and Cranmer is entitled to the fullest share of praise for the wisdom which guided its compilation. The Sarum Use, which had acquired a dominant position in the English Church in medieval times, was retained, with certain alterations, as the groundwork of the book, and this was enriched by contributions from very varied sources. The first Prayer Book appeared in 1549. Under the stress of foreign influences, it was subjected to certain alterations in 1552, but these were again considerably modified in the direction of the earlier book in 1559. When King Edward VI was dying, Cranmer was persuaded, much against his will, to sign the documentby which the King designated Lady Jane Grey as his successor. After the failure of the attempt to place her on the throne, Cranmer was charged with treason and sedition, and committed to the Tower of London. Thence, he was taken to Oxford and required to defend himself against the charge of heresy. Finally, sentence of death by burning was passed upon him. In the hope of saving his life, he recanted his opinions but, when called open to disavow them openly, her expressed deep regret for the cowardice which had led to his recantation and went courageously to his death (1556).

Walter Hilton (24th March)
Augustinian mystic, died 24 March, 1396. Little is known of his life, save that he was the head of a house of Augustinian Canons at Thurgarton, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire. He was closely in touch with the Carthusians, though not a member of that order. A man of great sanctity, his spiritual writings were widely influential during the fifteenth century in England. The most famous of these is the "Scala Perfectionis", or "Ladder of Perfection", in two books, first printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1494. This work may be described as a guide-book for the journey to the spiritual Jerusalem.

Oscar Romero (24th March)
Oscar Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, a town in the mountainous east of El Salvador, on 15 August 1917. He was the second of seven children. When he was thirteen he declared a vocation to the priesthood. He went to a seminary in San Miguel, then to the capital San Salvador, and from there to Rome. He was ordained in 1942. In January 1944 he was recalled to San Miguel by his bishop and was soon secretary of the diocese. This position he held for  twenty-three years. In San Miguel his work flourished and his reputation grew. He established a succession of new organizations and inspired many with his sermons, broadcast by five local radio stations and heard across the city. Romero was impressed, though not always uncritical, of the new Catholicism that was affirmed with such confidence in Vatican II. In 1970 he became auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, and there he busied himself with administration. Many found him a   conservative in views and by temperament. In 1974 he became bishop of a rural diocese, Santiago de Maria. Three years later, in  February 1977, Oscar Romero became archbishop of San Salvador. In that month a crowd of protesters were attacked by soldiers in the town square of the capital. Then, on 12 March 1977, a radical priest, Rutilio Grande, was murdered in Aguilares. Romero had known him. Now he observed that there was no official  enquiry. He recognized that power lay in the hands of violent men, and that they murdered with impunity. The wealthy sanctioned the violence that maintained them. Death squads committed murder in the cities while soldiers killed as they wished in the countryside. When a new government which represented a coalition of powerful interests was elected it was seen to be by fraud.  There was talk of revolution. More and more Romero committed himself to the poor and the persecuted, and he became the catalyst for radical moral prophecy in the church and outside it. Meanwhile, his church began to document the abuse of human rights, and to establish the truth in a country governed by lies, where men and women simply disappeared without account. The press attacked him vehemently. Romero, it was said, allied the church with revolutionaries. This he repudiated: the church was not a political movement. But when a succession of priests were murdered Romero found in their deaths ‘testimony of a church incarnated in the problems of its people.’ In May 1979 he visited the Pope in Rome and presented him with seven dossiers filled with reports and documents describing the injustices of El Salvador. But his friends sensed his isolation in the church, while the threats and dangers against him mounted outside it. On 24 March 1980 he was suddenly shot dead while celebrating mass in the chapel of the hospital where he lived.

The Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary (25th March)

Harriet Monsell (26th March)
Of Irish parentage, Harriet Monsell (née O'Brien) was born in 1811. After the death of her clergyman husband, she went to work in a penitentiary at Clewer near Windsor. Here, under the guidance of the local Vicar, T T Carter, she was professed as a Religious in 1852 and became the first Superior of the Community of St John the Baptist. Under her care, the community grew rapidly and undertook a range of social work in a variety of locations, with foundations in India and America by the 1880s. The sisters cared for orphans, ran schools and hospitals, and opened mission houses in parishes. In 1875 Mother Harriet retired as Superior through ill-health, moving to a small hermitage in Folkestone, where she died on Easter Day 1883.

John Donne (26th March)
Donne was born in London to a prominent Roman Catholic family but converted to Anglicanism during the 1590s. At the age of 11 he entered the University of Oxford where he studied for three years. According to some accounts, he spent the next three years at the University of Cambridge but took no degree at either university. He began the study of law at Lincoln's Inn, London, in 1592, and he seemed destined for a legal or diplomatic career. Donne was appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton,
 Keeper of the Great Seal, in 1598. His secret marriage in 1601 to Egerton's niece, Anne More, resulted in his dismissal from this position and in a brief imprisonment. During the next few years Donne made a meager living as a lawyer. Donne became a priest of the Anglican Church in 1615 and was appointed royal chaplain later that year. In 1621 he was named dean of St. Paul's Cathedral. He attained eminence as a preacher, delivering sermons that are regarded as the most brilliant and eloquent of his time. The Sermons, some 160 in all, are especially memorable for their imaginative explications of biblical passages and for their intense explorations of the themes of divine love and of the decay and resurrection of the body. Obsessed with the idea of death, Donne preached what was called his own funeral sermon, "Death's Duel" just a few weeks before he died in London on March 31, 1631.

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