Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Friday, September 28, 2012

St. Thomas Cantilupe of Hereford, 2 October.

St. Thomas had early involvement in both ecclesiastical and political matters. He came from a noble family powerful in the Welsh Marches and was able to receive education by the bishop of Worcester and later at Oxford and Paris. In France, Thomas rose to prominence after ordination, a bestowal of several paying benefices and a presence at the Council of Lyons. He returned to Oxford after studying canon law and became a patron of poor students and at this time, his contact with the diocese of Hereford grew as he was presented with parishes there; he was elected bishop by the cathedral canons in 1275. It was the responsibility of his new office which seemed to produce a conversion, as Thomas Becket experienced when consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas took to wearing a hair shirt and became increasingly zealous in traveling from parish to parish in his diocese to perform the sacrament of confirmation. He even forbade pluralism, which he had committed during his time at Paris and Oxford, and exhorted donations from the wealthy. He met trouble in trying to regain certain diocesan rites and became involved in a conflict with Archbishop Pecham. He was excommunicated and died in 1282 in Italy, where from his relics were returned to Hereford and enshrined. His cult quickly spread and he was canonized in 1320. His cult has been widely revived at Hereford today where his shrine has been restored for daily prayer and organized pilgrimages. His importance to us, is both as a bishop and as a servant. As a bishop, he is an example of the ultimate dedication to his diocese and full devotion to his faith; both qualities that all bishops must strive for. His connection to all members of the Church, clergy and laity alike, lies in his rejection of worldliness for asceticism and the full assumption of local Christian responsibility; truly Christ-like qualities.

Almighty God, as thy servant Thomas Cantilupe so faithfully humbled himself to the duties of Christian love; help us to dedicate all aspects of our lives to the duties laid out for us by your son, Jesus Christ, and to convert all our actions to his glory Through Him, with You and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, who live and reign forever, Amen. 
The restored shrine of St. Thomas Cantilupe in Hereford Cathedral.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

St. Hildegard of Bingen, 17 September.

St. Hildegard instructs her nuns.

St. Hildegard is one of the most interesting writters from the twelfth century. Her many works of philosophy, music and her acount of her revelations are remarakable as the writtings of a benedictine nun. Women had written through the early middle ages but by the twelfth and thirteenth centuries most surviving works are written by males. Hildegards work, however, should not be judged either positively or negitively based on her gender; her writtings are magnificent and important as the work of any human being and her message is key to the mission of the Holy Church. Hildegard was born in 1098 A.D. It was at the age of three when she began to experience visions which continued throughout the rest of her life. At a young age went to a forest to be educated by the visionary and hermit, Jutta. It was with Jutta that she learned to read, write and read and play music. In 1136, after several years of study, Hildegard became the Abbess of the Benedictine Abbey of Diessenberg. In 1147, Hildegard received approval from the Archbishop of Mainz and from Pope Eugenius III to document her visions. In 1150, she moved her growing community to an abbey at Rupertsberg near the city of Bingen. There she founded and reformed several abbeys, including the Abbey at Eibingen, where her community and relics survive to this day. Her works were many; she wrote three books on her visions which were widely celebrated during the middle ages. She wrote several books in the sciences  including those of natural cures and several on theology and music. Hildegard's music is liturgical but she also composed poems and a morality play. Hildegard identified herself as a theologian for her commentaries on the Gospels and creeds and on the lives of saints. Towards the end of her reign as Abbess, she allowed an excommunicated man to be buried in consecrated ground. When priests ordered the body to be removed, she told them that this would be a sin because the man had reconciled himself with the Church. For this, Hildegard and her community were placed under an interdict until the Archbishop heard her argument. After her death on September 17 in 1179 miracles were reported at her tomb; she has been venerated at Eibingen ever since.
Hildegard's message resides in monasticism or at least in the principles of monastic life. Monasticism is not common in the Anglican Communion but it is more common that most people think. Hildegard led a life of life of contemplation devoted to Christ, work, and Christ's work. You do not have to be a monk or nun to live the message of Hildegard: that the important thing in your life is to be devoted to Christ, to see him in your work, and to do his work. Some of us see work only as the job; the work that "keeps a roof on the house" or "food in the refrigerator" or maybe just something to keep us distracted. The work of a religious is restricting; it keeps us from many human things and what some might see as 'normal life.' But a work that is meaningful; that instead of keeping us distracted, keeps us always looking towards Christ; that keeps us doing Christ's hard work; and that keeps us involved, attached and in love with his flock the Church is a work and life that can bring us out of our own holes and into a real relationship with Christ for humanity. St. Hildegard's revelation, study, and contemplation is just one form of this lifestyle that nurtures the Church, ourselves, and our world.
O Clarissima Mater, Hildegard von Bingen

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Episcopal Churches of the Eastern Shore of Maryland: Early Anglicanism in America.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Hebron, 1773.
Any visitors to the Eastern Shore of Maryland can find in the old town on the rivers and backwater creeks of the Chesapeake water shed the relics of the United States' earliest Christianity.

The Chesapeake coasts of Maryland like those of Virginia were home to many settlements of Englishmen as early as the mid 1600s. While the rest of Maryland began as a Roman Catholic colony run by Maryland's proprietors, the Roman Lord Baltimores, the Chesapeake was settled by the Anglicans like most settlers of the Virginia colony. Naturally the more secure these communities became, their inhabitants, accustomed to the Church of England soon demanded the bringing of Anglican priests to their towns from their proprietors. In 1689, just after the Glorious Revolution in England, Maryland's Anglican Englishmen, disgruntled with the colonial government's refusal to sustain Anglican Priests, and who now outnumbered the English Catholics, overthrew the Proprietary Government and demanded that the English Monarchy, William and Mary, make Maryland a royal colony and establish the Church of England (Anglican). By 1692, the Anglican Church was made the established church in Maryland and the people were ordered to divide Maryland into 30 parishes each with Church buildings, elected vestries and Anglican Priests sustained by colonial taxes levied by the colonial legislature. 
In the decades following the acts of 1692, each parish fostered the growth of the Church of England in Maryland. As the Chesapeake regions of Maryland were mainly Anglican, the towns that remain their today are still home to the Churches founded by their early settlers. The revolution left the Church of England in America, by then established in most colonies, in a state of confusion until it organised itself into the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, after receiving Apostolic Succession from the Scottish non-juring bishops.

The result of Maryland's Anglican Church establishment in the once profitable Chesapeake region is that many of the Church buildings of the area have early foundation and retain the 17th-18th century qualities of Anglican Church building. Besides owning silver chalices and plate given by Queen Anne in 1710 or by other distinguished parishoners, they also retain original English baroque style pulpits box-pews and altar, and reredoses with the Decalogue, Our Father and Apostles' Creed. I think that they can somewhat resemble small Christopher Wren chapels if he ever built such a thing.
Old Trinity, Church Creek MD

It is thought that Old Trinity was built as early as1675, making it one of the original Anglican parishes before the Establishment in 1692. It is possibly the oldest Episcopal Church still in use and one of the oldest churches still in use of the 13 colonies. Old Trinity, like many other churches was built close to the water so that parishioners coming from all over would be able to get to church by water rather that by the thin paths and wild roads. These churches came to be known as 'water-churches.' The bottom picture is taken through a blurry window in the rounded apse and so unfortunately does not show the 'Wren like' architecture, but it does show the gallery in the back with the Stuart coat of arms, box-pews and the large pulpit.
St. Luke's Church, Wye Mills MD.

The church in Wye Mills is one of the most impressive buildings on the Eastern Shore if not in all of Maryland. The church was begun in 1717 by order of vestry and finished in 1721 for a cost of one hundred pounds, sterling, and over sixty thousand pounds of tobacco. The church has had to rebuild its box-pews after they were removed for some-time but was able to do this according to the original style because the church retained a plan indicating which families owned which pews. It has seen a few decades of neglect but has been beautifully restored to its original appearance begun in the mid-1800s after Bishop Whittingham of Maryland made requests for its restoration. Today the church still remains part of the Episcopal Church and has services every Sunday.
Christ Church, St. Michael's MD.
This very fine silver plate can be seen at the back of Christ Church, St. Michael's on display. Christ Church's foundation goes back to the 'Act of Establishment' in 1692 although the current building is Victorian, neo-gothic from the late 19th century. The chalice and  flagon were presented to the parish in 1710 by Queen Anne along with a marble baptismal bowl. The Queen was sympathetic to the Anglican churches in the colonies and endowed many parishes with silver plate, King James Bibles and Books of Common Prayer. The episcopal church in North East, Maryland is named St. Mary Anne's not for a saint called 'Mary-Anne' but for the Blessed Virgin Mary. They then called the church 'Anne's' after the Queen's gifts of plate and a lectern bible.
St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church, 1743, North East, MD.

All Hallows' Snow Hill, MD.
Similarly a church in Snow Hill, settled by emigrants from Snow Hill in London, was erected in 1748 on an initial levy of 80,000 pounds of tobacco. The church is also reminiscent of a Wren church if compared to the facad of St. Mary-le-Bow in London. It retains several treasures given by Queen Anne including a bible, a silver Communion set, a Eucharistic veil, and a bell.
The Eastern Shore of Maryland has many more churches like these so I cannot, unfortunatly, include evry single one here. But some other churches of interest include: St. Paul's Hebron, St. Peter's Salisbury, St. Andrew's Princess Anne, Christ Church Cambridge, Christ Church Easton, Emmanuel Chestertown, St. Luke's Church Hill, Christ Church Worton and even several others.

Much thanks to my lovely Grandmother who visited these churches with me with equal interest!
Also much thanks to the respective websites of these churches: