There aren’t any major festivals of the Christian Church in August, so that leaves me kind of stuck for ideas to write about this month. Fortunately, there are a whole bunch of minor commemoratives on our Lutheran calendar, and, since I love the stories of the saints, I thought I’d share some of these with you:
August 8: Saint Dominic (d. 1221) This thirteenth century Spanish priest really loved to talk about Jesus. He also worried that it was the institutional church which turned people off from following Jesus. He denounced the wealth of the clergy, refused to accept the office of bishop, and spoke out against burning heretics at the stake. He advocated kindness and the need to be non-judgmental when confronting people of different religious beliefs.
August 10: Saint Lawrence (d. 258) This early deacon served the church by being head of the Finance Committee in ancient Rome. He did his best to see that the church lived up to Jesus’ command to charity for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. When the Roman Emperor Valerian demanded that Lawrence surrender the treasures of the church, Lawrence presented a group of lepers, blind and lame people, and orphans and said, “Here is the treasure of the church.” Valerian took a dim view of this and sentenced the deacon to death, making Lawrence one of the first celebrated martyrs of our faith.
August 11: Saint Clare (d. 1253) Clare was inspired to a life of poverty and charity by Francis of Assisi. She established her own religious order along the lines of her friend, St. Francis, and was one of the most spiritually inspirational women of her day.
August 13: Florence Nightengale (d. 1910) and Clara Maas (d. 1901) These two Christian women revolutionized the role of nurses. Florence was an Englishwoman who learned skilled nursing from Lutheran deaconesses in Germany. She returned to England to reform nursing in hospitals and recruited women to serve with her in nursing wounded British soldiers in the Crimean War. Clara was an American battlefield nurse who served during the Spanish-American war. She was instrumental in the research of yellow fever, a disease from which she died.
August 14: Maximilian Kolbe (d. 1941) and Kaj Munk (d. 1944) Both of these pastors were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Kolbe was a Catholic priest in Poland who aided the escape of Jewish refugees. He was imprisoned by the Nazis and volunteered to be executed in the place of a younger man with a family. Munk was a Lutheran pastor and playwright from Denmark. The occupying Germans arrested him because his Christian plays and critical sermons encouraged the underground resistance movement. He was executed by the Gestapo.
August 20: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) This Cistercian abbot was one of the most influential spiritual writers of his day and is still referenced now, almost 900 years later. He had a deep love of the mystery of God and despised the riches of the world. His simplicity and kindness attracted the poor to him, and he is said to have made many converts to the monastic life. He wrote poems and songs, some of which survive today as hymns such as “Jesus, the Very Thought of You.”
August 24: Saint Bartholomew (d. 1st Century) We don’t know much about Bartholomew, but it’s generally believed that he’s the same as “Nathaniel” mentioned in John’s gospel and the one whom Jesus called “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47) It is believed that he, along with “Doubting” Thomas was one of the first Christians to preach the gospel in India. He is said to have been crucified, flayed alive, or beheaded (or all three) somewhere near Armenia.
August 28: Saint Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) Augustine was a bishop in North Africa who got off to a pretty rocky start as a party boy before settling down and becoming one of the most influential Christian theologians in history. Augustine clarified the doctrine of original sin and the need of all of us for God’s unconditional love. Martin Luther’s theology closely resembles that of Augustine.
August 28; Saint Moses the Black (d. around 400) Moses was an Ethiopian slave who had been brought to Egypt but was released by his master for being too thuggish to handle. He turned to a life of crime, leading a gang of marauders in the Egyptian desert. Somehow, he was converted to Christianity and became a gentle monk and, later, an ordained priest. Ironically, he was killed by a gang of thieves whom he refused to resist by violence.
And, last but not least…
August 15: Mary, the Mother of Our Lord (d. ?) I don’t have to tell you anything about Jesus’ mom, but Luther really loved her and admired her willingness to be the bearer of Christ. That is, of course, what we’re all expected to be, isn’t it?
You can learn more about all of these interesting folks and their faith from Wikipedia. I hope you find some inspiration in these little festivals during these hot summer months. Remember: a saint is nothing more than a sinner saved by grace. You can be an inspiration, too!