Last Saturday, May 17, was a special day in the life of the Church and of St. Alban’s. Over 100 new Episcopalians were made that day at the Washington National Cathedral, including thirteen from St. Alban’s confirmed or received and one who renewed her vows. Were you there? If not, you missed a glorious service. My fond hope is that someday we all take it enough to heart for the entire parish to turn out for confirmation services. If you missed knowing why they are, here are their names. Craig Albright, Abigail Bartram, Camille Blum, Lucy Coco, Sue Coco, Glenn Davis, Susana Hair, Beth Harrod, James Large, Julia Maslin, Lizz Martin, James Sams, Katie Shillman, and Lindsay West. If you haven’t already, congratulate them when you see them. You could even send them a card. Yes, I think it’s that big of a deal.
Like just about every other day on the calendar, May 17 also has special significance in the Episcopal Church as the newly designated feast day for Thurgood Marshall, whom you all already know as the tireless civil rights lawyer whose crowning achievement was successfully arguing the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, case which ended legalized school segregation by race. He was later appointed to the Supreme Court by Lyndon Johnson, where he served for 24 years. During his time in Washington, he was a member of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Washington. You can read more in “Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints,” published by Church Publishing Inc and available on Amazon for about $20.00. After your personal copy of the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible with the Apocrypha, and a Hymnal, I recommend “Holy Women, Holy Men” as the next essential part of your resources for daily prayer.
Other saints are commemorated on this day as well, and have been for centuries. One is Madron and the other is Paschal Baylon. According to the “Oxford Dictionary of Saints,” Madron was a British monk of the 6th Century. The Cornish town of Madron is named after him. The well and chapel of Madron were a pilgrimage center before and after the Reformation. A notable cure, investigated by the Bishop of Exeter, was of a 28 year old cripple who was completely cured after several visits which included sleeping on Madron’s bed three times. He was cured sufficiently to serve in the royal army and was killed at Lyme in Dorset in 1644. Both Methodists and Anglicans still hold services in the chapel at Madron.
Paschal Baylon lived 1540 to 1592. He was a shepherd who became a Franciscan laybrother at the age of 28. While still a shepherd he had a burning desire for instruction. He carried a book with him and begged those he met to teach him the alphabet, and thus he learned to read. He was known for his great devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Virgin Mary, for his austerity, and for his devotion in caring for the poor and the sick. On a diplomatic mission he was stoned by Huguenots and never fully recovered from his wounds. He was canonized in 1690. “The Oxford Dictionary of Saints” is also available on Amazon for about $!6 from Amazon, and as little as $11 (new) and $6 (used) from third parties. It is good bedside reading.
I would think though that our confirmands would always remember that they were were confirmed on Thurgood Marshall Day, and not so much that they were confirmed on the feast day of Madron or the feast day of Paschal Baylon.
Do you know the significance in the church of the significant dates in your own life? I don’t know that it matters, but you might find it meaningful in some small way. These are some of mine. My reception into the Episcopal Church was on October 26, the feast day of King Alfred, King of the West Saxons. My birthday, July 22, is the feast day of Mary Magdalene. I was baptized when two days old, on July 24, the feast day of Thomas a Kempis. Jonnie Sue and I were married on July 25, the feast day of Saint James the Apostle. Our children were born on August 10 (St. Laurence, Deacon and Martyr), October 2 (The Guardian Angels), and December 29 (Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr).
I close with the Collect for Thurgood Marshall.
Eternal and ever-gracious God, you blessed your servant Thurgood with exceptional grace and courage to discern and speak the truth: Grant that, following his example we may know you and recognized that we are all your children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, who teaches us to love one another; and who lives and reigns with you the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 20-May-2014.