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June Commemorations in the Lutheran Church Calendar

6/1: Justin, martyr at Rome, 165

Justin was born (c. 100) of pagan parents. After a long search for the truth, he became a Christian and taught at Ephesus and at Rome. He and some of his students were denounced as Christians and, upon their refusal to make a pagan sacrifice, were scourged and beheaded. The record of their martyrdom, based on an official court report, survives. Justin, while possessing no great philosophical or literary skill, was the first Christian thinker to attempt to reconcile the claims of faith and reason.


6/3: St. John XXIII, Bishop of Rome, 1963

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in 1881 at Sotto il Monte in northern Italy to a family of farmers. He was ordained in 1904 and worked as a secretary to a bishop and professor at Bergamo Seminary. In 1925 he was made an archbishop and then the apostolic delegate in Istanbul. There, during World War II, he helped to arrange safe conduct for a boatload of refugee Jews. There also he made contacts with the Eastern church. He was named Nuncio to France in 1945; in 1953 he was made Cardinal and then Patriarch of Venice. At the age of 76 he was elected pope on October 28, 1958. He filled the few years of his pontificate with achievement, convening the Second Vatican Council in 1962 to open the windows of the church to let in the fresh air of the modern world. He was remarkable in his humility, and his death in 1963 was mourned by the whole world. He was canonized in the Roman Catholic Church on April 28, 2014.

Pope John XXIII

6/5: Boniface, Archbishop, Missionary and martyr, 754

The apostle of Germany and perhaps the greatest Christian missionary of the Dark Ages was born in 680 at Crediton, Devonshire, England, and was originally called Wynfrith. He made an unsuc-cessful missionary journey to Frisia in 716, but returned and, in 719, went to Bavaria and Thuringia, where he laid the foundations of a settled church organization in Germany. He founded the famous Abbey of Fulda. In c. 747 he became Archbishop of Mainz, but resigned the See a few years later to return to his old mission in Frisia where he met with martyrdom at the hands of pagan attackers.


6/7: Chief Seattle, 1866

Seattle was born (c. 1790) in the Puget Sound area of Washington. He was chief of the Suquamish tribe and became chief of the allied tribes, the Duwamish Confederacy. Unlike many of his time, he rejected war and chose the path of peace. In the 1830s he became a Roman Catholic and from that time lived in such a way that he earned the respect of both Native Americans and whites. He died June 7, 1866, and on the centennial of his birth the city of Seattle, Washington, named for him against his wishes, erected a monument over his grave.

Chief Seattle, c. 1864 (only known photograph)

6/9: Columba, 597; Aidan, 651; and Bede, 735; Confessors

Three English confessors who kept alive the light of learning and piety during the Dark Ages are commemorated on this day. Columcille, or Columba, abbot and missionary, came from a noble Irish family and founded several churches and monasteries in his native country. In 563, with 12 companions, he established a community on the island of Iona. He lived there 34 years, evangelizing the mainland and establishing monasteries on the islands nearby. His traditional feast day is June 9. Aidan, a monk of Iona, was sent to revive missionary work in England. Consecrated a bishop in 635, he established his headquarters on the island of Lindisfarne. From there he made long journeys to the mainland, strengthening Christian communities, founding new missionary outposts, and teaching the practices of the Celtic church. He was admired both for his asceticism and his gentleness. Aidan is said to have died of grief at the murder of St. Oswin (King Oswald of North-umbria) who had become a Christian at Iona and who was his companion in missionary travels. Aidan's traditional feast day is August 31. Bede, called "the Venerable," was a Biblical scholar and the father of English history. At seven years of age he was sent to the monastery of Wearmouth and from there went to the monastery at Jarrow c 681. He was made a deacon at the early age of 19 and a priest at 30. He traveled little and devoted himself to study, teaching, and writing. In the Roman Catholic and Episcopal calendars his feast day is May 25.

St. Columba, stained glass window in Iona Abbey; photo by vegansoldier, 2008

6/11: Barnabas, Apostle

Barnabas, one of the earliest Christian disciples, was originally called Joseph. After Paul's conversion, it was Barnabas who introduced the former persecutor of Christians to the apostles. With Paul he organized the first missionary journey, but he was soon over-shadowed by Paul. At the council of Jerusalem he defended the claims of Gentile Christ-ians. In the Eastern church Barnabas is commemorated as one of the seventy commissioned by Jesus, and the observ-ance dates from the fifth century. Trad-ition asserts that he was martyred at Salamis, Cyprus, in 61 A.D.

6/14: Basil the Great, Bishop, 379; Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop, 389; and Gregory of Nyssa, Bishop, 385

This day commemorates the three Cappadocian fathers. Basil (born c 330) was educated in the best pagan and Christian culture of his day. He decided to become a monk and settled as a hermit by the river Iris, traveling on preaching missions with Gregory of Nazianzus. He was called (c 364) by his bishop to defend orthodoxy against the Arian emperor Valens. In 370 Basil succeeded the bishop in the See of Caesarea. In addition to his eloquence and learning, Basil was renowned for his great personal holiness and is regarded as the father of Eastern communal monasticism. Monastic life in the Orthodox church is still based upon the principles which he laid down. He died at Caesarea on January 1, 379, but his traditional feast day is June 14. Gregory of Nazianzus, called "The Theologian" in the East, was born in 329. He studied in Alexandria and Athens, became a monk, was ordained against his will, and in 372 was con-secrated Bishop of Sasima. He never visited his see but remained in Nazianzus as suffragan to his father. In 379 he was called to Constantinople and, by his preaching, restored the Nicene faith. He was appointed Bishop of Constantinople, but resigned to retire to Nazianzus and then to his estate where he died. Gregory of Nyssa, a younger brother of Basil, was born c. 330. He left his occupation as rhetoric-ian to enter a monastery founded by his brother. He was consecrated Bishop of Nyssa, c. 371, and was deposed for a time by the Arians. An eloquent champion of the Nicene faith, he travel-ed considerably and was in demand as a preacher. He was a thinker and theologian of great originality and learning.


6/21: Onesimos Nesib, evangelist, 1931

Onesimos, born Hika in 1855, was captured by slave traders and taken from his Galla homeland in Ethiopia to Eritrea where he was bought and freed by Swedish Lutheran missionaries. They educated, baptized, and shared with him their concern for the evangelizing of the Galla. Taking the name Onesimos, the slave who ran away and was converted after the apostle Paul shared the gospel with him, he became an evangelist and translated the entire Bible into Galla. In spite of difficulties, he returned to preach the gospel in his homeland. He died at Nekemte, Wollega Province, Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian calendar on Sunday, Sene 25, 1923 (the Gregorian date is June 21, 1931). Recorded in the diary of Olle Eriksson, a missionary who conducted the funeral service, Onesimos fell ill just before he reached the present Mekane Yesus Church at Nekemte where he was to preach. He died peacefully in the evening. His tombstone reads, "O land, hear the Word of the Lord."

Onesimus Nesib

6/24: The Nativity of John the Baptist

John the Baptizer was highly revered by the early Christians, and the Eastern church has especially accorded him an important place in their devotion. The celebration of his birthday is one of the earliest festivals in the calendar of the church. Augustine, in the fourth century, relates the words of John about Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" to the shortening of the days after the summer solstice, since after the birthday of Jesus and the winter solstice, the days become longer.


6/25: The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

The Confessio Augustana was written largely by Philipp Melanchthon in language of studied moderation and presented at Augsburg to the Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530. In 1580, when the Book of Concord was drawn up, the unaltered Augsburg Confession was included as the principal Lutheran confession. In several ways this day, rather than October 31, is the suitable occasion to remember the Reformation.


6/25: Philipp Melanchthon, Reformer, 1560

Melanchthon was born in 1497 and, after study at Heidelberg and Tubingen, became professor of Greek at Wittenberg in 1518. His attitude toward Christianity was far more humanistic than that of most reformers. He had a deep love of learning. His biblical criticism broke new ground by abandoning the medieval four senses and by treating the Bible like the classics, emphasizing the need of history and archeology for under-standing. Always conciliatory, he has at times been accused of undue compro-mise. He died April 19, 1560.

Philipp Melanchthon

by Lucas Cranach, c. 1532

6/28: Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, 202

Irenaeus, the first great Catholic theologian, forms an important link between East and West. Little is known of his life. He was born perhaps at Smyrna, c. 130, and was strongly influenced by Polycarp. After studying in Rome, he was elected Bishop of Lyons, c. 178. His principal writing is a treatise against the Gnostics.


6/29: St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

The two great apostles whose ministry embraced the whole Jewish and Gentile world have been associated in Christian devotion since earliest times. The date chosen to commemorate the two apostles seems to be not the day of their martyrdom but the anniversary of a joint observance in their honor. The day of Peter and Paul is one of the oldest of the saints' days, having been observed at least since 258. Tradition says that Peter went to Rome and was martyred there (c. 64) by being crucified upside down. The Scriptures leave Paul in Rome, but tradition asserts that he went to Spain and returned to Rome where he was beheaded in the persecution under Nero. The ecumenical significance of this dual foundation of the church at Rome, the mother church of the West, is stimulating: the vocation both to Petrine and Pauline, both "catholic" and "evangelical."


6/30: Johan Olof Wallin, hymnwriter, 1839

Wallin was born in 1779 and received his doctorate in theology in 1803. He was made Dean of Vasteras in 1816, and in 1837 (two years before his death) was consecrated Archbishop of Uppsala. He was the leading churchman of his day in Sweden, yet his lasting fame rests upon his poetry and his hymns. In the Swedish hymnbook of 1819, which contains 500 hymns, about 130 were written by Wallin and approx-imately 200 were revised or translated by him. For more than a century the Church of Sweden made no change in the 1819 hymnbook. Wallin has been praised as the unsurpassed interpreter of collective feeling in Swedish literature.

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