November 1 + All Saints’
The Western Church chose November 1, the first day of winter in the Celtic calendar, as the time to honor and remember
all the saints of the faith. It is another case of the Church baptizing a pre-existent secular and pagan holiday, for it had
long been believed that the night of Samhain (pronounced SOW-en) was the time when the veil between the worlds of the
living and the dead was thinnest, and passage easiest between them. It was St. Odilio of Cluny who first celebrated All Saints’
Day, on November 1, 988.
November 6 + Illtyd
Living at the end of the 5th century, Illtyd is one of the greatest of the Celtic saints. He studied in Marseilles
at the monastery originally founded by St. John Cassian, a pivotal figure in bringing eastern monasticism to the west. Illtyd
established a church and school on Caldey Island, off South Wales, where many of the most influential Celtic saints were trained.
Illtyd shows up in various capacities in Arthurian legend.
November 8 + John Duns Scotus.
Duns Scotus was a 13th century Scottish Franciscan theologian who expressed in mystical terms the creation-centered
thought of Francis. He understood God as the infinite love at the heart of the universe, only fully knowable through revelation.
Rather than a reaction to human sin, Duns Scotus says the Incarnation was a necessary outflowing of God’s love. The
cross was to him more an act of love than an expiation for debt or an appeasement of God’s anger. Duns Scotus’
theology was a helpful counterbalance to the other more abstract Scholastics, like Aquinas and Anselm.
November 9 + Kristallnacht.
In 1938, Hitler had solidified his power over Germany. Nazi attacks on the Jewish community had intensified, with the climax
on November 9, when Storm Troopers fanned out across the country. They burned 191 synagogues to the ground, killed nearly
100 people, and arrested 20,000 men, shipping them to the new concentration camp in Buchenwald. The day gets its name from
the broken glass which covered the streets: Crystal Night.
A young Lutheran pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer sadly wrote this date as a concise commentary next to a verse in his
Bible. The verse was Psalm 74:8, "They burned all the meeting places of God in the land."
November 10 + Leo the Great.
Leo was Pope of Rome in the 5th century, a time of particular crisis in the life of the Church. He developed
the doctrine of Christ’s two natures which was ratified at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. But his work also extended
into negotiations with the invading Germanic tribes. He personally met with Attila, chief of the Huns, convincing him not
to invade Italy; and he prevented a massacre by a later invading group, the Vandals. Leo’s work helped to rescue and
restore the Western Church at a time when it was in danger of collapsing along with the Roman Empire in the West.
November 11 + Soren Kierkegaard.
Kierkegaard was a great 19th century Christian philosopher from Denmark. He founded a school of philosophy which
later became known as Existentialism. Much of his career was centered on a critique of Danish society, and the established
Church and of institutional Christendom generally. A childhood accident left his spine crooked, and he deliberately set himself
up as an object of ridicule by the popular press. He used an inheritance to devote his life to writing, and he produced a
prodigious library of books, securing himself a place as one of the greatest pillars of Western thought. His fame, however,
did not come until long after his death.
Kierkegaard unfavorably compared contemporary, comfortable, middle-class, established Christianity with the Jesus presented
in the Gospels, and he called the church to recover its true spirit. When close to death, he was offered the services of the
local Ministers, and he replied that Ministers are "royal functionaries" (ie. State bureaucrats) and he had no need of them.
November 11 + Martin of Tours.
Martin is a pivotal 4th century saint who established the first mission to the Gauls in France. He was a Roman soldier,
born in Hungary and raised in Italy. He had a mystical experience of Christ who appeared to him as a beggar who needed his
cloak. Soon after his baptism he requested a discharge from the army on the grounds of his new-found pacifism. Martin became
a student and disciple of St. Hilary of Poitiers; later he was consecrated as bishop of Tours and established several monastic
communities in France. Several significant saints, including Ninian, were educated at Martin’s communities and went
to work in the British Isles.
November 14 + Dyfrig of Wales.
Dyfrig, also known by the names Dubricius and Devereux, was an important 6th century Celtic saint who worked with other
important figures in south west Wales centering on Caldey Island. He is most famous for his appearances in Arthurian legend
as the "Archbishop of Caerleon" who crowns Arthur as King of the Britons.
November 18 + Hilda of Whitby.
Hilda was the abbess and head of the "double-monastery" (ie. including both men and women) at Whitby, in northern England.
Not only is she an example of a woman who wielded great authority in the Celtic Church, but her monastery was chosen as the
site for the Council of Whitby in 664. This was the meeting at which it was determined whether the British Isles would follow
the Roman or the Celtic system. The Romans won, of course, but they must have been annoyed to meet in a facility governed
by a woman.
November 21 + Columbanus of Bobbio.
Educated under Comgall at Bangor, Ireland, Columbanus landed in Britanny and began a ministry establishing communities
across France, converting the germanic Frankish peoples who had recently overwhelmed the original Gauls. Eventually he made
it to Switzerland and northern Italy, where he established a monastery at Bobbio where he died in 615. Columbanus was the
greatest of the Irish missionaries in the continent.
November 22 + Cecelia.
Cecilia grew up in a 2nd century Roman senatorial family, raised as a Christian. She was given in marriage by
her parents to a noble pagan youth, Valerianus. It is said that at her wedding she sang to God, which is apparently the source
of her association with music and musicians. She converted her new husband and his brother to Christianity, and they dedicated
their lives to the service of the poor and the martyrs for Christ. The brothers were arrested and executed as martyrs themselves.
Cecilia was also arrested and condemned. The story is that she was to be suffocated in the bath of her own house. But when
she remained miraculously unhurt in the overheated room, the executioner tried to decapitate her unsuccessfully, but severely
wounding her. Cecelia lived three more days, donated her wealth to the poor, and provided that after her death her house should
be dedicated as a church. After she finally died, Pope Urbanus buried her among the bishops and the confessors in the catacombs
under the city of Rome. Cecelia died in about the year 177.
November 23 + Clement of Rome.
Clement is thought to be the fourth Bishop of Rome, serving at the end of the 1st century. He is famous for
writing a pastoral letter to the church in Corinth which gives us a good look into the situation of Christianity at that time.
Clement is considered the first of the Apostolic Fathers, the group of church leaders who took over immediately following
the age of the apostles.
November 26 + Sojourner Truth.
She was born a slave in Hurley, New York, in 1797, owned by a Dutch master. She was bought and sold several times, enduring
some very harsh and brutal treatment. Still, her mother had raised her to believe in God, and she prayed often. In 1826 she
escaped to New York City, where she worked as a servant. By 1843 she became convinced that God was calling her to a special
mission, and she left the city to become an itinerant preacher, adopting the name, Sojourner Truth. She published her autobiography
in 1847, which was a great aid to the abolitionist cause. When war broke out, she aided the Union cause, even receiving an
audience with President Lincoln. She stayed in Washington to work with the many unemployed ex-slaves who crowded the city.
Sojourner Truth was one of the most influential women of her time when she died in 1883.
November 29 + Dorothy Day.
Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897, and in her youth rejected Christianity and fell in with Communists and anarchists
in New York City. In 1926, she gave birth to a child which sparked a religious conversion in her. She had the child, and later
herself, baptized in the Roman Catholic faith, actions which caused her to be ostracized from her activist comrades. In 1932
she became friends with Peter Maurin, an itinerant philosopher, and together they started a newspaper combining a concern
for social justice with the teachings of Jesus. It was called The Catholic Worker.
They also started a shelter for the poor and hungry of the city, of which there were many in the Depression. Day’s
commitment to the gospel led her to espouse non-violence and work against war right through the 1970's.
At the same time, her spirituality was very traditionalist and even conservative: liturgy and prayer sustained her witness
for peace and her life serving the poor. She died in 1980. There is a movement now to make her an official saint of the Roman
Catholic Church, but many of her followers are ambivalent about this possible domestication.
November 30 + Andrew.
St. Andrew, whose main claim to fame is bringing his brother, Peter, to Jesus, is also the patron saint of Scotland, our
Presbyterian homeland. Andrew, who formerly followed John the Baptist, was was one of the Twelve disciples closest to Jesus.
After the resurrection he is said to have been a missionary mainly in Asia Minor and Scythia. He was crucified by the Romans
in Greece under the reign of Nero around the year 60. They used a cross shaped like an X and bound him to it with ropes rather
than nails to prolong his suffering.
The reason for this connection between Andrew and Scotland, as far as I can tell, is based on the fact that bones purporting
to be those of the apostle were obtained by the Scottish church sometime in the Middle Ages. A saint was supposed to have
a particularly close relationship with whomever was steward of her/his earthly remains. The St. Andrews’ Cross, basically
an X, is still found on the Scottish flag.