April Spiritual Heroes
Spiritual Heroes for Commemoration at Communion
April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)—Apostle of freedom and renewer of society. Martin earned first a Bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College, then a Master’s degree from Crozier Divinity School, and finally a Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University. Later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the spiritual leader of the modern Civil Rights movement. Inspired by the example of Gandhi, he led a campaign of nonviolent resistance to racial segregation, racism and poverty. He is best remembered for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech given at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was repeatedly jailed and in 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis, TN.
April 7: Ernest Holmes (1887-1960) – Founder of Religious Science. Holmes was an influential figure in the New Thought movement. After studying philosophy and world religions independently, working with his brother who was a Congregational minister, and becoming ordained in the Divine Science movement, Holmes wrote The Science of Mind and later started the Religious Science Church.
Fenwicke Holmes (1883-1973) – earned a B.A. from Colby College and attended Hartford Seminary and was ordained a Congregationalist minister. In addition to assisting his brother (Ernest Holmes) in the Science of Mind movement, he also served as the pastor of a Divine Science church. He was helpful in spreading New Thought philosophy in Japan through his collaboration with Seicho-No-Ie’s founder, Masaharu Taniguchi. Fenwicke’s books include: Being & Becoming (1925), The Law of Mind in Action (1926), and The Truth About Matter (1944).
April 8: Sidhartha Gautama, the Buddha (circa 560 – 480 BCE) – Buddha means “Awakened.” He was born in what is today Nepal and he died in India. The Buddha is said to have had a dramatic experience whereby he became “awake” (or enlightened), and then set about teaching others how they, too, could learn to live as fully awake beings. Many Buddhists speak of the “Buddha Nature” that is latent within all of us; as we achieve enlightenment (or awakening), we express that Buddha Nature. The Buddha is regarded as the model, or supreme Buddha, but others have been thought to achieve enlightenment. Compare this to the belief that some have that Jesus demonstrates the Christ Principle that is latent within all people. The Buddha taught that suffering is caused by ignorance. Attachment and craving are symptoms of ignorance. By learning the Truth (and practicing what we learn), we can change our thoughts and attitudes, that is, we can control our cravings and thereby limit suffering. Buddha taught and practiced meditation and gave an 8-fold righteous path to follow, which included right understanding, right thinking, right speech, and right action.
April 9: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)—Theologian and martyr. Bonhoeffer was deeply committed to the ideals of Christian community. He helped organize resistance to the Nazi takeover of German churches. When the Confessing Church movement was snuffed out he was imprisoned for his participation in the plot to kill Hitler. Influenced by the Social Gospel movement in America, he later wrote in prison of the need for a “religionless Christianity.” His writings have been a major influence on Christian Ethics in our time.
James Dillet Freeman (1912-2003) – the “Poet Laureate” of the Unity School of Christianity. He composed the prayer: The Light of God surrounds us; the love of God enfolds us. The power of God protects us; the presence of God watches over us. Wherever we are, God is!” Not only is that prayer used in the Sunshine Cathedral liturgy (and in worship services elsewhere), it was taken to the moon in 1969!
April 10: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)—Mystic and scientist. A French Jesuit priest, Teilhard was both one of the most creative theological minds of the 20th century and an immanent scientist. He did extensive work in geology and paleontology in China, helping to discover the remains of “Peking Man.” He sought to develop a synthesis of science and religion, integrating the theory of evolution with a cosmic vision of Christ at the heart of the cosmos. His writings, seminal to the development of Process Theology, were suppressed by the Vatican during his lifetime.
Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931) – was born in Ottoman Syria (now Lebanon) and was the grandson of a Maronite Catholic priest. The Gibran family moved from the Middle East to Boston (USA) where he flourished as a poet, artist, and philosopher. He later studied in Paris and lived in NYC where he wrote and painted. His most famous work is The Prophet. His writings were very popular in the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s. Here are some of his inspiring words: “All that spirits desire, spirits attain”, “An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind”, “Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror”, “Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof”, and “I existed from all eternity and, behold, I am here; and I shall exist till the end of time, for my being has no end.”
April 23: Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)—Farmworker. Raised in a family of Mexican-American migrant workers, Chavez transformed a local labor struggle into a moral cause that challenged the conscience of the nation. He was committed to absolute nonviolence, and was supported by many religious leaders. Inspired by a priest who gave him a passion for justice, and a community activist who taught him how to organize, he became the driving force in founding the United Farmworkers Union.
April 25: St. Mark the Evangelist—Evangelist. The writer of the oldest gospel in our canon. Mark’s gospel was written around 70 CE.
April 27: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) – American essayist, philosopher, poet, and leader of the Transcendentalist movement in the early 19th century. His teachings directly influenced the growing New Thought movement of the mid 1800s.
Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein (1889 – 1938) – institutionalized the Jewish Science movement originally conceived of by Rabbi Alfred G. Moses. Jewish Science was an early 20th century response to the influence of Christian Science and the New Thought movement. According to Jewish News Weekly, “Jewish Science views God as an Energy or Force penetrating the reality of the universe. God is the source of all Reality and not separate from but part of the world and Right thinking has a healing effect.” Jewish Science, like New Thought, emphasizes the effectiveness of affirmative prayer and the use of positive spirituality to bring about healing. Lichtenstein studied at and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College and later earned a Master’s degree in Psychology from Columbia University.
April 28: Oskar Schindler (1908-1974)—“Righteous Gentile.” Here is an example of a person who is remembered not for being holy (living a religious or virtuous life), but rather for being used by God in doing something holy. Schindler was a German industrialist who made a fortune on the labor of Jews in his factory. Although raised as a Catholic, he was not religious. For reasons which have never been clear, and at great personal risk, he used his power and influence to save the lives of 1,100 men, women, and children during WW2. At the end of the war he was impoverished. Today he is buried in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial) among the “Righteous Gentiles.”
April 29: St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)—Doctor of the Church. An Italian mystic, teacher, and nun, Catherine devoted herself to serving the poor and sick around her. She experienced ecstatic visions and was believed to have received the sign of the stigmata.