May Spiritual Heroes
Spiritual Heroes for Commemoration at Communion
May 1: St. Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)—Priest. Thomas was a simple Augustinian monk whose life is not remembered so much as his writings. His best known work on the spiritual life is The Imitation of Christ, a classic that has been influential among both Protestants and Catholics. He emphasized that our actions are far more important than our knowledge: “At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done.”
May 6: Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)—Naturalist and social critic. While his writings were largely ignored in his lifetime, Thoreau’s thoughts on social justice, freedom, and civil disobedience were to later influence Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. A fiercely independent nonconformist, he followed no particular religion, but has been described as something of a Taoist sage. His mystical rapture with nature speaks to us today in our ecological concerns.
May 8: Blessed Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)—Mystic. Few details are known of the life of Dame Julian, a recluse who was famed as a spiritual counselor. She is best known for writing Revelations of Love Divine, the first book written in English by a woman. At the age of 30 she became gravely ill, but recovered following a series of visions of Christ. She spoke of God as our Creator, Protector, and Lover, and wrote of the motherhood of both God and of Jesus, emphasizing the goodness of creation and God’s mercy toward the weak. “As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.”
May 16: Thomas Troward (1847-1916) – Judge (in India) and New Thought pioneer, Troward influenced such thinkers as Emmet Fox and Religious Science founder Ernest Holmes.
May 17: Blessed Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947)—Ex-slave and nun. Born in the African nation of Sudan, at the age of nine Bakhita was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Eventually she was bought by a family who took her back to Italy. Upon hearing the gospel she understood that God meant for her to be free. She went to court to gain her freedom, and then discovered that slavery was illegal in Italy! She was then baptized and took religious vows as a nun. She spent her life serving others, and became famous for her quiet faith.
May 22: Rabbi Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760)—Founder of Hasidism. He proclaimed a mysticism of the everyday. In each task and moment there is a spark of the divine holiness of God. The spirit in which one lives is more important than following a set of laws. Although most were murdered by the Nazis, vibrant Hasidic communities thrive today in Israel and the US.
May 27: John Calvin (d. 1564)—Founder of Reformed movement. Calvin was trained at the University of Paris in theology, law, and humanism. Fleeing religious persecution he moved to Switzerland, where he converted to Protestantism. He instituted religious and political reforms that were copied across Europe. Known as a scholar and preacher, he emphasized the absolute sovereignty and grace of God.
May 28: Charles Ludlam (1943 – 1987) – Off-Broadway director, playwright, and actor who founded the Ridiculous Theatre Company in New York City in 1967. Not really religious, Ludlam all the same had a religious like devotion to his art and found spiritual strength, honesty, and empowerment from sharing his art. He was an openly gay man and in 1987 he died from AIDS related complications.
May 30: St. Joan of Arc (1412?-1431)—Maid of Orleans and martyr. A young peasant girl, Joan believed she was being led by angelic voices to restore the French throne. Dressed as a soldier, she led the French army in several victories, until finally being captured by the English. In a church trial she was accused of heresy and witchcraft, and burned at the stake at the age of 19.
May 31: Visitation of the Mary, the Blessed Lady—This day celebrates the visit of Mary with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant herself with John the Baptizer (Luke 1:39-56).