September Spiritual Heroes
Spiritual Heroes for Commemoration at Communion
Socrates (469 – 399 BCE) – believed in the mind/body connection. He said, “One ought not to attempt to cure the body without the soul.” He also believed in the continuity of life beyond the death of the body. Rather than focusing on the Greek gods of his time, Socrates believed in tending to an “Inner Voice.” He was executed (by poison), but said, “You can kill my body, but you cannot kill me.” The story of a noble teacher who is executed but who cannot stay dead is also found, of course, in the Christian gospels!
Plato (427 – 347 BCE ) – taught that there was a definite energy that emerged out of the cosmic nothingness of “mind.” He suggested that this energy was the product of thought and it resulted in ideas which precede manifest form. In fact, Plato believed ideas were the source of life, purpose, and meaning. He believed souls (self-aware consciousness) pre-existed before their human incarnation and that they came to this life with prior knowledge. He believed that everything existed in relation to its resemblance to a Universal Form.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) – believed the universe is governed by [spiritual] law. He defined God as “the first cause and the final cause of all being.” Believing in the perfection of God, Aristotle also believed that everything in the world aspires to share in that divine perfection.
Philo (circa 20 BCE – 50 CE) taught that it is our duty to offer love and kindness towards others. He seemed to be able to harmonize Plato’s philosophy with teachings of the Hebrew scriptures. He believed that God directs all activity through the Logos (the power of Ideas, Reason, Wisdom).
September 3: Samuel Checote (d. 1884)—Creek Chief and preacher. Checote was born in present-day Alabama and attended mission schools as a child. After the Creek nation was forced to move west of the Mississippi tensions led to the banning of Christian preaching. Checote refused to abandon his faith and interceded with the chief to lift the ban. A Creek Methodist district was established. Checote became a lay preacher, and worked to have the bible and many hymns translated into Creek. He was elected chief three times, and worked tirelessly to overcome racial and cultural differences.
September 10: Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)—Founder of the Missionaries of Charity. As a simple nun from Albania, Teresa felt a special calling to care for the poorest of the poor. She left her convent and took on a simple white sari with blue borders and went to Calcutta, looking for Jesus among the sick and homeless. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, who care especially for the destitute and dying. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
September 15: Martyrs of Birmingham (d. 1963)—Four young girls. A few weeks after Martin Luther King has given his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” and in the midst of an intense summer of civil disobedience and demonstrations, the situation in Birmingham, Alabama had come to a head. The nation watched as fire hoses and attack dogs had dramatized the evil of racism. On a peaceful Sunday morning someone threw dynamite through the basement window of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls, who had just finished their Sunday School class, were changing into choir robes. In their eulogy Dr. King called them “martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity.”
September 17: St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)—Abbess and visionary. Hildegard started as a simple Benedictine nun, but excelled as an author, prophet, preacher, theologian, musician, composer, poet, doctor, and pharmacist. Her intense visions and ecological and holistic spirituality speak strongly to our own time.
September 18: Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961)—Secretary General of the UN. A skilled Swedish diplomat, Hammarskjöld served for eight years as the head of the United Nations. He was a rare person in that public service was not a means to gain power, but a religious vocation, a way of living out his faith. He was deeply committed to the cause of world peace. His personal journal, Markings, published after his death, revealed his own inner struggles with finding meaning in life. What is still unknown to most people is that he was also a gay man.
September 20: Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)—Priest and spiritual guide. After ordination in his native Holland, Nouwen taught in the US at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard. He was drawn toward monastic life, and became one of the most popular and influential spiritual writers of our time.
September 21: St. Matthew—Apostle and Evangelist. Matthew was a tax collector, and as such was part of a group that was hated for being collaborators with Rome. Tradition says Matthew traveled to the East, but we really know nothing of his life and death. Matthew’s Gospel was probably written by an anonymous second generation Jewish Christian in a Greek community. ‘Matthew’ wrote the story of Jesus in a way that addressed the needs of the early church, a central concern to his gospel.
St. Vincent de Paul (1580-1660)—Apostle to the poor. Vincent began his life as a priest simply as a means of escaping his family’s grinding poverty. At mid-life he experienced a great transformation as he understood the seriousness of his vocation and dedicated his life to serving the poor. He founded hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the mentally ill.
Aimee Semple McPherson (1890 – 1944) – a Canadian born evangelist and radio personality in the 1920s and 1930s who was also the founder of the Foursquare Church, a Pentecostal denomination. She was a pioneer in the use of entertainment media to create a form of religious instruction and worship that appealed to a broad audience.
September 29: St. Michael and All Angels—While angels (from the Greek word angelos, or messengers) are mentioned often in the bible, only a few are named. The Archangel Michael is described as the captain of the heavenly host who helps humanity in fighting the powers of destruction and injustice. Michael has been recognized as a protector, intercessor, healer, and guardian.