October Spiritual Heroes
Spiritual Heroes for Commemoration at Communion
October 4: St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)—Friar and founder of the Franciscan order. Born into a wealthy family, he sought glory as a young knight, but instead ended up seriously ill and in prison. Encounters with beggars and lepers touched him so deeply he embraced a life of poverty. Because of his deep love for them, his feast day is often celebrated by blessing animals. He reminds us of the radical simplicity of the gospel and the sacredness of creation.
October 6: Founding of Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (1968)—Anniversary of the first service held by Troy Perry, a former Pentecostal minister from Florida who had been thrown out of his church for being gay. Troy knew that his experience was not unusual and he felt called by God to start a church where GLBT people would be welcome. He held the first service in his living room near Los Angeles. Twelve people joined him for the first service of what became MCC of Los Angeles, the Founding Church of the Metropolitan Community Churches movement.
October 7: Ss. Sergius and Bacchus (d. 290)—Martyrs in death and lovers in life. These two saints were tortured for refusing to compromise their faith by making a sacrifice to Jupiter. They were officers in the Roman army and they were also a couple. After their arrest they were paraded through the streets in women’s clothing, which was meant to humiliate them. Bacchus died first and came to Sergius in a vision, telling him not to lose heart because they would soon be together for eternity. They later became patron saints of the Byzantine army, and are still honored among certain Arab nomads. Some gay people consider them to be patron saints of same-gender love.
October 11: National Coming Out Day—Anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This day has been marked yearly in the GLBT community since 1987. Because equality cannot be achieved by staying in the closet, it is important for GLBT people to come out to friends and family. When people know a gay or lesbian individual personally, they are far less likely to maintain negative stereotypes and prejudices. Coming out isn’t a one time event, but is rather a life long process.
October 12: Matthew Shepherd (1976-1998)—Victim of hate crime. A 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming, Matthew was abducted, tied to a fence, and beaten into a coma by two young men. His murder gave a face to the tragedy of gay bashing. He is remembered not for any particular achievements in his brief life, but as a symbol of the violence that is bred by homophobia and the rhetoric of hate.
October 15: St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)—Mystic. Raised in a wealthy Spanish family, Teresa became a Carmelite nun. In an age in which women’s voices went unheard, she became a towering figure —author of four books, religious reformer, founder of 17 convents. As a woman who based her authority on mystical visions, she fell under the suspicion of the Inquisition. Her best known work, The Interior Castle, describes the soul as a castle, and the journey of prayer that leads from meditation to mystical union with Christ.
October 16: Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556)—Creator of the Book of Common Prayer. During a time of political and religious turmoil, as Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer was instrumental in the English Reformation and the institution of the Church of England. Under Queen Mary, a devout Catholic, he was declared a heretic and burned at the stake. His legacy is carried in the Book of Common Prayer, the beauty of its liturgical language and its influence on Christian and prayer and worship even to our own time.
October 18: St. Luke the Evangelist—Luke was the only writer to attempt to tell the story of not only the life of Jesus (the Gospel of Luke), but the founding of the early Church ( the book of Acts). He was a Gentile who never met Jesus, but tradition says he was a physician and a later companion of Paul. St. Luke is patron of physicians and artists.
October 22: Maura O’Halloran 1955-1982—Christian Zen monk. Born in Boston and raised in Ireland, Maura felt from an early age a deep compassion for human suffering. Her concern for social justice and attraction to meditation led her to explore Eastern spirituality. She applied for admission to a Buddhist monastery in Tokyo where many Catholic priests had studied Zen meditation. There she underwent intense training as a monk and was recognized for reflecting a remarkable state of enlightenment. On her return trip to Ireland she was killed in a bus accident in Thailand at the age of 27. Her short life of holiness has been compared to Therese of Lisieux, the French nun who also accomplished her spiritual purpose in this world at a young age and promptly departed.
October 23: St. James of Jerusalem (c. 62)—Brother of Jesus and martyr. James is traditionally believed to have been the first Bishop of the church in Jerusalem. He was leader of a more conservative Jewish wing of the early Jesus movement that was uncomfortable with Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles, but Peter helped forge a compromise between them. He is traditionally associated with the Epistle of James, a short letter that tells us much about the early church. Some of its primary concerns include the intrusion of class divisions among the believers, showing mercy toward the poor, and letting our faith be reflected in our actions.
October 30: Albert Grier (1864 – 1941) – a Universalist minister for 20 years before becoming Founder of the Church of Truth in 1912.
October 31: Reformation Day—On this day in 1517 the German theologian, Martin Luther, posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This act has come to mark the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which together with the Counter-Reformation in the Catholic Church, led to major changes in Christian thought and worship. Today Catholic and Protestant churches are finding that in our faith in Christ we have much more in common than those particular beliefs which separate us.