November Spiritual Heroes
Spiritual Heroes for Commemoration at Communion
November 1: Feast of All Saints—The tradition of remembering all the saints together dates to the early history of the Church, which affirmed “the communion of saints” as the mystical Body of Christ, transcending both time and space. This collective feast reminds us that each of us has our own special gifts, and we are each called to do something holy for God.
November 2: All Souls Day— In some traditions there has been a distinction between remembering the official canonized saints on All Saints Day and commemorating those whose names are not on any calendar, but are cherished as models of faith, or are dearly loved family and friends. They, as well, are part of that great “cloud of witnesses” who encourage us in our spiritual journey.
November 4: Agnes Sanford (1897 – 1982) – the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries and the wife of an Episcopal priest.
She became a world renown healer, and taught that the bible was more than information…it contained the energy of faith which could work miracles. She believed that healing was possible if we would “pray down” our doubts and expect something good to happen. Her first book, The Healing Light, teaches her beliefs about healing through prayer. She acknowledged that effective prayer principles were universal, not limited to any one religion and she firmly believed that “experience comes before theology.” Visualizing success, affirming our Good, giving thanks for our Good, imagining healing energy flowing through us, and quoting affirmative bible verses were among the prayer techniques she offered.
Sanford described God in non-anthropomorphic ways, such as the “medium” in which we live and the “Breath of life.” She called divine Life “a flow, living water, love vibrating through us, an active electricity.” She described the need to re-educate the subconscious mind so that it will work on our behalf instead of against our interests. Teaching ourselves new thought habits was essential, she believed, to experiencing miracles. She also believed the return of Christ had happened at Pentecost, and that Christ continues to return every time we extend love, kindness, or forgiveness in our world.
Though her background was Protestant and her theology was very compatible with the New Thought movement, she also had charismatic experiences.
November 9: Martyrs of Kristallnacht (1938)—Victims of anti-Semitism. As part of the buildup to what became the “final solution,” the Nazis mounted a coordinated assault on the entire Jewish community of Germany. In one night the storm troopers burned down 191 synagogues, destroyed 7,500 shops, rounded up 20,000 Jewish men for “protective custody” at Buchenwald concentration camp, and killed 100 Jews. The pogrom became known as Kristallnacht, or Crystal Night, for all the broken windows. There was virtually no protest outside of Germany to this action.
November 11: Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)—Philosopher. A prolific author whose writings were important in the development of Existentialism, Kierkegaard barely saw himself a Christian. He devoted himself to exposing official Christianity, and especially the Church of Denmark, as fraudulent. He originally planned to go into the Lutheran ministry, but instead chose a life of introspection and writing. Compared with the New Testament, he charged, official Christianity was nothing more than play-acting.
November 12: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1694)—Poet and scholar. Born near Mexico City to an unwed mother, Sister Juana had a passion for learning that led to her becoming the first great poet of Latin America and early champion of equality for women in the church.
November 14: George Hegel (1770 – 1831) – a German philosopher and believer in Oneness who developed the dialectic process of thought: Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. He believed that in thinking we develop a thesis, then question it and develop its opposite, and finally put the two together to form a unity. The whole concept is of course greater than any of its individual parts. Synthesis always transcends dichotomy. It is the idea that is absolute, or real…only the idea is really real. He also believed in the unity of spirit and matter, of the divine and human. He wrote, “God is the system of relationships in which all things move and have their being and their significance. In [humans], thought, realizing itself as part of the absolute, transcends individual limitations and purposes and catches underneath universal strife the hidden harmony of all things.”
November 21: Nichiren Daishonin (1222 – 1282) – a Japanese Buddhist monk who taught that serenity, happiness, well-being, and enlightenment were available to everyone and could simply be attained through mantra meditation. The mantra he offered was “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” (referring to a Buddhist text which Nichiren believed contained all that was needed for enlightenment. The text was believed to be so powerfully true that simply chanting its title would impart its benefits). Nichiren Buddhism is now a major Buddhist school of thought.
November 23: Clement of Alexandria (circa 150 CE – 215 CE) – had a capacity for blending Christian Thought, Platonism, and Stoic philosophy. His thinking contributed to Christian Gnosticism. Clement believed that Jesus was the Logos, and as the Logos was the supreme quality, Jesus was the supreme expression of God. Clement believed that faith, knowledge, and love were needed for a full experience of the Realm of God.
November 23: The Gnostics. Gnostics believed evil could be overcome by knowledge of the Truth, and “salvation” is obtained by knowledge of the divine. They had a mystical Christology, believing Christ to be an emanation from the First Cause. Gnostics pressed other Christians to define their terms more clearly (e.g., what did they mean by “spirit” or “faith”). It wasn’t until the early 4th century that a church conference of bishops (a council) declared Jesus to be the “same as” God rather than merely being “like” God. The Gnostics lost the battle of orthodoxy, and a more Roman Christology (that is, an understanding of Christ that looked rather like the Roman and pre-Roman views of god-men/god-women) prevailed. A significant number of faithful Christians in the Mediterranean would come to be called “gnostic” (for their belief in the salvific power of gnosis, which is, knowledge). Though the Gnostics didn’t prevail as the dominating force of Christianity, there were early, faithful Gnostic communities whose writings are as old or older than some of the writings that made it into the New Testament.
November 24: Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677) – born in Amsterdam because his father had been exiled from Portugal. He was a student of the Jewish Talmud and the Torah, as well as of Kabala. Spinoza was also influenced by Maimonides and Descartes. A pantheist, he believed God to be the very Substance of the Universe. He also challenged people to think in abstract ways, saying, “God is not only the process of thinking, God is also the thought itself.”
November 26: Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)—Abolitionist preacher. Born a slave to a Dutch family in New York, Sojourner (a name she chose later in life) was freed when slavery there was abolished. She became noted as a passionate itinerant preacher and a legend even in her own life. She devoted her life to the antislavery cause, and later to women’s suffrage and equal rights. While some thought it was best to set aside the rights of women for a later date, in her mind the two were inseparable.
November 27: Harvey Milk (1931-1978)—First openly gay elected official (USA). Although not a professional politician, Harvey Milk ran for a seat as a City Supervisor in San Francisco in order to stand for the rights of people without a voice —blue collar workers, the elderly, racial minorities, and especially gays and lesbians. He expected he would die violently, and was shot five times at close range by another politician angered at his stand for gays. That night 40,000 people took to the streets in a candle light vigil outside City Hall. Although not a religious person, he is remembered because, as Cardinal Juan Fresnos of Chile said, “Whosoever stands up for human rights stands up for the rights of God.”
November 29: Dorothy Day (1897-1980)—Prophet of social justice. Despite the fact she held no official position in the Catholic church, and that her thoughts were mostly rejected in her life, it was said at her death that she was “the most influential, interesting, and significant figure” in the history of American Catholicism. Committed to social justice and pacifism, she founded a lay movement, the Catholic Worker movement, which sought to live out the radical gospel commandment of love in the social and political realm by embracing voluntary poverty.