About revhill

Minister Emeritus at Community Christian Church in Kansas City, MO.

REMEMBERING SATCHEL PAIGE

On what was supposed to be Opening Day at the K, I’m remembering Satchel Paige and his unparalleled career in the Negro Leagues, his amazing accomplishments as a seasoned “rookie” in MLB, and his induction into the Hall of Fame. His record and the testimonies of players, managers, commentators, and baseball aficionados all of sorts — from his time and since — give credence to his stature as the “greatest.”

I’m also recollecting his “Six Rules for How to Stay Young,” which, by the way, can be seen on his grave marker in Forest Hill cemetery on Troost Avenue, in Kansas City, Missouri.

From the day of his birth, July 7, 1906, to the day of his death, June 6, 1982, Satchel Paige was always young.

Satchel Paige garnered legendary status throughout his 22 years in the Negro Leagues and, after 1948, during 18 more years in the integrated major leagues.

In 1948 he entered the majors at the age of 42, the oldest rookie in the history of the game.

It was estimated that over his career he pitched in 2,500 games, played for 250 teams (the Kansas City Monarchs principal among them), and threw 100 no-hitters.

In 1965, at the age of 59, Satchel Paige started a game for the Kansas City A’s (went three innings, gave up a hit and got a strikeout).

I give thanks to God for Satchel Paige’s great prowess, which led him to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1971. But I give even more thanks for his inspiring wisdom.

“How to Stay Young,” by Satchel Paige
1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very lightly on the vices such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

— Bob Hill

[Adapted from ALL YOU NEED IS MORE LOVE (Caroline Street Press), 2019, p. 59.]

WEDNESDAY WORDS

Graciousness

[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday I’ll be posting musings, meditations, wonderings, as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #1.]

GRACIOUSNESS

If you had to bet your religious farm or wager your last spiritual coin or put all your theological eggs in one basket, grace would be more than an adequate choice.

Grace is the sine qua non of a worthy life.

It is the center of the Biblical message of love and care for each and all of God’s creatures.

When we examine the life of Jesus, grace and graciousness are both his identity and his destiny.

Whether we’re at the beginning of a new year or at the tail end of an old one, whether we’re experiencing times of plenty or a stretch of need, whether we’re down on our luck or in high cotton, whether we’re plentifully satisfied or desperately empty, whether we’re feeling fine or we’re totally grim — there is no time when we cannot express graciousness toward others.

Initiating graciousness toward others comes easily to some, harder to others. But the receiving of graciousness is appreciated by everybody.

Through the rest of this week consider daily the following questions:

(1) Because grace is both the grounding gravity and the loving levitation of my life, how can I share grace with those around me?

(2) Because I know how pleasurable it is to receive graciousness and how delightful it is to pass along graciousness to another, how will I increase the graciousness quotient in my daily walk with God and neighbors?

– Bob Hill

[Adapted from ALL YOU NEED IS MORE LOVE, Caroline Street Press, 2019]

MONDAY MEDS (Meditations) MED #1 – MAYA ANGELOU

Maya-Angelou

MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Monday I’ll be posting chapters from a manuscript (“Great Souls, Great Prayers”) as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, or contemplation. Each posting contains a week’s worth (7) of suggestions for use. Follow the suggestions or the leadings of your own creativity. Here’s MONDAY MED #1.]

MAYA ANGELOU

Throughout all of her adult life, Maya Angelou was a “renaissance woman.” It is hard to imagine any other woman in North America during her lifetime who was more qualified for that moniker. Singer, dancer, actor, playwright, screenwriter, composer, director, journalist, scholar, activist, philanthropist, memoirist, poet, essayist – these are all titles for what Angelou did professionally with her time on earth. But they cannot begin to describe who she was and what she came to mean to millions.

Angelou was an extraordinary combination of boldness and humility, sass and sophistication, deep reverence and quick-witted irreverence. She was intimately acquainted with the canon of the Harlem Renaissance and the intricacies of politics, the beauty of Shakespeare and the wonders of fried chicken, the depths of sorrow and the necessity of celebration.

The list of Angelou’s accomplishments, the itinerary of her travels, the scope of adulation by her admirers, and the reach of her fame would lead some observes to conclude that she was a composite of several people and not merely one person. And yet she still conveyed an unassuming, comforting common touch. Oprah Winfrey spoke for many when she said, “In all the days of my life, I never met a woman who was more completely herself than Maya Angelou.”(1)

It was in her writing, however – principally poetry and creatively rendered memoirs – that Angelou left her most profound mark. Liberated from trauma-induced muteness as a child, she became one of the most popular writers and most sought after speakers in America. Author of 13 volumes of poetry, 8 autobiographical books, 6 books of essays, 8 plays, 2 cinematic screenplays, 2 scripts for television, and 9 children’s books, she continued to write and publish in her ninth decade of life.

While not all of Angelou’s writing has been adjudged as accomplished literature(2), her ways with words have been affectionately regarded by millions of appreciative readers as suffused with abiding, inspirational power.

Certain themes populate the “worlds” Angelou inhabited in and through her books.

UNIVERSALITY

In Angelou’s thinking, there is a universality and a commonality among all people. All we have to do is pay closer attention and we will discover how close the family of humanity truly is and can eventually become. In one of her most quoted poems, “Human Family,” she repeats the poem’s refrain in triplicate: “We are more alike my friends than we are unalike.” (3) This is not only a poetic choice forming the poem’s overall force, it is also one of Angelou’s premier convictions.

COMMUNITY

To be a human being, fully developing before God, and empowered by the wonderful gifts that are ours, we abide in community.

Anything less leaves us dwarfed, shunted, stifled, despairing. In her poem “Alone,” Angelou declares that fully functioning personhood disallows a life based solely on solo acts.

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And breadloaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.(4)

THE CALL TO ELEGANCE

In and through the arts – dancing, acting upon the stage, posing before the camera, writing upon the page, directing a movie – Angelou discovered a foundational truth that was validated by her own existential triumphs: We are called to experience and express the joyful, ecstatic, elegant realities of human experience. Angelou would have no one settle for what e.e. cummings described as “human merely being.” Ultimately, life is a celebration: “Surviving is nice, but thriving,… Ah! That is elegant.”(5)

RELIGIOUS FAITH IS A DEVELOPMENTAL ART

For Angelou, our faith journeys are never done. We are all of us works in progress. In essays, public lectures, poetry readings, and television interviews, Angelou displays deep humility about her own religious path. “I’m startled or taken aback when people walk up to me and tell me they are Christians. My first response is the question ‘Already?’ It seems to me a lifelong endeavor to try to live the life of a Christian…. The idyllic condition cannot be arrive at and held on to eternally. It is in the search itself that one finds the ecstasy.” (6)

PRAYER’S EFFICACY

While she may have experienced verbal muteness at a significant juncture in her childhood, it does not appear that Maya Angelou ever lost her capacity to pray. In several of her poems – in poems like “Thank You, Lord” and “Calling on God, Just Like Job” – she evidences prayer-like intentions and focuses on obviously religious subjects. On occasion her poems will even address deity with phrases like “…Visit us again. Savior./….We cry for you/ although we have lost/your name.”(7) As an octogenarian she continued to believe in prayer’s efficacy in simple and profound ways: “I know that when I pray something wonderful happens, not only for the person that I am praying for, but also for me. I am being heard.”(8)

PRAYING WITH MAYA ANGELOU:
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE

Day 1 More Alike Than We Are Unalike – Pray today by first considering how each person you meet during the next 24 hours will be like you in some significant way. Pray for a sensitive heart and an open mind in your interactions with everyone you encounter today. Pray also for ever-increasing compassion toward the human family.

Day 2 Never Alone – Pray a prayer of thanksgiving today that you are not alone in the living of your life. Name the specific persons from the past and the present who have made your life possible. Say a blessing after each utterance of their names.

Day 3 Surviving and Thriving – Pray today by considering those portions of your life in which you are merely “surviving.” Pray for insight and a keened awareness of how you might move from “surviving” to “thriving.” Pray for the resolve and strength to make that movement become a reality.

Day 4 Can You Imagine – Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” oration during the March on Washington, Maya Angelou wondered, “Can you imagine if we did not have this undergirded hate and racism, prejudice, sexism and ageism? If we were not crippled by these idiocies, can you imagine what our country would be like?” (9) Begin to imagine what your country would be like, what the world would be like, if we abandoned all “idiocies” which crippled the human community. Pray for the courage to call out such idiocies when you witness them and the wisdom to live according to an alternative vision of hopefulness.

Day 5 At Home with God – Angelou has been a member of both Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco and Mount Zion Baptist Church in Winston‑Salem, North Carolina. She has said “There is no place greater than the home of God, except in our individual selves, than the places where women and men set aside to go and worship, to just come together, and praise of the spirit of God.”(10) Pray today by giving thanks for the place(s) where you worship, gather with other believers and offer praise to God. Pray as well that there might be an increase in the number of people seeking such “homes of God.”

Day 6 Efficacy and Expectation – Pray today by repeating the phrase from Angelou’s poem “Savior”: “Visit us again. Savior.” Pray with a confidence in your praying simply because you are “being heard.” Pray with the expectation that God will not only hear you but will respond.

Day 7 On the Pulse of a New Day – In 1993, Angelou offered what is arguably her greatest poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” on the occasion of the first inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton. (She was the first poet chosen for such a task since Robert Frost had offered a poem at President Kennedy’s inauguration.) Pray today, first by repeating three times the poem’s closing stanza: “Here, on the pulse of this new day,/You may have the grace to look up and out/And into your sister’s eyes, and into/Your brother’s face, your country/And say simply/Very simply/With hope‑Good morning.”(11) Now pray for the grace, vision, and hope to say “Good morning” to the arrival of this day and all of life that is unfolding before you in the future.

BIOGRAPHY TIMELINE: April 4, 1928, born Marguerite Ann Johnson, one of two children to Bailey Johnson and Vivian Baxter Johnson, in St. Louis, Missouri; older brother, Bailey, Jr., gives her name of “Maya”; 1931, parents’ marriage ends in Long Beach, California, and she and brother are sent to live with paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, whom she comes to call “Momma,” in Stamps, Arkansas; 1935, returns to St. Louis to live with mother; 1937, raped by mother’s boyfriend; after attacker’s sudden and violent death, does not speak for five years; returns to Arkansas to live with grandmother; develops extraordinary memory and appreciation of literature; is influenced by teacher, Bertha Flowers, to expand her world through reading and to begin to speak; 1941; moves with brother to San Francisco to live with mother; attends George Washington High School; studies dance and drama at California Labor School; 1942, becomes first African-American cable car conductor; 1943, graduates from high school; gives birth to son, Clyde Johnson (later changed to Guy Johnson); works as waitress and cook; 1948, has a realization of her death and the impossibility of thwarting it, experiences great release; 1951, marries Enistasius (Tosh) Angelos, Greek sailor; marriage dissolves; takes name of Angelou, begins career as night club singer; 1954, divorces Angelos; works in San Francisco’s famed club “The Purple Onion;” appears as “Ruby” in a production of “Porgy and Bess” which tours Europe; studies modern dance with Martha Graham; dances with Alvin Ailey on television variety shows; meets James Baldwin in Paris; 1957, records first album, Miss Calypso; 1958, moves to New York; joins Harlem Writers Guild; sings as clubs, including Apollo Theater in Harlem; 1959, becomes involved in civil rights movement; produces Off-Broadway play, “Cabaret for Freedom,” as a fund-raiser for Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); 1960, meets and marries Vusumzi Make, South African civil rights activist; moves to Cairo, Egypt; edits The Arab Observer; 1961, teaches at University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama ; serves as feature editor, The Africa Review; meets Malcolm X; 1964, returns to U.S. to assist Malcolm X in Organization of African-American Unity; February 21, 1965, Malcolm X assassinated; Martin Luther King appoints her coordinator of the northern branch of SCLC; April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated; thereafter she refrains from celebrating her birthday; 1969, publishes I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, first of seven autobiographical volumes; 1971, publishes first book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie; 1972, writes movie script for “Georgia, Georgia,” first script by an African American woman ever made into a movie; 1977, performs in television mini-series “Roots” and is nominated for an Emmy; marries Paul du Feu; moves to Sonoma, California; joins Glide Memorial Church (Methodist) in San Francisco; 1980, divorces Paul Du Feu; 1981, becomes Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, North Carolina; becomes member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, Winston‑Salem, N.C; 1984, meets Oprah Winfrey, becomes her friend and mentor; January 20, 1993, delivers, “On The Pulse of Morning,” inaugural poem, at President Clinton’s inauguration; 1995, delivers “A Brave and Startling Truth,” a poem commemorating 50th anniversary of the United Nations; 2000, receives National Medal of Arts; January 2002, Hallmark debuts “Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Collection” line of products; 2011, receives Presidential Medal of Freedom; 2013, publishes Mom & Me & Mom; May 28, 2014, dies at home, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; May 29, 2014, public memorial service held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Winston-Salem; June 7, 2014, private memorial service held at Wait Chapel, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, with speeches by her son Guy Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama; June 15, 2014, memorial service held at Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco, California.

NOTES

(1) Oprah Winfrey, as part of her “Introduction” in Marcia Ann Gillespie, Rosa Johnson Butler, Richard A. Long, Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration (New York: Doubleday, 2008)

(2) See Hilton Als, “SONGBIRD: Maya Angelou takes another look at herself,” The New Yorker, August 5, 2002, and Harold Bloom’s “Introduction” in Maya Angelou (Bloom’s Major Poets) (Broomall, Pennsylvania: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001).

(3) Maya Angelou, The Complete Collected Poems (New York: Random House, 1994), p. 225.

(4) Ibid., p. 74

(5) Angelou made this statement during her presentations, along with Frederick Buechner and James Carroll, at the Trinity Institute’s “God With Us” conference, January 25-27, 1990, Grace Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco, California, which was attended by the author.

(6) Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now (New York: Random House, 1993), p. 73; see also Episcopal News Service’s February 8, 1990 account of “God With Us” Conference at http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi‑bin/ENS/ENSpress_release.pl?pr_number’90042.

(7) “Savior,” in The Complete Collected Poems, p. 252.

(8) Facebook, May 20, 2013 – https://www.facebook.com/MayaAngelou/posts/10151691707054796

(9) Maya Angelou, “THERE IS STILL HOPE,” “What The Dream Means to Me,” Time, August 26-September 12, 2013, p. 99.

(10) Susan King, “MAYA ANGELOU: Of Religion and Rainbows,” The Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1992.

(11) Maya Angelou, The Inaugural Poem: On the Pulse of Morning (New York: Random House, 1993)

FOR FURTHER READING, STUDY, & REFLECTION

Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer (New York: Random House, 2006)

Maya Angelou, The Complete Collected Poems (New York: Random House, 1994)

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (New York: Random House, 1969)

Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now (New York: Random House, 1993)

Marcia Ann Gillespie, Rosa Johnson Butler, Richard A. Long Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration (New York: Doubleday, 2008)

Susan King, “MAYA ANGELOU: Of Religion and Rainbows,” The Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1992 B

Bob Minzesheimer, “Maya Angelou celebrates her 80 years of pain and joy,” USA Today, March 26, 2008.

© 2020, Robert Lee Hill

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CELEBRATING ST. PATRICK

St. Patrick 2017
(To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I’m posting a chapter from my book manuscript GREAT SOULS, GREAT PRAYERS.)

The activities, actions, and attainments associated with St. Patrick are part history, part hagiography, and, ultimately, the stuff of love, lore, and loyalty. The patron saint of Ireland and all things Irish finally has no exactly precise chronology. But what is known is that he lived and moved among the Irish people, and, as a result of his faithfulness, he has become beloved to a degree rare among those whose names are prefixed with the term “Saint.”

Valentine’s Day is loaded with chocolate and flowers but not many mentions of St. Valentinus, and Christmas is celebrated among Christians apart from a particular day associated with St. Nicholas. But St. Patrick’s Day is definitively connected to a bishop whose life has inspired not only Catholics but an array of Protestants to affix his name to their congregations.

Patrick’s fame, at first glance, may appear to consist mostly of heritage, legend and affectionate fantasy. Countless tales are told and re-told about:
* his ridding Ireland of snakes;
* his conversion of countless persons, including kings, by using a shamrock as a parable of the Holy Trinity;
* his creation of the Irish Celtic Cross;
* the transformation of himself and some companions into deer;
* his walking stick growing into a living tree.

In these stories there are sentimental and serious sources for inspiration. In other stories, there is also much to be appreciated and used for the deepening of faith. One of the premier prayers associated with the great Irish bishop is the Lorica of St. Patrick.(2)

A Lorica (meaning “armor” or “breastplate”) is a incantational prayer for protection and has been understood to have been employed in times past by soldiers before a battle, sojourners before beginning a journey, and monks under siege. Patrick’s Lorica cannot be exactly dated prior to the 8th century, but it resonates so resoundingly with everything known about Patrick that it has become definitively associated with him.(3)

The Lorica (or “Breastplate”) of St. Patrick(4)

I BIND MYSELF TO THE STRONG VIRTUE OF LOVE:
in the obedience of angels,
in the prediction of prophets,
in the preaching of the apostles,
in the faith of confessors.
I BIND MYSELF TO THE POWER OF HEAVEN:
the light of the sun,
the radiance of the moon,
the splendor of fire,
the flashing of lightning,
the swiftness of wind,
the depth of the sea,
the stability of earth,
and firmness of rocks.
I BIND MYSELF TODAY:
God’s power to guide me.
God’s might to uphold me.
God’s wisdom to teach me.
God’s eye to watch over me.
God’s ear to hear me.
God’s word to give me speech.
Christ with me and before me.
Christ behind me and within me.
Christ to the right of me.
Christ to the left of me.
Christ above me.
Christ beneath me.
Christ in the heart of everyone one who thinks of me.
Christ in the heart of everyone who speaks of me.
Christ in the eye of everyone who sees me.
Christ in the ear of everyone who hears me.
I bind myself today to the strong virtue of Christ. AMEN.

Patrick’s autobiographical “Confessio” and his “Epistle to Coroticus,” however humble they may seem by contemporary standards, are among the first examples of literary achievement in Ireland.(5) These source materials composed by Patrick tell a grand account of his supremely significant life, perhaps more impressive than the magical feats attributed to him over time. Patrick wrote his “Confessio” in his old age. In it he recounts his adventuresome and fraught-filled life journey and his efforts as a priest and bishop. In the end he intones a humble, plaintive hope: “I pray God to give me perseverance, and to vouchsafe that I bear to him faithful witness, until my passing hence, for the sake of God.”(6)

By all reliable accounts, Patrick’s humility and pious devotion to evangelizing Ireland were real and enduring. His remembrance of his own enslavement in the days of his youth made him, for the rest of his life, sensitive to the predicament of any one subjected to the denigration of bondage. His love for all people and his concern for their plight seem indisputable. His devotion to God and his trusting belief in God’s provision were constant and consistent.

And by these virtues, this second most successful early missionary of the Church (after the apostle Paul) was tremendously successful throughout Ireland – baptizing thousands, building hundreds of churches, creating seats for bishops, establishing dozens of monasteries and houses for religious orders, and founding an abiding status of belovedness in the hearts of the Irish. Most importantly, as Thomas Cahill has noted, “Patrick found a way of swimming down to the depths of the Irish psyche and warming and transforming Irish imagination – making it more humane and more noble while keeping it Irish.”(7)

PRAYING WITH ST. PATRICK:
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE

Day 1 Praying The Lorica – Strengthened by A Cloud of Witnesses –The first portion of Patrick’s famous Lorica (or “Breastplate”) invokes the powerful influences of the Christian tradition.
I BIND MYSELF TODAY TO THE STRONG VIRTUE OF LOVE:
in the obedience of angels,
in the prediction of prophets,
in the preaching of the apostles,
in the faith of confessors.
Pray a prayer of thanksgiving today for the salutatory gifts of the Christian tradition and history, particularly for the love, loyalty, obedience, prophecies, sermons, and abiding faith of those who have kept the Christian faith alive over two millennia.

Day 2 Praying The Lorica – Inspired by the Natural Realm – The second portion of Patrick’s Lorica emphasizes the spiritual inspiration that comes from the natural realm.
I BIND MYSELF TO THE POWER OF HEAVEN:
the light of the sun,
the radiance of the moon,
the splendor of fire,
the flashing of lightning,
the swiftness of wind,
the depth of the sea,
the stability of earth,
and firmness of rocks.
Pray a prayer of gratitude today for the inspiration that emanates from nature. Meditate upon the profound ways certain aspects of nature touch you and motivate you in your faith.

Day 3 Praying The Lorica – The Presence of God – The third major portion of Patrick’s Lorica pertains to God’s presence in Patrick’s life and with the ones who pray the Lorica.
I BIND MYSELF TO DAY:
God’s power to guide me.
God’s might to uphold me.
God’s wisdom to teach me.
God’s eye to watch over me.
God’s ear to hear me.
God’s word to give me speech.
Pray today with a keener sense of God’s nearness to you. Give thanks for the access to intimate communion with God that is available to all people.

Day 4 Praying The Lorica – Christ – This version of Patrick’s Lorica culminates with a focus on the figure of Christ.
Christ with me and before me.
Christ behind me and within me.
Christ to the right of me.
Christ to the left of me.
Christ above me.
Christ beneath me.
Christ in the heart of everyone one who thinks of me.
Christ in the heart of everyone who speaks of me.
Christ in the eye of everyone who sees me.
Christ in the ear of everyone who hears me.
Pray today sensing that you are surrounded by the caring, compassionate, forgiving, protecting presence of Christ, who wishes nothing but good things for you in your journey in faith.

Day 5 Legends based on Love – Recall how Patrick loved the people of Ireland with deep devotion. Remember that Patrick declared, on the closing page of his Confessio, that he “never had any cause but the Gospel and his promises forever returning to that nation from whence previously I scarcely escaped.”(8) Pray today a prayer of gratitude for the grand circle of his loving return to Ireland, for Patrick’s love of the Irish people, for the literary gift of his lovingly rendered Confessio.

Day 6 Celebrating All Things Irish – Pray today by remembering two phrases which are intoned regularly when St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated: (a) “Erin go Braugh” (an anglicizing of the Irish phrase “Éirinn go Brách” – meaning “Ireland Forever”; (b) “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day.” Have a mini-St. Patrick’s Day celebration today by giving thanks for the Irish contributions to art, literature, music, and the world’s repository of wisdom.

Day 7 Praying with Analogies –Though steeped in legend and lore, the tradition of the shamrock being an analogy for the Holy Trinity of Christian faith still has power to communicate the presence, power, and unity of God. Pray today first by considering what indigenous feature of your landscape – broad horizons, steep mountains, fertile fields, livestock, skyscrapers and concrete canyons in the city, the primrose bush outside your kitchen window – might serve as an analogy for the powerful presence of the holy in your life. Simply be open to the nuances of meaning that such an analogy can stimulate in your faith.

BIOGRAPHY TIMELINE – c. 376 CE, born Maewyn in village of Bannaven Taberniae, in Roman Britain, (or possibly in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland), son of Conchessa and Calpurnius, a deacon, and grandson of Potitus, a priest ; c. 392, along with sister Lupita, kidnaped by marauders and sold as slaves to Milcho in Dalaradia, the present county of Antrim, Ireland; works as shepherd in Ulster; turns to God, rising before daylight and praying outside, regardless of the weather; learns about Irish culture and language; receives vision that he will leave and sail on a ship, which he does; captured and kept in Tours, France for 60 days; receives vision of Victoricus giving him mission to bring Christian faith to Ireland; c. 397, returns to England and reunites with parents; c. 417, becomes priest, joining a monastery at Larins; studies under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre, France; c. 429, back in Britain, discerns a call to Ireland with the mission to convert pagans to Christianity; church officials sends St. Palladius instead; c. 431, Palladius returns from Ireland, his mission having failed(or because Palladius either dies or transfers to Scotland); c. 432, appointed by Pope Celestine as bishop of Ireland, sets out on mission to the Irish; c. 454, builds the Cathedral Church and monastery in Armagh as a center for education and administration; c. 455, writes Confessio (autobiography); c. 456, writes Epistle to Coroticus (protest against slavery); legend of driving out all snakes from Ireland is born; c. 461, retires and moves to County Down; c. March 17, 461, dies, presumably at Saul, on Strangford Lough in northeast Ireland; burial place unknown but traditionally understood to be at Downpatrick; shrine in County Down believed to possess his jawbone which can drive off the “evil eye,” help with childbirth, and cure epileptic fits; a few years after his death, Irish begin celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as religious holy day; March 17, 1737, first St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by Irish immigrants in Boston, Massachusetts as a Catholic holy day; March 17, 1756, first St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in New York City in Crown and Thistle Tavern; March 17, 1762, first St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in New York City led by Irish soldiers serving in the English military; August 15, 1858, cornerstone laid for current St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan, New York City, New York.(1)

NOTES

(1) All datings for Patrick’s life events marked with “c.”(“circa,” or “around”) are approximate. The estimations of several of St. Patrick’s achievements are best cherished as fond recollections by adoring hagiographers and not the work of historians. For a good example of the former see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm. For examples of the latter see Seán Mac Airt, “The Chronology of St. Patrick,” Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1956), p. 4 pp. 4-9; Phillip Freeman, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); Thomas O’Laughlin, Discovering St. Patrick (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2005).

(2) Patrick’s Lorica has long been connected with the Latin translation of a phrase by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:14.
(3) Courtney Davis, Saint Patrick: A Visual Celebration (London: Blandford Press, 1999), p. 31.

(4) There are numerous versions of Patrick’s Lorica, but this one has provided great encouragement and inspiration to many.

(5) See Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Rise of Medieval Europe (New York: Nan. A. Talese/Doubleday, 1995).

(6) St. Patrick (Newport John Davis White, ed. and introd.) St. Patrick, his writings and life (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920), p. 50.

(7) Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, p. 113.

(8) St. Patrick, St. Patrick, his writings and life, p. 51.

FOR FURTHER READING, STUDY, AND REFLECTION

Phillip Freeman, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004)

Seán Mac Airt, “The Chronology of St. Patrick,” Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1956), pp. 4-9.

Thomas O’Laughlin, Discovering St. Patrick (Mahwah, New Jersey:
Thomas O’Rahilly, “The Two Patricks: A Lecture on the History of Christianity in Fifth-century Ireland,” Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1942, pp. 43-44.

St. Patrick, (Ed. and intro. by Newport John Davis White) St. Patrick, his writings and life (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920)

© Robert Lee Hill, 2020

MORDECAI WYATT JOHNSON: STRATEGIC VISIONARY HOPEFULNESS


[On the 130th anniversary of the birth of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, I’m posting here an adapted chapter from my recent book ALL YOU NEED IS MORE LOVE (Caroline Street Press, 2019).]

As we anticipate the celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday later on this month, and as we recall the momentous changes wrought in the world by the civil rights movement which Dr. King so nobly led, a flood of images and icons rushes to center stage: the determination of Rosa Parks, the unvanquished spirit of Sojourner Truth, the courageous fidelity of Harriet Tubman, the stirring righteousness of Frederick Douglass, the tenacity of Ida B. Wells, the magisterial presence of Paul Robeson, the sacred audacity of Fannie Lou Hamer, the scientific mastery of George Washington Carver, the legendary revivalistic preaching of Caesar A.W. Clark, the searing prescience of W.E.B. Du Bois, the lyricism of Maya Angelou, the theological genius of Howard Thurman, and, of course, the eloquent rhetoric and life of Martin Luther King. This year I’m also remembering another figure less well known but no less significant than all the other celebrated exemplars.

In 1926, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson became the first African-American president of Howard University. Johnson would go on to invite Dr. Thurman and his wife Sue Bailey Thurman to join the faculty and then, nearly a decade later, to encourage them to go on a Pilgrimage of Friendship to India where they would be among the first four African-Americans to meet and have deep discussions with Mohandas K. Gandhi. Thurman would then bear the tenets of nonviolence to the United States, where he would convey the Mahatma’s insights to generations of adherents who would lead the civil rights struggle toward its fulfillment.

When he began, however, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson had another primary concern: raising the standards of Howard’s law school, which was then little more than a night school. Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis counseled Johnson, emphasizing that the foundation for overcoming racial discrimination was embedded in the Constitution. “What was needed,” Brandeis averred, “was for lawyers to be prepared to base their arguments before the Court precisely upon the guarantees in the document.”

Agreeing with Brandeis’ thesis and taking his counsel to heart, Mordecai Johnson secured Charles Hamilton Houston as vice-dean of the Howard University School of Law in 1929, and things got moving. An initial class of students was eventually enrolled in Howard University’s now accredited, full-time program with an intensified civil rights curriculum.

Johnson and Houston were bound and determined to train top-notch, world-class lawyers who would lead the fight against racial injustice. Among the seven graduates of Howard’s Law School in 1930 was a young man named Thurgood Marshall.

The rest, as they say, is history. Marshall would go on to lead the successful Brown v. Board of Education case that abolished legal segregation in public education in the United States. Eventually he became the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court.

Mordecai Wyatt Johnson and Charles Hamilton Houston were not the only ones to lead America toward the dismantling of institutional prejudice in the 20th century, but their unflagging strategic, visionary hopefulness contributed mightily to the transformation of American culture and the promise of American democracy for one and all.

Strategic, visionary hopefulness. This is what is required to make for greater “Racial Justice” for one and all.

— Bob Hill

(ALL YOU NEED IS MORE LOVE, Caroline Street Press, 2019)

TOP RELIGIOUS BOOKS OF 2019

Booked Up, Inc. - Larry McMurtry shop - Archer City 2015TOP RELIGIOUS BOOKS OF 2019
Compiled for airing on “Religion on the Line,” KCMO-710AM/203.7 FM, December 29, 2019 and January 6, 2020,
© 2019 and 2020, Bob Hill, Michael Zedek, & Bill Scholl

1) Scott Cairns, Anaphora: New Poems

2) Walter Fluker, ed., The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman: Volume 5: The Wider Ministry, January 1963–April 1981

3) Brian Doyle, One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder

4) Carolyn Forche, What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance

5) Deborah E. Lipstadt, Antisemitism: Here and Now

6) Paul Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation

7) Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

8) Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe

9) Jedediah Purdy, This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth

10) Jeffrey Munroe, Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher

11) Amy-Jill Levine, Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent

12) Thomas Lynch, The Depositions: New and Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be

13) Walter Brueggemann, A Glad Obedience: Why and What We Sing

14) Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others

15) Stephanie Paulsell, Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice

16) Serene Jones, Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World

17) Diana Butler Bass, Grateful: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks

18) James Atwood, Collateral Damage: Changing the Conversation about Firearms and Faith

19) Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation

20) Bill McKibben, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

21) Timothy Egan, A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith

22) C. Christopher Smith, How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church

23) Amy-Jill Levine, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Denise Turu, Who Is My Neighbor?

24) Cara Gilger, ed., 99 Prayers Your Church Needs (But Doesn’t Know It Yet): Prayers for Unpredictable & Unusual Times

25) Gary S. Selby, Pursuing an Earthy Spirituality: C. S. Lewis and Incarnational Faith

26) Grant Wacker, One Soul at a Time: The Story of Billy Graham

27) Peter Enns, How the Bible Actually Works

28) Karen Armstrong, The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts

29) Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow

30) Sarah Bessey, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God

31) Luke Powery, Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals

32) Jennifer Berry Hawes, Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness

33) Lia McIntosh, Jasmine Smothers, Rodney Thomas Smothers, Blank Slate: Write Your Own Rules for a 22nd Century Church Movement

34) Jack Miles, Religion as We Know It: An Origin Story

35) Edward L. Greenstein, Job: A New Translation

36) Jacques Servais, ed., Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises: An Anthology

37) Karen Olsson, The Weil Conjectures: On Math and the Pursuit of the Unknown

38) Ronald H. Stone, Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1960s: Christian Realism for a Secular Age

39) Danny Gordis, We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel

40) Robert W. Lee, A Sin by Any Other Name: Reckoning with Racism and the Heritage of the South

41) Derek Penwell, Outlandish: An Unlikely Messiah, a Messy Ministry, and the Call to Mobilize

42) Helen Prejean, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey

43) Geneva Blackmer, The Ecumenical and Interfaith History of Greater Kansas City

44) John Barton, A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book

45) Peter M. Wallace, Heart and Soul: The Emotions of Jesus

46) Rafael Medoff, The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust

47) Brad Lyons and Bruce Barkhauer, America’s Holy Ground: 61 Faithful Reflections on Our National Parks

48) Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn, Disciples: Who We Are and What Holds us Together

49) Blanche E. Sosland, Banishing Bullying Behavior: A Call to Action: From Early Childhood Through Senior Adulthood

50) Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe, Passionate for Justice: Ida B. Wells As Prophet for Our Time

Also Notable: Stephen Mitchell, Joseph and The Way of Forgiveness; Lenny Duncan, Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US; Jeffrey F. Keuss, Live the Questions: How Searching Shapes Our Convictions and Commitments; Thomas S. Kidd, Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis; Jen Pollock Michel, Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of “And” in an Either-Or World; Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist ; Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Let the Children Come: Reimagining Childhood from a Christian Perspective; Joan Chittister, The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage; David Zahl, Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It; Sarah Horwitz, Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life–in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There); Courtney Pace, Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall; Bari Weiss, How to Fight Anti-Semitism; Gregory Blann; Netanel Miles-Yepez, When Oceans Merge: The Contemporary Sufi and Hasidic Teachings of Pir Vilayat Khan and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; David M. Engelstad & Catherine A. Malotky, Carrying Them with Us: Living through Pregnancy or Infant Loss; Kate Bowler, The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities; William Willimon, Accidental Preacher: A Memoir