AUGUST Calendar of Deacon Saints
(based on Ormonde Plater’s Calendar of Deacon Saints)
Felix (Catalan Feliu, Spanish Félix), deacon and martyr, with bishop Cucuphas, killed at Girona in Spanish Catalonia in 304.
Felix was said to have been born at Scillium, near Carthage in Africa Proconsularis. He was martyred at Girona after traveling with Cucuphas from Carthage to Spain as a missionary.
Nonna of Nazianzus, deacon, evangelist, and educator within her family and the church, died in 374.
Nonna was born around 290 in Cappadocia (now a part of Turkey). Her prominent Christian parents raised her in the faith. She married and converted her husband, Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder, who had been a member of the Hypsistarii, a heretical sect. She was the mother of three saints, Gregory of Nazianzus, Caesarius, and Gorgonia. She outlived her husband and two of her children.
According to one story, in 351 she fell sick with a severe illness and appeared at the point of death. Gregory was on his way to pay a visit to a friend, but he hurried to his mother, who meanwhile had begun to recover, having a vision in which Gregory had given her cakes marked with the sign of the cross and blessed by him.
Gregory praised Nonna as the model of Christian motherhood, writing: “My mother was a worthy companion for such a man [as my father], and her qualities were as great as his. She came from a pious family but was even more pious than they. Though in her body she was but a woman, in her spirit she was above all men. . . . Her mouth knew nothing but the truth, but in her modesty she was silent about those deeds which brought her glory. She was guided by the fear of God.”
Ormonde Plater (born 6 September 1933, passed away peacefully on August 6, 2016)
Richard Ormonde Plater was born on September 6, 1933, in New York City to Richard C. Plater, Jr. and Eleanore Leake. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University in 1955. He received an M.A., in 1965, and a Ph.D. in English from Tulane University in 1969. Ormonde worked as a reporter for the Knickerbocker News in Albany, NY, and The Vieux Carré Courier in New Orleans and taught at the University of New Orleans. In 1971, Ormonde was ordained a deacon at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. He devoted much of his life to the church and was a mentor to many during his time as a deacon. In 1998, he was appointed as Archdeacon by Bishop Charles Jenkins and served as director of the diaconate program, secretary of vocations, and secretary of the liturgy. Ormonde retired in 2007 but remained heavily involved in the church.
Author of Many Servants: An Introduction to Deacons
Ormonde Plater’s story
Meditations on the death of Richard Plater
Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, and Agapitus, deacons and martyrs, with their bishop Sixtus II (from Xystus in Greek), seized and beheaded at Rome during the persecution of Valerian (emperor 253-260), on 6 August 258.
Shortly before the election of Sixtus (on 31 August 257), Valerian issued his first edict of persecution, which made it binding on all Christians to participate in the Roman cult of pagan gods and forbade them to assemble in cemeteries, threatening with exile or death those who disobeyed the order. For almost a year Sixtus managed to perform his duties as bishop without being molested. In the first days of August 258, Valerian ordered all bishops, presbyters, and deacons put to death.
On 6 August bishop Sixtus gathered his people in one of the lesser-known cemeteries, of Prætextatus, on the left side of the Appian Way, nearly opposite the cemetery of St. Callistus. While seated on his chair addressing them, he was suddenly seized by a band of soldiers. He was brought before a tribunal to receive his sentence and then led back to the cemetery for execution by beheading. Four deacons, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, were apprehended with Sixtus and beheaded with him at the same cemetery. Three other deacons were seized. Felicissimus and Agapitus suffered martyrdom on the same day. Laurentius was martyred four days later [10 August].
Cyriacus, deacon and martyr, with companions, beheaded at Rome in 303.
Born of a noble family, Cyriacus became a Christian and gave his wealth to the poor. He was ordained a deacon at Rome by bishop Marcellinus. Diocletian (emperor 284-305) was assisted by Maximian (co-emperor 286-305), his favorite. Maximian decided to build a palace for the emperor, with magnificent baths, and to make the Christians work at the construction. Among the enforced workers were old men and presbyters. The labor was hard and the food scanty. A Roman nobleman desired to relieve the sufferings of these laborers and sent four Christians with alms, Cyriacus, Sisinius, Largus, and Smaragdus. They pursued their charities at the risk of their lives, and they worked alongside those who were growing weak.
When Maximian heard of it, he ordered the beheading of Sisinius and an old man he had helped. Cyriacus was well known to Diocletian, who was fond of him. Diocletian’s daughter became possessed by a demon, and she announced that only Cyriacus could deliver her. Diocletian sent for him, and he cured her. She became a Christian like her mother, Serena. A short time later the daughter of the king of Persia also became possessed, and cried out that she too could be delivered only by Cyriacus, who was in Rome. A message was sent to Diocletian, who asked his wife to persuade the deacon to go to Persia. He went with his two remaining Christian companions, and again he cast out the demon, thus bringing about the conversion of the king, his family, and four hundred persons, whom he baptized.
The three confessors returned to Rome, having refused all compensation for their services, since they had received the gifts of God freely and wished to share them freely. Maximian, hearing of their return in 303, had them seized, imprisoned, tortured, and finally beheaded with twenty other Christians. Their bodies were buried near the place of their execution on the Salarian Way. Later, on 8 August, they were removed to a farm of the devout Lady Lucina on the Ostian Road. An abbey in France, at Altorf in Alsace, possesses relics of Cyriacus and bears his name. There is more on Cyriacus at http://www.cyriac-fhp.com/csx.htm.
Lydia Elliott Hopkins, deacon, champion of the underdog, and longtime organizer who plunged into community work after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, died on 8 August 2012.
Born in Chicago on 30 Jan. 1949, she lived in New Orleans off and on since 1972. Eventually she became active at St. George’s Church. Throughout her life, according to one of her daughters, Jessica White-Sustaita, “she needed to be serving. She started getting more and more active in the church and realized that the community-organizing spirit was still in her. She wanted to be on the ground, as deacons are, feeding people and ministering to them.” She was ordained with a class of eight deacons on 23 Oct. 2005, soon after Katrina hit the city. A skilled cook and baker (who often showed up at people’s doors with a fresh loaf of bread or jar of jam), she baked the bread for her class’s ordination mass. (A loaf she had made was also used at her funeral.) In a community severely wounded by catastrophe, she was active in relief efforts. Soon after her ordination she helped create and lead the “Dragon’s Café” program at St. George’s to provide meals to migrants, indigents, and displaced persons. For several years she was diocesan coordinator for fundraising for Episcopal Relief and Development. In 2008 she was assigned to All Souls, a new congregation in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area especially hard hit. At All Souls she organized and ran food and housing programs and taught classes in creative writing and Bible studies. On 25 Oct. 1997 she married Patrick Rogan, a widower with four children. She had two daughters by a previous marriage, and together they had many grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. She was with them all, vacationing in the Florida Panhandle, when she had a heart attack and died at age 63.
Laurence of Rome (Latin Laurentius, “laurelled”), bishop’s deacon and martyr at Rome, supposedly roasted on a gridiron but probably beheaded, on 10 August 258.
Laurence or Lawrence (about 225-258) was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred under the persecution of Valerian (emperor 253-260) in 258. The Acts of Laurence were lost by the time of Augustine, one of whose sermons on St. Laurence (Sermo 302, de Sancto Laurent.) admits that his narration came from tradition instead of the Acts as was his custom. Such early legends made Laurence a native of Huesca (Roman Osca) in Hispania Tarraconensis who had received religious instruction from the bishop’s deacon Sixtus in Rome. (The term diaconus episcopi or “bishop’s deacon” was the early form of what gradually came to be called, after 370, archidiaconus or “archdeacon.”) After Sixtus was elected bishop on 31 August 257, he ordained Laurence a deacon and placed him in charge of the administration of church goods and care for the poor. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the church and is the patron of librarians.
In the persecutions under Valerian, numerous presbyters and bishops were put to death, while Christians belonging to the nobility or the senate were deprived of their goods and exiled. Sixtus II was one of the first victims, beheaded on 6 August 258. According to a legend cited by Ambrose of Milan, Laurence met Sixtus on his way to execution, and said: “Father, where are you going without your son? Holy priest, where are you hurrying without your deacon? You have never offered sacrifice without an attendant. Are you displeased with me, my father? Have you found me unworthy? Prove, then, whether you have chosen a fitting servant. To him to whom you have trusted the distribution of the Savior’s blood, to him whom you have granted fellowship in the partaking of the Sacraments, why do you refuse this person a part in your death?” [Laurence may have said simply: “Father, don’t leave me! We shared the blood of Christ. Let’s share each other’s blood.”] Sixtus answered: “I am not leaving you or forsaking you. Greater struggles yet await you. We old men have to undergo an easier fight; a more glorious triumph over the Tyrant awaits you, young man. Don’t cry; after three days you will follow me.” Modern scholars tend to read this moving encounter as a literary invention. Augustine connects Laurence with the cup of the mass: “For in that church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred cup of Christ’s blood.”
After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Laurence turn over the riches of the church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Laurence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Laurence worked swiftly to distribute as much church property to the poor as possible, to prevent its being seized by the prefect.
[According to legend, among the treasures entrusted to Laurence for safe-keeping was the cup from which Jesus and the apostles drank at the Last Supper. Laurence was able to spirit this away to Huesca in Spain, to his parents, with a letter and a supposed inventory. He entrusted the cup to a friend he knew would travel back to Spain, his home country. While the cup’s exact journey through the centuries is disputed, eventually his family sent it to a monastery. Historical records indicate that this cup has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the centuries. Today the cup is in a special chapel in the cathedral of Valencia, in the region of Laurence’s birth and early life.]
On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect. When ordered to give up the treasures of the church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led to his martyrdom. It is said that Laurence was burned on a gridiron or “grilled” to death. According to legend, at the point of death he exclaimed, “I am done on this side! Turn me over and eat.” (More likely, he was beheaded like his bishop and fellow deacons.)
By tradition, Laurence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, martyred at San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and buried in the Via Tiburtina in the Catacomb of Cyriaca by Hippolytus and Justinus, a presbyter. Constantine I is said to have built a small oratory in honor of the martyr, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the seventh century.
Damasus I (bishop of Rome 366-384) rebuilt or repaired the church now known as San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the minor basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was built over the place of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Paschal II (pope 1099-1118) in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina. One of the early sources for the martyrdom of Saint Laurence was the description by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in his Peristephanon, Hymn II.
In icons Laurence is vested as an Orthodox deacon, sometimes shown with a gridiron, sometimes holding a church building in his left hand and a censer in his right. In western art he is usually depicted wearing a dalmatic and holding a gridiron.
Euplus, bishop’s deacon of Catania in Sicily and martyr, racked and killed for having a copy of the gospels, during the persecution of Diocletian (emperor 284-305), beheaded in 304.
Always carrying the gospels with him, Euplus preached constantly to the pagans about Christ. Once, while he read and explained the gospel to the gathered crowd, the authorities arrested him and took him to the governor of Catania, Calvisianus. Euplus confessed himself a Christian and denounced the impiety of idol-worship. For this, the authorities sentenced him to torture. They threw the injured deacon into prison, where he remained in prayer for seven days. The Lord made a spring of water flow into the prison to quench his thirst.
Brought to trial a second time, strengthened, and rejoicing, he again confessed his faith in Christ and denounced the torturer for spilling the blood of innocent Christians. The judge commanded that his ears be torn off, and that he be beheaded. When they led Euplus to execution, they hung the gospels around his neck. Having asked time for prayer, Euplus began to read and explain the gospel to the people, and many of the pagans believed in Christ. The soldiers beheaded him with a sword. His relics are in the village of Vico della Batonia, near Naples.
Theodor, deacon and martyr, monk of the Monastery of the Caves near Kiev in the Ukraine, killed with monk Basil in 1088.
Theodor distributed his riches to the poor and settled into the Varangian Cave, adjoining the Caves of St. Theodosius. He lived in the monastery many years in strict temperance. When the devil aroused sorrow in him for giving away his possessions, Basil comforted him: “I implore you, brother Theodor, do not forget the reward. If you want to have possessions, take everything that is mine.” Theodor repented and dearly loved Basil, with whom he lived in the cell.
Once Basil was on an errand outside the monastery for three months. The devil, having assumed his form, appeared to Theodor and indicated that there was a treasure hidden somewhere in the cave by robbers. The monk still wanted to leave the monastery to buy possessions to live in the world. When Basil returned, the demonic illusion disappeared. In order not to be distracted by idle thoughts, Theodor set up a millstone, and by night he ground grain. Thus, by long and zealous ascetic action he freed himself from greed.
A report reached Prince Mstislav Svyatopolkovich that Theodor had found much treasure in the cave. He summoned the monk and commanded him to show him the spot where the valuables were hidden. Theodor told the prince that indeed he had once seen gold and precious vessels in the cave, but fearing temptation, he and Basil had buried the treasure, and God took from him the memory of where it was hidden. Not believing Theodor, the prince gave orders to torture him to death. The guards beat Theodor so much that his hair-shirt was wet with blood, and then they suspended him head-downwards, lighting a fire beneath him. In a drunken condition the prince commanded them to torture Basil also, and then to kill him with an arrow. Dying, Basil threw the arrow at the feet of Prince Mstislav and predicted that he himself would soon be mortally wounded by it.
The prophecy was fulfilled on 15 July 1099 during an internecine war with David Igorevich. On the wall of the Vladimir fortress, Prince Mstislav was suddenly struck in the chest by an arrow through an opening in the timbers, and on the following night he died. Recognizing his own arrow, the prince said: “I die because of the monastic martyrs Basil and Theodor.”
Radegund of Poitiers, deacon, queen, minister to the sick and poor, founder of Holy Cross abbey at Poitiers, died on 13 August 587. Radegund, with bishop Euphronius and Venantius Fortunatus, receiving the cross and a gospel book (Abbaye de Saint-Antoine in Isère, France)
Radegund (also spelled Radegunde, Radegunda, and Radegundis, and in modern French Radegonde) was born in Thuringia (an area of Germany between the Rhine and the Elbe) about 520. Her father was Berthar, one of three kings of Thuringia.
As a child she was surrounded by brutality and turbulence. When she was still small, her uncle, Hermanfrid, killed Berthar in battle over control of Thuringia. She then lived in the household of Hermanfrid. When Clothaire (also spelled Clothar, Clotaire, or Lothar), king of the Franks, conquered Thuringia in 531 (and killed most members of the royal house), he, then in his 40s, took the child Radegund and her only surviving brother as his share of the booty. Radegund was to be raised as his future wife (one of four), legitimizing his claim to Thuringia.
Radegund was reluctant to marry Clothaire, partly because of his brutal and dissolute character, but also because she didn’t care for marriage. She eventually consented to the wedding (about 540), but continued to lead an austere and devout existence, apparently without intimacy, goading Clothaire to fury. She bore him no children.
Her chaplain and first biographer, Venantius Fortunatus, reports: “Because of this [her austerity], people said that the king had yoked himself to a nun rather than a queen. Her goodness provoked him to harsh irritation, but she either soothed him to the best of her ability or bore her husband’s brawling modestly.” She used the revenues of the lands she was granted at her wedding to found hospices and do other charitable work on behalf of the poor. One such hospice, dedicated to Saint Radegund, still exists at Athies in Pas-de-Calais.
After Radegund had lived for ten years at Clothaire’s court, Clothaire murdered her brother since, as the last surviving male member of the Thuringian royal family, he was a threat to Clothaire’s rule over Thuringia. When she learned of her brother’s murder, Radegund fled from Clothaire’s court (about 550) and took sanctuary in the church at Noyon, where she persuaded Medard, bishop of Noyon, to overcome his initial reluctance and ordain her a deacon. She then managed to escape from her husband’s territory, fleeing first to her estate at Saix and then to Poitiers. Clothaire made several attempts to reclaim his wife, but she now had the power of the church behind her. In 560, fearing another attempt to recapture her, she sent a letter to Germanus, bishop of Paris, asking him to exert his influence with her husband. Eventually Clothaire capitulated, sending Germanus to Poitiers to ask the queen’s pardon, which she readily granted. Clothaire died in 561, releasing Radegund from any further claims.
During these years of exile Radegund founded the Convent of Our Lady of Poitiers, at the city walls (about 552). This convent was completed by 560, with the help of Clothaire and the revenues of the lands granted to her at her wedding. When she had established the new convent, Radegund sent a letter of foundation to the bishops of the Poitiers area.
In this document, which was later transcribed by Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks, Radegund laid down the organization of the convent. It was to abide by the Rule of Caesaria of Arles; Agnes (a close friend of Radegund since her childhood at Athies) was to be the mother superior; and it had been founded with the complete approval of the prelates in the area of Poitiers, as well as of the heirs of Clothaire. The most notable aspect of the Caesarian Rule was its rigid requirement that, once cloistered, a nun was never, under any circumstances, to leave the convent. It further required that the cloistered sisters be able to read and write, and that they devote several hours of the day to reading the scriptures and copying manuscripts, as well as to such traditionally female tasks as weaving and needlework. The community of nuns numbered about two hundred, many of them being, like the founder, of high social rank. A community of monks, abiding by a similar rule, was also instituted at the same time.
The courtier and poet Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) was an early visitor to the Poitiers convent, and he became a close friend of Radegund and her mother superior, Agnes. The two poems attributed to Radegund are published with Fortunatus’ works; although some scholars believe that he had written the poems in her voice and others believe that they are Radegund’s alone, the consensus is that they are collaborations between the two writers. Both poems, De excidio Thoringiae and Ad Artachis, are presented as letters to Radegund’s surviving relatives, describing the loss of her family and homeland and the isolation she had known all of her life.
Radegund soon began to petition the Byzantine emperor for relics from the Holy Land to sanctify her convent. The first petition she sent was for a relic of the Cappadocian martyr, St. Mamas of Caesarea. The Patriarch of Jerusalem eventually authorized the transfer of the little finger of the saint’s right hand from Jerusalem to Poitiers. The second petition was for a fragment of the cross on which Christ was crucified. In response, the emperor sent not only a large piece of wood from the cross, but also some gospel books studded with gold and gems.
Euphronius, bishop of Tours, deposited these relics in the convent in the year 569. (Radegund and Euphronius are depicted in icons receiving the cross and a gospel book.) Venantius Fortunatus wrote two poems in honor of the cross, the hymns Vexilla Regis prodeunt and Pange lingua gloriosa. Following the acquisition of these relics, Radegund had the convent renamed the Abbey of the Holy Cross, and it became the destination of pilgrimages.
In her last years, Radegund shut herself off from the daily life of the abbey and lived in a walled- up cell, where she devoted her hours to prayer and meditation. She died on 13 August 587. Her funeral three days later was conducted by her friend Gregory of Tours, with Venantius Fortunatus present. Since the nuns were forbidden, by the Caesarian Rule, ever to set foot outside the abbey, they stood on its walls, wailing, as Radegund’s body passed beneath them.
According to Gregory of Tours, Radegund, worried about what might happen to her abbey after her death, wrote (perhaps in the mid-560s) a letter to the bishops of her area asking (or demanding) that they and their successors prevent anyone from disturbing the nuns, changing the rule, or alienating the abbey’s property. One may question whether the two verse epistles are in fact Radegund’s; with the prose letter there seems little question—the voice is definitely that of a strong queen.
After Radegund’s death, the abbey fell into decay, due partly to the refusal of Maroveus, bishop of Poitiers, to perform his ecclesiastical duty to supervise it. Eventually a revolt by some of the nuns led to the convening of a council of bishops to investigate the allegations made by the nuns. Many of these were found to be without merit, but Maroveus was ordered to attend to the spiritual needs of the abbey. (See Edmond-René Labande, ed., Histoire de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix de Poitiers: Quatorze siècles de vie monastique, Poitiers: Societé des Antiquaires de l’Ouest, 1986.)
Sometime after Radegund’s death (perhaps after he became bishop of Poitiers in 590), Fortunatus wrote a courtier-like vita. Later, the nuns chose one of their own, Baudonivia, to complement his work. Baudonivia’s memoir of Radegund, written between 600 and 602, has the full hagiographic set of miracles, but it also shows the founder as only her fellow nuns could have seen her—dealing with her husband’s quarreling sons and with recalcitrant bishops, acting as a spiritual guide to the women around her, and living the kind of religious life that Baudonivia could only hope would be continued in the future. In the ninth century, both Radegund and her abbess, Agnes, were canonized as saints.
Titus, deacon and martyr, put to death by a soldier during the sack of Rome by the Visigoths, while distributing alms to the poor, in 410.
Boniface, deacon and martyr, with companion monks in North Africa, killed by Arians in 483.
The other martyrs were: abbot Liberatus, subdeacons Servus and Rusticus, monks Rogatus and Septimus, and Maximus, a child educated in the monastery. All were martyred under the Arian Huneric (king of the Vandals 477-484).
James the Deacon, Italian monk who accompanied Paulinus on his mission to Northumbria, died late seventh century.
James accompanied Paulinus of York on his mission to the court of King Edwin of Deira in 625 with Edwin’s bride Æthelburh, sister of King Eadbald of Kent. After the death of Edwin in battle at Hatfield against Penda of Mercia and Caedwalla in 632, Paulinus fled to Kent, leaving James in Northumbria, as “the one heroic figure in the Roman mission” (Sir Frank Stenton, Anglo- Saxon England, Oxford University Press, 1971).
In his famous work Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731), Bede writes that James lived in a village near Catterick, which “bears his name to this day.” (Catterick village in North Yorkshire lies on an old Roman road and was home to a small Roman fortification.) He reports that James undertook missionary work in the area and lived to a great age. James was present at the Synod of Whitby in Bede’s account of events there. Bede tells us that after this, and the return of Roman customs, James, as a trained singing master in the Roman and Kentish style, taught many people plainsong or Gregorian chant in the Roman manner. It has been suggested that James was Bede’s informant for the life of Edwin, the works of Paulinus, and perhaps the Synod of Whitby, which would place his death some years after the birth of Bede in about 672.
Rev. Deacon Val Aumann (6th October 1937; died 18 August 2021)
Val trained as a Deaconess in Victoria, Australia, through the Presbyterian Church. She trained as a kindergarten teacher, and taught widely. She was actively involved with the planning and activism for the renewed Diaconate in the Uniting Church in Australia (inaugurated in 1977 with the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches). She was recognized as a Deacon in 1992 at the Inaugural Service at Wesley Church, along with the first UCA Deacons. She was an active leader among the Retired Deaconesses.
Geert Groote (also Gerrit or Gerhard Groet, in Latin Gerardus Magnus), deacon, preacher, monastic founder, and victim of the plague in 1384.
Geert Groote was born in 1340 in Deventer in the diocese of Utrecht, where his father held a good civic position. He studied at Aachen and then went to the University of Paris when only fifteen. There he studied scholastic philosophy and theology at the Sorbonne under a pupil of William of Occam, from whom he imbibed the nominalist metaphysical view in philosophy. (Nominalists argued that general ideas are mere names without any corresponding reality and that only particular objects exist. The opposite concept was known as realism, derived from Plato’s view that universals and abstract objects do exist.) He also studied canon law, medicine, astronomy, and even magic, and apparently some Hebrew. After a brilliant course he graduated in 1358. He pursued his studies still further in Cologne. In 1366 he visited the papal court at Avignon. About this time he was appointed to a canonry in Utrecht and to another in Aachen, and the life of the brilliant young scholar was rapidly becoming luxurious, secular, and selfish, when a great spiritual change passed over him which resulted in renunciation of worldly enjoyments.
This conversion, in 1374, appears to have been due partly to the effects of a dangerous illness and partly to the influence of Henry de Calcar, the learned and pious prior of the Carthusian monastery at Munnikhuizen near Arnhem, who had remonstrated with him on the vanity of his life. About 1376 Geert retired to this monastery and spent three years in meditation, prayer, and study, without, however, becoming a Carthusian. In 1379, having received ordination as a deacon, he became a missionary preacher throughout the diocese of Utrecht.
The success of his labors not only in the town of Utrecht, but also in Zwolle, Deventer, Kampen, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Gouda, Leiden, Delft, Zutphen, and elsewhere, was immense. According to Thomas à Kempis, the people left their business and their meals to hear his sermons, so that the churches could not hold the crowds that flocked together wherever he came. The bishop of Utrecht supported him warmly and got him to preach against concubinage in the presence of the clergy assembled in synod.
He directed censures not only against the prevailing sins of the laity, but also against heresy, simony, avarice, and impurity among the secular and regular clergy. This preaching provoked the hostility of the clergy, who brought accusations of heterodoxy against him. In vain Geert issued a Publica Protestatio, in which he declared that Jesus was the great subject of his discourses, that in all of them he believed himself to be in harmony with Catholic doctrine, and that he willingly subjected them to the candid judgment of the Catholic Church. The bishop was induced to issue an edict which prohibited from preaching all who were not in priest’s orders, and an appeal to Urban VI was without effect. The date of this prohibition is uncertain; either it was only a few months before Geert’s death, or it must have been removed by the bishop, for Geert seems to have preached in public in the last year of his life.
Perhaps in 1381, perhaps earlier, he paid a visit of several days to the famous mystic John Ruysbroeck, prior of the Augustinian canons at Groenendaal near Brussels. At this visit Geert became attracted to the rule and life of the Augustinian canons. Near the end of his life some of the clerics attached to him asked him to form them into a religious order, and Geert resolved that they should be canons regular of St. Augustine. Although he lost no time in beginning this project, Geert died before a foundation could be made. In 1387 however, a site was secured at Windesheim, some 20 miles north of Deventer, and here was established the monastery that became the cradle of the Windesheim congregation of canons regular, embracing in time nearly one hundred houses and leading the way in the series of reforms undertaken during the fifteenth century by all the religious orders in Germany. The initiation of this movement was the great achievement of Geert’s life; he lived to preside over the birth and first days of the Brethren of the Common Life. He died of the plague at Deventer in 1384, at age 44.
Archelaus, deacon and martyr, with bishop Quiriacus of Ostia, presbyter Maximus, and others, martyred at Ostia (harbor city of ancient Rome) during the reign of Claudius Gothicus (268-270).
The Acts of the Martyrs at Ostia on the Tiber tell the story of a girl of royal descent named Chryse in Greek and Aurea in Latin, or Goldie. Under the orders of Claudius, she and the other martyrs were persecuted and killed by the vicarius urbis (city governor) named Ulpius Romulus.
First the men were killed. The Acts record:
“Then Romulus said: ‘These men should die.’ And he ordered that Quiriacus the bishop, the holy Maximus the presbyter, Archelaus the deacon, and all the soldiers be beheaded near the arch [of Caracalla] in front of the theatre. He ordered that their bodies be thrown into the sea. The blessed Eusebius collected the bodies, hiding them near the seashore, in the fields, and burying them near Rome in the necropolis of the Via Ostiensis. He secretly buried Taurinus and Herculanus in Portus Romae. He put the blessed Theodorus the tribune to rest in his own mausoleum, and collected all the others, and put them to rest near the bodies of the holy Quiriacus the bishop and Maximus the presbyter.”
Five days later Chryse was tortured and thrown into the sea to drown. Her body was washed ashore, and on 24 August it was buried on her estate outside Ostia.
[From the Latin translation of an ancient Greek manuscript in the Vatican, published by Simone de Magistris in 1795. There is also an ancient Latin version of the same story, with slight differences, in Acta Sanctorum, Augustus IV, 757 ff.]
Nemesius, deacon and martyr, with his daughter Lucilla, beheaded at Rome in 257.
Stephen, bishop of Rome in 253-257, suffered martyrdom during the reign of Valerian (253- 259). Stephen zealously contended against the heresy of Novatus, which taught that it is not proper to receive back those returning from heresy.
While hiding during a persecution against Christians, Stephen baptized many pagans. These included the military tribune Nemesius, who converted to Christ and was ordained deacon after Stephen healed his daughter, Lucilla. Nemesius was beheaded along with Lucilla.
The tribune Olympius brought their steward Symphronius into the temple of Mars for torture. Stephen’s prayer shattered the golden idol, after which the tribune with his wife Exuperia and his son Theodolus believed and were baptized. They were all burned alive, and their remains were buried by bishop Stephen. Then thirteen of his presbyters were beheaded: Bonus, Faustus, Maurus, Primitivus, Calumniosus, John, Exuperantus, Cyril, Theodore, Basil, Castelus, Honoratus, and Tertullinus, all converted by Stephen. Finally, Stephen himself was led before Valerian, who condemned him to beheading with a sword in the temple of Mars. By the prayers of Stephen, a large part of the pagan temple was destroyed, and the soldiers fled. Stephen concealed himself in the catacombs, where he was later killed by soldiers while he was teaching Christians.
Margaret Hardy, Navajo deacon, died 27 August 2001.
Margaret was born 28 October 1931 and ordained deacon 10 June 2000. She died a little more than a year later.
Anna R. Armstrong, deaconess at St. Clement’s in New York City, died 29 August 1960.
Anna was born on 31 January 1873 and was set apart as deaconess in 1908 by Bishop David H. Greer of New York, after graduation from the Training School at Grace Church. Anna spent the majority of her diaconal life in the diocese of New York. From 1909 until 1917 she served various churches in the Bronx including St. Martha’s and St. James in Fordham. After a brief tenure at St. Peter’s Church in Westchester, Anna settled into an eleven-year term at St. Clement’s Church located in Manhattan’s notorious Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. While serving at St. Clement’s, Anna, who had a theatrical background, produced many plays and pageants. Due to failing health, Anna retired from active parish service in 1940 and became co-supervisor of St. Clare’s Home in Upper Red Hook, New York. She later retired to St. Anne’s Guest House and Convent in Kingston, where she died at the age of 87 on 29 August 1960. Her funeral was held at Christ Church, Red Hook. She is buried in the churchyard of St. John the Evangelist in Barrytown, along with several other deaconesses. [research of Deacon Geri Swanson]
David Pendleton Oakerhater, deacon, former war chief, and missionary to the Cheyenne in Oklahoma, died on 31 August 1931.
Oakerhater (Okuhhatuh, or Making Medicine) was born between 1844 and 1851 on a Cheyenne reservation in western Oklahoma. He grew up to become a war chief of the Southern Cheyenne. In April 1875 he and twenty-seven other warriors were taken prisoner by the U. S. Army. They were marched to a military post and, without trial, were eventually taken by train to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida (originally Castillo de San Marcos, now a national monument).
The commander of Fort Marion, Lieutenant Richard H. Pratt, taught the prisoners English and educated them. Seeing that Oakerhater was a natural leader, he placed him at the head of the Indian self-discipline force. He also encouraged the younger Indians to earn some money giving lessons in art and archery to visitors. Using pencils, watercolors, and military ledger books, and drawing in a style adapted from traditional symbol or pictographic drawings on tepees, rocks, hides, and wood, the Indians recorded life on the plains and recent events at the fort. These “ledger drawings” are found today in private collections and museums across the country. Oakerhater’s drawings bear the name “Making Medicine,” a translation of his Cheyenne name.
As a result of Pratt’s kindness, Oakerhater and some others converted to Christianity. In February 1877, at a gathering of the prisoners, Making Medicine spoke for the young men. In a letter sent to Washington, Pratt recorded the speech, as translated into English:
“I have learned to sing the saviors hymns and have given myself to him. Heretofore I have led a bad life on the plains, wandering around living in a house made of skins. I have now learned something of the Great Spirits road and want to learn more. We have lived in this old place for two years. It is old and we are young. [W]e are tired to it. We want to go away from it, anywhere. We want Washington to give us our wives and children, our fathers and mothers and sent us somewhere, where we can settle down and live like white men. Washington has lots of good ground laying around loose, give us some of it and let us learn to make things grow. We want to farm the ground. We want a house and pigs and chickens and cows. We feel happy that we have learned so much, that we can teach our children. I speak for the young men. We want to work. We young men all belong to you. You have put a great deal into our hearts that was never there before. Our hearts are getting bigger every day. We are thankful for what we have learned. This is the feeling of all the young men that are here. We are willing to learn and want to work.”
In 1878 four prisoners decided to study for the ordained ministry. Deaconess Mary D. Burnham, of the House of the Good Shepherd in Syracuse, New York, raised the needed funds. Mrs. Alice Key Pendleton of Cincinnati (daughter of Francis Scott Key and wife of U. S. Senator George Hunt Pendleton of Ohio) paid Oakerhater’s tuition for three years. Sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, the four traveled north. They lived and studied in the home of the Rev. and Mrs. John B. Wicks of Paris Hill, New York. When Oakerhater was baptized in Grace Episcopal Church, Syracuse, on 6 October 1878, by Bishop Frederic Huntington, he took the name David Pendleton Oakerhater, in honor of the Bible warrior and the woman who paid his way. A few days later he was confirmed. His wife Nomee (Thunder Woman) joined him but died in childbirth in July 1880.
Oakerhater was ordained a deacon on 7 June 1881, and he and Wicks immediately set out for Cheyenne country. They established the Episcopal mission at the Darlington Indian Agency on 16 June 1881. On his first Sunday after returning to Oklahoma, Oakerhater gathered his people and told them, as translated into English:
“Men, you all know me. You remember me when I led you out to war I went first and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all he tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace, and where we have only victory.”
A few days later he conducted the first Christian burial service ever known among the Cheyenne. Later that summer Cheyenne agent John Miles, writing about the returned Fort Marion prisoners, said that Oakerhater was preaching in his native tongue, and no better example of Christian manhood was to be found. Wicks and Oakerhater taught and conducted services regularly in Indian camps, tents, or the agency school building.
On 4 January 1883, Oakerhater wrote to Pratt, now a captain:
“MY DEAR CAPT. PRATT, Your good letter come to me when I was received your kind letter and made me great delighted to hear that great many Indian children go study very hard and learn the white man way and want to know how read God Bible and write a letters. I know that great many white people very kind to us and show us that he is the Son of God is way I have been sitting and thinking about that is very good for us Christian civil people come up everywhere Indian country and teach to us and pray for us great deal and tell us that only one god in heaven and pray to him that great Father up heaven I think afterward all Indian tribes understand God is way and love him and pray great deal I know that my poor heathen people making medicine dances that makes great trouble I want you to tell Washington Indian medicine dance cut. I think I know all good white people they want better way that he is way the Son of God and also you want the same way and so you best to help Indian children and show Bible read and thank you My Dear Capt. Pratt God knows you and grant help you in your work I know before that made me sergeant what you say to me I will try hard to right you know how it is I love you I hope sometime to see you and shake hand with you. Oh! how much I glad see you since my return all the time think very often my kind friend at the East also Mr. Wicks want poor heathen medicine cut and want new better way that is all from your loving friend. DAVID PENDLETON.”
Oakerhater’s second wife, Susie, died on 5 February 1890. When the Missionary District of Oklahoma and Indian Territory was created, and Francis Key Brooke was sent in 1893 as its first bishop, he noted that “Oakerhater remained the only ordained representative of the Episcopal Church in Indian Territory.” Wicks had returned to New York due to illness in 1884. The Rev. David Sanford, who spoke Cheyenne, joined Oakerhater in 1894 to serve the camps at Darlington and Bridgeport. With funds that Bishop Brooke solicited in the East, a chapel was erected at Bridgeport where Sanford had his home.
In 1897 a government day school with fifteen pupils opened on Chief Whirlwind’s allotment southeast of Fay. Oakerhater ministered to these children and to their families camped nearby. When Oakerhater and Minnie White-Buffalo were married about 1898, their home was the church facility.
When the government day school closed in 1901, the building was given to Whirlwind’s widow, who gave it to the Episcopal Church in 1904. The agency allowed a mission day school to be established “for the care of those unhealthy children who are debarred from government schools.” The agency often accused Sanford of falsely certifying that a child was physically unable to attend boarding school and needed to be at Whirlwind. Sanford enrolled as many children as possible at Whirlwind regardless of physical condition in order to save their lives, as many children were dying in the boarding schools because of the excessive steam heated buildings.
In 1916 the government pressed the Episcopal Church to close Whirlwind School. The next year the mission was closed and sold, an irreparable loss to the religious life of the Cheyenne. Oakerhater was retired on a small pension after thirty-six years as a deacon. In retirement he continued to counsel, preach, bury, baptize, and prepare his people for confirmation. He was never ordained to the priesthood and therefore never celebrated Holy Communion with his flock.
Oakerhater worked hard to bring the peace of Christ to his people. He operated the Whirlwind Mission and school at Watonga, Oklahoma, at great personal cost, overcoming the apathy of churches and the opposition of the government. Guided by his great captain, he never gave up. The Cheyenne respected Oakerhater’s faith and nicknamed him “God’s Warrior.”
Oakerhater died on 31 August 1931 and was buried in the small Indian cemetery at Watonga. In 1985 General Convention voted to add him to the calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church, with feast day of September 1. Biography, photos, and letters are available through Oklahoma State University at http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Oakerhater/index.html. Another site with letters and other documents is http://home.epix.net/~landis/oakerhater.html.