A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Mary Sumner (Mary Elizabeth Heywood ) (1828-1921). Church of England Lesser Festival and Church in Wales and other provinces of the Anglican Communion commemoration of the death of the Lancastrian founder of the Mothers’ Union, a worldwide Anglican women’s organisation, inspired by her mother’s faith and her brother’s infant death. Educated at home, Mary learned to speak three foreign languages and to sing well, completing her musical education in Rome where she met her future husband who was the son of the Bishop of Winchester and a relative of William Wilberforce. They married eighteen months after Mary’s fiancé was ordained as an Anglican cleric and he in 1851 received the living of Old Alresford, Hampshire in his father’s diocese. Sumner dedicated herself to raising their three children and helping her husband in his ministry by providing music and Bible classes. In 1876, when her eldest daughter gave birth, she was reminded of how difficult she had found the burden of motherhood and publicised a meeting of mothers in the parish to offer mutual support. Her plan was radical in its day, as it involved calling women of all social classes to support one another and to see motherhood as a profession as important as those of men, if not more so. The Bishop of Winchester made the resulting Mothers’ Union a diocesan organisation and the concept spread rapidly, by 1892 there being 60,000 members in 28 dioceses, by the turn of the century 169,000 members and now 4 million members in 83 countries. Sumner was unanimously elected president of the 1895 Mothers’ Union Central Council, a post she held into her nineties. In 1897, Queen Victoria became their patron and the Mothers’ Union set up branches throughout the British Empire, beginning in New Zealand, then in Canada and India. After rebuilding the heart of Britain after the First World War, the first Mothers’ Union Conference of Overseas Workers was in 1920. Sumner died on 11 August 1921 and is buried with her husband, who had died 12 years earlier, in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral. The inscription on their tomb reads: “I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me Blessed are the dead which died in the Lord from henceforth. Here, saith the Spirit, they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them”, (Rev 14:13). The Mary Sumner Chapel, named in her memory, is housed within the Mothers’ Union Headquarters in Tufton Street, Westminster. Image: derry.mothersunion.ie.
His Eminence St John Henry Newman Cong Orat (Cardinal Deacon of San Giorgio in Velabro) (1801-90). Church of England Feast Day commemorating the death of the English theologian born in London, a scholar and poet who became a deacon in the Church of England in 1824 and a priest the following year. An evangelical University of Oxford academic, Newman was drawn to the high church tradition of Anglicanism and became one of the more notable leaders of the Oxford Movement, an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return the Church of England to many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals from before the English Reformation and, in this, had some success. Known nationally by the mid-1830s, Newman was a literary figure whose major writings included the 1833-41 Tracts for the Times, after publishing his controversial Tract 90 in 1841 writing: “I was on my death-bed, as regards my membership with the Anglican Church.” In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers, officially left the Church of England and his Oxford teaching post and was received into the Catholic Church in 1847 and immediately ordained as a priest. Newman continued as an influential religious leader based in Birmingham and in 1879 he was created a Cardinal in recognition of his services to the cause of the Catholic Church in England. He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland (CUI) in 1854. He had left Dublin by 1859 but CUI in time evolved into University College Dublin. Cardinal Newman died in Edgbaston and was buried in the Birmingham Oratory. The Cork Examiner said that he went to his grave with a singular honour of being by all creeds and classes acknowledged as the just man made perfect. Venerated in Catholic Church, Church of England, Episcopal Church. Shrine Birmingham Oratory. He is the fifth saint of the City of London, behind Thomas Becket (born in Cheapside), Thomas More (born on Milk Street), Edmund Campion (son of a London bookseller) and Polydore Plasden (of Fleet Street). Feast Day 9 October Catholic Church, 21 February Episcopal Church. Patron of poets. Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Image:youtube.com.
Prayer To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often. Growth is the only evidence of life, so fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning. Let us be angels of peace, preachers of truth in our own places, keeping His commandments. Therefore, we will trust to Him that whatever we are we can never be thrown away. If we are in sickness, our sickness and our perplexity may serve Him. Amen
St Tiburtius and St Susanna, Virgin (d286 and c295). Commemoration of two unconnected Roman Saints beheaded within ten years of each other. Tiburtius was the only son of a converted Christian Prefect of Rome and he lay hidden in his father’s house until accused by a traitor who falsely claimed to be a Christian and who brought Tiburtius before another Prefect to be tried. Tiburtius confessed his faith, which he confirmed by a miracle when, protecting himself only by the sign of the cross, he walked over red-hot coals barefoot without suffering any injury, saying: “See and know, that the God of the Christians is the only God, whom all creatures obey. Your live coals seem to me but lovely flowers.” The judge, highly incensed, exclaimed: “I knew long since that your Christ instructed his followers in magic. I shall, however, pay no attention to it.” Tiburtius rebuked this blasphemy and was beheaded in 286 at the third milestone of the Via Lavicana at the place of the two laurel trees, thus winning the crown of martyrdom. Susanna was the noble daughter of St Gabinius and was schooled in the Christian faith from her infancy. As soon as she was old enough to understand the value of chastity, she vowed never to choose another bridegroom than Jesus Christ. The Emperor wished Susanna to marry his heir to the imperial throne and become the next Empress and the Pope asked her how she wished to act in this important affair. Susanna replied: “The Christian faith and virginal chastity possess a higher value for me than a crown. I will not become the spouse of one who is not a Christian; besides, I have promised myself to God and neither honour, riches nor any other earthly advantage shall induce me to break my vow. And what could be a greater honour to me than to obtain, instead of the crown of the empire, the glorious crown of martyrdom?” Susanna and her father were cast into a dungeon and the Emperor had Susanna cruelly scourged and then beheaded in her own house in about 295, whilst she gave thanks to God that He had thought her worthy to suffer and die for His sake. The house at the Baths of Diocletian and the adjoining one belonging to her uncle, another Roman Prefect, were near to the two laurel trees and were turned into a church dedicated to St Gaius, the Pope at that time, that by 595 was dedicated to Susanna and became the early-Ninth-Century titular church of Sancta Susanna ad Duas Domos (at the Two Houses), the first three-aisled Basilica. Venerated in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy. Since 1969, St Susanna’s veneration has been limited to the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome. Image: catholictoday.wordpress.com.