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The Church Year - May

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The list shows holy days with fixed calendar dates in May.  Dates in bold red are Principal Feasts.  Those in red are FestivalsLesser Festivals are shown in green and Commemorations are shown in grey italic.

Use your mouse to click on the date for a little information on the Holy Day.  The information has been gleaned from various sources on the Internet and may not be completely accurate.

 

May 1 Philip and James, Apostles

Apostles

May 2 Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Teacher of the Faith, 373

Bishop of Alexandria; Confessor and Doctor of the Church; born c. 296; died 2 May, 373. Athanasius was the greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation that the Church has ever known and in his lifetime earned the characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy", by which he has been distinguished every since.

May 4 English Saints and Martyrs of the Reformation Era

Those who were martyred during the time of the Reformation.

May 8 Julian, Spiritual Writer, c.1417

Julian was an Anchoress. It is fairly certain that she was not a nun. An anchoress was a person called to a solitary life, but one that was not cut-off from the world, but one anchored in it. Her life was one of prayer and contemplation, a life highly thought of by people of the time. Her home was a small room, or cell, attached to the Church of S. Julian, Bishop of Le Mans, just off one of the main streets of Norwich. She probably took her name Julian from the Saint of the Church. There was a `Rule of Life` associated with this order drawn up in the 13th century, which stated that the cell should have 3 windows that opened; one into the Church, so she could hear Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament; one to communicate with her servant, who would have lived close at hand; one to give advice to those who sought it.

May 14 Matthias the Apostle

Apostle

May 16 Caroline Chisholm, Social Reformer, 1877

Caroline Chisholm was born in England. She arrived in Australia in 1838 and set up a home for other women who had come to live there. She worked to improve life on the ships bringing people to Australia to start a new life and started a loans plan to bring poor children and families to Australia. She arranged free trips so that the families of convicts who were transported to Australia could come to join them. She also believed poor people should be able to buy farms cheaply. Caroline Chisholm's work has been remembered in several ways. Her face has appeared on stamps and on a bank note. She was given a medal of the Order of Australia in 1994.

May 19 Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Restorer of Monastic Life, 988

Born of a noble family at Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury, Dunstan was educated by Irish monks and was sent to the court of King Athelstan. He became a Benedictine monk about 934 and was ordained by St. Alphege, Bishop of Winchester, about 939. After a time as a hermit at Glastonbury, Dunstan was recalled to the royal court by King Edmund, who appointed him abbot of Glastonbury Abbey in 943. He became advisor to King Edred on his accession to the throne when Edmund was murdered, and began a far-reaching reform of all the monasteries in Edred's realm. When Edwy succeeded his uncle Edred as king in 955, he became Dunstan's bitter enemy for the Abbot's strong censure of his scandalous lifestyle. Edwy confiscated his property and banished him from his kingdom. Dunstan went to Ghent in Flanders but soon returned when a rebellion replaced Edwy with his brother Edgar, who appointed Dunstan Bishop of Worcester and London in 957. When Edwy died in 959, the civil strife ended and the country was reunited under Edgar, who appointed Dunstan Archbishop of Canterbury. The king and archbishop then planned a thorough reform of Church and state. With St. Ethelwold and St. Oswald Dunstan restored ecclesiastical discipline, rebuilt many of the monasteries destroyed by the Danish invaders, replaced inept secular priests with monks, and enforced the widespread reforms they put into effect.

May 20 Alcuin, Deacon, Abbot of Tours, 804

Alcuin of York was born into a high ranking family who lived near the East Coast of England. He was sent to York where he became a pupil at York cathedral school, Archbishop Ecgberht's School. After being a pupil at Archbishop Ecgberht's School, Alcuin remained there as a teacher, becoming headmaster of the school in 778. During his time as a teacher in York Alcuin built up a fine library, one of the best in Europe, and made the school one of the most important centres of learning in Europe. In 781 Alcuin accepted an invitation from Charlemagne to go to Aachen to a meeting of the leading scholars of the time. Following this meeting, he was appointed head of Charlemagne's Palace School at Aachen and there he developed the Carolingian minuscule, a clear script which has become the basis of the way the letters of the present Roman alphabet are written. Before leaving Aachen, Alcuin was responsible for the most precious of Carolingian codices, now called the Golden Gospels. These were a series of illuminated masterpieces written largely in gold, often on purple coloured vellum.

May 21 Helena, Protector of the Holy Places, 330

The mother of Constantine the Great, born about the middle of the third century, possibly in Drepanum (later known as Helenopolis) on the Nicomedian Gulf; died about 330. She was of humble parentage, nevertheless, she became the lawful wife of Constantius Chlorus. Her first and only son, Constantine, was born in Naissus in Upper Moesia, in the year 274. Her princely munificence was such that, according to Eusebius, she assisted not only individuals but entire communities.

May 24 John and Charles Wesley, Evangelists, Hymn Writers, 1791 and 1788

The Wesley brothers, born in 1703 and 1707, were leaders of the evangelical revival in the Church of England in the eighteenth century. They both attended Oxford University, and there they gathered a few friends with whom they undertook a strict adherence to the worship and discipline of the Book of Common Prayer, from which strict observance they received the nickname, "Methodists." Having been ordained, they went to the American colony of Georgia in 1735, John as a missionary and Charles as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. They found the experience disheartening, and returned home within a few years. There, three days apart, they underwent a conversion experience. John, present with a group of Moravians who were reading Martin Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, received a strong emotional awareness of the love of Christ displayed in freely forgiving his sins and granting him eternal life. . Following this experience, John and Charles, with others, set about to stir up in others a like awareness of and response to the saving love of God. Of the two, John was the more powerful preacher, and averaged 8000 miles of travel a year, mostly on horseback.

May 25 The Venerable Bede, Monk at Jarrow, Scholar, Historian, 735

Bede was born at Tyne, in County Durham, and was taken as a child of seven to the monastery of Wearmouth. Shortly afterwards he was moved to become one of the first members of the monastic community at Jarrow. Here, he was ordained a deacon when he was 19 and a priest when he was 30; and here he spent the rest of his life. He never travelled outside of this area but yet, became one of the most learned men of Europe. The scholarship and culture of Italy had been brought to Britain where it was transported to Jarrow. Here it was combined with the simpler traditions, devotions and evangelism of the Celtic church. In this setting Bede learned the love of scholarship, personal devotion and discipline . He mastered Latin, Greek and Hebrew and had a good knowledge of the classical scholars and early church fathers. Bede's writings cover a broad spectrum including natural history, poetry, Biblical translation and exposition of the scriptures. His earliest Biblical commentary was probably that on the book of the Revelation. He is credited with writing three known Latin hymns. He is remembered chiefly for his "Ecclesiastical History of the English People." This five volume work records events in Britain from the raids by Julius Caesar in 55-54 BC to the arrival of the first missionary from Rome, Saint Augustine in 597. Bede's writings are considered the best summary of this period of history ever prepared. Some have called it "the finest historical work of the early Middle Ages."

May 25 Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, 709

English churchman and scholar. He was abbot of Malmesbury (from 675) and became the first bishop of Sherborne (705). A distinguished student of the classics whose own Latin prose style was widely imitated, he was also a skilled musician and wrote hymns, popular songs, and ballads for the people. He founded several monasteries and built several churches; the one still standing at Bradford-on-Avon is considered a fine example of Saxon architecture. His name also occurs as Ealdhelm.

May 26 Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, 605

Born in Rome he became a monk and abbot of Saint Andrew's abbey in Rome. Sent by Pope Gregory the Great with 40 brother monks, including Saint Lawrence of Canterbury to evangelise the British Isles in 597. Before he reached the islands, terrifying tales of the Celts sent him back to Rome in fear, but Gregory told him he had no choice, and so he returned. He established and spread the faith throughout England; one of his earliest converts was King AEthelberht who brought 10,000 of his people into the Church. Ordained a bishop in Gaul (modern France) by the archbishop of Arles, Bishop of Canterbury, First Archbishop of Canterbury. Helped re-establish contact between the Celtic and Latin churches, though he could not establish his desired uniformity of liturgy and practices between them. Worked with Saint Justus of Canterbury. Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury are still referred to as occupying the Chair of Augustine.

May 26 John Calvin, Reformer, 1564

Born to an upper middle class family in France, John Calvin emerged as one of the most important figures of the Reformation. Having studied for the priesthood at Paris in his youth, Calvin turned his attentions to civil and canon law in Orleans when his father became disaffected with the clergy. Calvin showed an early predilection for theology and for the study of Greek and Hebrew. Exposed to the ideas of Luther while he was still in Paris, Calvin's writing indicate that he had definitely moved into the Protestant camp by 1533. On November 1 of that year, he delivered a speech in which he attacked the established church and called for reforms. Calvin's ideas, rather than bringing about the reforms he sought, elicited a wave of anti-Protestant sentiment that forced him to flee for his own safety. During the next few years, he sought refuge in various cities, most notably Basel, Switzerland. It was also during this period that he began work on his Institution de la Religion Chrétienne, the voluminous work that would consume a good deal of his energy for the next three decades. During Calvin's flight, he happened to pass a night in Geneva with a man named Farel. He attempted to persuade Calvin to remain in Geneva working in support of the Protestant cause there. Reluctantly, Calvin agreed. In 1541, pro-Protestant forces gained control of the city. For the remainder of his life, Calvin stood as the dominant figure in a Geneva that became a point of refuge for persecuted Protestants from all over Europe. Despite Calvin's work in Geneva, his chief claim to an enduring legacy is found in his theology, which has been greatly influential in many Protestant denominations. The primary tenets of Calvinism include a belief in the primacy of the scripture as an authority for doctrinal decisions, a belief in predestination, a belief in salvation wholly accomplished by grace with no influence from works, and a rejection of the episcopacy.

May 26 Philip Neri, Founder of the Oratorians, spiritual Guide, 1595

Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, was born in Florence, Italy, in 1515. He was the elder son of Francis Neri and Lucretia Soldi. Of amiable disposition throughout his youth, the young boy soon became known as Philip the Good. In his early youth, he studied philosophy and theology. Together with fourteen companions, he established the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity for looking after pilgrims and convalescents. Its members met for Communion, prayer and other spiritual exercises in the Church of San Salvatore, and Philip himself introduced the idea of having exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at least once a month. At these devotions, Philip preached, though a layman. In the year 1550 he transferred this Confraternity to the Church of the Holy Trinity, and erected a new hospital. In 1551 he was ordained a priest at the age of thirty-six. As a newly ordained priest, Philip continued his spiritual conferences to ever-increasing numbers. This small group soon became known as Oratorians, because at certain hours each day, they would gather the people together for prayer and meditation. Thus laid the foundation of a new religious society. Although he did not have a strong constitution and was frequently attacked by fever, Philip lived to be eighty years of age. In the year 1595, he was struck by an unusual violent fever and was confined to his bed for the month of April. He died shortly after midnight on May 26th, 1595. Philip was recognized as one of the best scholars of his age. He was noted also for his kindness and simplicity and was much sought after as a confessor. His sense of humour is of legendary fame.

May 28 Lanfranc, Prior of Le Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, Scholar, 1089

Italian churchman and theologian, archbishop of Canterbury (1070–89), b. Pavia. At first educated in civil law, he turned to theology and became a pupil of Berengar of Tours. After teaching in Avranches, Normandy, he went to Bec (c.1040), where he founded an illustrious school and became prior (c.1043). Among his pupils were St. Anselm and perhaps Pope Alexander II. In 1049, Berengar impugned Lanfranc’s orthodoxy, and Lanfranc, successfully clearing himself, attacked Berengar in turn. Some 10 years later Lanfranc wrote the treatise De Corpore et Sanguine Domine [concerning the Body and Blood of the Lord], which, though ineffective as a rebuttal of Berengar’s writings on the Eucharist, set forth ideas that became influential in the Middle Ages. He was closely associated with Duke William of Normandy.In 1070, William replaced Stigand as archbishop with Lanfranc, who accepted only on the direct command of the pope. Thereafter king and archbishop worked closely together in matters of both church and state. Lanfranc replaced English abbots and bishops with Normans, reduced the archbishop of York to subjection to Canterbury, legislated against clerical marriage and concubinage, built churches, reformed ecclesiastical finance, established ecclesiastical courts, strengthened the monasteries, and removed the bishoprics from small towns to important cities. Occasional friction between church and state caused no quarrels until the reign of William II. Lanfranc had favored young William, and crowned him, but the archbishop was deeply displeased by the king’s arbitrary actions, and trouble was averted only by Lanfranc’s death.

May 30 Josephine Butler, Social Reformer, 1906

Josephine Butler was born to John Grey and Hannah Annett in Millfield Hill, Northumberland. Her father's cousin was Earl Grey, British Prime Minister between 1830 and 1834. Like her father she held strong moral principles and a dislike for injustice .After her marriage to George Butler in 1852 and the birth of four children in five years, she moved from Oxford to Cheltenham and raised her profile by expressing unpopular views about the American Civil War. It was in 1863, after the tragic death of her only daughter aged six, she gave herself to tireless campaigning on behalf of prostitutes. Her writing, promoting social reform for women as well as education and equality, was widely distributed and funded by herself. She crusaded against state regulation of prostitution, white slave traffic and against the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s which stipulated that women living in seaports and military towns could be examined for venereal disease. Her most famous publication Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade was written towards the end of her life in 1896. Other pamphlets and books include: The Education and Employment of Women (1868); Women's Work and Women's Culture (1869); and Recollections of George Butler (1892) in memory of her husband. She also pressured the authorities at Cambridge into providing further education courses for women, which eventually led to the foundation of the all-women college at Newnham, and was appointed president to the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women in 1867 In her fight against child prostitution she eventually saw to it that the age of consent to sex was raised from 13 to 16.

May 30 Joan of Arc, Visionary, 1431

Joan lived in the early 1400's in the village of Domrémy.. One day she was out tending her father's sheep when she heard "a worthy voice", and saw "a great light that came in the name of the voice." "Great things are expected of you", the voice said. "You must leave your native village and go to aid your king." The closest thing to a king in France at that time was the Dauphin, who, having been proclaimed a bastard by his own mother, sat weak-limbed at Chinon while French and English soldiers, international mercenaries, and free-ranging criminals fought over the territory of France. So Joan cut her hair "short and round in the fashion of young men", went to her uncle, Robert de Baudricourt, and persuaded him to provide her an escort to Chinon. He gave her a horse and a dagger slender enough for her maiden's hand, along with a tunic and trousers, boots, and a boy's black cap. He heard her six-man escort swear an oath that they would see her safely to Chinon. Twelve days later they arrived at the Dauphin's court. Joan immediately located the Dauphin "I am called Joan theMaid," she told him. "Give me soldiers and I will raise the siege of Orléans." So the Dauphin had armour made for her, and a banner with the image of Christ on a rainbow and her motto, Jhesus--Maria. Joan revealed that the sword she intended to carry lay buried at the church of St. Catherine at Fierbois; it would be recognized by the five crosses cut into its blade. And so it was. With around three thousand soldiers and some of the Dauphin's best knights, she travelled to Orléans. In the midst of battle Joan had her foot on the first rung of a scaling ladder when an arrow plunged through her shoulder, close to her neck. Her knights carried her from the field and cut the iron tip off the arrow. Joan tugged the shaft out of her flesh herself, climbed up on her horse, and rode back to victory. Joan battled her way to Reims, so that the Dauphin, trailing along behind her, could be crowned. He could not be crowned with the crown of Charlemagne, since the English had already stolen it; but the canons of the Cathedral of Reims dug up a modest substitute. His barons draped him in a blue mantle embroidered with golden fleurs-de-lis, and the archbishop anointed him. He was now Charles VII, King of France. Joan's voices told her that she would be captured by June 24. "Then let me die quickly without a long captivity", she pleaded with them. "Do not be frightened," the voices said. "Resign yourself." On May 23, 1430, Joan was at Compiègne, fighting a force of Burgundians, who were allied with the English. She was captured by a Burgundian archer, to whom she surrendered only when he assured her he was of noble birth. The Burgundians turned her over to the English, who turned her over to the Church to be tried for heresy. Joan appealed to the Pope in Avignon but it was no use. True to form, Charles VII made no attempt to save her. In spite of everything she remained loyal to her voices to the end. "Everything good that I have done, I have done at the command of my voices." She was convicted, and "relaxed" to the secular authorities for execution. On May 30, 1431, she was burned alive at the stake, with a paper cap on her head proclaiming her "Heretic, Relapsed, Apostate, Idolatress." She was about nineteen years old.

May 30 Apolo Kivebulaya, Priest, Evangelist in Central Africa, 1933

After Christianity had gained a foothold in Uganda the tribal chief of Boga, a village in western Uganda requested that missionaries be sent to his people. Two Ugandans were sent early in 1896, and they made some converts. But their firm stand against sorcery, polygamy, and drunkenness offended the chief, and he cut off their food supply, thus forcing them to leave. A young soldier, Apolo Kivebulaya, had been converted a short time earlier, and after his baptism had declared his willingness to serve as a catechist, or lay instructor, in western Uganda. He was accordingly sent to Boga late in 1896. He grew his own food, and so could not be forced out by having the market closed against him. Then a sister of the chief died in an accident for which Apolo was blamed. A mob seized him and beat him severely, and then turned him over to the British authorities for trial. He spent several months in jail awaiting trial, and was greatly discouraged. His missionary enterprise appeared to have collapsed, and the British authorities seemed to be on the side of his accusers. But in prison he had an experience of the presence of Christ, and his faith was strengthened. Eventually the charges against him were dismissed, and he returned to Boga, where his preaching and the example of his life bore fruit. Many persons were converted, including the chief who had opposed him so bitterly. In 1915 the border was altered, so that Boga, formerly in western Uganda, became part of the easternmost section of the Belgian Congo now known as Zaire. After this change, Apolo became a permanent resident of Boga, no longer making visits to Uganda. He devoted special attention to training others to take over the leadership of the community from him, so that when he died on 30 May 1933, the Boga church continued to flourish. However, it remained a small community (territory about 50 miles across) and an isolated one (its bishop was across the Great Rift, in Uganda, and contacts with him were necessarily infrequent). In 1969 Mr Theodore L Lewis, an American Foreign Service officer attached to the American Embassy in Zaire, visited Boga, beheld the strong Christian commitment of the people there, and the vigorous life of the Church (though there were fewer than a dozen ministers to care for about 25,000 members), and urged the Church to establish a bishop there and provide support and encouragement and outside contact for the Christians of the Boga region. In early 1972, with the support of the Church Mission Society in England, Boga received its first bishop, Philip Ridsdale, an English missionary who had served in Uganda and Boga. (All subsequent diocesan bishops in Zaire have been black Africans.) Today the Anglican Church in Zaire is a Province under its own archbishop, comprising six dioceses, with about 500,000 members, and is widely spread throughout the country, particularly the eastern half.

May 31 The Visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth



Alternative dates:
Matthias may be celebrated on February 24 instead of May 14
The Visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth may be celebrated on July 2 instead of May 31

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