Church and Research

Yesterday was All Saints’ Day, November 1. As many know, Halloween is actually All Hallows (Saints) Evening (hallow ‘een). All Saints’ Day is a day to honor all saints, past, present and future. For those who want to know more about the secular and religious background to All Hallows Eve and All Hallows Day, check out All Hallow’s Eve.

This morning’s sermon talked about all of us being saints in our own ways. We all do good things and don’t require any special veneration or feast day or approval by any church to be saints. He told more about one of the hymns we sang for the day, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God“, written by Lesbia Scott in 1929 to teach her children about the saints celebrated by the church, and to let them know that we’re surrounded by saints every day. Lesbia Scott was the wife of an Anglican priest and was active in local amateur and church theatrics. You can follow the links to learn more about the holiday, the hymn, or her.

The lyrics are in the link to the hymn. Although written in England, it doesn’t appear in the hymnal used by the Anglican Church in the UK, but does appear in the one we use, The Hymnal (1982) of the Episcopal Church in the USA. It is also now in United Methodist and Presbyterian hymnals in the USA, as well as the one used by the US military. Of course all hymnals have more songs than you’ll ever get to know, so even if you attend those churches, you may not know it.

Hearing the name of the author, “Lesbia” got me thinking about that name. I new the name from my study, some 40 years ago, of Greek and Roman literature, but couldn’t place it. I remembered the Isle of Lesbos, Greece, in the Aegean Sea, and that it was the home of the classical Greek poet, Sappho, who wrote poems of love to other women. This led to the term “Sapphic love” and in more modern times as “Lesbian love”. In addition, the name Lesbia was used in later times by the Roman poet Catullus to refer to his lover. After reading several web articles it all came back to me, both the name Lesbia and how it tied to the Isle of Lesbos. A little further research showed several contemporary women with the first name “Lesbia”, all apparently of Latin American heritage.

We have all sorts of interesting names being given to children these days. If you were a heterosexual couple, or a lesbian couple, would you name your daughter Lesbia? My daughter Lucinda has an “old fashioned name”, and is named after a woman who was born about thirty years before Lesbia Scott. But both 40 years ago when Cinda was born, and now, I seriously doubt I’d name a daughter Lesbia. Would you?

Today’s preacher, the Very Rev. Steve Brehe, also talked about his favorite saint, Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky. Although “St. Sam” is not an official “saint” of the church, Steve talked of his saint’s perseverance when, with advanced Parkinson’s, he typed with his one working finger, the entire Bible, which he had translated, into a Chinese dialect, making the scriptures available to millions of people. I can’t imagine that level of dedication, faith, and perseverance, but I try.

All of this probably shows you how my mind works, always asking questions, always wanting answers, even when there aren’t any. I can do my research in a traditional library, and did for years, but Google, Wikipedia, and other sources surely make it quicker and easier today. And I hope to keep asking questions, and in these ways and others, helping others with their faith and their lives.

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