John the Baptist, the prophet and forerunner of Jesus, was the son of elderly parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and was related to Jesus on his mother’s side. His birth is celebrated six months before Christmas Day, because, according to Luke, Elizabeth became pregnant six months before the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.
Although John figures prominently in all four Gospel accounts, only Luke tells us of his birth. Zechariah, a priest of the Temple at Jerusalem was struck speechless because he doubted a vision foretelling John’s birth. When his speech was restored, Zechariah uttered a canticle of praise, the Benedictus, which is sung at Lauds.
If theology is thinking about faith and arranging those thoughts in some systematic order, then Irenaeus has been righty recognized by both Catholics and Protestants as the first great systematic theologian. He was a third generation Christian, having been discipled by Polycarp who was discipled by John. He in turn took Christianity to Lyon in southern France.
Iraneaus’s enduring fame rests mainly on his large treatise, entitled Against Heresies. Here Irenaeus describes the major Gnostic systems thoroughly, clearly, and often with biting humor. This defense of Christianity has become a classic.
Peter and Paul, the two greatest leaders of the early church, are commemorated separately; Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Messiah, and Paul on January 25 for his dramatic conversion. They are commemorated together on June 29 in observance of the tradition of the church that they both died as martyrs in Rome during the persecution under Nero in AD 64.
Benedict is considered to be the father of western monasticism. Living during the fifth and sixth centuries, Benedict founded a monastery at Monte Cassino in southern Italy, which was to become the mother house for Benedictines in the centuries that followed. (Benedictine monasticism was one of the great stabilizing forces in preserving Western civilization during the dark ages.) Benedict’s greater legacy, however, was his practical and moderate Rule which still guides Benedictine houses today.
If you wish to attain to true knowledge of the Scriptures, hasten to acquire first an unshakeable humility of heart. That alone will lead you, not to the knowledge that puffs up, but to that which enlightens, by the perfecting of love.
COLLECT FOR THE FEAST OF ST. JAMES
Almighty ever-living God,
who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles
by the blood of Saint James,
grant, we pray,
that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith
and constantly sustained by his protection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
“Here we have the story of Bartholomew and the other apostles, to assure us that we need not give up our usual manner of life in order to serve God. The most humble station in life is the means of maturing the highest Christian character, even that of an apostle. Bartholomew read the scriptures and prayed to God; and thus was trained at length to give up his life for Christ, when he demanded it.” –John Henry Newman