There are two resolutions concerning Holy Women, Holy Men that the SCLM has put forward:
A052 Identify Additional Church Calendar Commemorations
My anticipated vote for both of these resolutions: NO!
While I’m tempted to leave my comments on HWHM there, I should probably explain my feelings. My strong feelings against this work comes from my practice of using Lesser Feasts and Fasts (LFF) while practicing the daily office. Here are some of my issues with HWHM:
1) There are too many people on the calendar. One of the blessings of the current incarnation of our calendar (as expressed in LFF) is that there are numerous feria days on the calendar. Feria days are free days – days with no commemorations. These days are important because it serves, among other things, as a reminder to all of us that there is room for us in the calendar of saints – not that we have to be on the calendar of saints.
2) There is an apparent lack of criterion in putting someone on the calendar. It didn’t seem like we had all that many requirement to begin with, but one of them was being dead for 50 years. Resolution A052 looks to add the First Ordination of Women in The Episcopal Church. Are they talking about the Philadelphia 11? The first women ordained after the approval of General Convention? I’m not sure, the explanation fails to explain The First Ordination of Women in The Episcopal Church as it does for the other 6 additional commemorations. Besides the length of time since the person(s) to be commemorated died, it also seems that many of the folks in HWMW are there not for living particularly exemplary lives, but for being the first at something. Just because you’re the first doesn’t mean you should be commemorated. One example of this I remember from 2009 is Thurgood Marshall. My undergraduate degree is in Political Science and I focused on the courts. I enjoyed learning about Thurgood Marshall in class, but I do not want to be at a midweek Eucharist and hear my rector preaching on him. I think in the attempt to be inclusive, the SCLM lost track of standards by which to judge folks. I question why we have folks who are Jewish and (I believe) Atheists but don’t recognize John Henry Newman as a Cardinal.
3) Current commemorations are moved around. I know one colleague of mine is rather upset that the saint of his birth which has been Anskar (as Feb. 3rd is the day of his death and also the day that the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans remember him) has been move to February 4th and has been replaced on the 3rd by the Dorchester Chaplains. With Anskar moving to the 4th, Cornelius the Centurion has been moved to Feb. 7th. You get the picture.
4) The Process for which this is being carried out leaves us with an all or nothing choice. In years past when folks have been added to the calendar it has been a handful each triennium. That allows there to be time for productive conversation on each potential commemoration, without taking over the entire convention. There is no way there can be suitable conversation on the commemorations of HWHM within the restraints of the upcoming General Convention. While I’m sure there are wonderful people that the SCLM is trying to add, I’d rather not have them than take this entire lot.
Let me step back a moment and say, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to celebrate the lives of these individuals. I think it would be lovely to find a publisher to publish a book of these notable people. With a prayer for each person and some information on them. But that book shouldn’t alter the official calendar of the Church.
For further reading on this subject I strongly recommend that you check out Derek Olsen’s work over at haligweorc
Call me conservative and old fashioned but I’m happy sticking with my faithful copy of Lesser Feasts and Fast.
Peace and Blessings to you dear reader on this feria night.