March / April 2016
Keeping the Faith
BY CHARITY BISHOP
enny Lee stares in horror. One bed, two nightstands… for a brother and sister. She makes a snap judgment. But looking to Sister Julienne for similar condemnation, the nun’s answer shocks her—who are they to judge? The siblings have only ever had each other, in a life full of terrible abuse. Sister Julienne loves them regardless… and goes on to not condemn one of the pair for committing suicide after the other’s death. It devastates her, that anyone could make that choice, but she refuses to stand in judgment. Like all the other characters and nuns on Call the Midwife, Sister Julienne is no saint, and is not always right—but she and her sisters are one of the more Christ -like representations of what true Christianity is like on television. Furthermore, the show tackles
controversial topics with grace, sensitivity, and intellectualism, showcasing the poverty, abuse, and poor living conditions of 1950’s London, including rigid “ideas” of morality, by showing the consequences of choices. It is never preachy, but hits us with difficult, thought-provoking moral issues and questions, without easy answers. Early seasons unfortunately do not fully explore the nuances of the memoir on which it is based in terms of Jenny Lee’s journey from agnosticism to faith, but all of them depict a Christian ethical approach forced to deal with real life hardships. It explores the social and moral dynamics of the period, through a variety of opinions and backgrounds. While all the seasons have truly powerful episodes, the most
recent one hit emotions, hearts, and issues each week—raising moral debates on the pill, mercy killings, abortion, gay rights, and victim-blaming. Never content to linger on one side of an issue, it presents situations to encourage us toward emotional investment, forcing us to confront prejudice or preconceptions along the way. Two episodes, however, stand out in my memory—in one, Sister Julienne witnesses the birth of a severely deformed child in the local hospital, who is then left by the nurse to die as a “mercy.” It is limbless, and they cannot even tell its sex—sending her into a state of emotional turmoil. She invites Sister Monica Joan to tell her what to do—tell a hurtful truth to the infant’s mother, or lie to lessen the pain. The truth is the child was neglected, cold, and abandoned before Julienne found it—the lie is that it did not suffer, and died quickly. In the other, an unwed mother’s pregnancy is hidden by her mother from society, and she nearly dies as a result. Her fear of social judgment led the mother to be “cruel.” She had to learn to love, in spite of society’s shaming of her daughter. This plays out against a slew of attacks against women in
IN THIS ISSUE:
Poplar—first, a prostitute is brutalized, then a woman with a pram, and finally, one of the women of Nonnatus House— a beloved character is left to deal with the emotional aftermath. The show does not use rape, but parallels it. She enters a crisis of faith—she was brutally attacked when she felt closest to God, but it was not “Him at my shoulder.” She had stopped to pray, to “thank Him for Trixie’s skill,” to “lift my voice in song with my sisters.” Her anguish echoes every person ever assaulted. Here, there is no contrived response, no easy fix, no Sunday School answer; she reaches a conclusion on her own that her strength is a gift from God and it is her moral responsibility to “speak, where others must remain silent.” No one will blame her—because she has nothing to hide, and prejudice stands against the others. They will victimblame the rest, but not her. First, she rejects everyone’s attempts to comfort her. She rebukes Sister Julienne for inviting her to pray. She will let no one touch her. She shouts that she does not want people to speak “gently to me, because I am angry.” Her assault hits the audience hard, because we love her; she was innocent. She was not dressed “wrong,” or in an unsafe area; she had
every right to be out on her own. Even Sister Julienne’s initial victimblaming statement (“What were you thinking cycling alone?”) falls silent, when she sees what has happened. It explores what happens, why victims feel ashamed, the wrong done to them, and how society reacts (why were you out alone / in that area / wearing that?), but never in a preachy or judgmental way. Other ethical arguments come into play in subsequent episodes—Sister Julienne is concerned “the pill” will invite more rampant premarital sex, while the series also explores the terrible consequences of those choosing to have unprotected premarital sex, through botched abortions, young people forced into marriages they do not want, nearsuicides, and women forced out of the workforce due to “shaming.” Life confronts believers with hard questions with no easy answers; there is never a single solution to any problem. Call the Midwife understands that… and hints at how much better the world would be if Christians were as Christ-like as the sisters of Nonnatus. ♥
Call the Midwife Page 2 Joan of Arc Page 4 Saintly Queens Page 6 Moses Page 8 One Night With the King Page 10 Augustine Page 12 Lydia, Seller of Purple Page 14 Perpetua Page 16 Thomas Aquinas Page 18 Risen Page 20 Medieval Gods Page 22 Authors Page 22 © Charity’s Place 2016 No copyright infringement intended. All written content is original; it may not be reproduced without consent. Disclaimer: the opinions of the individual writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Charity’s Place or Femnista; the stories and entertainment mentioned are not always appropriate viewing for all ages. Visit charitysplace.com for future issues, information, movie reviews, and more.
sk anyone to name a saint and many will reply with the name of one of the most famous women in history: Joan of Arc. Her story—the events of her life and her road to sainthood—is made even more remarkable by how women were without freedoms during the time in which she lived. Perhaps the fact that she is a pioneer among her gender is part of the reason why Joan is a legendary historical
figure, but there is much more. Her age is worthy of note—she was a teenager when she died. Joan’s youth belies her strength and the level of her faith. Joan's life begins in Domremy, France on about January 6, 1412. Her parents were peasants. She was born in the middle of the Hundred Year's War, a dispute between France and England over the inheritance of the French throne. This was a time of
sporadic battles. When Joan was born, Charles the Duphin was heir to the throne. England had taken advantage of internal divisions in France and won much northern territory. Charles' mother had signed the Treaty of Troyes, which granted succession of the French throne to Henry V and his heirs in 1420. At thirteen, Joan experienced her first vision. The Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine told her
BY RACHEL SEXTON
to drive the English out of France and to take the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. The English began a siege of the French town of Orleans in 1428. Around this time, Joan began to act on her spiritual visions. After some trying, she convinced the garrison commander of Vaucouleurs to grant her permission to visit the royal court at Chinon with an escort. She impressed the Dauphin and was allowed to travel with the army to Orleans to lift the siege. They arrived on April 29, 1429. A series of armed confrontations followed. Joan participated (and was once wounded). The English withdrew from Orleans on May 8th. This victory cemented public support for Joan. She had no trouble convincing French leaders to advance toward Reims as her visions told her; they did so, adding up victories along the way throughout June, including Patay and Beauregency. They reached Reims on July 16th. Charles VII was crowned the next day. Joan went through nearly a year without battle due to a truce but it was broken by the English and in May of 1430, she participated in a skirmish near Compiegne and was captured. Joan made several escape attempts and was moved more than once during her imprisonment. Her trial for heresy began on January 9, 1431. The ecclesiastical court was led by Bishop Cauchon. The
proceedings were unfair against Joan from beginning to end. She was accused of, among other things, witchcraft and crossdressing, which she had done for her own protection. She was chained to bed while imprisoned but still insisted on the divinity of her visions until she suffered so much she recanted them. This
didn't last long, however, and she resumed her faith. She was convicted and was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431, at nineteen years old. After the Hundred Years War ended with Charles VII retaining his throne, a retrial began and the unjust earlier court case was corrected with an innocent verdict for Joan on July 7, 1456. This meant Joan's visions were recognized as divine. Later, she was beatified in 1909 and finally named a Saint of the Catholic
Church by Pope Benedict XV on May 16, 1920. She is one of the patron saints of France. Of course, such a legendary life will have a strong lure for the filmmakers of movies and television. There have been numerous versions of Joan onscreen. The most critically adored is one of the earliest: The Passion of Joan of Arc. This is a 1928 silent French film directed by Carl Dreyer and starring Maria Falconetti as Joan. It uses the trial transcript as its basis and is famous for its use of emotive close-ups. In 1999, there was an abundance of Joan, as there was a big-screen version directed by Luc Besson and starring Milla Jovovich called The Messenger and a major CBS miniseries starring Leelee Sobieski. The first is an actioncentric project; the other aims at more realism. Neither was as well-received as Dreyer's film. (I also enjoy her small role in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure!) Joan of Arc was extremely young when executed but the strength of her faith and her character sustained her legend throughout the centuries. She is certainly not the only female saint or only female martyr, but the recognition of her even into the present day is a direct result of those things. When we think of her, we see a woman in shining armor. She did something that had never been done before, and died for what she believed in. â™Ľ 5
BY SCARLETT GRANT
his article covers the lives of three pious Queens whose dedication to their people and faith would eventually make them so revered that they would become saints of their respective Christian sects. Emma of Hawaii (1836-1885)
was baptized in the Anglican Church. As Queen Dowager, Emma traveled to campaign and raise funds for the building of an Anglican cathedral—St. Andrew’s was finally built in 1867. She also championed education, founding the Saint Andrew’s Priory School for Girls and ‘Iolani School.
Fostered by her childless aunt and uncle under Hawaiian tradition, Emma was raised in an English mansion in Honolulu. When she turned twenty, she became engaged to the King of Hawaii, Kamehameha IV. However, at the engagement party, a Hawaiian accused Emma of not being a suitable bride for the King, as she had European ancestry. Emma broke down in tears. Kamehameha was furious, nonetheless they married and had a son, Albert, two years later.
After the death of King Lunalilo, Emma decided to run in the election for the new monarch against Kalakaua. While Emma was beloved by the people, the Legislative Assembly who actually elected the monarch chose Kalakaua. After this defeat, Queen Emma retired from public life and died at forty-nine years old in 1885. Both Emma and Kamehameha are honored with a feast day on 28th November within the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church.
Whilst Queen, Emma was heavily engaged in humanitarian work. One project was establishing a hospital to treat Hawaiians, vulnerable to foreign diseases such as smallpox. Queen’s Hospital was established in 1859. Emma visited patients almost daily; it still stands today but is now called Queen’s Medical Center. Sadly, in 1862 her son Albert died and only a year later the King also passed away.
Jadwiga of Poland
In between these deaths, Emma
(1373/4 - 1399)
Jadwiga became ruler of Poland at nine years old; despite being female, her title was actually “King of Poland.” It is believed this was to either stop any future husbands from taking the title or stressed that she was a monarch in her own right. According to Polish legends, Jadwiga agreed to marry the Pagan Grand Duke of Lithuania after succumbing to divine inspiration during her
long prayers under a crucifix. As part of the marriage treaty, the Grand Duke converted to Christianity. Jadwiga truly cared about her people. She prayed to the Virgin Mary to protect Poland. Many believe she married the Grand Duke instead of her beloved William of Habsburg as a sacrifice for her country. Jadwiga was known for huge charitable donations. She built hospitals, schools and churches, in addition to restoring previous ones. In her will, she requested her jewelry be sold off and the proceeds go to the University of Krakow. She was highly intelligent and a skilled diplomat; she mediated tensions throughout the region. Sadly, Jadwiga’s life was cut short. After giving birth to her first child, Elizabeth Bonifacia, she never recovered. Jadwiga died shortly after her own baby daughter at the age of twentyfive. Due to her popularity and piety, Jadwiga was venerated in Poland shortly after her death. Multiple miracles have been told about Jadwiga, which were used to justify her sainthood. One story is that when a young boy drowned, Jadwiga took off her cloak and threw it over his body. The boy came back to life. Pope John Paul II canonized Jadwiga in 1997.
Ketevan the Martyr (1560-1624)
Ketevan was Queen of Kakheti (located in Eastern Georgia). When her husband died only one year into his reign, Ketevan immersed herself in religious building and charity work. But when her brother-in-law killed his father and brother in a bid to usurp the throne, Ketevan rallied the nobles against him and defeated him in battle. She was known for showing her enemies mercy; she ordered wounded enemy soldiers should be treated accordingly and compensated merchants who lost trade as a result of the conflict. Ketevan was an able diplomat, able to negotiate with the Shah of Iran to install her son, Teimuraz, as the King of Kakheti, with herself as regent.
Church. Her story was immortalized by her son in his poem; The Book and Passion of Queen Ketevan (1625). Ketevan is such an important figure for the Georgian people that in recent years there was a hunt for the rest of her remains. In 2013, it is believed they were discovered at the St. Augustine Church, in Goa, India. â™Ľ
When sent by her son as a negotiator to the Shah, Ketevan surrendered herself as a hostage to prevent an Iranian invasion of Kakheti. She was held by the Shah for several years. In an act of revenge against Teimuraz, he ordered her to renounce Christianity. It is believed the Shah intended to marry Ketevan if she converted; Ketevan refused and was tortured to death with red-hot pincers. Several of her relics were taken back to Georgia with the aid of missionary witness to her martyrdom; shortly after she was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox 7
BY CAROL STARKEY
ften when a child is spared from something horrific, Christians are quick to say how God has great plans for him. This may or may not be true; I believe sometimes children are spared from terrible things just because Godâ€™s grace saved them. Whether or not they go on to do great things is not determined by being saved from a burning building or cancer. One child, though, who was spared did go on to do great things: Moses. Pharaoh, concerned over the number of Israelite slaves, had decreed that all baby boys would be killed at birth. But at least one mother, Jochebed, decided to keep her baby. When he became too old to conceal any longer, she built a tiny basket and sent his sister, Miriam, to place him in the river in hopes that someone would see him and save him. That day, the princess went to bathe and found the baby, then decided to keep and raise him as her own. Miriam popped up, asking if the princess would need a nurse for the baby. Jochebed was able to
keep her own baby for his first few years, then took him to the palace. Moses’s mother obeyed God, and He rewarded her for it. As an adult, Moses did many mighty things. He spoke to God in a burning bush; he and his brother Aaron confronted Pharaoh, cursed the land with ten plagues when the king wouldn’t let God’s people go, and led the Israelites from Egypt; he parted the Red Sea so the Israelites walked across on dry ground, then brought the waters together, killing Pharaoh and his army; and he brought down the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. Through all this, he remained humble. When commanded by
God to lead his people from Egypt, he protested, insisting he wasn’t a good speaker. After killing an Egyptian in anger, he repented and spent years in Midian, growing in his faith. He pled for the Israelites over and over again, asking God to spare them, reminding God of His promises toward His people. Moses, like all men, sinned. He killed an Egyptian in anger, he argued with his siblings (and even with God), and he smote the rock instead of speaking to it. This last sin caused him to miss out on entering the Promised Land. God took Moses to the top of Mount Nebo; there he died. What I love the most about Moses is not the amazing things
he did, but that he was a normal person. He loved, had a temper, and he wasn’t always confident. Yet God used him. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, more than anyone else in the Old Testament. He didn’t view himself as a good speaker, yet he stood up to Pharaoh. He also pleaded on many occasions for God to spare the Israelites. Though Moses was the servant of God, he was considered God’s friend, as well. God communed with him on Mount Sinai, He listened to Moses’ prayers, and He was there at the end of Moses’ life. Though Moses thought little of himself, his humble spirit and love for God shined through. ♥
BY RACHEL KOVACINY
he first time I saw One Night with the King (2006), I spent an enjoyably splenetic evening ranting about all the ways the filmmakers messed up the story. I lumped it with other recent Hollywood depictions of Biblical events that strayed from the characterizations and events described in the Bible in an effort to "improve" them, to make them more exciting, more interesting.
Then I read the book of Esther for the first time in many years, and John F. Brug's commentary* on Esther. From them, I learned many of the things I'd assumed were modern embellishments are actually part of the Biblical account. Others came from the Greek historian Herodutus and other historical texts about the Persian Empire. Now, I am impressed by how little the filmmakers "improved" on the story. This is not to say they didn't change a few things, but overall, this is one of the more faithful-to-the-text "Bible movies" I have seen. One Night with the King tells the story of Esther (Tiffany Dupont), a beautiful young Jewish woman orphaned as a child, raised by her uncle Mordecai (John RhysDavies), who eventually became queen of Persia. Once queen, she uses her influence to save her fellow Jews from being killed by a genocidal maniac.
For the most part, the story follows the scriptural narrative— Queen Vashti refuses to appear at a drunken revelry to show off her beauty for her husband and his advisors. Concerned that this act of disobedience will inspire other wives to similar actions, the advisors encourage King Xerxes (Luke Goss) to decree that she is no longer queen, and he will choose a new wife from among the kingdom’s virgins. Esther is rounded up with the rest, and sent to the palace. Mordecai encourages her to hide her Jewish heritage, and go by her Persian name (Esther instead of Hadassah). There is an antiSemitic fanatic, Haman (James Callis) running around stirring up trouble for the Israelites, and Mordecai cannot protect her inside the palace. The story deviates from the Biblical account only in inventing creative filler to explain some of the plot twists in scripture— including an assassination plot against the king, which Mordecai foils. This Esther loves to read; this interests the man in charge of caring for and beautifying all these possible new queens, Hegai (Tommy "Tiny" Lister). The Biblical account says Esther caught the attention of Hegai and gained his favor, so he helped her figure out what the king would like best. Here, Hegai selects Esther to read to Xerxes when he's having trouble sleeping.
They have a non-sexual first encounter, which makes her much more interesting and memorable to him than the other girls who are in his presence for one night and one purpose only. (Though they're not overt about it, they do make clear that the way Xerxes is choosing his new queen is to sleep with each virgin, intending to choose the one who pleases him the most.) The Greek historian Herodotus characterized Xerxes as "a rash, impetuous man with a roving eye […] easily swayed by feminine beauty" (Brug, p. 80). This is precisely how he comes across in the movie. He desires Esther and is interested in the story of Jacob and Rachel, which she tells him the first time they meet. He decides he's madly in love with her and she needs to be the next queen. Later, he jumps to the conclusion that she's cheating on him and all but banishes her. He’s moody and unpredictable. While the Bible makes no mention of any relationship problems between Xerxes and Esther, this ups the tension, since pretty soon Haman has his plan in place to kill all the Jews. Mordecai sends word to Esther that she needs to get the king to stop this or she'll die as well. So now Esther has to go before a moody, unpredictable, jealous, angry king and hope he allows her to approach him instead of
sending her to her doom. Since anyone who's read even a children's version of the Bible story knows how this ends, this creates additional tension.
learned my lesson not to spout off about a film's inaccuracies before being sure I've studied up on what it's meant to be portraying first. â™Ľ
They change the ending a bit, to make it more exciting, I assume. Instead of throwing two banquets and inviting Xerxes and Haman, Esther throws only one banquet, and tells the king right away that Haman is trying to kill her and her people. And the ending bothers me the most about this, because they'd so built up Esther's unrequested appearance before Xerxes that everything after it feels like a letdown. It was a brave thing to do, since in the Persian Empire, coming into the king's presence uninvited meant certain death unless he signaled with his scepter that he would accept you, but having her would-be killer there at a feast and accusing him in his own hearing is also a gutsy thing to do, and it just felt a bit flat to me.
*Brug, John F. The People's Bible: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, WI. 1985.
Still, One Night with the King manages to bring people from the Bible to life and present their story in an understandable, attention-holding way. And I've 11
ometimes a story is told of a Christian mother yearning for her son to come to Christ. The young man is enraptured by many worldly pleasures. He is ambitious and full of prideâ€”but his intellectual brilliance seems to justify his pride, and promise worldly success. Who could challenge such a man, or convince him of error? Additionally, he is easily led astray by his peers, enamored of a
mistress, and intrigued by the strange philosophies of a religious cult. The mother prays on zealously for her only son. After years of tears and prayers, her son, Augustine, becomes a believer. He will become one of the great fathers of the early church. What if Augustine had not lived and wandered lost, only to be sought by God and gloriously saved? Would the Christian church be anything like we know it today? His contributions were tremendous. Augustine served as Bishop of Hippo, in a time when all knew the costs of serving in such an office were great, and the rewards few. In this role, he stemmed the tide of major heresies in the early churchâ€” including the false religion he was previously involved in. And he wrote. Most famously, he wrote The Confessions, and City of God, but the volume of his work was enormous.
BY VICTORIA WILLIAMS Even his volume of retractions— as he carefully reviewed his writings late in life, seeking to divide truth from error—was large. His writings shaped the expectations of the Christian worldview in ways we can hardly imagine. Writing to friends—fellow sojourners whose hearts yearned upward to God—Augustine put forward an autobiography, The Confessions. Writing in his early 40's, he re-assessed all his past history in light of the designs and purposes of God upon his life. He remembered his life as a desperate man seeking to fulfill his desires. "For," as Augustine himself wrote, "wherever the soul of man turns itself, unless toward Thee, it is enmeshed in sorrows, even though it is surrounded by beautiful things outside Thee and outside itself."  Looking back, he saw the hand of a kind and patient Father at work through it all, drawing his heart to God's. The otherworldliness of his book is just as shocking today as it was then; this is a book lit up by a dazzling glow from beyond this world. Above all, he is dialoguing with God ("O God, my Joy"). It is delight; it is worship—from stirring meditations on a great scale, to asking a question with childlike curiosity—and then asking the Lord, "Do You laugh at me for asking such things?"  Not only Augustine's worldview shakes our assumptions—but the world he lived in does as well.
When we speak of "servant leadership" today, we still expect most leaders to be ambitious. We do not think of priests who wish to flee from people who would make them bishop. A man of education and ecclesiastical training such as Augustine's would be pressed into the office of Bishop. With tears, though, he lamented the loss so of much time he yearned to spend quietly meditating on God's Word, on the beauty of God's person. But Augustine accepted the life of a servant-shepherd, and worked tirelessly. The ecclesiastical world he lived in was jarring in some ways that challenge us. The wider culture had ungodly assumptions embedded in its beliefs as well. Although Augustine's mother Monica was a Christian, the culture's usual assumptions still bore a heavy influence on her. She sought that Augustine would be well-taught but later he lamented the immorality taught in the classic works Greek literature he had read as a child. Even in spite of worldliness and her own failings, the desire for her son to be in the kingdom of God was bursting through. Augustine recalled a dream his mother had in which she was asked about the cause of her weeping. When she explained that she was grieving the doom of her son's soul, she was told to rest content, and to "look and see that where she was there her son was also." And, in the dream,
there he was. When she recounted it to her son, he tried to turn it around, saying that she would come to be where he was— that is, to believe as he did. But with conviction, she responded immediately: "No; for it was not told me that ‘where he is, there you shall be’ but ‘where you are, there he will be."  This conversation—both because she was not disturbed by the plausibility of his false interpretation—and due to the insight she had which he had not noticed—moved him even more than the recounting of the dream. And Monica prayed on. We know how this story ends: with life and peace for Augustine and enormous blessing for God's people. May we be influenced by Augustine's writings, and the glorious story of his salvation. When we see a mother struggling hopelessly to win her child to Christ, maybe God is making her heart like Monica's. When we think of someone of great intellect, who has set himself against God, perhaps God is preparing someone like Augustine. Believers need more imagination —to hope and pray for the good things that the good God gives to those He calls to goodness. ♥ Sources:  "The Confessions," Book 4, Chapter X. Augustine;  "The Confessions," Book 1, Chapter VI. Augustine;  "The Confessions," Book 3, Chapter XI. Augustine 13
BY VERONICA LEIGH
of those listening was a O newoman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.
Mentioned only one place in the Bible, it is a little challenging to piece together the story of Lydia. However brief her appearance, history has not forgotten her. Living in approximately 50 A.D., she was from Thyatira in Asia Minor; the meaning of her name reflects her heritage “the Lydian woman.” Some scholars speculate that Lydia was not even her personal name, but a description. On the other hand, Lydia was a common name in the ancient gentile world. When Paul and Silas encounter her, she is living in Philippi, and seems to be running a successful business. Lydia is a seller of purple cloth, which happens to be another clue to her origins— the waters of Thyatira acclimated to dyes well and the city was known for them. It is not known if Lydia was involved in the dying process or if she merely operated the business side of things. Either way, she was ambitious. It is speculated that Lydia was a woman of independent means,
not common in first century A.D. Unless, of course, the woman was divorced; or a widow in charge of her deceased husband’s affairs. This would explain why those living in “her household” were considered hers, rather than her husband’s, brother’s or father’s. Therefore, in a time when women were not valued, Lydia was the head of the house. According to the Book of Acts, Lydia was already a worshipper of God. The people of Thyatira primarily worshiped the Greek god Apollo under the name Tyrinnus. However, there was a Jewish element based in the city, but perhaps not large enough to form a synagogue. How or where this gentile woman came to know the Lord, through Judaism, the Bible does not specify. She and a few other women are gathered by the riverside, worshipping and praying when Paul and Silas approach them. It is unusual for two men to approach a group of women. Yet in the family of Christ, male and female are equal. On hearing their message, she accepts Jesus into her heart and becomes a Christian. She and her household are immediately baptized; maybe in the river where she met the missionaries. This is the first recorded account of a European convert to Christianity as well as the first European baptism. Lydia then addresses Paul and Silas, “If you consider me a
believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” Through her perseverance, she was able to persuade the missionaries to stay at her house. Can you imagine the conversations they had, the questions she and her family asked, the stories that were told? It would have been a memory that lasted a lifetime. Lydia and her family could say they met Paul of Tarsus and that he and Silas had taught them personally about their Lord. The two verses in Acts are the first and last mentions of Lydia. Her narrative officially ends there. What became of her, we will never really know. In the Book of Revelations, there is a church based in the city of Thyatira. According to the Bible and other Christian witnesses, Paul never visited Thyatira. While there is no evidence to indicate that Lydia ever returned her city of origins, it is not out of the realm of possibility. As an independent woman of means, she could have easily traveled back to Thyatira to spread the Gospel and founded a church. Today Lydia, seller of Purple is revered as a saint. An independent woman and an entrepreneur, a convert to Judaism, and now a saint… but in her heart of hearts, she is daughter of the one true God. ♥
BY JAIME LILA DONOVAN
hat does it mean to be a Christian besides getting saved? Jesus warned people to “count the cost” (Luke 14:33) of following him. What did he really mean? Many of us live in first world countries, with first world problems. When we speak of martyrs, it is usually done in a disparaging way, describing someone pretending to play a victim to receive sympathy. It's difficult for many of us to understand what a true martyr is. Exploring the life of Vibia Perpetua (c. 182-March 7, 203 in Carthage) helped me understand a little more of what it means to live out your faith. What if you had the world in the palm of your hand? Would you still give up everything for God? Perpetua was a Christian living in the third century. She was a highly educated noblewoman, a wife and mother to a baby she was nursing. The world was her oyster (for the most part). The Emperor Septimius Severus forbid conversions to Judaism and Christianity almost a year before Perpetua was martyred. Perpetua's entire family was Christian except for her father. When her father, a pagan, visited her in prison, he tried to get her to renounce Christianity so she could come home. She asked, “Father do you see this vase here? Could it be called by any other name than what it is?"
"No," he replied. "Well, neither can I be called anything other than what I am, a Christian." He visited her again and begged her to renounce her faith: "Have pity on my gray head. Have pity on me, your father, if I deserve to be called your father, if I have favored you above all your brothers, if I have raised you to reach this prime of your life. Do not abandon me to be the reproach of men. Think of your brothers; think of your mother and your aunt; think of your child, who will not be able to live once you are gone. Give up your pride!" This time Perpetua responded, “It will all happen in the prisoner's dock as God wills, for you may be sure that we are not left to ourselves but are all in his power." She wasn't alone in her imprisonment and martyrdom. She was imprisoned and martyred with her slave Felicitas (aka Felicity), among other Christians. Felicitas actually gave birth while she was imprisoned. They were taken to a stadium arena where wild animals were sent after them. The bloodthirsty and impatient crowd demanded their deaths, so they were lined up and killed by the sword. The gladiator found himself unable to kill her so Perpetua guided the sword to her throat.
It's difficult to comprehend a society as bloodthirsty as the Roman empire, but for much of our history, humanitarian efforts were slow to progress. In prison, Perpetua kept a diary where she described what the experience was like for her, her talks with her father, her dreams that she believed were visions from heaven, etc. Perpetua gave her diary to another Christian who continued her story. Her diary was read in Carthage churches afterwards and impacted Christendom for centuries after. St. Augustine was so impacted by her sacrifice that he wrote sermons about her. Amy Rachel Peterson wrote a historical novel, Perpetua: A Bride, a Martyr, a Passion and you can read Perpetua's Diary online on the author's website. It has been translated throughout the ages for readability by different editors so there are different translations, but the essence of the text is accurate since many scholars believe that Perpetua wrote the diary herself. Her diary is important because it's one of those rare times from the Ancient World where we actually see a woman standing up for her faith and following Christ. Many people think of Christianity as an unfriendly religion dominated by patriarchy with no room for women.
In reality, many strong women have followed Christ and influenced Christianity. In my opinion, Perpetua is just as fascinating as any other woman in history such as Joan of Arc, Ruth, or Corrie ten Boom. The Bible has some tough words on what it means to follow God and what happens when people deny him. Judas sold out Christ and Peter denied him three times. The Bible doesn't say if Judas sought forgiveness from Jesus, yet it's safe to assume that he felt ashamed and didn't seek it, since Judas hung himself afterward. Peter was restored for his denials; he must have felt remorse and wanted redemption, which is probably why Jesus restored him when he was resurrected. In Luke 17:33 we're warned that if we try to keep our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life we will keep it. Another harsh reality is that if we deny Jesus on Earth, Jesus will deny us before God on Judgment day (Matthew 10:33). It sounds harsh to us but God made a huge sacrifice in giving up Christ for our sins. God has such love for humanity that we hurt him when we deny him. Any sacrifice we make in life is small
in comparison to what Christ has done for us. It seems preferable to endure the ridicule of men or short-lived physical torture than to have to stand before God and be embarrassed that we denied him, especially because our eternal soul is at stake.
I don't think the human psyche is meant to exist separately from God. Just like birds need wings and whales need the ocean, so too does the human psyche need God. St. Augustine wrote in Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” ♥
What I fear more than hell is having to be apart from God for all eternity. It would mean never again experiencing His love, compassion, grace, and wisdom. 17
he medieval period in Europe was marked by many notable changes and developments, including the entrenchment and dominance of Christianity. This was seen in every aspect of everyday life and governance, as well as in the universities, the centres of learning. In the eleventh century Europe experienced a resurgence of intellectual activity. More classic texts from the Greek and Roman periods were becoming readily available to medieval scholars, either through translations from its original languages to Latin or interpretations by other scholars from neighbouring kingdoms. The Dominican friar St. Thomas Aquinas was one theologian whose ideas and writings not only contributed to this surge of intellectual activity but greatly influenced Christian thought and doctrine for centuries afterward, making him a Doctor of the Church and a venerated saint in the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran faith. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1255 in the town of Roccasecca near Aquino, Italy. The younger son of a knight, he was intent on entering the church but was delayed when his family learned that he wished to enter the newly
established Dominican order. They tried to persuade him otherwise, even keeping him under house arrest for a time. He was finally released due to the intervention of Pope Innocent IV. Upon becoming a Dominican monk, he travelled from Italy to Germany and France, where he continued to preach, study, and deliberate with other orders on political and religious matters. During his time at university, Thomas Aquinas encountered the works of various thinkers like the Greek philosopher Aristotle, the Islamic thinker Averroes, and Jewish teacher Maimonides. Aristotle in particular was a great influence on Thomas Aquinas’ works as Aristotle’s works had been translated in its entirety to Latin for the first time by the end of the twelfth century. Academics were forbidden to lecture on Aristotle’s works as theologians believed them to conflict with the Christian faith. But Thomas Aquinas respected Aristotle and his use of raw data and scientific methodology and inquiry, using these frameworks—Aristotle’s language, if you will—to formulate his own ideas about the world, faith, and their connection to God. Christian theology and philosophy during this time was dominated by NeoPlatonism and the ideas laid down by Saint Augustine
whereby human reason was not seen as a primary vehicle to understanding God’s will. But Thomas Aquinas argued that faith and reason were needed to truly understand God; to study nature—in which God reveals himself—through the human senses was to study God. Thomas Aquinas’ ideas and writings ranged on a variety of subjects, which are reflected on his two most famous works: the Summa Theologica, which focused on Christian theology, and the Summa Contra Gentiles, with a broader philosophical focus. He wrote about the Trinity and the nature of Jesus Christ. He defined the four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude), the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), and the four laws (eternal, natural, human, and divine). While a theologian first and foremost, he also wrote on other subjects ranging from political theory and the best form of government to economic thought and ethnical decisionmaking. He pondered on the relationship between the human body and the soul. While many of his contemporary opponents saw his works as liberal and directly opposed to the Augustinian tradition, Thomas Aquinas was actually
BY LIANNE M. BERNARDO
greatly influenced by Augustine’s works and sought to reach some of his conclusions using Aristotle’s methodology and deduction. But his ideas were not accepted immediately, and not by everyone within the Dominican order; he had many opponents to his views, including the bishop of Paris and a leading Dominican theologian in Oxford University. In the later years of his life, Thomas Aquinas was caught up in much of the debates and hostilities from various and opposing scholastic factions. After his death, his opponents deemed his work heretical and he was even excommunicated posthumously. He was canonised a saint in 1324, his works rehabilitated, and by 1568 when he was named a Doctor of the Church, his works were considered foundational to Church teaching. Saint Thomas Aquinas’ ideas left a profound impact on Western thought and Christianity. His integration of many of Aristotle’s ideas and methods with Christian theology ushered in a new understanding to the core tenets of the Christian faith. One of the many legacies of his work included the rise of Thomism, a philosophical school of thought derived from his works and considered as the official philosophy of the Catholic Church. His use of Aristotelian ideas also rendered him as one of the first thinkers to use and reintroduce it in the medieval period. While his ideas have undergone different interpretations and schools of thought over the centuries, Thomas Aquinas continues to serve as a foundation to Christian faith and understanding. ♥ 19
BY CARISSA HORTON
enuine faith is born from asking the hard questions… from doing the research yourself, not just accepting what you're told. You might almost call it trial by fire because sometimes coming to faith in Christ means walking away from a lifestyle you once held. Not just because it is the right thing to do and you feel obliged to do it out of some rote response, but because you want to do it, to please the One you have encountered in a very personal and significant experience. You want to be different than the person you were before… for Him.
Nazarene who Clavius saw, clearly dead, hanging on a cross. Except that the tomb that Clavius personally placed the Nazarene in has been literally blown wide open, the cords holding the stone over the entrance shredded as if from an internal blast outward, and the guards give him unsatisfactory answers. He questions every single person in Jerusalem who claims that Yeshua (the Nazarene) is risen. His head aches. His heart aches. And the more people he interviews about the supposed resurrection of this Yeshua, the more he begins to question.
Risen is the story of one man's journey to faith in Jesus Christ. He could be anybody, at any time in history, but in this story, he is Clavius, a Roman Tribune, and his time is the time of Jesus' death and resurrection. In that he is fortunate because his proof can be born out of what he sees with his own eyes, not just what he experiences internally. Here is a man tasked with keeping the peace in Judea. He is to ensure that the people of Jerusalem give Pilate as little trouble as possible. When they do give Pilate trouble, Clavius is called to clean up the mess quickly, regardless of how much of a mess he might make in the tidying of the first mess.
His questioning leads him to an encounter with one of the disciples, Bartholomew. A more excitable, enthusiastic, and unafraid man Clavius has never before met. Ever. Bartholomew is like a ray of sunshine in the center of a graveyard. Nothing can dampen his fervor and his insistence that Yeshua has risen. No threat can make him recant and when Clavius insists that Bartholomew give up the other followers of this Yeshua, he leans in close, as if to impart a secret and whispers with a grin, “We’re everywhere!” Clavius could order his painful and slow execution, but Bartholomew does not fear him. His uneasiness at its peak, Clavius releases him, an unusual show of mercy from a Roman.
Now, the mess is a dead
Then again, Clavius is no usual Roman. During a conversation with Pilate earlier in the story, Clavius shares some intimate goals with his superior. Everything he does will lead him on a strict and certain path towards an end goal. If he does his job well, he will eventually have a wife, children, a pension, and a place in the country... a day without death. Clavius has no desire to kill. The act brings him no joy, no contentment, only a restlessness. He kills because he thinks being a Roman soldier is the only way he can buy peace. He may not acquire it now, but someday, he hopes, he will. Clavius is honestly unsure about what he hopes to find. Does he hope to find Yeshua’s body? Does he hope to find the man himself … alive? It likely does not matter either way, but in a raid on a section of Jerusalem where an informant has given up the disciples, Clavius meets Yeshua face to face. He doesn’t need to be told who that man is in the center of the disciples. He recognizes the face, even without the blood trickling down his cheeks and from his eyes. It is Yeshua, the Christ. Legs unsteady, sword hand weak, Clavius orders his men away under a pretense and sinks down against the wall, his eyes never leaving Yeshua.
This is the moment. The do or die moment every believer has faced. Clavius was able to see Yeshua in person, in a very physical setting. Today we can only imagine what an encounter like his would have resembled, the emotions associated with meeting Jesus Christ. Do you leave? Do you stay? What do you sacrifice in order to follow him? Peter sacrificed his livelihood as a fisherman. Matthew sacrificed his life as a tax collector. Clavius sacrificed his life as a Roman tribune. Yeshua does not remain with them, but tells them to meet him at Galilee, and so they journey together. Clavius trails the disciples for a time and inevitably joins their company. The men are merry and excited, joyous in their relationships with each other, drunk on the reality of their risen Savior. Nothing can restrain their exuberance. Clavius has one conversation with Yeshua that he can call his own. Near the shores of Galilee, one night as the disciples sleep, Clavius is wakeful and so is Yeshua. Together they stargaze and Yeshua gently peals away the layers of Clavius’ identity until he gets to the core, Clavius’ desire for that day without death. There is another way—an alternative to
the life he led as a Roman tribune. He doesn’t need to be the man he was before. He can choose to be different, to be made new. To live that day without death starting now. Yeshua lifts the burden from Clavius in a very real, very intense moment of a man coming to genuine belief. There is no going back. Clavius had to ask the questions himself in order to find the answers. No one else could do it for him. If you never seek, what
is there to find? Risen is a powerful story of unbelief followed by a spiritual realization and awakening. It served its purpose in asking powerful and important questions, raising the notion that you actually have to decide to follow Christ. Faith is a decision to act based upon what you have seen and experienced. And that is the most powerful and possibly most dangerous lesson of all. What will you do? ♥
BY CHARITY BISHOP
n the eyes of many Game of Thrones fans, the cold, hard Stannis Baratheon had one redeeming quality: his love for his daughter, Shireen. He protected her from his fanatical wife, went to great lengths to stop the progression of her disease (turning her to stone), and shared heart-wrenching interactions with her. Then, to appease the “Lord of Light,” Stannis let his ruthless priestess tie his child to a pyre and set it alight. He stood by as her pleas for him to save her turned into tortured screams. His anguish was evident… but he capitulated, out of a desire to appease an angry god and win a battle. The catalyst for this violence is the “Red Priestess,” Melisandre. Her god requires burning people alive. She has convinced Stannis of a manifold destiny in which he must retain the Iron Throne. Her “visions” lead him, but hers is a god most in the land have no desire to serve; a brutal, ruthless, bloodthirsty tyrant. Melisandre’s god resembles her. Book author George R.R. Martin has taken history as inspiration for his fantasy saga; the Lord of Light, his high priestess, and fiery sacrifices echo ancient pagan religions, as well as the fanaticism of the middle ages, where heretics were burned. There is more than one religion
in Westeros; the Starks serve a distant god in the North, and in King’s Landing, a new sect arises intent on enforcing morality via public humiliation (a character has her hair shorn off, forced to walk through the city naked as penance for sexual immorality). Each religion has brutality in common; these are vicious gods, with equally barbaric followers, all of whom coach their brutal intentions in lofty platitudes. It is not such a great leap to historical figures professing faith while persecuting others with violence. History is strewn with corpses from “holy wars,” attempts to repress “heretics,” and other forms of religious fanaticism that led to burnings, beheadings, shunnings, and banishments. From Isabella of Spain forcing Jews and Moors to convert or die to the witch burnings, what these horrific actions reveal is that humans become like the god they believe they serve. Is it that they make “god” into their own image or are they drawn to that particular “god” because it embodies their own cruel tendencies? Does a rigid, unloving, critical, punishing fundamentalist father choose a similar god to appease his desire to “control” his family? Our choice of a god reveals not only our perception of “god,” but
the goods and ills of the god we serve—our actions put our god on full display. You will know the gods others serve through their actions. If their actions do not align with the god they profess to serve, they do not serve that god at all. Melisandre could not serve the Lord of Light as a moral, just, compassionate woman, because her god is immoral, unjust, and cruel. He is a god who would ask a father to sacrifice his child by fire to appease his wrath, and purchase favor in order to win a battle and claim a throne. History proves many have served gods of war and wrath… and in reading it, we learn more about the individuals behind these gods than the gods themselves. Men “make gods” to serve that share their traits, which reinforces those traits—of un-forgiveness, wrath, and pride. All belief systems encompass one similar trait—the person following that god is better than those that do not (wiser or more intelligent). But what does their god say about them and their society? None of the Greek gods were merciful; they were even unkind to rape victims (cursing them further, after the fact). Rome had gods of war and brutalized the world. Churches burned witches and “heretics.” Puritans shunned immorality and used shame and guilt instead of love. Victorian society shamed unwed mothers,
refusing to give them means to support themselves; many fell into prostitution, because of the bigotry of a “moral society.” But how moral is that society? Everyone has a god—it may be a divine being, or science, or logic, or self. Your god is what you hold above all else and “worship” with your focus and energy. Who or what is the god you serve? Your perception changes everything. It controls your actions, which show others your god. And often, it says less about your god than it says about you. Can a loving person serve a cruel god? Can a cruel person serve a loving god? Tragically, over the centuries, many cruelties came from those calling themselves Christians. Yet, the term ‘Christian’ means to ascribe to the teachings of Jesus Christ. What are those teachings? Love. Forgiveness. Selflessness. Given the chance to stone a woman for breaking “God’s law,” Jesus set her free. He ate with sinners. He loved them. He was antiviolence. He only got angry with “selfrighteous” religious people, who did not love. His followers were radically different; peace in a brutal society, love instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of hatred. People flocked to hear Christ, because the message He lived showed a much different God than they were raised on. If such a compassionate, gentle and loving man as Christ could serve God, and if we have seen God through Christ, then has God been maligned? Who is the brutal God, inspiring violence, enabling many to do cruel and unspeakable things in His name? And, what does the perception of Him tell us about those serving Him? ♥ 23
Carissa Horton spends her working hours at Compassion International whose tagline reads “Releasing Children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” She is an avid crafter, a prolific blogger on Musings of an Introvert about all things literary and film-based, and dreams of getting her stories published. Carol Starkley has a husband, three daughters, three cats, five fish, and a hamster. She’s also a Christian Blogger. Charity Bishop is fanatical about history and loves to bore her friends with it. Her free time is spent writing novels & movie reviews, blogging, and personality typing fictional characters on tumblr. Jaime Donovan is a Christian and a university student. She loves to read, draw, write, and has a blog. Lianne Bernardo is a 20something Canadian who loves history, period dramas, British TV, photography, and (European) football. She is an avid reader, from fantasy to literature to historical fiction, and extensively blogs about them on her website, When she isn't reading, she’s working on her writing projects. Her Twitter: @eclectictales.
Rachel Sexton is from Ohio. She loves her parents and her dog Lily. She has to have acting, film, reading, and dance in her life. She is described as quiet and her biggest vice is cupcakes. Her hobby is editing fan videos. Rachel Kovaciny passes the time by writing, reading, baking, watching movies, crocheting, blogging, and homeschooling her three children. Her least favorite activities are housecleaning and wearing shoes, and she’s been known to go to great lengths to avoid both. She blogs about books, and also has a personal blog that talks about movies and other important things. Scarlett Grant is going to be graduating university this year, she is half scared and excited to be entering the real world. In addition to being an amateur history buff she is also
interested in music, film and writing. Veronica Leigh is an aspiring novelist, who lives in Indiana with her family and six furbabies. Her obsessions range from Jane Austen to the Holocaust to Once Upon a Time. She has published two short autobiographical pieces and hopes to see more in print. She also lurks on her blog. Victoria Williams is a Christian woman who loves reading, teaching math, and watching people grow. Her obsessions include the Gospel, loving the weak, peacemaking, crosscultural ministry, storytelling, nerdy conversations with friends, and coffee. She also blogs.
Historical Fiction with a Divine Twist by Femnista editor Charity Bishop. The nightmares began in my childhoodâ€Ś Since then, they have grown stronger. Horrific dreams of blood and death, of dark specters and betrayal haunt me. Mother wants me to become a seer in the temple of Minerva. I would much rather marry the dashing military commander, Pilate, instead. Every auger that sees me, fears me. They know, as I do, that something is different about me, something I cannot control, and that will haunt me until a Jewish messiah takes my hand in Judea. Not even he can save me from what lies ahead in Rome, nor, I fear, can he save Pilate from a choice that will change the course of history forever. My name is Claudia, and this is my story. Purchase from Amazon.
A cleric with a closet full of weapons, a mysterious aunt she has never heard of, a villainous neighbor, and a cunning cat feature in Thornewicke
A diabolical past, a possessed house, a secret organization, and the RMS Titanic feature in The Secret in Belfast
A family curse, a band of Romani, the famous Dr. Joseph Bell, and Jack the Ripper feature in The Giftsnatcher
A haunted assassinâ€™s academy, a would-benun, an army of ghosts, and Napoleon Bonaparte feature in Ravenswolde
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at Amazon 25
Coming June 1st!
July/Aug: Shakespeare William Shakespeare as a playwright, poet, and man. His plays, films centered around his life, and the debate over authorship.
Promised: Shakespeare’s Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing, Anonymous, West Side Story, Hamlet, Richard II.
“When Worlds Collide” Relationships forged across social boundaries (romances between two classes, marriages beneath one’s station, and situations breaching racial divides). Promised: Gossip Girl, Roman Holiday, Kate Middleton and Prince William, The Help, North and South, Judgment Day, Angel and the Badman, A Patch of Blue
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Call the Midwife, Joan of Arc, Saintly Queens, Moses, One Night With the King, Augustine, Lydia, Seller of Purple, Perpetua, Thomas Aquinas,...
Published on Mar 25, 2016
Call the Midwife, Joan of Arc, Saintly Queens, Moses, One Night With the King, Augustine, Lydia, Seller of Purple, Perpetua, Thomas Aquinas,...