I sat down with Holy Women, Holy Men yesterday in the presence of my handy spreadsheet from whence colorful graphs issue. I added several new columns to it and grouped them all under the heading of “HWHM Criteria”. After consulting HWHM pp. 742-6, I labeled 6 columns:
- Local Observance
These are the labels in the criteria, after all. I omitted “Range of Inclusion”, “Levels of Commemoration”, and “Combined Commemorations” as I see these as directives concerning the shape of the kalendar as a whole and not directly applicable in assessing a particular commemoration.
Looking at these, I thought I’d try and tackle the easiest first. Which are the easy ones and which the hard? Well, in my book the two simplest are the first and last. “Historicity” isn’t without its gray areas, but it’s a lot more black and white than the others. Similarly, “Perspective” includes an objective value: “fifty years have elapsed since that person’s death.”
“Local Observance” is also a fairly objective measure though by no means a simple one. The central clause in this one is the following: “…significant commemoration . . . already exists at the local and regional levels.” Then, two and a half pages (744-6) are substantially devoted to outlining the process of what local/regional commemoration looks like, then how these are moved to the national/churchwide level. As a result, there ought to be a significant paper trail that will objectively demonstrate “local observance” in a satisfactory fashion. Thus objective, but needing a certain amount of leg-work to hunt all of this stuff down…
“Christian Discipleship” is complicated. The heart of this criterion is “the completion in death of a particular Christian’s living out of the promises of baptism” from which we can draw two objective measures: 1) were they baptized? 2) did they die in the communion of the Church? The wording of this criterion strongly suggests to me a set of sub-criteria: “the promises of baptism” short-handed as holding the Apostles’ Creed and exemplifying the 5 promises of the Baptismal Covenant.If we were to introduce these as supplemental guides to the fulfilling of this criterion do we take a minimalist or maximalist approach? Do we look for historical evidence of fulfillment of all six sub-criteria, or does a significant failing of one or more of the sub-criteria indicate a negative judgement on the larger criterion? (I’m told there was great resistance to adding Martin Luther to Lesser Feasts and Fasts back in the 80’s/90’s due to his anti-Semitism; perhaps that debate can shed some light here…)
“Significance” heads into some interesting territory. Perhaps the best summary of it is captured in the binary nature of the final line: “In their varied ways, those commemorated have revealed Christ’s presence in, and Lordship over, all of history; and continue to inspire us as we carry forward God’s mission in the world.” I see at least two things here. First, the commemorated must have achieved a notable revelation of Christ. But, second, it must be the kind of achievement that inspires us. Consider the implications of the second one… I can use an objective checkbox for “achieving a notable revelation of Christ”, but that’s incomplete without an assessment of what inspires us. Our church and its needs are now a necessary aspect of the decision-making process.
The turn towards us only accelerates as we consider “Memorability.” This is not Memorability simpliciter; we’re not asking if these people should be remembered by history students, correct-thinking members of progressive circles, or the general public. Rather, we’re after those who “deserve to be remembered by the Episcopal Church today.” A few key things here… “Deserve to be” which is different from “are” sticks out. Also, “the Episcopal Church today.” This criterion is less about the historical person being investigated, and is much more about who we are as a church and what we need to remember—or be reminded of. That is, I can’t chalk this one up based on historical research on a person’s life. Instead, we have to take stock of who we are and how that person connects with and/or challenges our self-understanding.
Indeed, this is the place where memorability begins to help us see the failure of the “Range of Inclusion” criterion. As I said before, the Range is properly applied to the kalendar as a whole and not to individual candidates thereof and the problem is that it is too narrow in scope to be fully useful. It identifies a variety of diversities needed in the kalendar: race, gender, ecclesial affiliation, ordination status, but misses the really big one—charisms. That is, the kalendar needs to have an effective balance of the charisms and virtues that are needed for the church as a whole to reflect itself as a reflection of Christ. Attention to ordination status only begins to take notice of this.
What are the charisms that define the Church and are necessary, even essential, to the Church? How do the saints individually and collectively coherently display the dispersed virtues of Christ?
I see I’m starting to wander a bit from my topic…
There are some objective measures that can be tallied to determine whether a candidate should or shouldn’t enter the kalendar. There are more subjective measures. But there are additional necessary inputs regarding who the church is, and what the church needs to represent itself to itself. And, again, the kalendar cannot simply be a collection of worthy individuals but must be a coherent collection that reflects an authentic Christology.
I’ll let you know how the spreadsheet goes…