Friday, October 16, 2009
Remembering the Oxford Martyrs -- And Thelma
The Martyrdom of Hugh Latimer (1485?-1555)
and Nicholas Ridley (1500?-1555)
The Martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)
The date of the celebration of the deaths of the Oxford martyrs -- Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer -- is etched indelibly in my mind for two reasons: 1) it was one of the key dates I needed to know for the General Ordination Exams which I took in 1982, and 2) because Thelma Sullivan's birthday was celebrated on that feast day of theirs, October 16.
I particularly recall the Holy Spirit congregation showing up en masse at Thelma’s in 1985, to celebrate her 90th birthday with cake and ice cream. I “wondered” out loud if there was any significance to the fact that her actual birthday fell on the commemoration of martyred Anglican Bishops Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer! I also acknowledged that it fell one day after the feast of Teresa of Avila, noted for saying, “God save us from sour-faced saints,” which, I later made clear in the parish newsletter: “...Thelma is not. (Sour-faced, that is!)...” She was as close to being a saint as one could be, in my opinion.
Thelma had a profoundly wise, simple, spiritually realistic outlook on life, and during our visits we’d often talk at a deeper level about various things. I think she looked on me as a sort of “honorary” son. I certainly loved her, and it was my humbling privilege at the end of her life, two years after I’d left Almanor and gone to be rector at St. John's, Chico, to be called upon to minister to her at the nursing home in Chico where she’d been moved. She died on February 17, 1988, at 92.
I can definitely imagine , after her passing, Thelma schmoozing with the good Bishops Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, and sitting down together over drinks to compare notes, maybe even to celebrate their common feast day. I wonder: was it Johnny Walker's or tea?!