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The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1944.

William Temple was born in 1881, the son of Frederick Temple, who was also Archbishop of Canterbury. William suffered a number of health problems from an early age, showing at age two signs of the gout that would kill him. He had cataracts and was completely blind in his right eye from age forty on. Despite these challenges, he studied at Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford Union, a debating society.

When he first applied for ordination, he was thought to be too liberal with regard to his belief in the Virgin Birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. However, his archbishop subsequently approved him, judging that he was moving in an orthodox direction. As a clergyman, he rose swiftly, becoming Bishop of Manchester in 1921. There he mediated a settlement in the general strike of 1926, earning high regard for a fair agreement. Temple become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942. In 1944, he made a visit to the front lines during Operation Overlord in Normandy. He is thought to be the first Archbishop of Canterbury to venture into battle since medieval times. His last public engagement was a clergy retreat later in 1944, where his gout forced him to speak standing on one foot only. He died on October 26, 1944.

One oft-repeated incident stands out in his life as a sign of his inspiring power to stir people's faith. Once when he was speaking at the University Church in Oxford, the congregation was to sing the hymn, "When I survey the wondrous cross." Before the fourth verse, Temple interrupted, asking the congregation to read the words to themselves. "Now, if you mean them with all your heart, sing them as loud as you can. If you don't mean them at all, keep silent. If you mean them even a little and want to mean them more, sing them very softly." When the organ played again, the packed church was filled with voices whispering:

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

Temple brought people together and led them to a place where they could behold the wonder of Jesus Christ.

Lord Christ, may we give our soul, our life, and our all to your service. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

O God of light and love, you illumined your Church through the witness of your servant William Temple: Inspire us, we pray, by his teaching and example, that we may rejoice with courage, confidence and faith in the Word made flesh, and may be led to establish that city which has justice for its foundation and love for its law; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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