The Dancing Saints

by Donald Schell

St Gregory's Saint Selection Committee offers these eighty saints (there are ten more not yet listed here), to be painted as a grand icon in our church rotunda, a single statement of God's remarkable and remarkably diverse work in human life.

Many, many more obviously belong to this group-Martin Luther King Jr., Mary and Martha of Bethany, Raoul Wallenberg, Hildegard of Bingen, Erasmus, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Romero, Helen Keller, Stephen Biko, and easily hundreds and thousands more we could name and research, not to mention the legions of unknown and now forgotten holy ones (represented for us by the Alexandrian Washerwoman).

In addition to our primary goal of showing an image of God's many and diverse ways of working in people's lives, we aimed to achieve a reasonable representation of men and women (and a few children) from different historical periods, life roles and kinds of work. Whenever we heard or felt, "of course, we have to include…", we paused and gave that person an extra skeptical scrutiny, trying to push our list beyond a self-evident "hall of fame" and further, beyond mainstream church consensus, stretching our thinking and enlarging our gratitude for grace overflowing in so many startling and different lives.

We were aware of our particular place and time and tried to honor its gift and see past its limitation. Sometimes in a choice between two worthy people, we gave preference to the local figure, emphasizing God's work here among us. We represented important events of our historical moment, late 20th Century America - the U.S. Civil Rights movement and World War II - but we also stretched to include other kinds of 20th century people and to create a balance with other historical periods.

If we have done our work well, a hundred years from now, the congregation of St. Gregory's and its visitors will recognize a voice from 1997, undoubtedly sensing some of our historical prejudice and also, we hope, seeing us stretch beyond it to show a sweeping, universal vision of God shining through human life.

When known, a saint's feast day appears after each biography.
A + following a saint's name indicates that the saint is already in place on the walls of the rotunda. Photos of this work in progress can be found in the Icons section of this website.

(c.1110-1167) English Cistercian monk and Abbott of the Monastery of Rievaulx. In contrast to other monastic writers, he regarded deep human friendship as an essential element of spiritual life and closeness to God. (January 12) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(4th century) The anonymous woman who prays ceaselessly as she works washing dishes. To the desert fathers, the founders of monasticism in the 4th and 5th centuries, she represents the holiness of all that is ordinary and routine. (July 29)

(1225-1274) Daring to counter the neo-Platonic theology of his age, Aquinas revived interest in Aristotle, whose ideas had been preserved and developed in the Islamic world and were therefore suspect to Christians. He was convinced of the goodness of all creation and its participation in the goodness of God's own self. His work embodies what one historian has called the essential principle of Western Civilization, namely, that "truth unfolds in time through a communal process." Called "The Angelic Doctor" for his brilliant synthesis of faith and reason, he is among the teachers of the whole church whom Dante saw dancing before God in his final vision in The Paradiso. (January 28)

(1st century) A Levite Jew, a man of learning and generosity and one of the first post-resurrection apostles. Deeply respected by the disciples, his trust in the authenticity of Paul's conversion led to their acceptance of this former persecutor. He was the first apostle to embrace the evidence of God's grace in the hearts of Gentile converts to the Way. (June 11)

        BLACK ELK
(1872-1957) The Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, visionary and mystic. A youthful convert and Episcopalian, his life and teaching showed forth God's radiant and powerfully healing presence in all of nature.

(1543-1623) Composer of music for the Roman Catholic Church and also for the early Anglican church. He created a deeply moving tradition of Anglican choral music which continues to inspire composers of religious music at St. Gregory's and elsewhere. (July 4)

(1869-1968) Scottish Presbyterian social worker who defied Chinese gangs and crime lords, corrupt police and complacent politicians to rescue girls kidnapped from China to San Francisco for sale as prostitutes and slaves. Founder of Cameron House in San Francisco's Chinatown. Visit this icon-in-progress.

        CESAR CHAVEZ +
(1927-1993) The son of Mexican migrants to California, he devoted his life to organizing farm workers despite the opposition of both employers and powerful union leaders. His movement succeeded in giving migrant workers bargaining power, restoring dignity to this poor and disposed population. A man of religious faith and commitment to nonviolence, his vocation embodied his "deepest belief that only by giving life do we find life, that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice." (April 23) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1365-1431) French writer and single mother whose witty theological polemic tweaking clergy attitudes towards women was the first writing of its kind available to a popular audience. Visit this icon-in-progress.

(1926-1967) African-American saxophone player, composer, eminent jazz innovator. Coltrane's faith in God was a powerful healing force in his overcoming addiction to heroin. He testifies to God's omnipotence, our need for God, dependence on God and God's power to remake us on his seminal album Love Supreme, and dedicates his music, saying. "Let us sing all songs to God." (July 17)

(1265-1321) Florentine poet, whose towering three part work, the Divine Comedy, takes us on his soul's journey through the "dark wood" of lost innocence. He begins wandering blind and in despair in Il Inferno and concludes in Paradiso with an extraordinary vision of the dancing saints encircling "the love which moves the sun and other stars." (September 13)

(1809-1882) English naturalist whose On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) and The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) offered an evolutionary understanding of the development of life on earth, challenging conventional interpretations of creation and inviting whole new ways of thinking of living beings, humanity and God through process, system, and change. Darwin was a deacon in the Church of England. (April 19)

        KING DAVID +
(1010?-970? B.C.) Guerrilla warrior, despotic king, writer of psalms, murderer of Uriah. Among his sons were Solomon, who gathered scholars to create the first systematic collection of the sacred texts that would become the Bible, and Absolam, who would die leading a revolt against David. We honor this complex and contradictory character for the simple, clear devotion of his 23rd Psalm and his shameless and enthusiastic joy dancing naked before the Ark of God. [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1474-1566) A young, privileged Spanish adventurer who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage and received large New World land holdings and native slaves. After some years as a slave holder, he was so moved by the suffering of his slaves that he became a priest, freed his slaves and, gradually and painfully, came to a spiritual and intellectual rejection of slavery in any form. As a Dominican monk and eventually a bishop, he wrote and traveled tirelessly, arguing against slavery before theologians, politicians, and King Phillip II of Spain. Las Casas was the first Christian moral theologian to argue that enslaving fellow human beings was sin, always and under any circumstances. (July 17) Visit this icon.

(1900-1993) American statistician who believed profoundly in people's ability to deeply transform themselves and the organizations in which they work and live. His Quality Movement was first applied in war-torn Japan and finally, after many years as a prophet without honor in his own country, was embraced by the American business community.



(1821-1881) Russian novelist and mystic, he came to faith while imprisoned for youthful revolutionary writings. His grandiose and addictive nature was slowly transformed and healed by his vision of Christ and the love of his second wife. He wrote prophetically of the bloodshed that principled lovers of humanity would wreak on the world because they had rejected God and God's love expressed through people. His vision of Christ and of the fundamental goodness in ordinary people made him hope for truly universal salvation. (January 28)

(1929-1960) Teacher and missionary to Indian women, she was converted to Christianity in reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. She kept her faith secret but eventually ran away from home, afraid her family would force her to marry a Muslim husband. Her family pressed her to return and finally marry, but she went north to the Punjab where she lived and worked in a mission hospital. Later she became a teacher and evangelized in the local villages, travelling by bicycle, teaching the women to read and working with them in the cotton fields. She was found murdered in her bed. (February 2)[Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1879-1955) As a theoretical physicist, he allowed the power of paradox to spur his imagination and created an entirely new understanding of reality with lasting impact on science and technology. An intellectual mystic, he saw the beauty of an expanding universe where matter and energy were one and glimpsed a single, vast, purposeful God. Although he did not consider himself conventionally religious, Einstein maintained that "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. One to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead." He was among the thousands of Jews who was forced to flee from Nazi Germany in the '30s. (April 18)

        ELIZABETH I+
(1533-1603) Queen of England. When much of Europe was torn by bloody warfare over disputed points of Christian doctrine, heresy trials and religious purges, Elizabeth conceived a Church in which people of diverse beliefs, opinions and doctrines could be one through shared prayer and Eucharist. She used her power to forge religious peace on this new principle. (March 23) Visit this icon.



Paul Erdos lived his life as an itinerant mathematical angel, travelling constantly and unexpectedly showing up on other mathematician's doorsteps when they found themselves stuck in developing exciting new theories. Erdos would stay long enough to help find a way through the difficulty, then move on to the next person who needed a hand. Erdos lived very simply, depending on his friends to tend his needs as he offered himself in support of the work that others were doing.

(1927-1996) American chanteuse, who overcame a tortured childhood, including desperate poverty and time as a prostitute, to become a singer of enormous grace and joy. She was afflicted with diabetes which confined her to a wheelchair and eventually led to her death.

(1182-1226) Italian mystic and church reformer who sang God's work in all of nature-sun, moon, plants, animals, life and death-and in the passion of Christ. His vernacular hymns, popular processions and the first Christmas Creche were among his sensual and intuitive church reforms that appealed to people's imagination, hope and delight. Following one story of his peacemaking with animals, Francis will be painted with a wolf. (October 4) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

        ANNE FRANK+
(1929-1945) Young German Jewish girl whose extraordinary diary, written while in hiding from the Nazis, expressed an unshakable faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity, her unapologetic fears and frustrations with the people she lived with in confinement, her longings and desires, and her great hope for a future she knew she might not ever see. (June 12) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1774-1840) German Romantic painter whose awesome landscapes and seascapes express the profound mystical presence of God in the dark side of existence. (May 7) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1869-1948) Martyred Indian spiritual leader. Activist for peace and reconciliation between Muslims and Hindus. Inspired by Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, this Hindu teacher of peace took on the British Empire to free India by means of a nonviolent moral conflict. He became one of the principal models for the Rev. Martin Luther King, whose own practical applications of Jesus' teaching offered black and white America hope and promise for nonviolent social change. (January 30) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(331-396) Cappadoccian Bishop and theologian, our patron, who said, "This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because we fear punishment, like slaves; not to do good because we expect repayment, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by enforcing some business deal. On the contrary, disregarding all those good things which we do hope for and which God has promised us, we regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful, and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing truly worthwhile." (March 9) Visit this icon.

(c.1040-1080) Godiva's legend has her riding horseback naked through the streets of Coventry to protest the local lord's (her own husband's) new taxes that would strip the poor of everything, even the clothes off their back. Borrowing words from the Syrian martyr, Mahya, Godiva's protest says to us, "You have done this and it is YOUR shame; I am not ashamed myself, for this woman's body was created by God."

Part of modern dance's contribution to the whole human dialogue is the celebration of the human body as it is and the music and poetry of natural movement. Martha Graham made enormous contributions to this work and spoke about it in terms that are recognizably mystical. As a dancer, she refuted the idea that the joy of dancing must be restricted to the young by continuing to choreograph and perform liberating, finely-nuanced and significant work well into her 80's.

(1907-1972) Polish-born, German-educated theologian and philosopher. Deported by the Nazis in 1938, by 1945 he had made his way to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York where he taught until his death. A scholar of wide concerns, he wrote, taught, and worked to revive and renew mystical, prophetic and active dimensions of Jewish piety and practice. He was a leader in American Civil Rights and anti-Viet Nam War activism. He stressed experience, feeling, and lively personal response in spirituality. (December 23)

(1561-1643) English Puritan poet, teacher and theologian who was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for teaching that God could be known through intuition and experience. After her banishment, she and her husband joined Roger Williams in Rhode Island, helping found there a community more open to religious experience and freedom of conscience.

(370 - 415) Pagan mathematician and philosopher who drew pupils from throughout the Greek world, Christian and pagan. As Christian humanists, we honor Hypatia's learning and courage, holding her as a witness to intellectual curiosity and honest inquiry which are closer to God than the angry certainties of fundamentalism which incite people to kill for doctrinal "purity." Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, perceived her as a threat to the Church. She was martyred at the hands of Christian monks. Visit this icon-in-progress.

        IQBAL MASIH+
(1982-1995) This Pakistani Christian boy was sent to work weaving rugs at age 5. Spirited, heroic and articulate, when he was 10 he escaped from the rug merchants to whom he had been bonded. Though his "owner" threatened and harassed him, Iqbal enrolled in a Bonded Labour Liberation Front school and began speaking publicly to other bonded children, inspiring thousands with the courage to leave their owners. Just months after he testified before the U. N. Commission on Human Rights at age 13, assassins, presumably hired by rug merchants, murdered him in Pakistan as he left church on Easter Day. (Easter Day) Visit this icon.

(8th century B.C.) Hebrew prophet of the Exile whose vision of the majesty, holiness and glory of God took possession of his spirit. He speaks of our world not as a "cut stump," but rather as "springing anew from the stump of Jesse." His prophecy of Emmanuel is not a "God-in-the-sky" but "God-Near-Us," the spirit of wisdom and insight, counsel and power. He leads us to probe ever deeper into the mystery of suffering through his image of the Suffering Servant who says, "Here I am Lord, send me," forgetting himself and acting on behalf of humanity, to lighten burdens and console, bringing many into the center of God's great love.

        JOHN XXIII+
(1881-1963) The pope responsible for the Second Vatican Council thus "opening the windows" to let fresh air into the Catholic Church. A simple conservative himself, he gathered scholars, liturgists and theologians, inviting them to offer their best work for the good of all. (June 3) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1342-c.1417) English mystic, anchoress and spiritual director, author of Revelations of Divine Love, the first work written in modern English. Living in the midst of the horrors of the Black Death and of church torture and burning of heretics, Julian's startlingly realistic visions of Jesus' sufferings on the cross and her loving conversations with him moved her to believe the words she heard him say: "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well and that despite any imaginable sin, suffering or evil." (May 8)

(1838-1917) A devout Anglican and pacifist, she reigned as the last Queen of Hawaii from 1891-1893. Unwilling to permit Hawaiian blood to be shed in defense of the monarchy, she was deposed by colonists, held under house arrest in a small room in her own palace, and convicted of treason. While confined, she had only two books to read: the Bible and the Anglican Prayer Book, both of which influenced the great body of music she composed. (September 2)

(reigned 1661-1722) Though not himself a Christian, he decreed tolerance for Christian faith and preaching, built churches, and wrote moving poetry on the passion of Christ. We honor his generosity of spirit and pray that we will extend the same appreciation, understanding and good will towards those of other faiths and of no faith.

        LI TIM OI
(1907-1992) Hong Kong Chinese Anglican. She accepted ordination as the British were fleeing Hong Kong in World War II and served faithfully during the Japanese occupation. After the war she returned to her original and primary calling as a teacher and catechist. The example of this first woman ordained in the Anglican Communion invites us all, men and women, to put less value on privilege or rank, lay or ordained, so that we might simply embrace whatever God asks of us. (May 5)

(1483-1546) Despite a lifelong struggle with crippling depression, Luther remained a theologian and spiritual teacher who valued experience and feelings as a way of knowing God. Luther's Table Talk and massive theological, Biblical and liturgical writings show a man wonderfully unguarded in prayer and "battle with the Devil." Rejecting a literalism that limited God, Luther taught that Jesus' "ascension to the right hand of God" meant that he was now personally and substantially present and available in every place, moment or situation. (February 18) Visit this icon-in-progress.

        MALCOLM X+
(1925-1965) Born Malcolm Little. While in prison for burglary, he joined the Black separatist Nation of Islam and took the name Malcolm X. His radical vitriolic eloquence led even Islamic leader Elijah Mohammed to suspend him for remarks after the shooting of John F. Kennedy. Malcolm went on pilgrimage to Mecca where he was converted by a vision of one humanity worshipping one God in peace. He repudiated racism in any form and returned to the United States to work for tolerance and justice for Blacks and for peace between the races. He was assassinated by Black separatists associated with the Nation of Islam. (February 21) Visit this icon.

(1910-1928) At age 18, Manche joined a class to prepare for baptism in her native Sekhukhuneland (Africa). Her parents were opposed to her becoming a Christian and tried to stop her. Every time she returned home from class she was beaten by her mother. Finding that nothing could shake her faith, her family dragged her out of their hut and by turns flogged her until she died. As she had predicted to her priest, she was baptized "with her own blood." We honor her simple and single-minded desire to know God.

(1908-1996) American civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court justice. A distinguished jurist, whose passions for fairness and justice were shaped by his personal knowledge and experience of prejudice and poverty. Knowing how much new opportunity for the dispossessed and marginalized could serve the good of all, he advocated interpretation of the law to realize more perfectly the Constitution's vision of genuinely evenhanded justice for all.

(1st century) "The apostle to the Apostles." Despite her central role in the Gospels, scholars and theologians have persistently misrepresented her as the adulterous sinner. Luke tells us that Jesus healed Mary of demon possession and that she then followed him as a disciple. When the other disciples fled, she stayed with Jesus through his crucifixion, was the first one he appeared to after his resurrection and the one he sent to proclaim it. She is unusual among biblical women in that she is never identified by her relationship to a male figure. She is never referred to as "Mary the wife of" or "Mary the mother of," but only as "Mary of Magdala," a person in her own right. We honor her not as a symbol of perfection, but as a real and passionate human being who was devoted to Jesus. (July 22)

(1915-1968) American Trappist monk who initiated interreligious prayer and dialogue, and whose writings have brought thousands to the practice of contemplative prayer. (December 10) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(?14th century B.C.) Older sister of Moses, thought to be the actual voice behind one of the oldest poems in the Hebrew Scriptures, The Song of Moses, celebrating the previously unimaginable event of God taking the side of the forgotten, dispossessed slaves and leading them to freedom. In Exodus, Miriam leads the women of Israel in a dance of thanksgiving for the freedom God has given them. Visit this icon.

(1498-1546) Medieval bhakti poet of northern India. After refusing to cast her body on her husband's funeral pyre, she took up a wandering life, turning her back on convention and dedicating herself to the Hindu god, Lord Giridhara. Her poems poignantly convey the sublimity of mystical union with the Divine and longing despair at its loss-a longing so powerful it itself becomes the sign of the Beloved's presence.

(1872-1957) Pioneering architect who had a profound impact on architecture in the West. Her concept of sacred space influenced the design of many buildings including St. Gregory's Church. She aggressively sought contracts, sometimes offering her services free of charge, to build beautiful public spaces, including Potrero Hill's Neighborhood House, Asilomar and many churches and community centers. (January 20) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(330-405) Ethiopian thief and gang leader who underwent a conversion and become one of the most revered of the Desert Fathers, founders of monasticism. (August 28)

        JOHN MUIR+
(1838-1914) Writer, hiker, lover of California wilderness. Father of the modern environmental movement. In spite of an abusive religious upbringing, he remained a deeply spiritual man and an eloquent spokesperson for our sacred responsibility to care for the earth. He said, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." (December 24) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(1818-1866) Anglican priest who founded the Sisters of Saint Margaret (one of the first Anglican orders of women after the Reformation) for medical nursing work among the rural poor of England. He insisted on a high level of professional training for the nurses and fostered the autonomous leadership of women within their community (angering many who believed that women must be subservient to a father, brother or husband) Forging strong ecumenical ties with Eastern Orthodoxy, he brought a daring and renewed feeling of beauty and tenderness to Anglican liturgy, hymnody and architecture. (August 6) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(1820-1910) Unitarian, sometime Anglican, accused of "eclectic religious beliefs." The leading figure in the development of modern nursing practice through her pioneering work in the Crimean War, she recruited and trained women to serve in places of disease and violence where Victorian sensibilities taught "gentle ladies ought not to go." Among her recruits were a number of Anglican nursing sisters from the Sisters of Saint Margaret. (August 13) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(185-254) Alexandrian theologian and teacher whose homilies profoundly challenged and influenced Gregory of Nyssa. Origen established the norm of scripture commentary for Christian theology. Probably the first Christian to learn Hebrew in order to read the Old Testament in its original language. Visit this icon.

(389-461) In a time of cultural collapse and hooligan violence, Patrick's missionary work to the Irish was humanist, peacemaking and expansive. Patrick and his missionary co-workers created a Celtic Christianity that embraced ancient Celtic reverence and love of nature, while suppressing old practices like human sacrifice to the nature gods, and that used the bardic traveler's spirit of old Celtic spirituality to tame the roaming warrior hero tradition. (March 17)

(1st century) Author of nearly half the New Testament. Paul, though personally inclined to be a strict moralist and attracted to simple answers and clear, comprehensive order, struggled in all his writings to include his startling vision of God's unreserved embrace of all humanity in Christ, saying: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's sins or faults against them, and God entrusted to us the news that people are reconciled." (January 25)

(?-1976 ) American Gospel scholar who developed new principles for recovering the probable original teaching of Jesus in the parables. He argued that Jesus' central, daring witness was the sacred meal he kept with "unprepared sinners," the sign we imitate at St. Gregory's by welcoming everyone to share in Eucharist.

(?-1310) French mystic and author of Mirror of a Simple Soul. When accused of the heresy of a "Free Spirit," she remained contemptuously silent before the Inquisition and was burned at the stake in Paris. (June 1)

        JENNY READ+
(1945-1976) Artistically gifted, intellectually and spiritually inquisitive young Episcopal sculptor in San Francisco who was raped and murdered while at work on a sculpture of St. John of the Cross. (May 18)

(1884-1962) A woman of privilege who as First Lady chose to draw near to suffering, seeing and listening to people's experience of being poor or dispossessed in order to enlarge her compassion. She used her access to political power as a means to offer them dignity and relief. (November 7)

(c. 1365- c.1430) Russian Orthodox monk and icon painter. He worked as an assistant and disciple to Theophanes the Greek, and eventually painted images for prayer which synthesized Theophanes' work with purified Russian folk traditions creating an iconography which was intimate and human.







(1207-1273) Mystical Persian Sufi poet. Appreciated by Christians, Jews, Muslims and unbelievers in his day and our own for his striking expression of the presence of God in ecstasy and the everyday. As a teacher, he invited others into mystical union with God through poetry and dancing. He created the whirling, meditative dance of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis. (December 17) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1184-1291) Medieval Persian poet whose Gulistan (The Rose Garden) and Bustan (Orchard) are classics of Sufi mystical literature. His work includes the parable of the injured fox fed by the tiger.

(1897-1982) American Episcopal laywoman who almost single-handedly restored the practice of healing prayer to mainline Christian churches. (February 21)

Bishop of Shanghai. Schereschewski was sent to China to become Bishop, but on landing in Shanghai, he immediately fell ill with a fever that left him paralysed. Unable to carry out the original mission he'd been given, Bishop Schereschewski spent the rest of his life translating the Bible into Chinese. We honor him for his perseverence uin the face of tragdy and limitation, and we celebrate his finding an unexpected way of carrying out his mission to bring the Word to his new people.[Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1759-1833) Russian Orthodox mystic of joy, whose love for all of God's creatures led him to share his fasting rations with a bear saying, "The poor bear can't know it is Lent." (January 2)
(Seraphim and the three other saints portrayed with animals - Francis, Godiva and Sadi - remind us that God's work of creation extends to all living creatures and that some people have known God in companionship with animals or by listening for God through imaginative and compassionate reflection on the stories of animals.) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(4th century) Roman soldiers who were martyred for their Christian faith. The ancient veneration of these two men offers gay Christians, and those who love and support them, a ray of hope by showing how the Church openly honored two people of the same gender in a loving relationship. In their relationship as lovers, Sergius and Bacchus found courage for the choice they were called to make as witnesses to their faith. (October 7)

(1564-1616) Profoundly spiritual Elizabethan playwright and poet. We celebrate him particularly for his understanding of the work of grace and the dynamics of redemption. (April 23) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(1891-1945) A divorced woman and Russian intellectual who became a nun, worked with the poor in France and was martyred by the Nazis for hiding Jews. Known for being outspoken, pragmatic and daringly funny. Metropolitan (archbishop) Antony Bloom noted that as a young priest "it offended me then that she liked to sit in Paris bistros in her nun's habit, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and talking with simple workers. I am ashamed to say I kept my distance from that woman because she was doing just what Christ did." Visit this icon-in-progress.

(? - 1250?) Mother of Kublai Khan, as well as another Khan of China and one of Persia, who kept a Christian household and had her sons educated by priests. Though none of her sons professed Christianity officially, they were friendly to Christians. Her contemporary, Syrian Orthodox Gregory Bar-Hebraya in far western Mesopotamia, treasured her memory and said 'She was a Christian, sincere and true, like Queen Helena.' And a certain poet said concerning her 'If I were to see among the race of women another woman like this, I should say that the race of women was far superior to the race of men.'"

(1916 - 1997) A layman from the Mar Thoma Church, Kerala. Pioneering ecumenical leader, onetime chair of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, director of the Institute for the Study of Religion and Society in Bangalore, and in 1990, he became the governor of Nagaland. M. M. did the unprecedented thing of retiring to his local village, where he lived among the people, and began a Biblical commentary in the local language. He died travelling 3rd class on a train from Madras.

(1795-1883) An illiterate freed slave, she was an eloquent critic of slavery and sexism, transfixing audiences with the force and simplicity of her message of Christian love and tolerance. Her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech, delivered to a women's rights convention in 1851, disrupted forever assumptions about race, class and gender in American society. Visit this icon.

        SU SHI+
(10th century) Poet, painter and Chinese government official. A follower of Chan (Zen) and Pure Land Buddhism, he emphasized doing good works, even during his times of exile. His beneficent government policies influenced the development of FDR's New Deal. [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(?-1986) Japanese diplomat in Lithuania during World War II who defied government policy and issued as many visas as he could to save thousands of Jews fleeing annihilation by the Nazis. (July 31) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(949-1022) Greek Orthodox monk, mystic, and poet of the Holy Spirit. He heard confessions and gave absolution as a layman. He often walked naked, "unashamed of the body Christ redeemed." (March 12) [Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1921/2 - 1942) Tapiedi was a teacher in the mission school of Papua New Guinea. During the Japanessse invasion of the island Tapiedi remained with his people, as did many of the other missionaries, most of whom were foreigners. Ironically, Tapiedi was not killed by the Japanese; instead, he dies at the hands of a fellow Papuan, a member of theOrokaiva tribe named Hivijapa. Hivijapa later converted to Christianity and took the name Hivijapa Jucian in memory of his victim.[Visit this icon-in-progress.]

(1515-1582) Spanish mystic who defied the Inquisition by welcoming Jewish converts into her Carmelite community. She taught that we develop our friendship with God in the friendships of community life. Her friendship with John of the Cross included elements of mentor, goad, critic, spiritual director (informally) and spiritual directee (formally). They helped one another continue in challenging visionary work despite dangerous hostile scrutiny from their own communities and the Inquisition. (October 15) Visit this icon.

(4th Century) Wife of Gregory of Nyssa. Monastic historians have tried to eradicate the memory of Theosebeia, but Gregory was one of the last married bishops before new church laws required that all bishops be celibate monks. When Gregory wrote of the love, physical longing and communion of bride and bridegroom, or when he explained that in mystical union with Christ, the new "mother-in-law" of each of our souls is God, he was writing from his own experience of marriage and married love. We remember Theosebeia with gratitude as Gregory's wife and partner in body and spirit.

(1883-1969) Following a vision of the universe longing for peace and reconciliation, he understood Budoh (martial practice) to be for the reconciliation and protection all things. He founded Aikido, "the way of reconciliation," which resolves conflict by harmlessly disarming an attacker and avoiding injury even to those another might call "enemy." Through prayer and physical practice he came independently to the principles of nonviolence like those of Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. He said, "To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. The art of peace is invincible because it contends with nothing." (April 26) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(1909-1943) French Jewish woman classicist and philosopher. Rapturously in love with Jesus Christ, she refused to seek baptism in order to remain identified with a world seeking redemption. (August 24)

(1757-1834) Anglican priest, hymn writer, and, with his brother, John, founder of the Methodist movement in the Church of England. Their innovative mission to the working poor offended Church authorities and believers in England's rigid class structure by teaching the royal and priestly dignity of the least Christian, through an emphasis on feeling and experience. Students and disciples of the Wesleys fought successfully to end England's lucrative trade in African slaves and pioneered legal reforms ensuring safe working conditions and fair labor practices. (March 3) Visit this icon-in-progress.

(1760-1821) Successor to Mother Ann (founder of the Shakers), she is credited with developing choreographed sacred dance and the use of hymns and anthems in Shaker worship. (February 7)

The Dancing Saints icon will be completed over the next three years. Iconographer Mark Dukes is collecting images and information about each of these saints, as well as visual references, such as costumes or hair styles, from their particular historical periods.

Details on the lives of the saints were compiled and edited by Michael Barger, Norma Harrington, Tracy Haughton, Donald Schell, Margaret Simpson, Leesy Taggart, and Mary Grove.



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