Mondaye France

Informative Information

Peter Benenson   Amnesty International Founder

Venerable Henriette Delille

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International, died on February 25, 2005.                                                                Born Peter Solomon to Jewish parents in London in 1921, he later took his mother’s maiden name, Benenson, as his own. As a child, he was tutored by the British poet W. H. Auden. He later attended Eton, where he helped raise money for orphans of the Spanish Civil War, and for Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany.                         After serving as a code breaker for the British Army during World War II, Benenson became a barrister. In 1957, he and other British lawyers founded JUSTICE, a human rights and law reform organization. The following year, he converted to Catholicism.                                  In 1961, Benenson helped found Amnesty International, following the arrest and imprisonment in Portugal of two students who had toasted liberty. The organization later fought for the release of six prisoners of conscience, including Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague, Czechoslovakia, and Cardinal Joszef Mindszenty of Budapest, Hungary. Benenson served as the group’s first general secretary until ill health forced him to step down in 1964. After leaving Amnesty International, he founded Christians Against Torture. He was also a member of Pax Christi.                    Benson died of pneumonia at age 83.

‘Only then, when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world’s people, will our work be done.’                                                   -Peter Benenson

Courtesy of “The Little Black Book”

‘Servant of slaves’

Venerable Henriette Delille was born in 1813 into one of New Orleans’ oldest families of free people of color. The exact date of her birth is unknown, but March 11 is often celebrated as her birthday.            Henriette was educated, taught music and French literature, and attended balls. One day she met a French nun who impressed the young girl with her dedication to God and her charitable work.                         Henriette transformed her life. she taught religion to slaves, baptized them, and encouraged marriage, at a time when Louisiana law prohibited educating slaves and free people of color, under penalty of death or life imprisonment.       Unable to find a religious community that would accept a Black woman, in 1835 she sold all her property in order to found a religious community of Black sisters. In 1842, after several setbacks, she and friends, Juliette Gaudin and Josephine Charles, received permisssion from the diocese to establish the Sisters of the Holy Family.                                       Besides educating and evangelizing slaves and free people of color, Sr. Henriette also encouraged the order to build a home for the sick, aged, and poor Black residents of the city. She died November 16, 1862.                                                     In 1997, the United States bishops unanimously endorsed her cause for canonization. She was declared venerable in 2010.   

‘I believe in God.                                                  I hope in God.                                                        I love God.                                                ‘I want to live and die for God.’   -Henriette Delille   

Courtesy of “The Little Black Book”

After his horse was startled by a lightning bolt, the young nobleman, St. Norbert of Xanten, was thrown to the ground. He awoke with a vision that led him to renounce his appointment at high court, give away his wealth and set out to preach peace, reconciliation and church reform. He left a legacy that, within a century, would spread internationally, with hundreds of abbeys established from Ireland to the Holy Land. How is this relevant today to the liberal arts college that bears his name? Join Tom Kunkel, 2008-2017 President of St. Norbert College and the Rev. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem., to learn about St. Norbert of Xanten (c.1080-1134) and discuss how his life and legacy continue to influence the mission and operations of St. Norbert College in the 21st century.

*MOOC: Massive Open Online Course
Courtesy of St. Norbert College

Composer

‘I have read my Bible very well, and will choose for myself.’

After Jesus Christ, the name most associated with ‘Messiah’ must be George Frideric Handel. German-born in 1685, he settled in London at 25 and was fast recognised as a gifted composer with an industrious work ethic to match.

Hardcore Handel fans may argue ‘Messiah’ is not, in fact, his greatest work. And yet the Dublin Gazette‘s take after its debut at the city’s Great Music Hall rings true: ‘Words are wanting to express the exquisite delight it afforded’.

Not everyone loved ‘Messiah’, though. It stirred controversy among church leaders who deemed it inappropriate for an ‘act of religion’ to be performed in a theatre (and by companies of performers rather than ministers of the word!). It wasn’t the first of his works to rile religious authorities: his oratorios ‘Esther’ and ‘Israel in Egypt’ had met with similar opposition.

But Handel’s Christian instincts guided him to challenge this view of ‘secular’ spaces as unfit for his work. ‘I have read my Bible very well,’ he said, ‘and will choose for myself.’ For Handel, there was no sacred-secular divide – no reason why houses of entertainment shouldn’t also host the praises of God. In fact, where better to sing worship than a building dedicated to the wonder of music?

Handel’s faith also spurred his pursuit of excellence. He’s reported to have said he was sorry if he only ‘entertained’ his audience, wishing instead to ‘make them better’. That faith was expressed most explicitly in his final oratorio, ‘Jephtha’. Composed while his vision was failing, it captures both the lament (‘How dark, O lord, are thy decrees’) and hope of the gospel (‘Freedom now once more possessing, Peace shall spread with ev’ry blessing’).

Having worshipped his whole life at St George’s, Hanover Square, Handel was buried in 1759 at Westminster Abbey. His life and work are instructive to any of us who want to pursue God-honouring excellence in our work: be that in churches, concert halls, or wherever we serve.

Courtesy of the© The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity