This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10 -- Feast of Saint Ithamar of Rochester

Baseball's Saint Ithamar
Sometimes the bar is set so low for us that merely meeting the standard looks like a prize-winning achievement.  Bishop Ithamar of Rochester might well have been exceptional, but the extant report of him all but damns him with faint praise. 

What we know is that he was the first Anglo-Saxon bishop in Britain; that calls to mind some other national firsts, which include: 

Jeanette Rankin (R-WY) - First Woman in the US Congress
Golda Meir -- First Woman to be Prime Minister of Israel
Indira Gandhi -- First Woman to be Prime Minister of India
Margaret Thatcher-- First Woman to be Prime Minister of Great Britain
Kim Campbell -- First Woman to be Prime Minister of Canada
Banazir Bhutto -- First Woman to be Prime Minister of Pakistan
Gene Robinson - First openly gay priest and bishop (in mainstream episcopate churches)
Nelson Mandela - First black president of the Republic of South Africa
Barack Obama -- First black president of the United States

Bishop Gene Robinson - the gay Ithamar
I recently asked a student whether Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball, merited the retirement of his number by all MLB teams.  We discussed the significance of baseball in American culture, contrasted team sports with individual sports (e.g. boxing and track), and considered Robinson's stats irrespective of his race.  I found this to be an enlightening discussion, mostly because I don't know much about baseball. 

As you might have guessed, the early bishops of Britain were sent by Rome.  Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, was a native of Rome.  He arrived in 597 and held the See until his death in 604.  The next four archbishops of Canterbury were all part of his mission from Rome to England.  In 604, the See of Rochester was created and the first three bishops were similarly all continental immigrants. 
The Female, Muslim Ithamar
The Venerable Bede wrote that Ithamar was, "...of the Kentish nation, but not inferior to his predecessors for learning or conduct of life."  Uh-huh.  And gosh darnit, that Thurgood Marshall and Sandy O'Connor weren't inferior justices in spite of his abundant melanin and her two X-chromosomes. Tokenism goes down hard.  Perhaps there wasn't any more to say about Bishop Ithamar, just as there wasn't about "Silent Hattie" Carraway, the first woman elected to the US Senate.  She seldom spoke on the floor, explaining that she didn't want "to take a minute away from the men. The poor dears love it so."  Then again, he may have been a spell-binding orator, a tireless pastor, and a meticulous administrator.  Whatever he did was obscured by his being The First.

Jackie Robinson, by the way, had a career batting average of .311, placing him 88th on the all-time list.  Ty Cobb heads the list with .366, but Don Mattingly, Matty Alou, Johnny Pesky, Hank Aaron, Willy Mays, Pete Rose, and Micky Mantle all finish with three-digit places.  There's probably more to Ithamar, too.  I wish Saint Bede had taken an extra thirty seconds to tell us about him. 

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