November 28, 2005

Kamehameha and Emma

Category: Communion of Saints — Micah @ 12:00 am

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Good day, and welcome to Communion of Saints from I’m your host, Micah Jackson. Today is November 28th, 2005: the Feast of Blessed Kamehameha and Emma.

About a hundred years before Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union, King Kamehameha IV and his wife Queen Emma ruled the Kingdom of Hawaii. The young monarch—and he was young—only 20 years old when he became king, wasn’t interested in being a figurehead. He and Emma immersed themselves in the lives of the Hawaiian people, and worked hard to find solutions for their problems. In response to devastating diseases like smallpox, leprosy, and influenza, for example, they endowed Queen’s hospital, one of the largest medical centers in Hawaii to this day. They also were great supporters of education, and founded many schools.

In 1860, the two monarchs wrote to England, asking for missionaries to be sent to Hawaii. Kamehameha had encountered the Anglican liturgy on a royal tour of Europe and felt its depth, simplicity, and beauty would mesh well with the Hawaiian lifestyle. About a month after the missionaries arrived, Kamehameha and Emma were confirmed on this day in 1862. The king set out to translate the prayer book and many hymns into Hawaiian for the use of his people. He was a staunch supporter of native Hawaiian culture, and struggled to retain Hawaii’s independence from outside influence, especially the United States, attempting to limit the island nation’s economic and political dependence on any other nation.

Unfortunately, the goodness the royal couple showed to their people could not protect them from personal tragedy. Their young son died at the tender age of only four. The whole nation mourned, but none more deeply than the boy’s father. Kamehameha himself died of complications from his chronic asthma in 1864 at only 29. Queen Emma declined to take the throne. She preferred to dedicate herself to the charitable work she and her husband had started. She died 21 years after her husband in 1885.

Kamehameha and Emma’s commitment to the welfare of the Hawaiian people is felt to this day, nearly 150 years since their deaths. They truly understood Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me.” (Matthew 25:31-40) No wonder even contemporary Hawaiians refer to Emma as “our beloved Queen.”

Let us pray: O Sovereign God, who raised up Kamehameha and Emma to be rulers in Hawaii and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thank you for listening to Communion of Saints. Please join us on November 30th at for the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. I’m Micah Jackson. May God be with you.

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  1. Yet another set of saints marked by a date other than their death. I assume thats because they didn’t die on the same day, and there was no good way to choose whose date of death would be marked. I still wonder if we should mark this as “Confirmation (or Conversion?) of Kamehameha and Emma”.

    Comment by Susie — November 28, 2005 @ 6:45 am

  2. Actually, as I become more familiar with the calendar, I find that lots of them are for days other than the date of death. James Huntington (from just a few days ago) commemorates the date of his life profession. Jonathan Myrick Daniels (August 14th) is actually the date he was jailed. His actual death date, August 20th, is already in use by St. Bernard. Of course, Florence Li-Tim Oi commemorates the date of her ordination (and says so explicitly).

    So far, the Episcopal Church has been reluctant to double up on commemorations (in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church), and that’s why some of these other dates are used. If that position ever changes, then perhaps we would begin to use death dates more universally.

    On the other hand, perhaps it is appropriate to suggest that a martyr (tightly defined) should be commemorated on the date of his or her death, and others should be commemorated on some date of significance to their stories. More thought necessary.

    Comment by Micah — November 28, 2005 @ 7:57 am

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