The Martyrs of Memphis

The Martyrs of Memphis, 1878
The Martyrs of Memphis, 1878

Last week was the feast day of Constance and the Martyrs of Memphis. Constance and the others died while caring for the health and souls of the people of Memphis during the single worst epidemic the United States has ever suffered. We forget how terrible Yellow Fever can be, though it is not gone and could yet return.

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Contemporary collect:

We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the Heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and the dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death. Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, finalized only 10 years after the Great Spanish flu and appropriate for today’s new flu pandemic:

O MOST mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succour. Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain our life is, we may apply our hearts unto that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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