About the Commemoration
Thomas Ken, the son of a lawyer, was born in 1637. He lived in politically disturbed times but was fearless in defense of the truth and in the rebuke of wrongdoing. He was chaplain to King Charles II but would not allow the king’s mistress to enter his house. The king took no offense and in the following year, 1684, made him Bishop of Bath and Wells.
In 1684 when Charles’s successor, James II, a Roman Catholic, to whom Ken had sworn allegiance, tried to undermine the authority of the Church of England, Ken and six other bishops refused to read the king’s declaration of toleration for Protestant nonconformists and Roman Catholics. The seven bishops were imprisoned in the Tower of London but were acquitted in the courts and became popular heroes. James was deposed in 1688 and replaced with William of Orange, but Ken, believing himself bound by the oath of allegiance he swore to James II, could not acknowledge William and Mary as the lawful monarchs. He was deprived of his bishopric.
“Saintly Bishop Ken” was one of the many learned, devout, and holy people who are the glory of the seventeenth-century Church of England. Justly commemorated for his quiet insistence on the importance of doing right, he is remembered most of all today for his morning hymn “Awake, my soul, and with the sun” and his evening hymn “All praise to thee, my God, this night”; both conclude with the doxology “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” familiar to every Protestant denomination.
Thomas Ken is included on the calendar in the Book of Common Prayer.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Thomas Ken
From a sermon by Bishop Ken
For what is Lent, in its original institution, but a spiritual conflict to subdue the flesh to the spirit, to beat down our bodies, and to bring them into subjection? A devout soul, that is able duly to observe it, fastens himself to the cross on Ash Wednesday, and hangs crucified by contrition all the Lent long; that, having felt in his closet the burthen and the anguish, the nails and the thorns and tasted the gall of his own sins, he may by his own crucifixion be better disposed to be crucified with Christ on Good Friday, and most tenderly sympathize with all the dolors and pressures and anguish and torments and desertion, infinite, unknown and unspeakable, which God incarnate endured when he bled upon the cross for the sins of the world; that being purified by repentance and made conformable to Christ crucified, he may offer up a pure oblation at Easter and feel the power and the joys and the triumph of his Saviour’s resurrection.
“Sermon Preached in the King’s Chapel at Whitehall in 1685,” in Prose Works of the Right Reverend Thomas Ken, ed. W. Benham (London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden, 1889), 85.
Almighty God, you gave your servant Thomas Ken grace and courage to bear witness to the truth before rulers and kings: Give us strength also that, following his example, we may constantly defend what is right, boldly reprove what is evil, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Oxford Centenary Supplementary Missal, LFF
Readings: Psalm 34:108 or 145:8-13; Philippians 4:4-9; Luke 6:17-23
Prayers: For integrity, the grace to know what is right, and the courage to do it; For those who teach young people the faith; For the Cathedral Church of Wells and the diocese of Bath and Wells; For an increase of understanding among the branches of the Christian church.
Preface: A Saint (2) (BCP)