Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
—1 Corinthians 4:9-10
Today is April 1, April Fools’ Day, when people around the world engage in silliness and pranks. In some parts of the world, such as Ukraine, April Fools’ Day is a national holiday. In the United States it is an unofficial observance.
The origins of April Fools’ Day are unclear. According to the History.com, “Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563.” They note, “In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1.” As they explain, “People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called ‘April Fools’.” These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as poisson d’avril (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.” Makes sense to me.
April Fools’ is certainly not a church holiday. On April 1 in the Anglican Communion, we commemorate theologian Frederick Denison Maurice, who died on April 1, 1872. Maurice once wrote, “We have been dosing our people with religion when what they want is not this, but the living God.” As Holy Women, Holy Men notes, Maurice, who lived in England, was a founder of the Christian Socialist Movement. He was a controversial figure in his day and was even dismissed from a professorship because of his leadership position in the Christian Social Movement. Some might say he was a fool for Christ’s sake. He did such other “foolish” things as founding Queens College for women in London, and the Working Men’s College.
In a fine essay titled “On Being a fool for Christ,” Roman Catholic priest Monsignor Charles Pope (no, this is not an April Fools’ joke) writes that being a fool for Christ, “is to be mocked, scorned and hated by this world, to be the butt of jokes, to be held in derision.” There were many who felt this way about Frederick Denison Maurice.
In fact, throughout history great Christian saints and leaders have been mocked, scorned, hated, by this world and have been the butt of jokes. Consider St. Basil of Moscow, for whom the Cathedral in Red Square is named. Hagiographer Robert Ellsberg reports that one Lent, Basil presented Tsar Ivan, known as “the terrible” with “a great piece of raw meat.” According to Ellsberg, “When the tsar protested that he did not eat meet in Lent, Basil responded, ‘Then why do you drink the blood of men?’” Ellsberg adds, “so fearful was the tsar of this poor holy many that he ordered that no harm was to be done to him.” Basil is buried next to the Cathedral named for him in Moscow. Scorned, mocked, derided—these don’t sound like goals to which we should aspire, and yet, when these occur for the sake of Christ and his kingdom then blessed are we indeed.
On this April Fools’ Day, as we draw near to Holy Week, I can’t help thinking of Christ standing before Pilate. scorned, mocked, derided, hated. Ecce Homo “Behold the man” (John 19:5), Pilate says. Behold the fool?
Have a blessed Christmas!
(Okay, that is an April Fools’ joke!)
Yours in Christ,
The Right Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
 See “April Fools’ Day” on the History.com website found at https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/april-fools-day
 See “Frederick Denison Maurice” – Holy Women, Holy Men – (New York: Church Publishing Inc., 2010) 299
 Ibid and see Wikipedia “Frederick Denison Maurice” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Denison_Maurice
 Pope, Charles “On being a fool for Christ” – Today’s Catholic website September 9, 2020 found at https://todayscatholic.org/on-being-a-fool-for-christ/
 Ellsberg, Robert . Blessed Among Us: Day by Day with Saintly Witnesses, (Collegville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2010), Se entry for August 2.