Josephine Butler, Social Reformer

30 May -- Lesser Festival -- Of any Saint -- White

Josephine Butler (née Grey) was born in April 1828, and baptised on this day that year, in Northumberland. She married an Anglican priest in 1852. She became incensed by the way contemporary society treated prostitutes, most of whom were forced into such activity through desperate poverty. From 1869, she campaigned for the repeal of the legislation which put all opprobrium onto the women concerned, and the issue became international after she travelled in Europe addressing meetings in 1874-75. Her campaign succeeded with the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act in 1883. She was a devout Anglican and a woman of prayer, basing her spirituality on that of St Catherine of Siena, whose biography she wrote. She died on 30 December 1906.


God of compassion and love,
by whose grace your servant Josephine Butler
followed in the way of your Son
in caring for those in need:
help us like her to work with strength
for the restoration of all
to the dignity and freedom of those created in your image;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

This is the word of the Lord.         Isaiah 58. 6-11

Responsorial Psalm

RYou shall call, and the Lord will answer
[you shall cry, and he will say, "Here I am"].
Help me, Lord, for there is no godly one left;
the faithful have vanished from among us.
Everyone speaks falsely with their neighbour;
with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart. R

O that the Lord would cut off all smooth tongues,
and close the lips that utter proud boasts!
Those who say, "With our tongue will we prevail;
our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" R

"Because the needy are oppressed,
and the poor cry out in misery,
I will rise up", says the Lord,
"and give them the help they long for." R

The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined from ore and purified seven times in the fire.
O Lord, watch over us
and save us from this generation for ever. R         From Psalm 12

A reading from the First Letter of John.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

This is the word of the Lord.         1 John 3. 18-23

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

As Jesus sat at dinner in Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

This is the gospel of Christ.         Matthew 9. 10-13

Post Communion

God our Redeemer,
who inspired your servant Josephine Butler
   to witness to your love
and to work for the coming of your kingdom:
may we, who in this sacrament share the bread of heaven,
be fired by your Spirit to proclaim the gospel in our daily living
and never to rest content until your kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.