Every Wednesday night during communion at All Saints in Peachtree City,Fr. Michael Fry leads parishioners through exploring the life of a saint – apractice he began several years ago.
“It’s no mystery why the biggest blockbusters at the movie theaters are all superheroes!” says Fr. Michael. “Because human beings are wired for heroes… people we look up to and want to emulate.”
During morning prayer at the Mission Matters Conference & Synod 2018, Fr. Michael encouraged clergy and laity to continue to remember those saints who have come before us.
“The honoring of heroic Christian witnesses dates back at least to the third century… But in the Church we stopped telling the stories of our spiritual heroes. So people will find substitutes,” says Fr. Michael. “Without the study of the saints, you’re leaving your people to follow whoever they spend time with.”
Fr. Michael shared about one of his favorite saints, Joseph of Cupertino – a Franciscan friar in the early 17th century, who was said to have been so devout that he was seen levitating during his prayer times.
“What the saints do for me is they inspire me to be more. No matter how devout I think I am, no matter how earnest I am in adoration for the Lord, I think of Joseph Cupertino and I think I have a long way to go,” says Fr. Michael.
He says “virtually every walk of life and every spiritual gift is manifest” in the saints: pastors and lay people, teachers and doctors, mothers and fathers, soldiers and prayer warriors.
“Reading the lives of saints gives you stuff to shoot for, encourages you, helps you to not settle for ‘okay’,” says Fr. Michael.
He also shared about the saint honored on that Saturday of the Synod Conference: influential 16th century English priest and theologian Richard Hooker. Caught during the Reformation between Puritans and Roman Catholicism, Hooker defended scripture as the first authority, God-inspired reason second, and Church tradition third.
“Hooker argued that scripture doesn’t cover everything. [In] creation, we can see a natural law – many truths not in scripture. So yes, scripture is our authority, but also the laws of creation God put there,” says Fr. Michael. “It applies to political philosophy, it applies to theology, it applies to Church organization. Understanding a bit about our own Church history and great Anglican minds of the past that have grappled with controversies in their own day, we may find much that is still applicable to our own.”
Fr. Michael gives some recommendations for learning more about the lives of the saints, all available through online book retailers.
Lesser Feasts and Fasts: Several short spiritual biographies for each week. “A simple but good place to start,” says Fr. Michael, who recommends the 1994 version that he owns.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: A Protestant resource, emphasizing martyrs of the 14th-16th centuries.
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: Covers lives of saints from the 3rd and 4th centuries in Egypt and North Africa. “My own copy is torn to shreds from use.”
Butler’s Lives of the Saints: While a multi-volume set, condensed versions exist as well. A Catholic resource, Fr. Michael recommends it because “almost all the saints in there are our [Anglican] saints because most of them are before the 1600s.”
Jesus Freaks: Published by Voice of the Martyrs. “A more recent version which I commend to you.”
ADOTS has also published an Advent calendar resource to help individuals and families remember the saints during this season of waiting and fasting. See the preview below and download the PDF calendar here.