Ordinary people with extraordinary lives

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

In addition to the cycles of seasonal and ordinary time there is another calendar which overlays it. This, the calendar of saints and other holy days only intrudes on the Sunday cycle occasionally, and has much more influence on weekdays. In the diagram I’ve been using, I represent this as a looping arrow going around the year.

The calendar of saints loops around the seasonal cycle

Someone – presumably an academic used to writing copious footnotes on their sources – once described saints as “footnotes” to the gospel. That is to say, their lives show us something of the details of what a Jesus-shaped life might look like in different times, places and circumstances. Different saints bring different Christian virtues into prominence, and show what a really committed Christian life might look like at a particular time in history, or a specific cultural context.

On a Sunday it may be more likely that the lives of these saints will influence the prayers, rather than the readings. That is because every Sunday is seen as a celebration of the Lord’s resurrection, and therefore most holy days rank as rather less important than a Sunday. In both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, some major days of celebration do fall on a Sunday, and displace the Sunday readings, but those days are relatively infrequent, and differ slightly between the two calendars.

For those who attend worship on weekdays, or who try to follow their churches cycle of weekday prayers or readings, the calendar of saints can be quite important, as a way of helping us get to know past members of the Christian family, not simply as dead heroes, but present friends, caught up with us in the worship of God, but now enjoying God’s nearer presence.

Personally, I always encourage people to follow this calendar, and maybe learn something about the day’s saint. Sometimes you find someone who illuminates an aspect of the faith in a way you hadn’t expected, or who inspires by the way they responded to Christ in their day and age. Sometimes, it feel like you find a mentor and a friend.

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