Where would we be without the Saints! They are among the most colourful, controversial, and often comic, members of the Christian family, and our own discipleship would be much more drab and poor without them.
And Rupert Bristow has given us a delightful introduction to well over six hundred and these marvellous characters in his latest book Prayers for Saints, in which we find a short biography of every saint together with a prayer that he has written specially for each of these men and women who enriched the lives of those around them, and can also enrich our own lives.
No day throughout the whole calendar year is without its saint, sometimes more than one. Even on Christmas day we recall blessed Anastasia, martyred at the beginning of the third century in what is now modern Serbia, “for her faith in the story of the nativity of Jesus Christ.” Of course, some of the saints will be familiar to many of us, such as Peter ‘the rock’ and Paul ‘the apostle to the gentiles’ recalled on their feast day of 29 June. But many others we will be meeting for the first time, such as Nilus, an abbot from Russia, (7 April) who life was an example of quiet discipline and a dislike of religious intolerance and formalism … the sort of guy we could benefit from by having him around today!
For sheer eccentricity and daftness, my favourite is Simon the Stylite (5 January) , who spent the last twenty years of his life living on the top of a sixty foot high pillar. Clearly a bit of an exhibitionist (all the saints are sinners as well!), he attracted many visitors and sightseers, including emperors, and really did teach about the need for repentance and prayer. What I have never discovered is what he did about going to the loo, but perhaps people were less fussy about such things in the fourth century!
Prayers for Saints will most certainly enrich your prayers, and often make you laugh and sometimes cry. It comes with a CD disk that contains all the published material, so those preparing a particular service can copy and paste the biography and prayer associated with a particular saint. And no need to take this quite heavy book away with you on holiday: just slip the CD into your computer case, and you have the whole book with you for your daily prayers away from home (following Nilus’ example of ‘quiet discipline’!)
From Stephen, the first martyr, (26 December), through some of the saints of our own county, such as Ethelbert of Kent, (25 February), who welcomed Augustine to these shores through the persuasion of his Christian wife, Bertha – one of many stories of wives bringing their husbands to the Christian faith, to the most recent saint we are told about in this book, Karol Wojtyla, otherwise known as Pope John Paul II (22 October), Prayers for Saints gives us a rich feast that will enliven our prayers and encourage us on our own Christian journey.
Richard Llewellin is an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, formerly Bishop of Dover (1992-1999).