Thoughts on Saints and Organic Development

I’ve been pondering a passage from W. H. Frere. As I’ve mentioned before, the revision and creation of Anglican Kalendars was in large measure spearheaded by the thoughts laid down by Frere in his 1911 book Some Principles of Liturgical Reform: A Contribution towards the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Here’s the passageI’ve been mulling over:

Now there are three principles that have operated in the formation of Kalendars. First they are designed to commemorate the chief events of redemption as recorded in the New Testament; secondly to maintain a memorial of local [p. 20] saints, especially martyrs; thirdly to recall the heroes of Christendom, who claim remembrance on other grounds than those of local interest, because of their prominence in the general history of the Church or in the Bible. These principles were recognized as regulative in the various processes by which the present Kalendar of the Prayer Book was reached; but different relative value and force has been assigned to them at different times. (Frere, Some Principles, 19-20)

Looking at Holy Women, Holy Men, one of the chief issues is its massive multiplication of feast days. Our ferial days are disappearing fast. Again, this is represented graphically in this image:

Entries 1957-2013The resolution that originally authorized the work that would become HWHM is 2003-A100 and it says this:

Resolved, That the 74th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to undertake a revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2000, to reflect our increasing awareness of the importance of the ministry of all the people of God and of the cultural diversity of The Episcopal Church, of the wider Anglican Communion, of our ecumenical partners, and of our lively experience of sainthood in local communities; and be it further

Resolved, That the SCLM produce a study of the significance of that experience of local sainthood in encouraging the living out of baptism; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $20,000 for implementation of this resolution.

I’m thinking out loud right now about the call for local stuff in connection with the Frere quote and a broader question about the nature and purpose of the church-wide kalendar in the BCP…

Does HWHM reflect or forward “our lively experience of sainthood in local communities”? Or does it reflect people that various committees wanted to get included for various reasons?

Wouldn’t the goal of local celebration be better served if we did more work raising up the importance of local parish and diocesan kalendars? If we did that, then the church-wide kalendar would be better seen as a collection of Frere’s 1 and 3; the role of 2 would fall to the local communties who know their own people best…

Could a more minimalist kalendar function to better support local, lay, diverse visions of sanctity than a maximalist list imposed from the centralized authority?

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Saints and Organic Development

  1. Pat Vercruyssen

    To the final question: imho, yes. 2003-A100 would have been well-implemented with an understanding of and provision for local (Diocesan, parish) remembrances, and an adequate number of ferial days maintained for observance of the regular seasonal Office and Eucharist. Again, imho.

  2. Victoria Geer McGrath

    I think your points are well-taken. I haven’t made a thorough review of HWHM, but it seems to me that we would have been better suited by a lot of the material being made available in some kind of a collected biography of 19th and 20th century heroes of the faith (even with a a few citations of other works either by or about the person in question). Whatever would have become an updated LFF could then have had some very clear principles about how to go about identifying and raising up the commemoration of local saints. With HWHM it seems to say that sanctity is only identified if a person has their own day and lections in a church-wide kalendar.

    And I’m a bit annoyed about the ecumenical inclusions. I’m a huge fan of Eric Liddell, for example, and have a done a lot of reading about him; but he was not an Anglican – I believe he was a Scottish Congregationalist (or possibly a Covenanter). Anyway, it’s the same way I feel about Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, and Elizabeth Ann Seaton. Martin Luther and MLK, jr, come to think of it. There’s nothing to stop a local community from remembering any of these people, but I thought the purpose of our calendar was to commemorate the universally held pre-Reformation saints, those who had some influence or connection to Anglican history, and then our own heroes of the faith within the Anglican Communion. That probably sounds a bit stingy, but there it is.

    Thanks for posing the questiions,


  3. Jonathan

    Yes please, let’s strongly encourage parishes to actually think about who they want to lift up and why. I don’t know that I’ve been part of any parish that really does so, although, to be fair, if Sunday is the only time they celebrate the Eucharist the parish will be hard pressed to ever hold up anyone as an example of how to live the Christian life.

    It might be worthwhile, however, to require dioceses to create their own kalendar, and explicitly state as part of the same canon that parishes may create their own kalendar. The current implicit permission doesn’t seem to be taken advantage of all that often. It might also be helpful for SCLM to create some more generic propers to be used and adapted when folks want to give thanks for an individual or group’s work (ie. musicians or architects who may or may not have been upstanding examples of the Christian life).

  4. Sarah

    It’s supposed to be COMMON prayer, everyone praying the same thing; not regional prayer, everyone praying differently based on where one lives. If I celebrate Saint X in one part of the US and talk to my friend or relation in another part of the country, I’d like to reasonably assume that s/he also celebrated Saint X, or had the opportunity to do so.

    The caveat to my reasonable expectation is that the saints are not celebrated or commemorated on a daily basis in most parishes. Whichever falls on or close to Wednesday of a given week has the most chance of being celebrated. Easily, six sevenths of Holy Women Holy Men can be eliminated, since they won’t be used anyway. Doing so would give us back our ferias, at the very least.

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