I celebrate him as a saint. I don’t mean by that statement that I think he was more than human, or that others would have recognised a halo around his head. What I do mean is that he helped me to know God more deeply both in what he taught, and in how he offered love to me and to others. Early in Stephen Reynolds’ introduction to For All the Saints, we are reminded that
… the history of God’s mighty acts of salvation is always a personal history. The Church believes that the divine purpose of justice, mercy, and love is revealed in the stories of particular persons. Indeed, it is through the stories of individual saints that the Almighty renews and strengthens the witness of the whole community of “the holy people of God.” (11)
He fits that criteria, and because of the reminder in The Book of Alternative Services that “In addition to those whose names appear in this Calendar, it is appropriate for the Church, at regional and even local levels, to add the names of Christians whose lives have reflected the mystery of Christ” (14), I will keep a commemoration of Stephen Reynolds himself this coming Monday morning.
I’d known his work before I came to love Stephen. Few of us Anglicans who pay attention to the saints could not know it; his was the work behind For All the Saints, our compilation of biographies and propers (collects, readings, and prayers for the Eucharist) that we use as we remember the saints.
I first met him in my Systematic Theology class at Trinity College, and I liked him immediately. After praying the collect of the day, and informing us we could call him Dr. Reynolds, Stephen, Father Stephen or Father Reynolds, or any other number of options—but never, ever, under any circumstances, might we call him Steve—he launched into a two hour lecture that interspersed songs, hymns, impressions of Gollum, quotations from his teenaged daughter and Saint Augustine all in the service of explaining how Thomas Aquinas built his systematic theology and why it would be a useful framework for how we might live the lives of fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding) that he saw as the joy and delight of each follower of Christ. Each week, I would enjoy watching this quiet shy man coming alive with joy in the classroom as he spoke about what mattered to him most deeply: God, and how we might learn to know and enjoy God more deeply.
In my final year, I had the gift of having Stephen as my thesis director. He was gentle, challenging, and gave me wise counsel as he left me space to explore and make false starts, allowing me to falter and find my way without ever leaving my floundering. He helped me to see things I’d never have discovered on my own.
I enjoyed Stephen deeply as a teacher. In my time at Trinity, I learned theology from him; I learned preaching from him; I learned pastoral care from him; I learned a love of the divine office from him; I learned how to be a priest from him; and I learned much of how I might better follow Christ from him.
March 12 is the first anniversary of his death, or, as he would have called it, his dies natalis—his birthday in heaven. His life reflected the mystery of Christ to me, and to many other hundreds of students, teachers, parishioners, readers, friends, and family. While I remember him far more often than once a year, on Monday and each year on the twelfth of March I will add his name to the calendar of the saints. What follows are the propers I will use as I do so. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
[Who do you remember? How did they bring you closer to God? Join the conversation in the forum to share your story.]
Stephen Reynolds 12 March
Priest and Teacher of the Faith, 12 March 2011
Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.
Lover of every soul,
who so gives us Your precious and great promises
even to desiring that we might be participants of Your very nature,
quicken in your Church a delight both in your truth and the whimsy of human nature,
that like your servant Stephen Reynolds,
our faith may seek understanding
and, renewed in the mysteries of the holy eucharist,
always show forth the love that dances in your eternal being,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Prayer over the Gifts
Inspirer of every loving thought,
who taught the questing of your servant Stephen
and helped him to lead your Church to seek You more deeply,
dance us into your love
that all we offer you this day
may be replete in your joy in all you have made.
We ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Preface of Trinity Sunday
Prayer after Communion
you strengthen us for service by these holy mysteries
that we may taste your love for us.
Help us to rejoice like your servant Stephen in what we know of you now,
and come to be partakers of your divine nature in the age to come,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.