On the 18th and 25th, respectively, we commemorate the Confession of St. Peter (the first recognition by a disciple that Jesus is the Christ) and the Conversion of St. Paul (his conversion from persecutor of Christians to the apostle to the Gentiles). The week between these two dates is considered the Week of Christian Unity, in which we reaffirm that there is far more that connects us with other worshiping communities and traditions than separates us.
Other January feasts include that of St. Aelred of Rievaulx (patron saint of friendship, 12 January), the early and notable martyr, Pope St. Fabian (d. 250), and St. Agnes of Rome (patron saint of couples, 21 January). Fabian was named a bishop by acclamation after a dove landed on his head during an episcopal election. Fabian reigned for fourteen years, enjoying amicable relations with the imperial government until Decius became emperor. Fabian had not accommodated to imperial policyâ€”he remained faithful throughoutâ€”but with Decius a â€ślive and let liveâ€ť attitude departed from the imperial throne, and when Fabian refused to burn incense to the emperor he and the believers in Rome were imprisoned and martyred. Fabianâ€™s story serves to remind us that the world can always change is how the Church is treated, but that the faith remains the same.
St. Paul of Thebes (d. 345, feast 15 January) and St. Antony of Egypt (d. 356, 17 January feast superseded this year by a Sunday) are remembered as examples of the eremitical (hermit) life, of those who separate themselves from society for the sake of the Lord, but in Timothy and Titus (feast 26 January) we see the active life, of those who take Godâ€™s word to others. This active life was also exemplified in the martyr Vincent of Saragossa (d. 304, feast 22 January).
Finally, we wrap up the month with two of the leading theologians in the history of the Church, both East and West, St. John Chrysostom (27 January) and St. Thomas Aquinas (28 January). Chrysostom (which means â€śgolden mouthedâ€ť) was a great orator and writer who defended Orthodoxy, and Aquinas was the leading exponent of the system of Scholastic theology which dominated western thinking for more than six centuries, and remains the fundamental training in Roman Catholic seminaries. The inclusion of Chrysostom and Aquinas on the calendar of The Book of Common Prayer is testament to the broad heritage of Anglicanism.