Fr. Deacon John Gresham is an ordained deacon in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America and author of Become All Flame: Lent With the African Saints. The devotional features the stories of 49 early church saints from the African continent, paired with a meditation and Scripture references.
In Become All Flame Gresham focuses on such figures as Simon of Cyrene, the African pilgrim who was compelled to carry Christ’s cross and Monica of Africa, commonly known through her son Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions.
In the following interview, Gresham, who serves at St. Basil Orthodox Church in Hampton, Virginia, discusses his experience as an African American learning about these early Christian African saints and what their stories have to offer us today. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
First, I want to talk to you about reading the stories of the saints as a devotional practice. How do we spiritually grow when we read the stories of these spiritual heroes?
It’s written in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” There have been people in our past to have the same difficulties, the same challenges, the same struggles; might not be quite with the same technology, but the central struggle is still there. Reading about the saints helps to encourage us to go beyond those difficulties and find peace in God, so that we can overcome them.