Bobby Maddex: Welcome back to Ex Libris, the podcast of Conciliar Press. I’m your host, Bobby Maddex, and today I’ll be speaking with Annalisa Boyd, the author of the brand-new Conciliar Press book, Special Agents of Christ: A Prayer Book for Young Orthodox Saints. Welcome to the program, Annalisa.
Annalisa Boyd: Thank you for having me.
Mr. Maddex: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Have you always been an Orthodox Christian?
Mrs. Boyd: No, I was raised Protestant, and my husband and I decided we were never going to become Orthodox, which didn’t work out. We were both Protestant, and we actually worked with the man who ended up becoming our priest in Ben Lomond, California, Fr. Andrew Beck, for twelve years at a Christian conference center before we actually became Orthodox.
Mr. Maddex: So how did that come about? How did you end up becoming chrismated in the Orthodox faith?
Mrs. Boyd: My mom and my aunt and uncle all became Orthodox about ten years before we did, and we had gone to many Pascha barbecues but never to the services, and one year we’d kind of become disappointed and frustrated with the consumerism we were seeing at the Protestant churches that we were attending. I just stood there and cried the whole time, because the service wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about what I wanted; it was about the Lord. It was very amazing. So we decided at that point that we would go ahead and, if nothing else, we’d get a great Church history out of it, but we decided to go ahead and research what the Orthodox Church said, and that led us to become Orthodox.
Mr. Maddex: That Pascha service sure has made the difference in a lot of conversions.
Mrs. Boyd: Definitely.
Mr. Maddex: Then how did you become interested in writing?
Mrs. Boyd: In our process of becoming Orthodox, I had three elementary-age girls that were pre-teens at the time. Reading through the little red prayer book, I determined they weren’t going to get everything that was in there that my husband and I were understanding as adults coming into the Orthodox faith, so I wanted to write something that they would be able to understand. On my computer, I just made a little catalog template workbook for them to go through, and our priest’s wife saw that and suggested that I turn it into Conciliar Press, because at that time Conciliar was just a quarter of a mile down the road from Saints Peter and Paul in Ben Lomond. That’s how it all started, and that’s where Hear Me came from.
Mr. Maddex: Hear Me was your first book, and now you’ve got this prayer book for young Orthodox saints. What is a prayer book for young Orthodox saints? How young are the saints that this book is targeting?
Mrs. Boyd: The saints that it’s targeting are eight- to twelve-year-olds. It’s a prayer book and has a list of prayers for children to be able to read through. They’re prayers that we do at church and prayers that are oftentimes done in the home, but this gives them an opportunity to be able to embrace the faith as their own, not as something that their family does, but something that they do.
Mr. Maddex: And it’s more than just prayers, right? There are explanations about the prayers. What else is included in there?
Mrs. Boyd: We have daily prayers, prayers for times of trouble, prayers of thanksgiving, for families, friends, and enemies, because a lot of kids encounter bullying and they don’t know how to pray for friendships or for friends that are maybe going through difficult times. There are prayers for the dead, because that is a reality in life; people get sick, people die. There are prayers for confession and addressing each of the Ten Commandments as well as how we may accidentally participate in other people’s sins, because a lot of times I think adults even think we’re not participating when we may really actively be participating. There’s a section for praying with the saints, the psalms, and a lot of the psalms that we hear in the church. Then we also address the senses that we use in church, the sight, smell, taste, what we feel, everything in church; what the priests wear, what that means, and also the colors of the robes, then information about why we stand or touch the priest’s robes, the different things we do in the Liturgy, just to give them something to help them actively participate in the Liturgy in church and become more aware of what their part is.
Mr. Maddex: Why did you call it Special Agents of Christ?
Mrs. Boyd: I called it Special Agents of Christ because, as Christians, we are on a mission no matter what our age. We don’t just follow a bunch of rules, but we are being trained for this wonderful adventure that the Lord has for us in his service, and I also thought that it would be appealing to both boys and girls. My daughters, when they were younger, wanted to be agents, because their grandma actually worked for the FBI, so that whole spy thing was of interest to them, and[they enjoyed] really feeling like they had a purpose and a mission and a calling.
Mr. Maddex: Talk a little bit about the design of the book. It has the look of classified documents of an old spy movie or something.
Mrs. Boyd: I love the way it turned out. I think that the illustrator did an amazing job, and the cover is very inviting. I just wanted it to be able to be picked up as a quick reference, when a child had a need, but also provide more if the child was interested. Each section has information about the saint: their feastday and their code name if they had one, the period in history they lived, and what their missions were. Even if a child doesn’t decide to read past that information, they’re getting that little snippet and a good piece of information about each saint, to kind of motivate and encourage them in their calling as a young saint.
Mr. Maddex: Ideally, how would a child progress through this book? It’s different from those who are familiar with traditional Protestant devotionals, where you each day read a section of the devotional, read a section of Scripture, it has some suggested prayers. How does this book function?
Mrs. Boyd: This book is kind of the everything-and-anything book. I have one family where the mom and child are reading through it together and going through each section one at a time, but obviously it does have the daily readings that hopefully the children will begin to be able to memorize and apply to their lives wherever they are. Also, it’s available just if a child’s having a tough day, they can go and they can go to the section on praying in times of trouble, or if they go to church and don’t understand some of the things—the whys behind “Why do we stand the whole entire time the Eucharist is being served? because my legs get tired,” and it has information about why we do that, because I think a lot of the whys get lost. It’s more of a reference prayer book, to be able to be encouraged no matter what the situation.
Mr. Maddex: Do you have a passage that you could read for us to give us some idea of what sorts of things are in the book?
Mrs. Boyd: Sure. I thought I’d go ahead and read “Operation 1,” which is daily prayer with the agent, the Prophet Daniel, whose code name is “Balthashazar.”
Agent Daniel was stolen from his people when he was young, and his training in prayer not only helped him survive his capture, but become one of the wise men of his new country. The other wise men, however, hated Daniel, because the king liked Daniel more than them. These sneaky men secretly asked the king to pass a new law, forcing everyone to worship only the king or be thrown into a pit of hungry lions. What was Daniel to do? If he wouldn’t worship the king, he would be killed. Daniel chose to pray.
Prayer is very important in the lives of young agents. For Daniel, it was what God used to show his power to the king, the wicked wise men, and all the people of Babylon. You see, Daniel was thrown into that pit of hungry lions, but God closed their mouths and kept them from hurting his special agent. The king was so glad Daniel had been kept safe that he ordered everyone in his kingdom to pray to Daniel’s God. As for the wicked wise men, well, those lions were still hungry—but not for long!
Mr. Maddex: That was Annalisa Boyd, reading from her book, Special Agents of Christ: A Prayer Book for Young Orthodox Saints. Annalisa, what is your goal for this book? What do you hope that readers most take away from it?
Mrs. Boyd: I want my readers to really believe that they are important members of the body of Christ, that they, too, can be used right where they are by the God of the universe, no matter how old they happen to be right now, and I want them to understand that this is their faith, and that God is ready to use them.
Mr. Maddex: Is there anything else you would like to add before I let you go today?
Mrs. Boyd: I just hope that families are encouraged to pick up this book and really encourage their children to use it, because I think it can be a really great tool for kids to really embrace their faith.
Mr. Maddex: Thank you so much for joining me today.
Mrs. Boyd: Thank you so much for having me.
Mr. Maddex: Once again, I have been speaking with Annalisa Boyd. She is the author of Special Agents of Christ: A Prayer Book for Young Orthodox Saints, published by Conciliar Press, and available for purchase, of course, at conciliarpress.com. Take care!