To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:2-3
When I was applying for ordination, one of Bishop Gayle’s questions to me was “who is your favorite saint?” I admit I stared at her blankly for a good minute. As a child reared in a fiercely Protestant tradition, the saints had not made much of an impression on me. I had Catholic friends, so I knew St. Anthony was for when you lost things and a St. Christopher medal was supposed to keep you out of danger, but until that moment it had never occurred to me to have a favorite saint. Realizing I had to say something, I blurted out, “Moses.”
To her credit, Bishop Gayle merely raised her eyebrows and asked me to explain, and I got to talk about how much I love the stories of Moses and how they inspired my own faith journey. Apparently that was good enough, since I was invited to continue in the ordination process! But I also figured I’d better not take chances, and I made a point of learning more about the tradition of honoring the saints.
I discovered that my Roman Catholic friends were not praying *to* the saints, but rather *with* them, asking them to intercede on their behalf with God Almighty. While this may feel odd to people like me who were raised in a deeply Protestant spirituality, I can understand how you might feel tongue-tied and reluctant to bother the Creator of the Universe with your prayers. It helps to have a more human image in mind as we bring our worries and needs before God! The God who meets us where we are is surely appreciative of how the saints offer an introduction for people who are overwhelmed by God’s glory.
But more important to me is the way the saints show us the great diversity of what a life lived in faith looks like. There are martyrs who died violently for their faith, and gentle souls whose lifetimes of service ended in old age, surrounded by family and friends. There are saints whose faith was lived out in ordained ministry or monastic orders, and saints whose holy work was in schools, or health care, or government. There are saints who were counselors to kings and popes, saints who were modern political activists, and saints whose selfless service was centered entirely on their home communities. There are saints who were famous in their own day, and saints who are barely known today. What they all share in common is a deep and abiding love of God that drove them to live lives of service, compassion, prayer, and self-sacrifice. They are people whom we can genuinely aspire to be like – as one of my favorite hymns puts it, “for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.”
This All Saints Day, I invite you to reflect on who has inspired you to live more fully into your Christian faith. Is it someone celebrated in the calendar of saints? Or maybe omeone you know personally whose devotion to God and selfless service encourages you to dedicate yourself to living the same way? Make a list! And then on Nov. 1, join us in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for their lives. And we’ll pray that in remembering, we’ll be inspired to follow in their footsteps and live in ways that will draw others to God, as well. Suzanne