All Saints Day is the perfect time to reflect on those saints on whose shoulders we stand: those who have mentored us, nourished us, taught us, and loved us.
One of the things I appreciate about our church is the notion that we are all saints of God, imperfect but striving. There is really nothing I’m aware of in the New Testament to indicate there is a special class of saints, even though some are clearly deemed more mature in their spiritual development than others.
My point is not to talk about theology, however, but to take a moment on All Saints’ Day to reflect on a few of those saints whose lives are, in one way or another, widely recognized and accepted as having been a beacon for God’s love in the world. Credit to Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, for these profiles:
- Julian of Norwich, a 15th century anchorite who was devoted only to God, gave the world three learnings that would change the very things we call holy: that God is mother; that fear of God is not humility and that even though we sin all will be well. Those are brave, heroic concepts in a world where God who is all spirit had been reduced to the notion of a male judge.
- The Baal Shem Tov was a man with an eye for the spiritual and a song in the heart. Nothing clearly authentic is known about him, but nothing much less has been forgotten about the man either. The Baal Shem Tov insisted that the presence of God lurked in life as it was, that it was there for the seeing, that to live life joyfully was itself the real task of life.
- “The purpose of prayer, my daughters,” Theresa of Avila wrote, “is always good works, good works, good works.” Given her heroic and unending attempts to make religion spiritual and the church holy, she of all people had the right to say so. She did not use prayer as a refuge; she used it as a beacon. Learning to persist in the pursuit of good should make saints of us all.
- John XXIII is really remembered for making the political, the scholarly, the efficient, the clerical and the papal, human. What stands as a monument to his heroism is the indictment of ageism by an old man who turned a system upside down to make it new again. Now, thanks to him, age is no excuse for doing nothing.
- Joan of Arc’s heroic commitment to conscience over authority is a mighty one. There are some things in life that belong to God alone, Joan implies: human life, human responsibility, and human will. Joan of Arc is patron of those who hear the voice of God calling them beyond present impossibilities to the fullness of conscience everywhere.
Is there a saint whose life has inspired you or made a difference in your own spiritual development? Please comment below or join the conversation on my Facebook Page.
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