I want to be one, too.
I like to refer to the Episcopal Church’s liturgical calendar from time to time. It tells me which saints, or individuals considered in “Holy Women, Holy Men,” are honored on a particular day. Some are well known, but people like Catherine Winkworth and William Passavant were new to me. I’ve also been participating in a wacky online game, Lent Madness, where we choose between two actual faithful, saintly souls each day to fill brackets; think basketball’s March Madness. I enjoy learning more about these remarkable people of God and believe their stories strengthen my own belief.
My late mother’s 100th birthday is later this month. She’s not on the aforementioned liturgical calendar. I’m pretty sure she refused to die on All Saints Day, holding on for a few more hours until All Souls Day, because she didn’t want to be presumptuous. There was a veneer of June Cleaver about her, but under it was a defender of the least and the lost. The spare bedroom became home to a parade of individuals who “just need a safe place to find their way.” She kept driving long after her spreading cancer made it inadvisable because “old ladies depend on me to get them to church;” she was the oldest one in the car.
Moved by watching the 1989 student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, she arranged flowers in China’s colors from her yard and limped to the nearest Chinese restaurant, where she was dismissed as a beggar trying to sell them. She was her church’s loudest advocate for compassionate inclusion of persons with AIDS. And I’ll always remember getting a phone call in my office: “I’m on my way to a sit-in at the South African embassy – can I take [my 15-year-old daughter] Kathleen?” Bonuses: she was wonderfully funny and loved us all deeply.
These memories remind me that we don’t have to consult a fixed list of the spiritual greats through history to find people who inspire, teach, and shine with a courageous love of God. I’ve been blessed to have a number of them in my life, and I bet you have, too. Take some quiet time and remember them. How have you grown in faith because they were in your life? What did they teach you about generosity, courage, and loyalty? What have you learned about selflessness? Where did you see God in them?
What might people see in you?
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still;
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.
Final verse, Hymn 293 in the Episcopal Hymnal