In a couple of weeks we’ll celebrate All Saints Day in the Christian tradition. Every year on Nov. 1 we honor and remember the people in the life of the church who have died since the last All Saints Day. It’s a moment where we get to remember the people in our life who we consider saints. It’s also a day in the life of the church where we remember those people who have been formally canonized as Saints. People like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Patrick, St. Hildegard of Bingen, and many, many more.
I’m writing this article on Oct. 12, the birthday of my father, Phil, who died in 2008. Though not at all perfect, he’s one of my saints. But that’s the thing, saints aren’t perfect. They’re faithful, and they live their lives from a place of faith, hope, love — all highly prized virtues. My dad did this for me even though I didn’t always see it along the way. Now as I parent my own son, I can see how this happens. I can also see how we have to stay true to who we are and live out of our own sense of authenticity as a human being. Integrity and authenticity are saintly values.
Who are your saints? Who are the people on whose shoulders you stand? Who are the people who acted as heroes to you but needed no recognition for it? Who led out of a place of faith, hope, and/or love? Who are the people who have died in the past year or before that you want to honor? Sometimes these are people we didn’t even know personally.
Sister Joan Chittester in her book The Liturgical Year says, “In the lives of the saints, we see in our own time the qualities that make life possible” (200). Yes, indeed. The lives of those who have gone on before us to join a great community of witnesses to a life [mostly] well-lived are a path on which we can travel. They help us put one foot in front of the other when we aren’t sure if that’s possible today. They nudge us to stand up and speak out for those who may not be able to do so for themselves. They call us out of our complacency to protest and combat injustice, hate, prejudice, isolation, scarcity, and evil. These saintly lives, whether formal or informal, hold the gift of possibility for us as we live our own lives. As we hope to become saints for others.
It’s election season and it seems to me that the meaning of this holy day celebrating saints is one to keep at the forefront of our hearts and minds. Which candidate for you models a life of possibility, humility, love, faith, hope, authenticity, and integrity? Which candidate operates from a place of abundance rather than a place of scarcity? Which candidate has the potential to create respectful communities because of their leadership? These are good questions to ponder as we approach Nov. 8, 2016.
Let me offer you something else to think about in hopes that you’ll join me. You’re invited to a free film screening about St. Hildegard of Bingen at Oxford College in November. The screening of The Unruly Mystic will take place on Monday, November 14, 2016 at 7:30pm in Williams Hall on the Oxford College campus. It’s free and open to the public. Following the screening the filmmaker, Mr. Michael Conti (a parent of one of our students) will hold a “Question and Answer” session with the audience where he’ll give us a look at one of these “official” Saints, one of the church’s most creative saints. The hope is that she may inspire our own imagination and love of life so that we will more deeply pay attention to each other and the world around us.
I hope you’ll join me at the screening. What’s more, though, I hope you’ll join me in honoring those people who are saints in our lives so that we may live lives worthy of their example. So that we might be able to sing, “I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”
Rev. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University. You can find him running in the city of Oxford about three times a week.