The Feast of All Saints brings a variety of images to mind. Who do we identify as saints? Who do we admire? Who do we choose to venerate?
A few weeks ago I was at the installation of a new abbot. As part of the blessing, we were reminded of an extended list of the saints. How does one make it onto this list?
Who are the living men and women we place on a pedestal? The readings today are a real challenge to our secular world. I googled “most admired Americans”. According to the Gallop Poll taken last December, George W. Bush is the most admired man. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the most admired woman. The list was dominated by those who have been in, those who are in, those who may be in and those who are connected to positions of power.
In the first reading, we find the apocalyptic vision of those suffering oppression under their Roman rulers. In the Gospel, it is not the rich and powerful who are given rewards, rather it is the poor and downtrodden.
I reflect on who are the people that the church has placed on the “fast track” to sainthood. We have Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. In a way it makes sense that the people who make it onto any list are individuals about whom there is some media awareness. Our hope is that our leaders and the people of power can be found among those we know and admire. When I mentally run through a litany of the saints, I notice a few individuals who had worldly influence, but I also find a large number of those who do not fall into that category.
What do today’s readings tell us about sainthood? I see two characteristics as emerging, the first is the saint has been purified in Christ and the second is the saint engages in a humble life of service.
Mother Teresa seems to be a special embodiment of these two characteristics. Not a great man of power but a woman with a special love for those most in need. Her relentless service in spite of bouts of spiritual desolation provides a remarkable guidepost for the human journey.
My final thought grows out of the results of another Gallop poll. When they allow the answers to be more generic, parents move to the front of the most admired list. They are often part of a special group of heroes that do not always get their due. To me, this is a reminder of all of the lesser known saints who have lived lives of humble service, but may not have been institutionally certified as being part of the elect. I believe my deceased parents and sister are among those saints.
My prayer today is for the ability to emulate the saints. I pray to for strength in following their example. I pray for fortitude in the face of the challenges that face me in that mission. I pray for a heart that is open to the Lord and guided by humble service.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook