For All the Saints
As a little Catholic girl, I decided to become a saint. One of my favorite books was When Saints Were Young. My favorite story from the book was that of St. Germaine. As a child she was mistreated by her stepmother and made to work outdoors as a shepherdess. Though dirt-poor, she was very devout, attending daily Mass (leaving her flock in a wolf-infested area—and they were never harmed), and praying on a rosary she’d made out of string. How I longed to be holy like Germaine!! Minus the poverty and sheep-herding parts of course!!
In second grade I determined that sainthood was within my grasp, and thus began a rigorous program to become one of the blessed ones. Every night I played a record of Gregorian chants as I prayed and prayed, and waited for a vision (saints seemed to have visions). I also hoped for the stigmata (wounds resembling those of Christ on the cross). That would be living proof that I was pretty darned special! Mind you, I still disobeyed my parents constantly and fought with my sisters to beat the band. But saints were once sinners too, right? As long as I prayed myself into a trance nightly, aided by that other-worldly music, all would be forgiven.
Alas, my campaign for sanctity failed miserably. No visions, no flesh wounds, and the Gregorian chant record started to skip. I seemed incapable of curing anybody of disfiguring sores or even the common cold. It was with regret that I abandoned my quest and moved on to being an aspiring jet-setting ace reporter with a Barbie-style dream car.
When I became a Lutheran in my early thirties, I left the Catholic Church, with a tinge of sadness that there was a plethora of saints I felt I could no longer pray to. We Lutherans tend to believe that we can eliminate the middle man—or woman—and talk with the Big Boss directly. Oh, I still invoked St. Anthony to locate my lost items. But no more St. Christopher (safe travels), or St. Blaise (throat diseases) or St. Dymphna (mental health—and I could’ve really used her help there).
Last Sunday was All Saints Sunday in church. As names were read of people who died in the past year, a bell tolled. We recognized that, flawed and falling-short as they may have been, they stand as saints in God’s presence now. No need for a team of Vatican lawyers to validate. No toting up of beatific visions and miraculous acts necessary. Our dear ones, just by virtue of being loved by our God, are saints. Because, in the end, it isn’t about what we do, because the best of us could never do enough. It’s about what God does through us, each one of us, poor shepherdess and struggling spiritual formation director alike. Through God’s grace our lives can become holy things, and in loving God we can become holy too.