Yesterday was the celebration of All Saint’s Day in many churches around the globe. Being raised in the Catholic tradition, I’ve been familiar with many of the saints since early on. St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost items. St. Francis, patron saint of animals and ecology. St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel. Mother Mary, her very life lifted to saintly levels being the mother of Christ. Saints, in the Catholic tradition, are those who’ve lived virtuous lives, demonstrated extraordinary holiness, and performed miracles. All Saint’s Day is a holy day in the Catholic church to commemorate the lives of these highly dedicated followers of Christ who have reached the heavenly realm.
When I was readying to be confirmed, we were told to choose a confirmation name. A confirmation name is that of a saint who will help remind you of the Sacrament of confirmation as you journey on in life. While other girls my age were choosing Mary, I headed to the library to research. What saint would I choose? This could not be an ordinary saint, you know, like one who gave birth to the son of God (insert sarcastic tone). Instead, I perused through books looking for a female saint I connected with. I confidently chose St. Scholastica.
Now, you may never had heard of St. Scholastica, so I’m offering you the tidied up version of her story: Once per year, Scholastica would visit her twin brother, Benedict (also a Catholic saint known for his “Rule” of devoted daily rhythm) at a farmhouse outside his monastery. During their time together, they would enjoy conversation of theological matters. One of these evenings, Scholastica, sensing her time of death was near, asked her brother to stay the evening to carry on conversation. He declined due to his commitment to his “Rule”; he did not want to stay outside of the monastery. She closed her hands in prayer, praying to God. Just then, a wild storm came upon them, making it unable for Benedict to return to his monastery. Her brother, bothered, asked “God, forgive you sister. What have you done?” She said, “I asked a favor of you and you declined, but I asked it of God and he granted it.” Only a few days later, Benedict saw, from his cell, his sister’s soul leaving the earth in the form of a white dove. Benedict told the monks of his sister’s death and he buried her in the tomb he had prepared for himself.
I’m not quite sure what appealed to me at age fifteen about this story. Possibly, a woman who loved to converse, as I do. Possibly, the power of a woman who asked for what she needed and didn’t take her brother’s “no” for an answer. Possibly, her ability to turn to God in prayer immediately upon a difficulty coming her way. Possibly, God’s faithfulness in the incredible storm that arose from Scholastica’s request. Possibly, imagining Scholastica’s soul flying as a dove heavenward. Something about this story captivated me and I took my confirmed name as Scholastica.
Nowadays, I attend a Presbyterian (PC USA) church, and, we, too, recognize All Saint’s Day, as do many mainline Protestant denominations. The shift in consideration of saints in the Protestant tradition is the belief that All Saint’s Day is a day to celebrate all believers, not specific holy individuals, who have gone before us faithfully calling on Christ. This differing view claims we are saints not by any “holy” act we’ve done, but because we are sinners made holy through Christ’s death. When we state in the Apostles’ Creed, we are “one holy catholic (universal) church, the communion of saints” we claim a community of all believers as saints of Christ. This community of believers includes those who’ve gone before us as disciples of Christ, those in our current lives devoted to Christ, and connects us to future generations who will carry on Christ’s light. This community is filled with mistake-making, error-laden, broken, messy people redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. And whether I like it or not, this community of believers erases the lines of separation between denomination, differing theological and political opinions, race, gender, age, culture and binds me to my “saintly” neighbor. For we are the body of Christ who believe in “One Lord, one Spirit, one God, one baptism, one shared bread and cup”. (p. 359; Christian Doctrine, Shirley Guthrie)
I am fascinated to consider how I am connected to those saints who have gone before me and those who will carry the legacy of Christ into the future. Hebrews 11:1 begins, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” In the following thirty-nine verses, you’ll find the two words, “By faith”, twenty-two times, recalling all the ways ordinary, Biblical people, from Abel to Abraham to Rahab, were loyal to an invisible God. They marched forward, strong hope their friend, listening to the unseen breathe of God. Their dedicated belief was in the great Mystery of something, someone, greater than themselves. We are invited to learn from them and live our lives in similar fashion: By faith.
Living by faith is a challenging road to travel as it undoes all of our formerly held convictions and pushes us to move ourselves from the center of our life and, instead, fix our eyes on Christ. As we make this shift, we find ourselves, living more of the lives our ancient friends lived and we begin to choose the following:
By faith, I believe in the great, invisible mystery of God
By faith, I bring my best offering
By faith, I make choices to please God, not myself
By faith, reverence to one greater than I reigns
By faith, I care for creation, my life and the lives of others
By faith, I am obedient to the calling on my life
By faith, I walk into difficult, foreign territories
By faith, I believe God’s promises
By faith, I sacrifice
By faith, a voice, not mine, is followed
By faith, I believe God will compost ashes into a beautiful story,
redeeming the brokenness
By faith, I boldly claim God’s goodness amid voices of doubt
By faith, I receive blessings
By faith, I bless
By faith, I worship
By faith, I share stories of the past and sow seeds into the future
By faith, I follow, knowing it may bring persecution
By faith, I leave places of comfort for the promises of God
By faith, I persevere
By faith, I see the miracles in my midst
By faith, I welcome the strange, the odd, the paradox
By faith, I know the power I live out is glory to God
By faith, I march forward not having received the full promise of Christ, yet hold onto a confident hope and the assurance of sights unseen
I am grateful for the two differing views of saints I have come to know. These two perspectives have brought a sense of wholeness to my way forward. Whether it is the saints of the Catholic church, such as St. Scholastica, who were highly regarded for their pious and reverent ways, or those sinner saints sitting beside me at church on Sunday, I am connected. I’m linked by a sacred thread to those past footsteps faded, but not forgotten, as well as to the hidden footsteps leading into the future. The example set by these souls who voyaged with a hidden God gives me courage to do the same.
Read Hebrews 11.
Imagine you are a Biblical scribe writing about your own life. If you had to write one or two verses of what you have done “By faith”, what would the verse(s) say? Consider taking time to write your sentences down and use it as prayer.
With a Child:
Go outside on a windy day. Ask “Can you see the wind? What helps you to know wind is real since it is invisible?” Then ask, “Can you see God? What helps you to know God is real since God is invisible?”