For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name O Jesus, before ever blest.
- For All The Saints, William W. How, composer
Today is November 1, otherwise known as All Saint’s Day. As a child, I only knew it as the “Day of the Sugar High” or for the uninitiated, the day after Halloween. It had no significant meaning, as the Baptists and Pentecostals I knew did not acknowledge these holy days.
However, as I have broadened my religious horizons, and have become more mainline Protestant, All Saint’s Day serves as a day of remembrance for my personal saints – my loved ones who now sleep eternally. You know, they’ve died.
Without exception, the first saints I honor are my mothers and fathers. I had two of each, and yes, while they were not perfect, but they were good people. I celebrate my family members who loved and nurtured me, even when they were not especially adept at performing those acts. I’ve come to learn that they only did the best they could with the tools they had, so for that, I give thanks.
I also celebrate the saints of my friends and family, because their saints have had a direct impact on my life. A prime example of that is I celebrate Bob’s dad as a saint. I never met Arthur Davis, as he died when I was 4 years old and had no idea that 30 years later, I would meet and fall head over loafers for his younger son. I celebrate Arthur because he was a good husband to Saint Roz, and an amazing father to his six children. He is the reason our house is climate controlled in the summertime, as he was an air conditioning salesman. He’s also the reason his son is such an amazing financial manager, for Bob quotes him all the time: “Robert, you have champagne tastes on a beer budget.”
I celebrate saints like Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey, who recently transitioned from time to eternity. I never met Dr. Stookey, or Larry as I know of him, but his words are with me daily. You see, he was one of the authors of “The New Handbook of the Christian Year”, and I used that reference source to plan worship. Oh, and his son happens to be my pastor and mentor. Larry’s funeral is coming later this week, and I will be there to celebrate this man I have never laid eyes on, but who has, and still, impacted in a real way.
I celebrate saints like the Reverend Mother Siobhan Patterson, another of my mentors. Siobhan believed in me when I didn’t, and was just an amazing woman, who left us far too soon. I celebrate her because she was a pioneer in so many ways, and left a legacy that will never fade.
I celebrate saints like Jim Ridgley, who was one of the nicest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Again, he has had a direct impact on my life – he signed the letter declaring that I should be admitted to the Members In Discernment Process. I celebrate saints like Sergeant Sara Tresselt, who brought child sexual predators to justice while fighting cancer.
What’s amazing about all of these people is that they developed and maintained relationships with the people around them, as well as with God. They ensured that they lived out both beams of the cross, for you cannot have one without the other. They showed me that love for your fellow human is a necessity if you are going to claim that you love God. They lived out these verses:
“Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (I John 4:20)
Love for God, and love for neighbor. For me, that’s the embodiment of a saint.