November 2, 2009
Yesterday was All Saints Day, a day in which our church commemorates those who have died and been honored as Saints. Some of my favorites growing up were St. Elizabeth, whose name I have and who was Mary's sweet cousin and confidant. I loved St. Francis of Assisi, mostly because I adored his Prayer for peace, not because I share his love of animals! I loved St. Kateri, because I was fascinated by the Indians and their contributions and plights. I loved Saints Anne and Joachim because they were Jesus's grandparents. I loved Mary, because she got to give birth to baby Jesus. As an adult, I came to love St. Joseph, because the man I love so honors him for watching over families. I love St. Cecilia, after learning about her and seeing her tomb in Italy with Fr. Tim, despite my inability to hold any sort of tune. I love Therese of Liseiux, because her autobiography, Story of a Soul, inspired me to deepen my faith in so many ways. I love St. Michael, because his efforts at keeping the devil away have protected me countless times and because he is a patron saint of soldiers. I love St. Agnes for being such a sweet little child of a martyr. I love Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, for her work for the poor and for the love I feel from her community. I could go on and on and on about the lives of the Saints who have inspired me over the years. They did big things for Jesus, in both big and small ways.
But during Mass yesterday, our friend Fr. Fallon, didn't preach about these saints. He preached about the saints of our time now, and of how each of us can be saints, how we are saints sometimes (and big fat sinners other times). He said that the smallest of things makes us a saint, the smallest of kindnesses, acts of service and charity. I thought of the people in my life who are saints to me. Last week I watched as a patient at the Gift of Grace who is very confused and altered, helped a blind patient into her coat. It was the sweetest moment of lucidity and helpfulness. With all her confusion, Miss D was a saint that day. On the same day, I had brought our french-speaking student intern to the House to talk with a new patient, a scared 28-year-old, only french speaking patient. I watched as the fear left her eyes as she understood that these nuns and these people truly cared for her and she would not be harmed again. That student intern, who is a Muslim, came into this very Catholic home and spoke of God's love for this young woman and how He would care for her through the sisters. She is a saint. I thought of my friend Audrey, a foster care supervisor in Athens, who bears the weight of the world on her shoulders to care for children (and for me). She is a saint. My mom, praying for her son in war, preparing to live in a house totally alone for the first time in her life when her husband leaves soon- a saint. My friend Father Tim, who prays for me and says Masses for my patients, a saint. My friend Shannon, who sends a birthday card to just about everyone she knows, a saint. My sister, asking me to donate to PETA (only for her!), a saint. My husband, endlessly forgiving, always calling me to prayer when I am angry or sad- a saint. My dad-answering his cell phone every time I call, even if he is 10 feet under a fire truck, a saint. My friend, Space, ready to give up everything to accept God's call to go to Africa- a saint. My father-in-law, loving me with such tenderness, a saint. The GSU student, whose meeting I was a half an hour late for last week, who let me have a diet coke and a slice of pizza before I talked about social work to her class, even though I was late, a saint. My co-worker who brought in milk duds today, a day when I need the sweets, a saint.
And while I didn't start today off like a saint, letting fear and lack of faith, and pouting put me in a mood that milk duds can barely touch, I will spend the rest of the day with my eyes wide open, looking for areas that, like a saint, I can show Jesus' love in some small way. Because, isn't that what saints were/are, just normal people who are willing to let Christ's light shine through them, people who set aside their own needs, wants, insecurities, frustrations, neuroses, and allow God to work through them? God knows it's not easy, but nothing is more important.
While today is the feast of All Souls, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01315b.htm; it so happens that tomorrow is the feast of another great Saint, Saint Martin de Poors, patron saint of African Americans, social justice and barbers ;) :)
"In 1962, Pope John XXIII remarked at the canonization of Martin: "He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: 'Martin of Charity.'"