Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For All the Saints

Last week Pope Benedict designated seven new saints of the Roman Catholic Church. This announcement got a lot of attention because one of those designated is the first Native American ever chosen. The proclamation was timely; All Saints Day is this week.  

I grew up on All Saints celebrations that featured "For All the Saints" ringing the rafters. Then, when my children were small, I discovered "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God," a hymn written for children in the late 1920's and still included in the Episcopal hymnal. It's fun to sing and includes some great conversation starters!

I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, 
and one was a shepherdess on the green;

It starts out so traditionally; saints are people with virtues. Kids will just love the images presented there, doctor, queen, and shepherdess, all becoming saints. And there are still more occupations included:  

And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, 
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;

Yet another implication that special people get to be saints. And then, in the last verse, a twist:

They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will.
Where? Where are these hundreds of thousands? I’m not seeing these exemplary, super-naturally powered people in my neighborhood.  Martin Luther, on the other hand, wrote that we are each saint and sinner simultaneously. Sometimes sainthood is best described as being a forgiven sinner. 

Being a parent truly helps us comprehend this saint-sinner concept. What parent, looking in exasperation at a mess created by playing children, hasn't gone to get a camera to record the mayhem before scolding or cleaning up?  In that moment your child is saint and sinner simultaneously. That helps this last bit make sense:

You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, 
 in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
They are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.

Sainthood, what a wonderful goal to dangle before a child's eyes! Why not? We bring them to be baptized. We teach them right from wrong. We love them unconditionally and forgive them when they mess up. It sounds like a good environment for raising saints! And God loves them even more than we do.

Seeing people (past, present, or progeny) as saints will make us more saintly too. I'd like to be patient, brave, true, and joyously do God's will. I would most assuredly benefit from reflecting on the fact that I'm forgiven. Take some time this week to think about the saints you have heard about, known, and admired. Maybe even take the time to sing this song with your little saints. (I searched YouTube for a good rendition of the song and I am very disappointed. This one is the best I could do. You can find the complete lyrics at Wikipedia.) Celebrate the exemplary and forgiven people who inspire you. Remember those who are now gone but who once passed on the faith to you.  

For all the saints. . . Alleluia!

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