It’s All Saints Day today, November 1st. You say don’t know what All Saints Day is?
Well, that’s no problem. Because I am here as your Official Guide and Expert Resource Consultant so that you may fully experience the beauty, wonder and significance of it.
If it’s your first time with All Saints Day, don’t worry. I’ll help you to have a memorable first time.
Now, if it should happen that you are reading this on Friday, which is All Soul’s Day—I don’t mean to get technical on you—you should equally find a couch and just chillax. Because the same information applies, as to how you should approach this day.
NB: (this means note bene which in English means something like “good point,” but the snooty use Latin whenever they can, which is less and less these days as fewer and fewer people know Latin. For example, I don’t know Latin. Except these little abbreviations I looked up in the dictionary when I was a geeky seventh-grader).
But, onward—NB: All Saints Day is a Christian feast day and All Soul’s Day a more specifically Roman Catholic one and I know that some of you knickers-knotted atheists are about to check out on me, but here’s why you shouldn’t—and let me make it plain: Everybody lives. Everybody dies.
And that’s why there is All Saints Day.
So who are all the saints?
Historically, of course, all the official saints are dead. And the dead make very convenient saints since none of them are likely to confess to some previously unknown crime or sexcapade they may have had which would have precluded them from sainthood. And it’s an arduous process to become one of the official saints, time-consuming, bureaucratic, political.
So, though Pope Benedict would have a mighty disagreement with me on this one, I’m going to propose another definition of who all the saints are.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and just speak truth to power: the saints are those we love. The saints are those we love, dead or alive.
Those we’ve loved and lost to death remain for us our personal saints. One of my most treasured moments when I was a parish pastor came on All Saints Sunday when I would speak aloud the names of those who had died during the past year. Except I always named anybody who had died at any time, if a parishioner so requested. Because we don’t forget within the span of a year the ones we have lost. And so I also always named my parents’ names, dead many years, but not forgotten: Richard James Page, Norma Jane Gray Page.
But must sainthood come from death? Or for that matter, from a surfeit of good deeds?
Martin Luther, despite his massive faults and really bad haircut, declared humanity simul justus et peccator which is more fancy Latin that means that everybody is at one-and-the-same time, a saint as well as a sinner. One hundred percent both one hundred percent of the time.
Which is to say, we are imperfect. And yet we are capable of loving one another. What is more perfect than that?
Which is also to say that the living can be saints as well. Even if they are saints who are sometimes pains in the asses. Think of the people you love the most. Aren’t they pains in your ass now and then? Does that stop you from loving them? Of course not.
Then there is another tier of living sainthood and those are people you don’t know as well but who have served you as a good neighbor, whether it was their job to do so or not. For example, though I know my doctor serves in a professional capacity, I appreciate her for her honest personhood and her relaxed habit of swearing during office visits (I swear it lowers my blood pressure).
So here’s your job this All Saints Day. Take a pen and make a list. Write down the names of all your personal saints. Start with your most well-loved ones (these are the ones most likely to be pains in the asses because you know them so well). But don’t stop there. Include those who lives touch yours more tangentially, but also in a real capacity.
And then, give them a little verbal namaste. They won’t hear you, of course, since presumably you’re doing this alone in your room. But do it anyway. Say each name aloud. Let the ether listen to you honor them. Bow to the light within them.
And then say your own name. Because you—yes, you—are also somebody’s personal saint.