During this November time we have been remembering – and as a colleague of mine said in church recently – we Christians are particularly good and skilled at remembering. All Saints’ celebrates those men and women who have inspired us and been faithful to discipleship. Many of us gather to remember on All Souls’ Day those people who had so shaped our lives and the nation gathers, as it does every year, over the second weekend of November to remember the sheer horror, cost and sacrifice of war.
In all of this as human beings, we are reminded of our gratitude to so many people who make us and shape us. There are individuals, known and less well known to us, who have been saints for us in so many different ways.
We would do well to consider what it is that makes a saint. Here is some wisdom from Michael Ramsey:
“It is not being virtuous that makes a saint: the Pharisees were very virtuous and they and their virtues needed conversion. It is not doing good that makes a Saint; he often does do good, but so do many people whom we would never call saints. It is the practice of religion that makes a saint. I expect you and I are pretty religious, but our religion, like every part of us, needs converting. No, the saint is one who has a strange nearness to God and makes God real and near to other people.
A saint embodies the parable of the corn of wheat that falls into the earth and dies. His virtues do not make him proud, for he is reaching out towards perfection far beyond them and is humbled by the quest. His sins and failing, which may be many and bitter, do not cast him down, for the divine forgiveness humbles him and humbles him again. He shares and bears the grieves of his fellows, and he feels the world’s pains with a heightened sensitivity; but with that sensitivity he had an inner serenity of an unearthly kind which brings peace and healing to other people.
This strange blending of humility, sorrow and joy is the mark of a saint, and through him God is real and near” (Michael Ramsey)
Who are the saints in your lives?