One Protestant’s Reflection on All Saints Day

by Hilary Horn

Today is All Saints Day. Enjoy this great post by Kathie Hempel

As a young pre-teen girl, I received a small, second-hand education in the traditional Saints of the Catholic Church. My best friend attended a Catholic school and I would often learn her catechism lessons with her. I had no idea who decided who was a saint and who wasn’t. The stories of these people; however, tugged at my heart.

I was enchanted, as were many of the girls our age, by Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of a nun in The Nun’s Story and given the chance would have nominated her for sainthood for a variety of my own reasons, not the least of which was her ability to withstand the attraction of Peter Finch. I wanted to be her.

When I grew older, this passion for story only deepened. Biographies. I loved them. Still do. Don’t care if they are about historical or Biblical figures, people conquering challenges of any kind, alive or dead.

In the mix of those earliest readings, there were a smattering of Saints. I remember having visited a church with my friend, where there was a magnificent stained glass of St Teresa of Avila. It mesmerized me, and I sought out her biography.

Teresa of Avila who “tried as hard as I could to keep Jesus Christ present within me.” I grew up hearing stories of our modern saint, Mother Theresa, who roamed the streets of both Calcutta and America caring for those others would forget and establishing orders of like-minded people, who would give their lives to do the same.  I loved reading of St Francis of Assis prayerfully asking God to be made “an instrument of your peace.”

I remain fascinated by the lives, the examples, of the saints. It’s simple really. Although I was raised in and still attend a protestant church, my relationship with Saints, traditional and otherwise, has not changed. I am drawn to their stories. I believe we learn how best to live through other’s stories. Particularly those of individuals who found the courage to stand up for their convictions. Nobility and integrity seem to be words we don’t see in action a great deal anymore.

I want to emulate the best of humankind. I want to follow Jesus in such a way that others hearing my story will one day see that is what I tried to do. I want to be able to confidently say, as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 11:1: Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. Too lofty a goal? Should it be?

While I admire the lives exhibited in the stories of past saints and every day saints, I hold none on a pedestal. I believe in the ability of each human being to be better. I believe in the awe-inspiring grace of a power so much bigger than I am, who takes my breath away as I look at the seasons change outside the window of the old chapel at our church.

Here families have prayed for husbands, sons and daughters, who have answered the call to fight for our country since WWI. They prayed for those called to their own mission fields, near and far. This chapel has witnessed prayers for those lost to addictions and those who are near death from catastrophic illness. Many stories have been recalled and shared in this small room. As the colorful autumn leaves turn to brown and blanket those buried in the country churchyard across the street, I feel very close to all the saints.

John Wesley’s journal entries for All Saints Day suggest it was “a festival I truly love” and in 1788 he wrote of always finding it a “comfortable day.” While Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard he also wrote, “How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!” In this instance scruple means, “to be unwilling to do something because you think it is improper, morally wrong, etc.”  (Merrium-Webster.com)

I believe in observing All Saints Day because I think it is an excellent opportunity to examine lives lived…theirs, ours…to see just how far we have come and how far we have yet to grow and develop into the best us we can be, at every stage of our lives. I pray for others and am happy when they pray for me, because isn’t that really what we want? I believe there is buried within the soul of man the need to be able to intercede for one another in some meaningful way.

For me this All Saints Day will be a day to remember all the stories that have touched my life whether held within the dog-eared pages of well-read books or through those lives who have intermingled with my own. While I may never be memorialized as a capital ‘S’ Saint, I can continually aspire to embolden my own small ‘s’ saintliness by remembering the words of II Corinthians 3:18:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

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