The holy men and women of God form a community with us that spans the ages. The Feast of All Saints is a good day upon which to ponder the stories and connections which have been important to us, shaping our lives. Here are some of my favorites from the Christian tradition.
St. Perpetua and her companions (March 7, 202), who died as martyrs in Rome in the very early days of the church, remind me to be truthful about my convictions. Even though she had a nursing child, Perpetua would not renounce her affiliation with the followers of Jesus. Imagine such a steadfast proclamation.
St. Bridget of Kildare (Feb. 1, 523) is another favorite. She was the daughter of a druid and heir to an estate. She vexed her family by giving their possessions away to anyone who needed them whenever they asked, and she is reputed to have scarred her face so she wouldn’t have to marry.
And then there is St. Hildegard of Bingen (September 17, 1170), a woman with a facile mind and lyrical spirit who had so many talents she didn’t know what to do with them all. She wrote music and poetry and learned the medicinal powers of herbs, wrote about them and applied them in healing. In addition she taught, traveled and turned her considerable administrative skills to running a monastery. I love her images of God.
St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4, 1226), who turned away from a life of wealth and stature, casting his garments at the feet of his bishop and vowing poverty, lived with lepers, taught and healed, and spent time communing with animals, most notably a wolf. I, too, love to listen to our four-footed and winged brothers and sisters.
St. Teresa of Avila (Oct. 15, 1582), is known for her raptures, profound mystical experiences which included among other things being pierced by a sword wielded by an angel. When she wasn’t immersed in visions she founded the Carmelite order and seeded numerous monasteries. I love her for her frank conversations with Jesus.
St. Sergius of Moscow (September 25, 1392) lived as a simple peasant while inspiring everyone he met to an intense awareness of the love of God. In icons of him you can still hear the echo of his teaching.
St. Ignatius of Loyola (July 31, 1556), was a soldier who became a nurse, then a hermit, then a lay preacher and finally founder and supervisor of The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). But for me he will always be the author of wonderful writings on discernment.
And then there are the saints of my personal life, people significant to my faith formation and spiritual journey. They include, among countless others, an old fellow who used to bring me cigars every Sunday so I could smoke with him at coffee hour; a visionary wild life painter who showed me how to live as an artist; a group of young mothers who met once a month to talk about what was important to them, calling their group Ladies’ Lunch; a recovering alcoholic potter who showed me how to practice the presence of God; and a couple of self-styled hobos who taught me to paint trim, sing when you’re down, and play gin rummy.
The stories of the saints we love are good; they warm our souls and remind us we are related to one another through this Way of Jesus we are following. Let’s honor all of the tales today with gratitude for what they have given us, collectively and personally, that has helped us to grow into men and women of God. Let us honor the people in our own lives who have inspired and taught us. And as we do that, let us also listen. Let us attend within, in the place where we stand in relationship with God, for the ways we ourselves, in our exquisite uniqueness, are crafted to be saints.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. She will soon manage a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries.