Today is the Feast of All Saints. This is one of my favorite Feasts in the Liturgical year and one that is The feast is celebrated in both the Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, certain Lutheran Churches, as well as some Wesleyans and Methodist. The feast is celebrated on the First Sunday after Pentecost in the East and on November 1st in the West. In the Eastern expression it is celebrated in honor of all the Saints, known and unknown while in the West, Particularly the Roman Catholic Church it is dedicated to the Saints who have attained the beatific vision of heaven, kind of like being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame instead of just being a great baseball player.
As a baseball fan I believe that the Orthodox position which honor saints known and unknown is the more accurate of the two because just like baseball some of the most wonderful Saints get to the Hall of Fame. Even so the sentiments that I have about this feast are unaffected by any such minor differences, the remembrance of those that have gone before me is much greater than any nuance of theology. After all what would baseball be without Mario Mendoza?* and where would Baseball be without its Patron Saint, St.Rita of Cassia?
But I digress…
When we celebrate All Saints it is the life of the people of God that we celebrate; the small and the great, the pious, the brilliant, the heroic and the chaste among them and us. Yes we celebrate those faithful yet fallible and all too human people the litter the calendar of saints and those that never got on anyone’s calendar. While some may have been models of piety many were not going right back to Saint Peter himself. The men and women that we call Saints were human and despite the efforts of hagiographers to portray them as something more than that they remain human. They had virtues and vices. They were sometimes cranky, ill humored and dour and jealous of coworkers and sometimes even petty. But those are the facts and they demonstrate the great love of God toward his people.
St Paul set the standard for the persecution of Christians prior to his conversion and sometimes had rocky relationships with his co-workers as both Barnabas and Timothy could attest. St Peter denied Jesus not one, not two but three times and enjoyed some pork with some Gentiles until he got caught earning Paul’s well deserved scorn. St Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin was a rather ill-tempered man and St Thomas Aquinas whose theological brilliance is echoed today in the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church was to put it mildly rather well fed, so much so that legend has it that he had a semi-circle cut at his place in the dinning room table to allow him to be closer to his food. St Ignatius of Loyola the founder of the Jesuits was hauled before the Inquisition several times, while St Francis in his early life was a playboy soldier. Mary Magdalene is believed to have been a woman of ill repute and St Augustine, the Father of Western Theology was such a sexual reprobate before his conversion that he made sure that everyone after him, even the married ones have to feel bad about having sex unless it is or the purpose of procreation with the expressed written intent of Major League Baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
My point is not to mock piety or those that do good works or give their lives for the faith, God and their fellow people. In fact I celebrate those that do such works of heroism, charity and self sacrifice because they inspire me to do better. I admire them because of their humanness and not because the Church for reasons noble or base chose to elevate their stories above others that never made the official calendar of Saints. In fact the vast majority of those considered by others to be Saints would be embarrassed at such attention being called to them and if they read some of the works that were given the “official” seal of the Church would probably blush in embarrassment.
I am inspired by them because of how the grace and love of God was shown through their lives, actions and even their imperfections. When I see and read of their lives I know that there is hope because of Christ for someone like me. I don’t ever hope to match the piety, holiness and genuine goodness of the vast majority of the saints. I know that they are in the Hall of Fame I am on the Mendoza Line mostly still lucky to be on the team.
We know some of these men and women through history. But for the most part the Saints are those whose memories that are known only to God and the lives of the men, women and children that they touched in ways ordinary and extraordinary. I think that we all know a few precious Saints that touched our lives. The beautiful thing is that though they are no longer with us in the flesh they still intercede in heaven for us.
That is the wonder of All Saints Day, that God in Christ who reconciled the world to himself didn’t hold their sins against them. Such is proof of the amazing grace of God in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Even more amazing is that God somehow uses all of us warts an all to touch others with his love. Even guys like me that that are lucky to make the Mendoza Line.
Saint Rita pray for us.
*Mario Mendoza is the namesake of the “Mendoza line” which is a batting average of .200 below which you are likely not going to playing baseball in the Major Leagues for very long. http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_cff05af5-032e-5a29-b5a8-ecc9216b0c02.html