To Be a Saint

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 — Week of Proper 26, Year One

All Saints

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 1000)

Morning Prayer: Psalms 111, 112; 2 Esdras 2:42-47; Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2

Evening Prayer: Psalms 148, 150; Wisdom 5:1-5, 14-16; Revelation 21:1-4, 22 – 21:5

And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,

and one was a shepherdess on the green:

they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,

God helping, to be one too.

(Hymn 293)

I can remember singing this hymn as a child and thinking enthusiastically with the naivete of childhood, “Yes! I could be one too.” Something deep inside me wanted to be good and noble, like the ones we read about in the heroes’ biographies. Something like that urge still surges inside of me today. I want to live a real and authentic life, and to be open to whatever God may draw me toward that might help God’s work in the world. As I live my sixtieth year, I certainly know a lot of my limits and many of my abiding faults, but I can claim some of my gifts as well. I also know, now that I am a grownup, and having read some of the more adult biographies, that many of those heroes I thought to model myself by also had some significant limits and faults.

To be a saint doesn’t seem quite as exotic as it used to. It seems more about being who I am. It seems more about trusting God in each present moment, and detaching myself from those habits and distractions that always seem to draw me away from simply being.

Toward the end of Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory the Whisky Priest sits in his prison cell, the gallows that will hang him on the morrow outside his window. His has been an ambiguous life. With some courage he stayed behind to provide the sacrament to the people after the army arrived. Yet he had fathered an illegitimate child and drowned much of his fear in liquor.

Approaching his end, “He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing done at all. It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that there was only one thing that counted — to be a saint.”

A little self-restraint and a little courage. Moment by moment. Trusting. I can do that.

Usually is takes a little bit of tenderness though. Tenderness toward God. Tenderness toward the other. Especially tenderness toward myself. When I think kindly of myself, I tend to relax enough to act more kindly toward others. If I live in an atmosphere of acceptance, something good seems to grow in me. The acceptance takes a bit of trust however. Acceptance of the present moment — after all, it is the only moment I have, regardless of its particular shape. Acceptance of myself, for God has accepted me in God’s immense grace. If God has accepted me, I can relax and accept myself. It is all love. And life is good. Hard, but good.

Relax. Be. A little self-restraint and a little courage is all it takes.

They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still,

the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

in church, or in trains, or in shops or at tea,

for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.

Past Posts