All Saints 2019

I am firmly rooted in the Protestant tradition. I could not and would not become a member of the Roman Catholic Church in this generation. However, I am also a student of the history and the evolution of theology in the Christian Church. The first 1500 years of the Christian Church, our particular strain of Christianity was immersed in the Roman Catholic Church. We separated during the Protestant revolution, but we continue to have more shared history than we do history of being separated. There are many things about the Roman Catholic Church that intrigue and challenge me. So today, being All Saints Day, I want to acknowledge the shared tradition of recognizing saints. Although we interpret saints differently, although we Protestants don’t have a formal process for canonizing saints, although we tend to think that all faithful Christians are saints, we share the quest for remembering and recognizing people of exceptional faith who have served God and the church and their fellow humans in ways that influence our behavior today.

One of the saints, formally recognized by the Roman Church, is a rather obscure one, but one that I want to mention in my journal today. Saint Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and his Christian wife in the 7th century. Sadly, she was murdered by her father. But before her death she is said to of founded a home for the ill and many crazy people reportedly became a lot less crazy around her.

That’s right…St. Dymphna is officially the patron saint of the nervous, the patron saint of the emotionally disturbed, the patron saint of the mentally ill, and the patron saint of those with neurological disorders.

That is to say, she just really seems like our kind of saint.

In honor of All Saints Day and in honor of St. Dymphna, I want to tell just the briefest stories of some of the saints I recognize on this holiday. Most of them have stories that are not mine to share, so I won’t be telling stories where the characters can b easily identified, and I won’t use people’s real names. If you think you recognize any of these saints, give God thanks for their lives, but do not try to read too much into the stories I am telling.

One saint of God loved working in the family business and their family was exceptionally close. He loved to work side by side with his father and he was a good salesman when they were out serving customers. He loved to talk to his mother and they could share intimate details of their lives. He told his mother about his attempts to find a girlfriend. He had brothers who had girlfriends, but he just hadn’t met the right person. He had been rejected by several different girls for reasons that made no sense to him and one girl in particular broke his heart. At fifteen he didn’t have much experience and he was particularly tender. On the day he was rejected, he was feeling particularly blue and he called his mother and talked her into coming to pick him up from school and getting him out of his studies for the rest of the day. They went home and he went down stairs to take a nap. He died in his bedroom. The official ruling by the coroner was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a single bullet fired from his father’s gun. He had been taught how to use the weapon properly and safely. The assumption is that he died by suicide and that his act was intentional. Of course God was the only witness to his final act. Only God knows his intention. God also knows the pain of the family. They will be thinking of him today as they do every day. They will be missing him and wondering what they could have done to prevent the end of his life that they never sensed was coming. They’ve examined their lives in search of meaning and have found nothing that satisfies the pain in their hearts. The bottom line, however, is that they are grateful for the 15 years they had with him. They would not choose for him to have never been born. They still know what a gift of God he was. And they refuse to be ashamed of the way he lived or the way he died. We do not have a clear interpretation of the full meaning of his life and death, but he is among those who have gone before whose lives and faith are connected to our own.

Another saint of God died too young, leaving a widow and two young daughters behind. He was a man with a keen sense of humor. He was a loving father. He was a firefighter and an outdoorsman. He was a hunter and a fisherman. He was haunted by deep depression and he fought valiantly to control the dark spirits that surfaced in his life. He was honest about his doubt. And he is not with us any more. The hole he left in his community is palpable. There is no easy way to make sense of his death. There is no easy answer to the pain that is left behind. There seldom is an answer to what seems to us to be senseless suffering.

I could go on and on through the list of a hundred or more suicides to which I have responded in the past few years. They are all saints in their own way.

The meaning of All Saints Day is connected to being a part of the body of Christ because it means that death is never the final word because in life and in death we remain connected, like each of these saints, to God and to one another. Love and life and hope do not die. The inheritance of all saints is shared by us all.

May the lives of these saints continue to shed light on our lives until the day when we join them in that great cloud of witnesses who together with God and Jesus and the disciples and all of the saints who have gone before share in the great banquet of love.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!