In honor of All Saint's Day, which is today, I share the following story that captures beautifully what I think it means to be a saint. A pastor of a medium-sized, historic church had a regular practice of inviting all the children to come forward each Sunday to sit on the floor with her as she shared a children's sermon with them. Because of the playful and unscripted interactions between the pastor and the children, these weekly messages were enjoyed as much by the adults as by the children, because as we know, kids really do say the darndest things.
One year, while celebrating All Saint's Day, the pastor began her message by talking a little bit about the meaning of All Saint's Day and how this day is connected with the celebration of Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve. She then paused and asked the children if any of them knew what a saint was. Several answers were given, but there is one reply that everyone still remembers. It was given when one little boy pointed up at the large stain glass windows, each depicting a famous historical saint in almost life size detail, found throughout the church. On that Sunday morning several of the saint's windows seemed to almost come to life as the sun shone through the stained glass. The little boy pointed up at the windows that were illuminated and said, “Saints are those people who the light shines through.” Indeed, I can think of no better definition of a saint than “a person who the light shines through!”
Hopefully, we are all blessed to have at least a few people in our lives through whom the light of love, peace, and joy shines. We are energized by their vital spirit and are drawn to the light which they radiate. On All Saint's Day, though, it is traditional to think about the saints we have known in our lives who are no longer with us. All Saint's Day is a perfect time to pause and offer our gratitude for their presence in our lives. The light from these saints, though they may have died recently or long ago, continues to shine in and through our lives. For all these saints, who from their labors rest, we give special thanks on this day.
One of the best ways to remember and honor the saints in our lives, both present and past, is to pass on the light that they have given to us. There is a well-known children's hymn, sung this time of year, that talks about the many kinds of saints around us, and then goes on to declare the intention “that I aim to be one, too.” Aiming to be a saint may seem daunting and make you uncomfortable, but that's a good thing, because humility is one of the qualities of being saint-like. In honor of loved ones you have lost you may strive to be a person “whom the light shines through,” for others, remembering that what's most significant in that description of a saint is not the person through whom it is shining, but the very light that is shining and the joy that the light brings to the world.
This All Saint's Day I invite us all to remember and give thanks for the saints who have illuminated our lives and whose light continues to shine on and through us. I also invite us to reflect and recommit to the people and places in our corner of the world that need illumination and to be both humble and dedicated enough to consider how we can be the light of love, joy, and hope to those around us who are most in need of such light.