For all the saints, I thank you. Saints are kind of funny, you know? I mean, in the sense that we’ve taken the noun and turned it into something that can be an adjective – saintly – and what does that mean? Were all the saints actually “saintly”? Or should saintly be informed by the reality of who the saints have been in their lives? I’m thinking of some of the oldest saints, like father Jacob. He’s not exactly saintly, you know? But then neither am I. So I look to him as a hope for me, as an example of how you are so incredible, God, to stand by us “saints” who are less than saintly. It’s you who makes us holy, not us.
I also think about the saints of my life, the ones who are resting from their labors, and it’s still funny to me. My grandfather, for instance, John Phillip Ruth, was not a saint in his life. But in my memory, my Pawpee was perfect. He was a saint. He was the funniest, the most full of life, the friendliest, the biggest, the best at everything, the one who could fix anything, the fullest laugh, the greatest Pawpee there could’ve been. The one all other Pawpees should model themselves on. He made me feel beautiful. He made me feel special. He did that for a lot of people.
But I know he wasn’t a saint, too. He was mean to others, to his own children. He was a grouch sometimes. He didn’t believe in paying taxes for education while he didn’t have children in school, which is something I react severely to in my adulthood. I didn’t know these things about my Pawpee when he was here on earth with me. And I guess I think that we get wrapped up in this idea of saints like St. Francis, surrounded by his animal friends like a Disney Princess to the Nth degree, and his beautiful prayers, his ascetic discipline, and I think ‘how could I ever do that?’ How could I ever be that saintly? But instead, I have to remember the saints you’ve given me are still saints and they’re always saints in the first place because of you. How will I be a saint in this life (and in the life to come, for that matter)? By your grace. By your grace. By your grace.
For all the saints – let your name be praised. Because it’s you who made them “saintly.” For all the saints, by your grace, have helped form me, inform me, and remind me that it’s not about me. I may not be saintly, but by your grace, God, I can become a saint despite it all.
So let me pray a prayer of one of the saints before me, knowing it is you who forms me, you who is holy, you who is in control:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it’s in giving that we receive.
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.