Do you know any saints?
I bet you do.
I actually do know someone who maybe, someday, could make it through the Roman Mission Command Saint-Appointing Center Committee. She meets the benchmarks—she does God’s work, she’s lived and trained with Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, and Mother Teresa. She has mystical gifts—no question, and well, whether or not she performs miracles after she dies that get attributed to her, that remains to be seen.
But here’s the piece I like the best—she’s late, a bunch; she’s scattered, sometimes, and forgetful. And why? Because she is human! Just as St. Francis and Thecla and Lawrence and Térèse of Avila (to name a few of my favorites!) all were. Perfectly imperfect.
Most saints were born into lives of material good fortune, which they later renounced. They figured out the hard way, which is also the best way—experientially—how the riches of this earth were found in lives of servanthood to God and others, rather than servitude to power and prestige, the church, or a chunk of change. Look up a few of them—they were human beings who did their best and didn’t take things personally when they were persecuted, but rather had faith enough to stay their course. Perseverance over persecution.
And here’s the thing. Society didn’t and often doesn’t root for those we go on to call saints. Why? Because they’re a threat to systems of power. They have walked in the ways that Jesus and all the great masters taught, and in return, they’re called crazy, dangerous, mentally ill, and deranged. The things they did that made them saints were mostly not valued while they were here on Earth. Which is why they suffered rejection, were misunderstood, and martyred.
Questioned, imprisoned, denounced by family, decapitated, burned at the stake, pulled apart—their lives on Earth were challenged, to say the least.
I often think of Mother Teresa, whose journals were splashed across the cover of Time Magazine after she died (seriously, that’s beyond every journal keeper’s wildest nightmare). Her private lamentations to God—asking where He was and why she couldn’t feel His Presence, served as an outlet for her pain.
“See,” the paparazzi said. “Even Mother Teresa wasn’t sure she believed in God.”
I say baloney. That’s what faith is anyway—belief despite the absence of evidence.
“Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith,” says Fred Buechner. “They keep it awake and moving.”
So this day we celebrate All Saints Day in honor of all the saints of the church who are now in heaven. People visit cemeteries, go to church and honor deceased saints—phenomenal human beings, whose stories are well worth honoring.
I think about the work these saints did to promote peace and equality, and the ways they re-created their lives from the ones they were born into.
I think about the call they heard, in the way of a small still voice, and the decision they each made to be true to that call.
“The truth is not the easy way,” a wise friend tells me. It is often a disrupter. It takes serious spiritual assuredness to stand firm in your faith, when all evidence of doing so points to pain and persecution. Who does that? My guess is you’d have to be a saint…
This version of Kent Keith’s poem was adapted by Mother Teresa, and found on the wall at her home for children in Calcutta. From the mouths of saints:
Do It Anyway
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.