Thursday 29 October 2020

For all the Saints

November 1 is All Saints Day in many churches. Unfortunately, you might miss it because it’s overshadowed by its much more popular and entertaining neighbour Hallowe’en. Ironic really, because Hallowe’en literally means All Hallows Eve or “the day before All Saints Day.”

I don’t begrudge Hallowe’en its popularity, though. It’s fun, engaging and an opportunity to dress up and pretend to be someone or something you’re not. And, while I know things can get out of hand (especially with the “trick” part of “trick or treat”) and we can be a little superstitious, I just don’t think there’s really anything in the evil or satanic stories we tell around it. Sure, some of its history is pagan traditions and the notion that this is a time when the veil between this world and the next is thin, but that’s all tied to our connection to the earth, seasons changing, fertility and life and death. We’re part of the earth and divine, after all.

Of course, throw in a full moon this year (a Blue Moon, the second full moon this month) and that can get people going, especially with the year we’ve had so far. But then, the clocks go back an hour, too, so maybe it’s just a reset.

Let’s go back to that “pretend to be someone you’re not” idea though, because I think that’s something to think about the next day, All Saints Day. While I think we’ve always had the best of intentions when it comes to saints, I wonder if we haven’t made them something so special and unique that they’re unreachable, untouchable and certainly something unattainable. We want them to inspire us and be an example for us, but it seems, instead, that we’ve put them up on a pedestal, cast them in stone or stained glass, named churches after them and put them out of reach. We make them something we’re not and will never be. Just like Jesus, they’re out of our league.

But they’re not. They’re you and me. I think they’re just flawed and broken human beings who discovered they were perfect just as they are and, in discovering that, found their connection to both the divine spirit and the earth that’s in them. They found good. They found grace, kindness, compassion and love and - and here’s the important part - lived it. That’s what makes them an example, not an idol.

Mark Isleifson reminded me about this the other day. Another one of our local acting legends, Mark was in the Bashaw Community Theatre production of ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ a few years ago and he played St. Aphrodisius, a real first century saint. In the story, he’s long dead, of course, but immortalized in a stained glass window in the great cathedral. As the hunchback Quasimodo is trying to figure out a clue to where he’d find his beloved Esmerelda, St. Aphrodisius comes alive, steps out of his stained glass window and sings to Quasimodo, telling his story and inspiring him to figure out what the clue means. The great saint steps down from where we put him away and engages the lowly Quasimodo. Good, kindly hearts make a connection.

That’s what saints do. They make a connection that inspires good. Don’t have to be on a pedestal or a throne, a mountain top or a seat of power. They could be someone you think you should avoid or someone you might not even notice. They could be you.