Who are the saints?

Who are the saints?

To call someone a saint currently gives a sense of someone who has achieved perfection, leads an extraordinary life, or who has patience beyond measure. But that is not what we celebrate on All Saints Day. Anyone reading credible biographies of saints soon learns that some were grumpy, some were not all that sociable, and several seem perverse. The qualities they exhibited were human qualities but with an extra ingredient.

According to writer Frederick Buechner, “In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.”  But our favorite definition of a saint comes from a child – probably thinking of stained glass window depictions. “A saint is someone who lets the light shine through.”

All Saints Day and All Saints Sunday are days when we celebrate all those who have been saints in our lives or the lives of others. But as we celebrate them we should recall that none of them and none of us achieve perfection in this life.  What makes us saints is the recognition that we need grace, help and inspiration to be better than we are, and that we recognize the forgiveness, love and light we have experienced and are willing to let it shine through us to others.

As the hymn says “the saints of God and just folk like me – and I want to be one too.”


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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