The Saints and I…and You, too…if You Want.

james

I would like to say that it’s complicated, but maybe it’s not, my relationship with the saints.  I know that as an Episcopalian I’m allowed to do whatever I will with them.  If I were on the low church, evangelical side of things, I could write them off completely, and go to one of those parishes that don’t have a patron saint–unfortunately, Grace Episcopal just doesn’t have the pathos for me that St. Alban’s Episcopal or St. Bede’s Episcopal does.  On the other hand, if I were a bit more Anglo-Catholic than I am, I would probably be going all mari0logical on someone’s ass (forgive my French, O Theotokos).  Being more realistically in the broad church part of the spectrum (as I understand it), and being a former member of the Assemblies of God, my understanding of saints and a Christian’s proper relationship to them is probably a little fuzzier (and more self-conscious) than someone who has grown up with Church Tradition being almost second nature.

Here are some fuzzy thoughts on saints, maybe my blog friends can help me scrub them up a bit:

1) I love saints.  I love their stories, and that aspect is what I find the most spiritually efficacious. I am inspired by the lives of the saints to live my own life more wholly devoted to God.  Wearing a saint’s medal around my neck reminds of my desire to live this godly lifestyle (an easy fact to forget sometimes), and marking saint’s feast days as a part of the Church Calendar helps me to live out the Christian life more fully and incarnationally in all aspects of my day-to-day routine.

2) I understand, or think I understand, the argument for asking saints to pray for you as in Sancte Augustine, ora pro nobis (et cervisiam).  But I’m a little uneasy with the idea of bringing requests directly to saints, as some in the liturgical tradition seem to do (but do they really, or that just residual protestant propaganda floating around in my head?).

3) In a particularly Episcopalian (as opposed to RC) stance, I don’t feel that it is necessary to be canonized in order to be saint.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be too inclusive: Sancte Elvis, ora pro NO-bis. There needs to be some sort of consensus (damn, I am wishy-washy!), some sort of standard.  But all I know is that Dorothy Day and MLK are both as saintly as anyone from the Roman Missal, and deserve to be recognized as such even if their jawbones never do heal someone of the scurvy.

So, now that I’ve laid out my silliness (and blasphemy? and heresy? and idolatry?)for all to read, who’s going to tell me about their understanding of and relationship with the saints?

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5 Comments

  1. Your point about Ms. Day and Dr. King is so timely. I was just looking over information about the recent beatification of John Henry Newman, and it really got me thinking about the criteria of a miracle in order to be canonized as a saint.

    Is that really necessary? Do we need to have something paranormal occur in order to decide someone’s story is noteworthy as a disciple of Christ? Is it time for the Roman church to ditch that requirement?

    Maybe I’m just very skeptical about miracles and expect any new ones that show up to be bogus.

    Reply

  2. I am with Charismanglican, the point is someone’s life story as a follower of Jesus, not some miracle defined by a Church committee.

    That being said, I am very comfortable with Saints. My beloved late Wife, Dad, and younger Brother are all in the Nearer Presence, and asking them and other Saints to pray for me is as natural now as it was when I could see them in this world.

    Some of my favorite Saintly friends are Patrick, Michael, and Our Lady.

    Reply

    1. It may be surprising but I’ve not spent any significant amount of energy yet on ‘understanding’ the Communion of Saints. I must admit that praying with the saints has yet to take root in my devotional habits, unfortunately. Of significant help has been Rowan Williams’ two books on praying with Icons (with Mary, with Jesus). Though only a part of such prayer they’ve helped to make clearer theologically what we are ‘doing’ when we pray with saints.

      Reply

  3. John Paul II, as I recall, about doubled the number of saints in the Roman Catholic calendar. He seemed willing to make any deceased Roman Catholic a saint. I think my uncle Ernie in Greasy Corner was made St. Ernie just a few months after he was in the ground. He is now the patron of good barbeque. But what I loved about this was the message that it sends to the rest of the Christian world: There are still saints among us. You didn’t need to live in the 10th century to be a saint. God is still working through us pitiful sinners, even now. Check out what’s happening down the street. Your neighbor may someday be St. Wally.

    Like a lot of Episcopalians, I only pray to saints when a loved one is in the ICU. But what I love about our Church is the recognition that not all saints are Catholic, or even Anglican. St. Martin Luther King would probably not think much of April 4 being commemorated on our calendar. His Baptist theology might have considered it to be a form of idolatry. But I love praying with the saints, including the Baptist saints, even the Quaker saints. Heck, Westminster Abbey even has a Hindu saint (Gandhi) on the outside of their church!

    Reply

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