Monday, October 29, 2012

Saint vs. Saint

We all know that when Saint Paul writes of “saints” he doesn’t mean the famous followers of Jesus who have distinguished themselves in some way as to warrant the naming of church-buildings after them. No, Saint Paul meant every follower of Jesus, you and me included. In a way, it is sad that the Church has come to use the word “saint” almost exclusively for the notable followers.

Occasionally, we will call someone a saint if they have endured some act of service such as caring for aging parent. But, we will also say, “you’re a saint,” to someone who fetches us nothing more than a beer.

Eventually, with the Church’s cannon of famous saints, the list grew too long. No longer could we keep track of which day belonged to which saint, so we developed a list of greater and lesser saints. The greater ones would have their own day. Some of the lesser would be remembered in their region. And the rest would be remembered in that grand sort of equalizer known as All Saints’ Day (November 1). The day before became known as All Hallows Eve (Hallowe’en), now a secular observance teaching children the power of extortion (“trick-or-treat?”).

The day after All Saint’s Day became known and celebrated as All Soul’s Day, a day to remember loved one who have died but who weren’t likely to be upgraded to sainthood. This is how the word “saint” lost its general meaning and acquired a specific one. I’m not so foolish as to think I can restore “saint” to its original and better meaning. But I can take small steps and remind myself (and others) that we are called to be saints. We are called to show genuine love, mutual affection and honour. We are not to lag in zeal, but to be eager in spirit, serving the Lord. We are to rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer and contributing to the needs of the saints. The sentiments of these last three sentences are from the Letter to the Romans (12: 9-13).

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