A Parade of Saints Known and Unknown

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. The Gospel is the section of the Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes: “Blessed are …” The Beatitudes are like a job description of the one who, operating out of faith in Christ, becomes one of the hagios, the holy ones we honor on this day. In the lives of the Saints, the Church holds up a life as an inspiration to what is possible with God’s grace.

Because what is possible sometimes begs the question when we look at the state of the world and can only see a few faithful people.  We see good people who do not believe. We see believing people who are not good. We worry about family members gone astray.  We worry about people whose primary inquiry is whether only a few people like them will be saved. I have to admit I worry about those who seem to act as they were the gatekeepers of heaven. That we have to check in with them to see whether a life lived is worthy of sainthood.

In her story “Revelation,” Flannery O’Connor tells a tale of a vision of salvation being encountered by the narrow view of the “like-me,” smug Mrs. Turpin. Her idea was that heaven was an exclusive banquet with just a few guests. The story had told of her unpleasant encounters with the “unsaved” (aka “not like me”) during the day. Later while sitting on her front porch at sunset, Mrs. Turpin is granted a vision from God. Despite all her self-assurances and beliefs, she was about to discover that God’s invitation is for more than just her and those she deems of sufficient moral character and behavior.

Mrs. Turpin sees a whole parade of the most unexpected and motley people all clapping and leaping and shouting hallelujah – and she was bringing up the rear of the parade. Her idea of heaven’s limited invitation and exclusive nature was roughly shorn away in the great reversal — “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Today we celebrate, remember, and honor all the saints, known and unknown.  Those akin to St. Francis and St. Clare. Your favorite saint. The saints of East Africa about whom you haven’t a clue. The unexpected and motley crew. And even Mrs. Trupin.

Even as we celebrate and remember, we worry about the one we love. And so we call upon the great cloud of witnesses to pray for that wayward soul. In the meantime, let us live the Beatitudes as the haigos of our time and place.

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