I think one of the most beautiful traditions of the Church is our commemoration of All Saints’ Day. It’s the day where we, in the Episcopal community, pause and remember the many who have gone before us and celebrate the lives they lived. It’s also a day where I inevitably get choked up trying to sing a song I have been singing since childhood. If you don’t know I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
, click here
to listen to a 2012 recording on YouTube of the Children's Choir of St. John's Episcopal Church in North Haven, CT. It’s only verses 1 and 2 but I couldn’t even get through this short version without my eyes welling up with tears and my heart welling up with a familiar feeling I now know as gratitude.
So why does a children’s choir singing a very simple song about doctors and fierce wild beasts elicit such strong emotions for me and the folks on the video and so many other people at my own church this past Sunday? My first thought is a personal one, that it reminds me of the connection I still have to my own father, who died 11 years ago this week. It takes me back to the memory of his life and of the connection we can still share when I bring my thoughts to him.
My dad is probably not the most likely person to think of when remembering the saints, since he was rarely at church and didn’t share much about his own spiritual life with me, but there it is. The feeling that he is with me still, guiding me with his wit and wisdom and practical nature. I can see him in my mind’s eye being proud of me and cheering me on in my recovery and in my life. I can feel him urging me to apply myself and to work hard and I can hear him consoling me, saying, “It’s hard to be a Rebel fan,” after my football team loses a tough game. He is still with me, every day.
During our services yesterday and in our All Saints’ evensong last night, my mind drifted toward other saints who have toiled and fought and lived and have made a difference in my life. I think of Rick who met me on the first day on my recovery journey and has been shining a light and holding a mirror for me ever since. I think of Coni who taught me that her “flow of life” higher power was not in contradiction with my own concept of God. I think of Tara Mae and Whitney and James and Michael and Matt and Matthew and many others who have taught me more about the process than I have ever taught them. I think of Terry who told me to breathe, and I think of my mother who is about as close to a saint as you can get from this side of the veil. I think of my sister who is the spark that lit the fire that got me into recovery in the first place and my brother-in-law who is the patient glue that holds our family together. I think of their two little girls who were 2 and 6 when I found recovery and who I couldn’t imagine a life without. I think of my partner in life and love who never knew me before recovery but still knows how to hold the string that connects me to the ground when I sometimes want to float a little too far away.
My hope this week is to remember and honor all saints in my life, those here in body and those watching over me in spirit. And my greater hope is that I can remember that I really do mean to be one too.
They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.
Who are the saints in your life today?