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On All Saints' Day

Nov 07, 2023

On Sunday my church celebrated All Saints' Day, a time for remembering loved ones who have died, whether they be fellow pilgrims who influenced our faith or historical saints who have had an impact on our spiritual life. The Methodist church I attend performs a lovely ritual of honoring church members who died in the past year by showing their pictures on the screen in the sanctuary, reading aloud the person’s name, ringing a bell, and placing a long-stemmed white rose into vases. After the service, any of the deceased person’s family in attendance is invited to take a rose home.

After reading from Romans 16:1–16, in which you find a list of what might be considered unfamiliar and hard to pronounce names, Reverend Davis Chappell said, “We don’t rush past the names, as we find our saints there.”

He then invited congregants to call to mind someone we have loved and lost, someone who helped strengthen us in our faith, perhaps.

“We share a common purpose that is bigger than individual lives,” said Chappell, when reminding us why it’s important to remember the names.

One name from the scripture reading was Saint Phoebe, about whom I knew nothing. When Reverend Chappell talked about her, I became intrigued. According to Catholic Online, “Phoebe (first century) was a deaconess of the Church at Cenchreae, the port of Corinth. She was recommended to the Christian congregation at Rome by St. Paul, who praised her for her assistance to him and to many others. She may have brought Paul’s epistle to the Romans to Rome with her. Her feast day is September 3.”

I will do more reading about her, and other saints, to familiarize myself better with this aspect of religious tradition. Do you have a saint whom you look to for inspiration and comfort?

According to Joan D. Chittister in A Passion for Life, “For centuries the church has confronted the human community with role models of greatness. We call them saints when what we really often mean to say is ‘icon,’ ‘star,’ ‘hero,’ ones so possessed by an internal vision of divine goodness that they give us a glimpse of the face of God in the center of the human. They give us a taste of the possibilities of greatness in ourselves.”

What a lovely way to think about saints—and our fellow pilgrims—who inspire us in the midst of all that confounds us these days.

—Amy Lyles Wilson, Writer and Spiritual Director; Wisdom Tree Collective Mentor and Instructor,

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