Why Celebrate the Saints? A Parent’s Perspective
- Thursday, October 23, 2008
Maybe it's my background as a teacher. Or maybe just because I've been raising children for 39 years (with a few addendums through adoption) - but no matter how academic or ethereal the subject, I tend to look at it through children's eyes.
I make no apology for this. I will admit it's not often the most respected point of view. But I hope God is pleased by this approach to the big theological questions. After all, he said "Unless you become as a little child. . . ." Sometimes that's not so easy for grownups. But sometimes it can help us see the simple truth about a complex subject.
Since becoming Christians in 1987, our family has pretty much ignored the last day of October - except for Halloween 1990 following our flight from a legalistic church when we celebrated our newly-realized freedom in Christ at the expense of my limited seamstress skills: four knights-in-shining-armor and one fair damsel costume traipsing the neighborhood, looking for treats.
Then, comfortable that our decisions about extra-biblical issues were our own to make, we promptly dropped Halloween from our family traditions - opting instead to cozy up with the lights off for popcorn and a movie.
Parish hall harvest festivals never appealed to me. Their effort to replace a secular holiday begged the question whether something was missing. Nothing missing at all, I thought.
But now I think there was. The empty spot belongs to a longstanding, but often ignored, Christian feast day: All Saints' Day.
Last month I remembered a hymn I learned in sixth grade (Virginia public schools circa 1958) and thanks to the Mighty Internet, found the lyrics the same fifty years later:
I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew,
And one was a doctor,
And one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green:
They were all of them saints of God--and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
And his love made them strong;
And they followed the right, for Jesus' sake,
The whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier,
And one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast:
And there's not any reason--no, not the least,
Why I shouldn't 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.
What I most appreciated was that whoever wrote this hymn, obviously, was able to see the world through a child's eyes. The simplicity, humility and yearning resonate with the little girl in me, the part that will never grow old in relation to my Heavenly Father. I found tears in my eyes as I sang the words again, now with the adult knowledge of the price that these saints - many of them everyday people - had eventually paid for their faith and obedience.
Lesbia Scott, who wrote this hymn in 1929, was certainly an everyday person - a mother who produced songs to meet her children's requests: "Write us a song about a foggy day," or "Make us a hymn about a picnic."
One year, as the Feast of All Saints (November 1) approached, she decided to write a song that would inspire her children and "impress on them the fact that sainthood is a living possibility today."
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