Feast of All Saints’ 23 8am service
5 November 23
 Matthew .5.1-12
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Have you ever wondered how a particular saint got to be the patron or patroness saint for something? Before we get to deep into the subject of the saints I thought you might enjoy hearing some of the stories. Take for example St. Martin of Tours the patron saint of Geese, as the legend goes the diocese wanted him to be their bishop but he didn’t think he would be much good at it so he tried to hide out in a flock of geese. The geese began to honk and honk until he was discovered, so now, as their patron he is called upon to protect them.

How about St. Raymond who managed to survive a caesarean birth during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, his mother died in the process so it is quite curious that throughout the centuries nervous, expectant mothers have been encouraged to call on the help of St. Raymond. Then there is St. Claire, the patroness of embroiderers who on her deathbed wove a hundred altar cloths for local churches, one writer noted that it would come as no surprise if she was also the patroness of those who die of boredom![1] Where did we ever get the notion that saints never have a sense of humor?

When we think of saints we generally imagine people who are very different from us. We think of them as people who don’t bother with the ordinary things of life but went out and performed great miracles and signs because of their great power and virtue. We think of them as people who never had a doubtful or nasty thought. We think of them as being nearly perfect, but no so fast. I’d like to read part of a confessional letter and see if you can guess who wrote it:

 “Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this? Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.”[2]

Well, who wrote it? A drug addict, a homeless person perhaps, or maybe a condemned prisoner on death row? Would you believe, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was canonized as St. Teresa of Kolkata? You can find statements like these and others in a book that compiled some of her own personal and very private letters that came out after her death, entitled: Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. Wow! This from the great saint who suffered so tirelessly alongside the orphans and the poor of India, yet she had serious doubts and dark times, the truth is that Mother Teresa was “poor in spirit.” 

{Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven}

What about St. Peter – God love him, he had an uncanny ability of inserting his foot in his mouth precisely at the wrong time and of course there was that small matter of his three denials of Christ.

{Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven}

Then there is St. Paul who claimed the dubious honor of being the chief of sinners: 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.”[3]

{Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven}

Then there was a Carmelite nun, St. Therese of Lisieux who was one of only four women to be declared a “Doctor of the Church.” Her writings were so powerful and doctrinally sound that they were approved worldwide for instruction in the Christian faith. But listen to what Therese said about herself: “We would like never to fall. What an illusion! What does it matter, my Jesus, if I fall at every moment? I come to recognize how weak I am and that is a gain for me. You see by that how little I am able to do and you will be more likely to carry me in Your arms.[4]

“I am very poor. It is the good Lord who provides me from moment to moment with the amount of help I need to practice virtue.”[5]

{Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven}

 The truly great saints were great because they didn’t think they were great. They knew they had feet of clay like everybody else. They were involved in daily life in many ordinary in practical ways and they of all knew their flaws and their need for God’s help at every turn. Often times the reason God chose them for a special task wasn’t their great ability but their availability. Perhaps their greatest virtue was that of knowing that without God’s help they could do nothing!

So, when we sit in an office cubicle, or in our homes, or out digging in a garden, or driving down the road to make that next sales call and living very ordinary lives we might be tempted to say to ourselves, ‘Boy I’ll never be a saint, that’s for sure for my life is just too ordinary and way too imperfect.’ But as we can clearly see from these examples on this feast of All Saints’, God can use anyone. Like the hymn says, “For the saints of God are just folk like me.”[6]

God doesn’t call us to be famous, or extraordinary or perfect God simply calls us to be faithful and to do what is right in front of us and to be our best selves with God’s help. That great bard of the 20th century, Leonard Cohen says it best:

Ring the bells that still can ring

forget your perfect offering

there is a crack in everything

that’s how the light gets in.[7]






[1] Boyett, Jason, The Pocketbook Guide to Sainthood: The Field Manual for the Super-virtuous Life, (John Wiley & Sons: San Francisco, 2009) p.126

[2] Kolodiejchuk, Brian and Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, (Doubleday Religion: New York, 2007)

[3] I Timothy 1.15-17

[4] McClermon, John P. Ed., Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life, Vol. I St. Therese of Lisieux  (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2002)

[5] Ibid, p.39

[6] Scott, Lesbia, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”

[7] Cohen, Leonard, From the song, “Anthem”