November 1 is All Saints Day. Here are quotes, recommended resources, a practice, and a teaching story for your observances.
The 1984 movie Places in the Heart is set in the Depression. Recently widowed Edna (Sally Field) is trying to support her two young children and pay her mortgage by growing cotton on a small farm. She has two helpers, a black itinerant worker (Danny Glover) and a blind boarder (John Malkovich). Together they weather a sea of troubles, including a disastrous tornado, that teach them the meaning of friendship and family.
The closing scene in the film takes place in a church. As the camera slowly pans the congregation receiving communion, we recognize all the characters — those living and dead and departed for other places. This is a beautiful image of the communion of saints.
In God in the Moment: Making Every Day a Prayer, Kathy Coffey comments on a similar image:
"Geddes MacGregor in The Rhythm of God tells of a priest who, when asked, 'How many people were at the early celebration of the Eucharist last Wednesday morning?' replied, 'There were three old ladies, the janitor, several thousand archangels, a large number of seraphim, and several million of the triumphant saints of God.' Such a 'cloud of witnesses' answers a deep human urge to be part of something larger, to not stand alone, to give our little lives meaning. One drop of water, left alone, evaporates quickly. But one drop of water in the immense sea endures."
To Practice: On All Saints Day, during worship, prayer, or meditation, acknowledge all the saints that are present with you.
Many people have icons of favorite saints on their personal altars. They may use the icons in prayer to invoke a spiritual quality associated with the saint. Or they may gaze upon the icon when seeking a blessing from the saint.
The icon of Saint Julian of Norwich on this page was created by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM, one of the premier painters of icons of saints from many traditions and ages. His work is described on this page at TrinityStores.com. You will see many of his icons there (the page about the Julian of Norwich icon is here.)
To practice, we invite you to look over all the different icons created by Br. Robert and see which ones touch you most directly. Click on the icon to get to a page with more information on the saint. Then practice visio divina with the icon:
1. Look closely. Does some aspect of it stand out for you? A color, a shape, a gesture?
2. Narrow your gaze to what you noticed. Be attentive to what speaks to your heart as you reflect upon the icon. Ask yourself, "What is God telling me through this saint?"
3. Respond to the saint with a prayer, words on a notepad, a drawing, or a commitment to an action.
4. Just stay looking at the picture of the saint until you feel you have gotten what you need from your relationship with it.
Quotes About Saints: Past, Present, and Future
- "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."
— Joan D. Chittister in A Passion for Life
- "I am reminded of the biblical use of the term saint in the book of Acts. That it applies to each of us. All who are attempting to imitate the Christ in their lives merit the title of 'saint.' Some do it more fully than others and are willing to let go of more to get the job done."
— Matthew Fox in Confessions
- "All of the places of our lives are sanctuaries; some of them just happen to have steeples. And all of the people in our lives are saints; it is just that some of them have day jobs and most will never have feast days named for them."
— Robert Benson in Between the Dreaming and the Coming True
- "The challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century is to begin again to comprehend the sacred in the ten thousand things of our world; to reverence what we have come to view as ordinary and devoid of spirit."
— Edward Hays in Secular Sanctity
- "Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore let us be extremely patient with each other's faults and failures."
— Mother Teresa quoted in Mother Teresa: No Greater Love edited by Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos
- All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time by Robert Ellsberg
- A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God by Joan Chittister
- The Way of the Saints: Prayers, Practices, and Meditations by Tom Cowan
Enduring Grace: The Lives of Six Women Mystics from the Age of Faith by Carol Lee Flinders