Sunday, November 20, 2011

 

Sunday Reflection: The cloud of saints


This week, I had the honor of participating in a second public discussion with Susan Stabile on our respective faith traditions. Last time, we discussed creeds, and this time we talked about intercession-- that is, the practice of Catholics and some others to call upon the saints to intercede for them with God.

I'd encourage you to listen to the podcast, which is available here. You can see Susan's reflection on it here, and some astute comments by one of our students, David Best, here.

I have never sought the intercession of saints, for the reasons I described in the podcast.

However, I have felt the presence of them. Perhaps not in the Catholic sense; the process of canonization does not hold magic for me. But still, in the sense that I know that there are heroes near, I have felt that.

I wrote about one such night about one year ago. I had given a talk in Chicago, and just that week the illinois legislature had voted to get rid of the death penalty in that state. Here is part of what I wrote then:

My parents and my sister Kathy came for the presentation, and afterwards the Jenkins sisters invited us to a party to celebrate on the 78th floor of the Hancock Building. Their organization, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, played an important role in lobbying for the change (the president, Vicki Scheiber, was celebrated on Saturday as “abolitionist of the year”), so they had good reason to pop the champagne. My family and I were welcomed warmly and richly enjoyed the celebration, but there was also something running very deep in that room. There was no mistaking the depth of commitment of the people there-- many (if not most) had lost a family member to murder, and had then come out against the death penalty, an incredible act of grace that is now successfully challenging the very institution of capital punishment. As Jeanne put it in addressing that group, there was a cloud of saints in that room—those who had been killed through heartless violence, and who had nonetheless been remembered with an act of love and courage. It was a palpable presence, and there was a mood of true joy that filled the room.

As I left the party and walked next to my father and mother down the broad sidewalks of Michigan Avenue into the night, I realized there had only been one mistake in what had been said—the saints in that lovely apartment in the sky were not only those who perished, but those who survived, who had acted from love with such stunning results.


Those saints surround us, whether we seek intercession or not.

Comments:
I'm with you on the process of canonization not holding any magic for me. So my "communion of saints" includes both canonized and non-canonized folk, standing side by side. All of them - the "capital S" in the Catholic sense Saints and the "small S" saints (living and dead) provide great inspiration for me.
 
"Lived holiness is very much more widespread than officially proclaimed holiness....Coming into Paradise, we will probably find more mothers, workers, professional people, students set higher than the official saints we venerate on earth." (Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I)
 
We have to stop agreeing like this...,
 
The discussion last week on intercession offered views through many lenses and topics for further reflection and discussion difficult to experience by self.

" 'Lived holiness' " ("small S" saints-both living and dead) is one of the greatest gifts to encounter, experience and surround oneself with. I attempted to speak to the same this past week.

When our hearts and minds remain open to His word, blessings are extended through more than scripture and prayer. Called to be His presence in the world is an invitation to be teacher occassionally, student continually.

The “confessors” in our life are more precious than we may comprehend, their counsel and comfort embraced and nurtured – and through prayer and meditation the lives of those who have gone before us are often as, if not more, inspiring and influential.

As we continue to seek His love and grace, emulating and calling upon others for counsel, guidance and intercession – increased blessings have come to many who offer, share and pray in ways more than are “required and necessary.”

Those saints surround us, whether we seek intercession or not."
 
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