March approaches with thoughts (prayers) of spring and warmer weather. March, like February, is also a month that has a Holy Day for a noted Saint. Even if you don’t know much about Saints, you know that February 14th is the day set aside for St. Valentine, and that March 17th is set aside for St. Patrick.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of the few “saint days” that is celebrated by my own family. First, because we are Irish, and also because it is my birthday.
It wasn’t until a few years after I was ordained that I learned that March 17th is also the day to honor St. Gertrude. In case you have never heard of St. Gertrude, she was a German nun, mystic, and theologian in the 13th century. She is also widely regarded as the Patron Saint of Cats, although the Roman Catholic Church has never formally included this in her list of attributes and contributions to the faith.
While most Saints are formally identified by the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans do recognize some saint days as well. You may see a reference in the bulletin or prayers to the day for St. Peter, or St. Paul, or other saints. It helps us as people of faith to consider the faith of others. The faith of another might inspire our own faith, or help us to get through particular challenge.
Martin Luther had a slightly different take on Sainthood than the Roman Catholic Church however. Luther did recognize the importance of lifting up some of the significant people of the Christian faith for inspiration. But through his study of scripture, Luther also came to the conclusion that we are ALL simultaneously SINNERS AND SAINTS. We are sinners because of the sinful nature of simply being human. As St. Paul reminds us, we have all sinned and fallen short in the eyes of God. But through the water of Baptism, we are reborn Children of God and are made Saints in the eyes of God. Yes, we still sin, but as the water of Baptism continually washes our sins away, we are continually made new and are saints. This is the tension we live in as people of faith. Which does the world see most, the sinner or the saint? For each of us, it varies from day to day. But every morning we get a fresh start.
It can be both helpful and hard to look to the examples of those who have been formally named as Saints, like Peter, Paul, Patrick and Gertrude. We know about the big parts of their faith, be we do not know them personally and they may not seem very relatable to us.
But I do think that it is helpful at times to look at the Saints that we DO actually know and to consider their lives and faith. Because we are all both sinner and saint, we each personally know many saints. And in each of our lives, there have been saints who have helped us grow in our faith and helped guide our faith in times of doubt or struggle.
So who are THOSE Saints in YOUR life? Whose faith has shaped your faith? Whose faith has inspired yours? Who has pointed you to God and given you hope when you needed it most? It may be a parent, a grandparent, a Sunday School teacher, a neighbor, or a good friend. Take some time this month to identify these important Saints in your life. Perhaps you might take some time to make a phone call or write and mail a card, thanking them for the saintly role they have played in your life.
And finally, accept that, whether you are aware of it or not, you are very likely to be an important Saint to the faith of someone else. You may not know who. But you are. This is the nature of Christian community, we need to practice our faith together, so that we can (at times intentionally, and at times unknowingly) grow the faith of others, and grow from the faith of others.
So take some time, and think about your Saints.
Thanks be to God for ALL the SAINTS!
Pastor Susan Lynch