I have been reading a book by Joan Chittister called A Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God. It is a book about more than two dozen saints and prophets--from Hildegard of Bingen to Martin Luther King, Jr., --who speak to the urgent spiritual questions of our time. Reading this book has gotten me thinking about who the “living saints” are in my life. Who are the people for me who have inspired me spiritually? Who are the people whose enthusiasm for the Divine has been contagious and helped me grow and evolve in my own life?
I came across a picture of Mother Teresa on a cover of Time magazine which called her a living saint. It got me thinking what do I even mean by saint? The dictionaries tend to define a saint as a person who is holy or virtuous or someone who is infused with the spirit of the Divine. I tend to like the latter definition because for me infused with the spirit of God is about being so in-tune with Spirit that it is in every aspect of your life. It is as if one has been soaked in the spirit of the Divine, who for me is love. Not just a platonic love, but an unconditional love.
As I thought about this one of the first people who came to mind is Sister Helen Prejean. While I have never met her, I have read some of her writing, seen her portrayed in Dead Man Walking and read interviews with her. What I have appreciated about my knowledge of her is the opportunity to see who she navigated struggles in her own life. I remember her reflections on her own journey towards working with people on death row. At one point she asked, why it is that we remember people for the single worst thing they have ever done in their lives. That thought has stayed with me for years now. It reminds me to not judge others. I would hate to be remembered for the single worst thing I have ever done. I have done my share of things I would not consider of the highest and best. So I hope that when people think of my life they would look at my life as a whole and see my journey and how I have grown and evolved.
Another person I would consider a living saint was my mother, as I know she was infused with the spirit of God. If it were not for her, I have no idea how different my life would have been. She defied her parents when she chose to adopt me, lying to them about my birth background so they would approve of my adoption. Her love for me was always unconditional. She always worked to bring out the best in people. While I did not always appreciate her, especially as a teenager, as I reflect back on her whole life, I realize she was always there for me.
The final person I am thinking about this morning is Pema Chodron. Her teachings have inspired and transformed me. While I have never met her, being in her presence is something I feel as I have experienced as I have been through and listened to her workshops and classes. There is something about the sound of her voice and her sense of humor which makes me feel relaxed and warm. It is as if she is constantly giving you permission to be human while you are working on your own growth and evolution. I love the way she blends seriousness and humor. It reminds me to not take life so seriously.
I am so grateful for the living saints in my life as well as those I am learning about from reading Chittister’s book. I am grateful for all the living saints I have experienced and those that are yet to come into my life.