In the path of the saints
Who inspires you to greater things?
Whose life offers an example that you would like to follow?
Is there anyone you look up to?
A philanthropist, maybe. Someone who lives with a disability but perseveres against all the odds to help others, perhaps. A sports star. A celebrity. A teacher. A friend or neighbour who is always there for you
Christians aspire to lead a Christ-like life. Jesus is, of course, our primary role model. That’s what a Christian is – someone who gives their life to following Jesus Christ. But, through the ages, there has also been a tradition of looking to the lives of others for inspiration. There have been Christians from earliest times who appear to have led lives so dedicated to God that they have become an example for everyone. These are the saints.
Different Churches have differing definitions about what exactly makes someone a saint. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church requires of those whom they formally canonise as saints that they have performed at least two miracles: one before the first stage of beatification and one that has occurred afterwards. But it recognises too that there are many other definitions of sainthood, and that at heart a saint is an example of holiness which we can all follow.
Holiness as a concept has dropped out of favour over the years. I think partly because it has been associated with a sense that those who aspire to holiness think they are better than others. This is not what it is about. Real saints are not those with a “holier than thou” attitude but humble, Christian people seeking to serve God and other people through the way in which they live. In the Bible the word saint had a very wide meaning – it included all Christian people.
November begins with the Feast of All Saints’, when the Church remembers saints of past times, united with us now because they are alive with God in heaven as we are here on earth. It is an inspiring time, which can draw us back to God as we reflect on the lives of past Christians who have made a difference to the world, because they lived out their faith.
Perhaps this month we might like to think about where our inspiration comes from, and how the example of those people can spur us on to lead a better and perhaps more holy life.
With best wishes