Who we refer to as saints is down to us. Your are well within your rights to refer to the old lady who lives next door, who will agree to babysit your kids at a moments notice so that you can go out, a living saint. Why not? And the churches are free to choose who they want to, officially, call saints. The conferring of sainthood on earth is a human thing and is completely different to the sainthood that God bestows on God's people.
Now, of course, I would say this, but I think the Anglican churches have got the best system when it comes to choosing its saints. Our church always waits for fifty years after a prospective saint dies before it considers making that person a saint officially, unless a person dies a martyrs death, in which case they can be fast tracked through without having to wait half a century. In other words, we like to make sure nothing embarrassing is going to turn up, concerning a person's life before we start handing out the honours. But we do not insist that the candidate performs any miracles after leaving this mortal coil. In other words, sainthood in the Anglican churches is about what a person does on earth, while they are alive. And I think that is a very important thing to remember. Anglican sainthood is about flesh and blood, living human beings. That means that, ontologically speaking, a saint is no different to any of us. To put it into non-academic terms, they are made of the same stuff and they have the same potential to do good or to bad as all of us. And the flipside of that coin is that we are exactly the same in being and potential as those who end up having their names commemorated in our church calendar.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
"For the saints of God are just folk like me, And I mean to be one too."
From a sermon for the Feast of All Saints preached by the Rev'd Jonathan Haggar (aka MadPriest), Rector of the Church of St Francis, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. This is an excerpt, but the whole sermon is worth the read.