Canonize Yourself & Rest Easy on All Saints Day

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa

The late Mother Teresa, who devoted herself to the care of orphans in India, got fast tracked on the path to sainthood. The Catholic Church canonized her this September, less than twenty years after her death. Usually it takes a lot longer, centuries even, to make someone a saint, but her process started back in 1999 when people could still remember her as a real person. Her journals and some frank biographies made it clear she wasn’t perfect and she didn’t have to be, but they did have to come up with evidence of a miracle or two to make it official.

Miracles aside, fast tracking Mother Teresa felt like a Protestant move. Of course she should be a saint and of course she's not perfect. 499 years ago, Martin Luther, nailed his “95 Theses” to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and the Protestant Reformation declared "Game on." It was October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints' Day. Protestants decided saints didn’t need any hierarchical approval from a pope or a pastor. Saints are ordinary followers of Jesus, you, me and then those other extraordinary people who seem to do more than all the rest of us combined, like Mother Teresa. But no miracles are required, which is how Paul talked about saints in his letter to the Ephesians 1:15-23. In the coming contentious week, it wouldn’t hurt us to hold on to that more generous definition of saints that is big enough to include even the people the we disagree with.

That’s why on this All Saints Sunday (energized with an extra hour of sleep) we sing a hymn by Martin Luther and another one that goes like this: “For all the saints who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confess, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest, Alleluia! Alleluia!” Because being saints isn’t about how great we are, it’s about how great Jesus is.

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