What is a saint?
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 6 November 2022
On the eve of the 1st November, we entered into the season of the Christian Year called the Kingdom season. It is the season when we focus on the life of the saints. But what is a saint?
In the Roman Catholic Church, a Saint (with a capital “S”) is someone who has been canonized by the Pope. The process of canonization is a long and very detailed one … first the name of a potential saint (Mother Teresa – for example) is brought to the Pope. The Pope then commissions an investigation of that person’s life. Were they a good person, did they live like Christ – did they put other peoples’ needs before their own? If it is agreed that the person has led a holy and virtuous life, then they are called “Venerable” – but not yet a Saint. To become a Saint, it is necessary for the “venerable” person to perform two miracles – and these after death. In the case of Mother Teresa - in 2002, (five years after her death) the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumour in the abdomen of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, following the application of a locket containing Mother Teresa's picture. Then in December 2015, Pope Francis recognised a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa: the healing of a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumours back in 2008. Following this, in 2016, Mother Teresa was canonized and became Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
In the New Testament, however, the word “saint” was simply used for those who believed in Jesus Christ and tried to live according to his teaching and his example. In Ephesians 1: 1, Paul writes, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” In Paul’s eyes then, all those of us who follow Jesus however imperfectly, are saints.
For me, however, the best definition of a saint that I have heard is given by this lovely story.
A teacher once said to her class - what’s a saint? And a little girl thought for a moment - and thought of the pictures of the saints that she had seen in the stained-glass windows in the old church she went to on Sunday. And then she said, “A saint is someone the light shines through”
What a lovely definition of a saint – “a saint is someone the light shines through”. In other words, a saint is anyone in whose life we can see God’s love and light and joy. That certainly includes the great giants of our faith like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, St Francis of Assisi and St. Cuthbert - but it also includes millions of ordinary people, unsung heroes who have given their lives in service to others - some of whom we will remember next week on Remembrance Sunday – and others, friends and family, who we will remember at the Service of Light on November 27th.
“A saint is someone the light shines through” … may God’s light shine through us this Kingdom season.
Hymn: For all the saints who from their labours rest
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Thank you for those ordinary saints we have known in our lives
Grandmothers, fathers, aunts, friends of the family
All those unsung servants of yours
In whom we have seen the love of Jesus shining brightly.
May we be inspired by their lives
And the lives of all your saints
To bring your light to dark places.
For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen