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Faces of Faith: Less is more!

By Staff | Mar 16, 2016

Many denominations have written books about saints, and in the Episcopal Church we have a compendium of saints which we are encouraged to honor on different days of the liturgical year.

Short histories are included as well as scripture that deepens understandings of the spiritual or social impact the person had, often including insights into their system of belief.

The book is called Lesser Feasts and Fasts; however, two Conventions ago, the name was changed (and many names added) to Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints.

Although still technically “under discussion” about whether the names in the new tome should or should not be included, Holy Women, Holy Men began a much-needed conversation about the whole “saint” category.

Who is and who isn’t? Who should be added? Who are we to judge anyway? Even in one of the prefaces of the original book it attempts to expand the concept of “saint” to include people of every generation who have allowed the Spirit of God to work through them in various ways.

Wow – that means there’s room for all of us!

I like the proposed title of the new compendium; as I’ve always had a problem with the word “lesser” when it comes to so many of the people within its pages.

What of Agnes who was burned at the stake for her faith in 304 CE? What about Anskar who risked his life as a missionary to the Vikings?

Or Pope Leo who had the tenacity and courage to negotiate peace with a barbarian chieftain who was about to destroy Rome? What about William Wilberforce who was an outspoken critic of the slave trade?

What of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed because of his involvement in a conspiracy to kill Hitler…or even our own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?

How can we call them “lesser” after all their struggles to identify and rectify monumental social ills?

Perhaps I just need to get over the word “lesser” and realize it’s simply a descriptor – probably selected by a committee after months of discussion.

At least the church deemed these men and women important enough to create the book in the first place. It certainly offers us incredible inspirational stories for understanding and living out our faith in these ambiguous, complex, and turbulent times.

And it does it not simply from a moral and ethical secular viewpoint, but rather with the additional spiritual perspective that there is something greater than ourselves in this universe that inspired these saints to do what they did.

One more thing. None of these saints was marked by perfection. Like us, they possessed many flaws – and would be the first to admit it. I’d venture to say that some would be aghast to know they were included in a book like this.

That’s more good news for all of us – with our less-than-perfect lives. Perhaps it will open our hearts and souls to less prejudice, less bias, less murdering with our lips, and less unforgiveness.

A little less of all of those would certainly work toward transforming the world. There’s always room for living saints, and less really could add up to more.