Saints I have known

Happy All Saints’ Day!  The Augsburg Confession, one of the definitive Lutheran doctrinal statements, says this about saints:  “The memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling.”

Note the vocational emphasis.  After the jump, see what else Phillip Melanchthon says on the subject.  (HT:  Mathew Block)

The term “saints,” in this sense, goes beyond those declared to be saints by the Roman Catholic Church.  Ordinary Christians, in their faith, are saints, though they are sinners too.  And some of these can serve as inspiring examples.  I have known Christians in my life who exemplify that kind of sanctity and who have shown me what Christianity lived out looks like.

What “memory” do you have of saints you have known?

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Pope plans to canonize priest killed by terrorists

Pope Francis says that he wants to make Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest killed by Islamic terrorists as he was celebrating mass, a saint.  The usual miracles are not necessary, it turns out, because Father Hamel was martyred for his faith.  The pope also said that the persecution of Christians is satanic. [Read more…]

St. Teresa of Calcutta, saint of darkness

Mother Teresa was canonized on Sunday, officially declared to be a saint.  It isn’t necessary to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate this woman, who ministered to the poor and the dying on the streets of Calcutta.

Her example and the sense of holiness she conveyed persuaded many, such as Malcolm Muggeridge, to become a Christian.  Nevertheless, it is said that she experienced spiritual doubt and depression, a “dark night of the soul” that lasted some 50 years.

She wrote, “If I’m going to be a saint, I’m going to be a saint of darkness, and I’ll be asking from heaven to be the light of those who are in darkness on Earth.”  According to a priest involved with her canonization, she experienced both the physical poverty of the poor and the spiritual poverty of the “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.”

I have heard this period of darkness referred to as evidence that Teresa “was not perfect,” but I think it makes her holiness more believable.  The life of faith is not “perfection,” nor constant joy; rather, it often involves what Luther called “tentatio”–struggle, conflict, agony of conscience–and her descriptions of her depression shows that her faith was in Christ and not her own good works, which she had in such abundance.

In honor of her canonization, I will link and excerpt the speech she made at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, in which she gave a compelling critique of abortion.  Afterwards, she received a standing ovation, with President and Mrs. Clinton, also on the dais, staying in their seats.

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St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes and of Rio

You don’t have to believe in the Roman Catholic cult of the saints to find it interesting that St. Sebastian–the one who was shot through with arrows–is the patron saint of athletes.  Also of this year’s Olympics host city Rio de Janeiro.  What is the connection?  Find out after the jump.

Luther said that we should not pray to the saints, but that we can learn from their example.  Note what we can learn about athletics from St. Sebastian. [Read more…]

Pope gives Mary Magdalene same status as Apostles in church year

Pope Francis has elevated Mary Magdalene’s saint’s day to a “major feast,” putting her on the same level liturgically as Christ’s apostles.  The pope wants Christians to consider Mary, who first told the apostles about Christ’s resurrection, as “a paradigm of the ministry of women in the church.”

Should non-Catholic Christians follow this promotion and make a big deal of Mary Magdalene’s Day on July 22? [Read more…]

All Saints and All Sinners

Some may say, why are you Lutherans making a big deal out of All Saints’ Day? I thought Luther was against all of that cult of the saints stuff. Well, Reformation Christians have a different take on what a saint is. [Read more…]