Travel in northern New Mexico is a walk with the saints that are so familiar to the communities there that they are almost part of the landscape. Every where one stops–village, fruit stand or plaza, there is at least one commemoration of a saint, primarily those from Scripture, but also from the region, from the Spanish heritage, and from the cultural groups that have settled there. The art of the area is replete with wonderful retablos, bultos and santos. Markets are full of displays of the crafts created in honor of these saints. I loved the artistry and the spirits they evoked. Sometimes laughter broke through when I found satirical saint cards for the “”Seven Sleepers of Ephesus: Invoked for Help with Insomnia,” or “St Gregory the Wonderworker: Invoked in Desperate Situations.”
In my faith tradition saints are not understood from Christian scripture to be the ones who are special or extraordinarily exemplary. They are all of us who are on the faith journey, each and every one. The Anglican hymn sings: For the saints of God are just folk like me…” As I traveled in marvel at the visual art I was seeing, I reflected on living saints I was encountering. The trip took me to places where I met saints from some of my past lives of ministry and companionship, back as long as 40 years ago. Each one had been relocated to a place of God’s present calling, yet the conversations picked up as if there had been no separation. Each of us had experienced some surprises in finding ourselves where we now are. Each of us had suffered along the way. And each was still on a path of becoming the one God intended him or her to be from the beginning. There was great joy and energy is sharing these journeys, knowing that the Spirit soars on currents of imagination and energy in the lives of each of us that defies our imagination.
I was also blessed my the legacy of saints whom I never knew, but who have left a heritage that can be shared to this day. In front of the church where we worshiped, someone had built a labyrinth, right on the main street to be walked at any time of day or night. At the end of a 13 mile dirt road, a clear well-lighted chapel had been built as part of a monastery to both capture and reflect the natural beauty that is part of the environment, and an invitation to pray. And even with all its tourist trappings, the trail of the prayers of those who longed for healing at a shrine long venerated by local residents as a holy place of healing was palpable and nearly audible in the quietness and reverence. Saints who have gone before, member of bands of faithful followers, had prepared a place for me to pray and give thanks.On this trip I traveled with beloved ones, my husband and two friends, with whom we have prayed and shared our lives for many years. In the relative isolation of retirement, away from the madding tempo of our career days, it was a gentle benison to be sharing the journey in body as well as in Spirit and in mind. We moved in different rhythms, at different paces, have different interests and perceptions. yet there was a grace of movement, of shared delight and of shared sorrows that gave a rhythm to our days. It was fascinating to observe the ways in which the Spirit was moving in each of our lives with what we were experiencing as a prompt–opening our vision, touching a wound, filling us with laughter, binding us together in silence and solitude. These saints walking were a community, a foretaste of heaven for me, as I ambled and mused.
This weekend I want to remember and give thanks for the saints of whom I am a part–the ones I have known in all my years of faith, the ones I have never known, and the ones who walk with me now–in front, behind, and at my side.
And I say yes to this invitation to walk with the saints of God!