Much more importance was given to November 11. The lonely tones of The Last Post. The two minutes of silence. (An eternity to a child with frozen feet, and an inability to see anything but trousered legs and the bottoms of women's heavy winter coats.) A brass band pondering Abide With Me . Pipers lamenting. Slow and measured steps. The laying of wreaths at The Cenotaph. (Cenotaphs and Pyramids were about the same thing in my mind then...and when you think about it, I wasn't far off the mark.) Poppy wearing. There were huge crowds of still young sainted veterans, amongst them my father, who always refused to wear his medals, despite my mother's pleading. He was ever a self-effacing man. No doubt we honoured a few sinners too, both living and dead, who were also beloved by man and God. It escaped no one's notice that their courage had preserved the way of life we were privileged to enjoy.
But All Saints Day a few brief days earlier. Hard on the heels of Hallowe'en. It had passed without note. Not so now.
My list of saints has grown extremely long in the last years. And this year my heart has been deeply moved by the recent loss of two friends, both men, still in their prime. One was a lifelong friend, who with his wife, was generous of heart and lively of mind. He was, in Nouwen's terms a "spiritual strategist," someone whose visionary planning raised millions of dollars for charity and for the major educational institution for which he was head of planned giving. The other was a "quiet" man, with a pastor's heart, whose steadfastness in sickness and suffering brought him much admiration. He was my parents' pastor when my father was dying. He was at Dawsonwood Cottage the day they brought us a hospital bed and he helped Rob set it up in the dining room. On the day my father died, he dismantled that same bed, and trundled it out to the garage. A practical christian.
I copied this from Henri Nouwen (click on title above for link) and saved it for November 1.
The Church is a very human organization but also the garden of God's grace. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. Saints are people who make the living Christ visible to us in a special way. Some saints have given their lives in the service of Christ and his Church; others have spoken and written words that keep nurturing us; some have lived heroically in difficult situations; others have remained hidden in quiet lives of prayer and meditation; some were prophetic voices calling for renewal; others were spiritual strategists setting up large organizations or networks of people; some were healthy and strong; others were quite sick, and often anxious and insecure. But all of them in their own ways lived in the Church as in a garden where they heard the voice calling them the Beloved and where they found the courage to make Jesus the center of their lives.