Who are the Saints?

“Who are the Saints and why do we celebrate them?”
This is perhaps the #1 question that I get on a regular basis from folks once they find out that I’m a religious professional. It seems the saints; who they are, what they’ve done, whether, why and even if we should celebrate them, is top-of-mind for the faithful.
When we say “saints” in the church, we usually have two, overlapping groups of people in mind. First, and most importantly, are the ordinary, rank-and-file of the faithful. Yes. When St. Paul and St. James and the author of Hebrews talk about ‘saints’ they have in mind anyone who is a part of the community of the faithful: you, me, the guy at the end of the pew that you’ve never talked to, all of us. I am a firm believer that this is the most important group of saints and the one that we should be most attentive to when we think about “celebrating the lives of the saints.”
Now, we can’t ignore the fact that since earliest Christianity (probably the second or third century) groups of the faithful have set aside time to recall and celebrate the lives and witness of significant members of their community who had gone on to their reward and whose legacy could be understood as a motivational or teaching tool for those of us still on our earthly pilgrimage. This is the celebration (or ‘veneration’) of the saints that most folks have in mind when they ask. And it remains the practice of my tradition, many Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans and some Methodists.
“Christian Heroes” is the term that one of my mentors used to describe the Saints that we mark with special days. Each has a story, and most have (at least a portion of ) a life that can teach us something useful to our own walk of faith. One must always be careful to remember that most of the saints were real people (some are genuine myths) and subject to the same foibles as the rest of us. But, in the end, and like the rest of the every-day-saints, they lived lives worthy of their calling.
Each week, I offer a talk on the life of a specific saint. And I’m thinking that I may re-post those here. Additionally, if you have any specific questions about specific saints, don’t hesitate to let me know.

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