Many years ago, I read a mystery entitled “A Cloud of Witnesses.” I don’t even remember what it was about, but the title continued to intrigue me, even before I knew it was a Bible quotation from the book of Hebrews. Almost every day for the past few weeks, I’ve been helping to edit the “saints” stories for our new Ursuline Book of Prayer, and I think about that quotation every day.
Working on them all day, every day, some weeks, I feel like I have absorbed them–sort of like taking a long trip inside a small car with a smoker–one emerges completely “smoked,” But that’s not a good comparison, because this “soaking up saints” is a pleasant experience! I leave work with my head full of great stories. There are so many interesting saints besides the familiar ones, and when you read their real stories with all their interesting “peculiarities” left in (not edited out to make them sound “holier”) they emerge as real people…slaves, queens, concentration camp victims…but real people.
I could have been depressed, comparing myself to all these heroic people, but that’s not what saints are for–they are held up to us to show us that–no matter what the circumstances of our daily lives–childhood abuse, violence, addictions, selfishness, sin–there are people who have coped with these things (and worse) and used them to grow in holiness. As we said in the ’60s, “Bloom Where You’re Planted!”