Remembering the Saints

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. (Phil 1:3-5)

This past Sunday was All Saints Sunday, a day when we take the opportunity to remember in a special way those who have gone before us, those who have inspired our faith, those who have left a tangible yet, perhaps invisible, mark on our lives– much like the sign of the cross we were marked with in baptism.

Aside from funerals, we don’t have a lot of rituals that involve us marking the memory of a loved one. In my opinion, that’s part of what makes All Saints Sunday so holy and precious. On this day, we are invited to light a candle, to reflect, and to specifically give thanks for those we remember.

One of the people I personally think of on All Saints Sunday is a woman by the name of Shirley. Shirley was a member of my home church. Our bond was initially forged when I was in high school, and Shirley signed up to be my “secret prayer sponsor.” Every so often, I would receive a card in the mail, reminding me that I was being prayed for, encouraging me in my various activities, or in response to some sort of article she had seen in the newspaper with my name in it.

Eventually, I started to recognize her handwriting, and to this day, I can still picture it. It wasn’t until the end of that school year that I learned who the sender of these cards and prayers was. But even after her commitment to being my secret prayer sponsor ended, Shirley stayed in touch. She tracked with what I was up to, especially once I started seminary.

Several years later, Shirley’s granddaughter and I ended up being in the same cohort for our clinical pastoral education experience. Her granddaughter was enrolled at a different seminary, and as you might imagine, Shirley was tickled by this connection. To me it was a wonderful reminder of how we truly are knit together as the communion of saints in the body of Christ.

Shirley and I continued to exchange notes a couple of times a year until a few years ago, when she passed away. As I remember and give thanks for Shirley, I do so encouraged by her example and grateful for her prayers. I’m also inspired to consider how I might do the same for someone else by saying a prayer or sending a card. As you remember the saints (those living and those who are no longer living) in your own life, I hope the same is true for you.