A saint is a kind of flesh and blood archetype who is said to have lived a life of greatness or originality, a non-banal life of service to a cause bigger than oneself. Rabbi Heschel calls the word “holy” the “most precious word” in religion and it is by nature deeply ecumenical for “holiness is not the monopoly of any particular religion or tradition.”
Simone Weil said that “it is not enough merely to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness required by the present moment, a new saintliness.”
I like that observation because it invites new versions of what we are capable of in responding to the needs of our times, the signs of our times. It also allows us to let go of nostalgia, stereotype hagiography and living in the past spiritually speaking.
When Dorothy Day (now proposed for canonization) asked the following question she was surely asking a question for our times: “Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves but to do away with slavery?”
We work to change the world by changing the way we look at the world and the structures that dictate our world, including the way we look at religion and religions and economic systems and political and media systems.
Changing paradigms matters, whether that means changing the paradigm from original sin to original blessing and from fall/redemption to creation-centered spirituality; or changing the narrative from white privilege to black lives matter; or from the earth exists for human use and exploitation to the earth and her creatures exist for their own sake and with their own rights and autonomy.
All Saints Day is a day for stirring up fresh meanings of the holy.
See Matthew Fox, “Holiness as Cosmic Hospitality,” in Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 108-116.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Famous Icon of Dorothy Day sitting with a poor man affectionately with her comforting arm on his back, along with soup and coffee. The special teaching of the icon is that the traditional halo w/letters of Christ’s name, is around the poor man identifying the Christ presence in the lowliest among us. Photo used with special permission from the artist Kelly Latimore. Purchase HERE
Queries for Contemplation
What is your meaning of saintliness or the holy? How do you see it evolving in your life and in our culture’s needs today?