November 7, 2011

Saints Among Us

By the end of the baptism, confirmations, and receptions, Martha leans like a book against a shelf.

She has stood this whole time, while 10-day-old David enters into the household of God. Her walker sits in the aisle, and she clutches onto the pew while the bishop confirms Brandon, whose body is nearly 40 and whose mind rests at age seven. She begins to wobble a bit when the bishop lays hands on a couple, high school sweethearts who married, then divorced other people and renewed their love 35 years after the first kiss. 

She wills her frail body to stand as witness and welcome to these newest members in the body of Christ. And only after sharing the peace with her neighbors does she succumb, letting her body seek refuge in the support of the pew. 

On All Saints Day last week, the priest welcomed me to the service with the greeting: “St. Richelle.” Not often at a loss of words, this made me stumble. No, no, I don’t think so, I laughed, to cover my discomfort. He preached then about how we are all saints in our way, in our time, believers of the Gospel who try to live out this call. 

Martha can’t navigate the stairs to receive the Eucharist, so the bishop comes to her. She holds out hands twisted with arthritis, with knotted knuckles, and coffee-brown spots. They shake as she waits to receive the host. 

Suddenly, I’m in a thin place, the flutter of a butterfly wing between the pew of my church and the gates of heaven. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more sacred moment as I watch a woman who defies the limits of her body to feed her soul and worship the Lord. 

I am in the presence of a saint, surrounded by the cloud of witnesses, and I give thanks.