Letters to the Bishop

All Saints?

November can be a dreary month in these parts, a season of fierce winds and day-long rains.  Clumps of damp leaves plaster the streets and walkways.  Leafless maples and oaks raise their limbs to gray, lumpy skies like souls in agony.  Stripped of their green vestments, the mountains frown as if in mournful anticipation of winter.  As you can see, Your Excellency, the mere thought of November can steer even a poor scribbler toward thoughts poetical.

Of course, November also brings us All Saints’ Day, November 1, that feast when the Church celebrates Her saints, known and unknown, who are with God in His Heaven.  Sainthood, Your Excellency, is why I am writing to you.

Many people seem confused about saints these days.  When Time broke the story about Mother Teresa’s troubled interior life, commentators such as Christopher Hitchens used her as an example of a religious opportunist who soldiers on despite lost illusions.  Some of my acquaintances were angry with Mother Teresa, as if she had somehow fooled them.  When I mentioned the idea of “a real dark night of the soul,” a state of spiritual loneliness common to saints (and to the rest of us mere mortals as well), one of these friends snapped, “That’s why we have psychiatrists and Prozac.”

Other misconceptions about saints abound.  Whenever a certain Lutheran relative...

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