Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ALL SAINTS, JESUS, & RICE AND BEANS

Fra Angelico

The Feast Day of All Saints is November 1. It is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church. Many other Western Christian churches, including Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist celebrate the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls, November 2, together on the first Sunday after. Eastern Orthodox Christianity celebrate many of same feasts as the Western Orthodoxy but utilize a different church calendar, so their celebration of All Saints falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

All Saints' Day was founded in the early middle ages by Pope Gregory III and is a way to honor and remember all the Holy Saints and all the ordinary saints.  

Ordinary saints are those for whom Christ died -- all Christians. We are a part of the Communion of Saints, here on earth and when we enter heaven. We share this spiritual space -- or Mystical Body with Jesus as the head, with all Christians living and dead. This includes the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, as well as our personal saints – the souls of our departed family and friends. That’s why All Souls’ Day is celebrated either with or directly after All Saints’ Day.

All Souls’ Day is usually celebrated in church with the reading of names of those who have died, particularly during the last year, with special honor and prayers said for their sake. The combined celebration of All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day reminds us that just like we ask living people to pray to God with us, we can ask our personal saints - as well as the Saints to pray with us.       

Then we pray:

“God our Father, Source of all Holiness,
 the work of your hands is manifest in your saints,
 the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith.”
                                                Roman Catholic, Collect, November 1

Then we sing:

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.

They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
                   Number 93 in the Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982, Words by Lesbia Scott

How can we become saints? And isn’t it rather presumptuous of us even to aspire to such a thing? Here’s the good news, in the eyes of Jesus Christ, we already ARE saints because we’ve accepted Him into our hearts through baptism. He is a part of us and we’re a part of Him.

He asks us to open ourselves up and shine out:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
           From the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew (5:13-16)  Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

In other words, open ourselves up to the Jesus inside and allow His love to strengthen us in good works fulfilled as an inviting example to others and in dedication to God.
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These are pretty clear cut instructions from the Man Himself on what we’re supposed to be doing as ordinary saints on earth. Why then, do we study the lives of the Holy Saints and venerate them in heaven?

It’s because the Holy Saints are extraordinary. Their lives on earth serve as examples for us. Not so much that we aspire to be exactly like them, but so that we can say to ourselves, "If they can do all that, perhaps I can take this one difficult step for now, and then maybe the next one later on."

My research for this blog has led me to discover the main differences between the Catholic and Protestant viewpoints of the Saints. And I see now why many of my friends although in support of me, are not so much in support of a blog dedicated to the Saints.

At the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation, many members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy promoted the buying of Indulgences. An Indulgence was forgiveness, or special prayers said for the dearly departed for which the parishioners had to pay to the priest or bishop. The grief stricken would do it especially if it was in the name of a beloved Holy Saint. But some priests and bishops would keep the money for themselves.

So when the Reformation occurred and so many people protested by breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and becoming Protestant, they broke away from the Saints as well because they didn’t want their new worship to in any way remind them of the wrong doings -- rejecting the piety along with the corruption.

It’s the piety that draws me:  the Sign of the Cross, lighting of candles, reciting memorized prayers, kneeling in penitence, venerating the Holy Saints, and partaking of special food and traditions on feast days. 

Engaging in these devotions helps me to focus on His Words, plus I find comfort in the tradition which reminds me of home. The home where I lived as a baby, so alas, I have no real memory of it. I have only the memories of my parents and those hints of memories from later visits.

Until the age of three, I lived with my older brother and parents in the basement apartment of my Grandmother’s house in Mamaroneck, New York. My great Aunt Anna and Uncle Phillip lived in the upstairs apartment. Right before my little brother was born, we moved to a big house “out in the country.” Then my great aunt and uncle moved back to Collepietro, a mountain village near L’Aquila in the Abruzzi Region of Italy.

My brothers and I had a wonderful childhood including good schools and friends, a big back yard with a swing set and a pool, plus a baseball diamond in the front yard. But there lives inside me a nostalgia for what we missed out on when we left – a bilingual upbringing, close proximity to extended family members, school and church in walking distance and the traditional Italian food prepared by first generation Italian Americans. Sigh.

My father feels this same nostalgia, only his comes with vivid memories and over time, the passing away of his beloved family members.

It helps him to know that his relatives are waiting for him in heaven. It helps him to know that he can talk to them whenever he wants and they are listening. It helps him to know that he can call upon and honor their special Saints.

My parents now live in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in New York. They attend a Roman Catholic church built by Irish and Italian immigrants. The story goes that the Italians conceded to the Irish naming the church St. Patrick's as long as they agreed to the installation of a stained glass window of St. Anthony of Padua above the Cross behind the altar.

Most Sundays at the early Mass, the rising sun shines through the stained glass window of the Patron Saint of Collepietro. In this weekly vision of God’s light passing through St. Anthony’s window, my father sees the love of his family in heaven, the model of a Saint who loves Jesus with all his heart, and he sees Jesus who loves my father and all of us with His whole infinite being.

What helps me is attending an Episcopal church where everyone is invited to the Communion Table; where my children and I engage in consistent service to God, worship, and fun fellowship; and where the Saints are honored in the liturgy, special lessons, and feast days.

And obviously, what also helps me is the research I do for this blog. Before each post I research, verify, corroborate, and balance what I discover. Somewhere between my Protestant uncertainty and my Roman Catholic devotion, I find the truth – the Saints were Holy yet fully human and, therefore, fallible. And that’s what makes their stories so inspiring.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saint in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
                      Collect, HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN:  CELEBRATING THE SAINTS
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Sources:

SAINTS FOR DUMMIES by Rev. John Trigilio and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti

THE LURE OF THE SAINTS:  A PROTESTANT EXPERIENCE OF CATHOLIC TRADITION by Jon M. Sweeney

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Update: 

November 1, 2014
This link is particularly for my dearworthy Episcopal readers:
 liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com.

For some reason, it took me FOR EV ER to find this link and I want you to have it handy. Here's why:

The list of Episcopal Saints is in flux. That's not a bad thing. It just means that the Church is in the process of tweaking. HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN: CELEBRATING THE SAINTS, although a printed volume, is a work in process. And in fact, even it's title will probably be changed.  

This site is a forum where everyone, including the lay members of the Church, has an opportunity to offer their opinions on which saints to honor on our Calendar and also offer edits for the short biographies that accompany each Collect.

I was very pleased to discover that I could offer suggested changes to the biography of St. Joan of Arc, because it's mostly wrong and her memory deserves so much better than that.    

So if your interest in the saints and Saints of the Episcopal Church runs this deep, I highly recommend that you explore around on that site and offer your opinion.

And remember that as Episcopalians, we are free to honor any saints or Saints -- be they Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or simply faithful people that inspire you.   


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What recipe goes with All Saints? A recipe that can be as versatile as every Saint in heaven and every ordinary saint on earth when we start with the same basic ingredients -- Jesus and us:

RICE AND BEANS



Rice and Beans Casserole

 Ingredients:

6 cups cooked brown rice
1 can or about 1 ½ cups of dried black beans
1 cup sautéed vegetables
1 or 1 ½ cups shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

 Directions:

 1. Follow package directions to cook the rice.
 2. Soak the dried beans in water overnight or open the canned beans, rinse and strain.
 3. Combine rice and beans in a 9 x 13 pan.
 4. Sauté chopped onion and/or pepper.
 5. Combine with rice and beans.
 6. Add salt and pepper. Stir.
 7. Top mixture with shredded cheese.
 8. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 30 or 40 minutes until cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbly and steaming.
 9. Serve hot. 

Options:

Last Meatless Monday, I made this casserole using leftover Ratatouille for the vegetables. I topped half with shredded mozzarella and the other half with shredded cheddar to account for individual preferences in my family.

Black beans can be substituted with other types of beans or even tofu.

Brown rice can be substituted with other types of rice.

Vegetables can be substituted as well. But they should be precooked. Left over steamed vegetables are fine. Canned vegetables also work.

Salt and pepper can be replaced or added to other types of spices.

Cheese can be substituted or left off altogether.

Make it any way you want. It’s your meal and it’s one that will sustain you along a spiritual path all your own. 

Enjoy!

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