[Blogger note: This is a humor piece. I am very much aware of the modern saints, the martyrs of the Coptic, Chaldean, and other Christian denominations currently being persecuted around the world. May their faith inspire all, believers and non-believers, who honor truth and mercy.]
Growing up in a blend of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish traditions, I figured out pretty early that sainthood was overrated. Trying to keep those white robes white, and standing around all day doing G-d stuff without getting cookies or punch or donuts and other nibbles afterward? No, thanks. Once I learned about the martyrs, well, forget sainthood! That’s icky. Or so my 9-year-old self decided. At that point, I’m sure Mom Red would have affirmed that sainthood was not something I needed to worry about in any way, shape, or form, as I’d probably disqualified myself many times over.
Over time, I discovered that the saints of the 1950s US Roman Catholic Church weren’t all there was (yes, black patent shoes do reflect up). You had warrior saints, some of whom had been dropped by the church for conduct unbecoming while off duty (aka the legends are rather more legendary than is considered reasonable). There are Protestant saints beyond the basic 12+1, although I’m still not sure about Martin Luther, Phillip Melanchthon, and the founders of Concordia and St. Olaf Colleges being among the 12 Apostles. Or Augustin of Hippo, Jean Calvin, and John Knox, for that matter. 😉
Then I moved to the Midwest and discovered what the writer Brent Olsen calls “sainthood-by-proxy,” beatification through marriage. You know what I mean. A group of older folks, usually ladies, will be discussing the latest misadventures of a congregational member or resident of the township and one of them will sigh and say, “Bless her, Sarah is such a saint to put up with him.” And the others will nod and sip their coffee.
Now, we’re not talking about people who stay with abusive spouses, no no. We’re talking about Sara the wife of Crazy Fred, the guy who tried to build a perpetual motion machine that caught the tool-shed on fire, or who decided that it would be easier to knock that old dead tree over with the tractor than to get his chainsaw repaired. The one who is forever rebuilding a car from parts of two other cars and an old Allis-Chalmers tractor that he towed home from the grove at the old Olafsen place. Or who decided to use his wife’s bake oven to mold a new canopy for the airplane he’s been building for the past 20 years, or to use the same oven to cure some composite lay-ups in a hurry. That guy. And I say guy because 9 times out of 10, the eccentricity that induces sainthood falls on the gent’s side of the family tree. How many ladies would try to convince their husband to stop by the side of the road on the way to St. Paul, MN* for a symphony concert (in fancy clothes) so she can lop the head off an 18 point buck that got hit by an earlier car?
She’s such a saint to put up with him.
*[location changed to protect the guilty and the author]