Saints: Our Spiritual Mentors

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1

Last week, Kellor offered some suggestions on picking adult mentors for youth. But it seemed to me, as we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, that many of the mentors I've had are people who are no longer with us in the flesh.  

What are the saints but our mentors throughout church history? One of the great blessings of the saints is that we have a huge range of spiritual mentors to learn from – mentors with all different personalities, backgrounds, and life histories.

The communion of saints is one of the things that drew me to become an Episcopalian, actually: this sense that there were a bunch of holy people who were present here and now, and were not just part of the past. The commemoration of saints made me aware I was connected to the church through time and space.

I found that very empowering as a young adult, and still do. Since then, I’ve found a number of people in the calendar of saints who have become heroes and mentors of mind: Evelyn Underhill, William Wilberforce, Martha of Bethany, Teresa of Avila, Florence Nightingale, and of course (though he’s not officially in the church calendar) Fred Rogers.

If we think of the saints as mentors, perhaps that might change how we teach and share about them. Using the same technique that Kellor described last week, what if we went through our list of saints and thought about who might be a good match for youth (or adults!) in our church. What if we then assigned each person a saint and said, “I thought you and this saint might have some things to say to each other. Get to know one another a little bit, and tell me what you think.” And what if we had a night called “Meet the saints” where each person could get up and introduce the saint to whom she was assigned, and explain what she learned about her or from her.

What spending time with the saints has taught me is that there are many ways to serve God and one another. I’ve learned that a lack of success or understanding in one’s own lifetime doesn’t mean one was wrong, or wrong for trying. I’ve learned that being a saint doesn’t mean fitting any one particular personality profile. And I’ve learned from them that I am never alone. 

Who is your saintly mentor?

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