When the saints come marching in

November 10, 2016

By Rita Buettner

Although the arrival of November brings to mind turkeys and pilgrims and cornucopias, it always makes me think of saints.

It was one November when I was a child that my mother had an idea. She decided we would spend the month celebrating saints. Every day one member of our family of eight picked a saint and read that saint’s story aloud at the dinner table.

Night after night, we listened to the stories of saints during dinner. We delved into the lives of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Christopher, St. Zita, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Francis Xavier, St. Barnaby, St. Gertrude and many others. Every evening we heard a new story, and we rarely knew ahead of time which saint we would meet.

I am sure I wasn’t the only person hoping my brother Ricky wouldn’t bring a 500-page biography to the table and want to read every word. There were no official word limits, but most of the children were looking forward to dessert.

At the end of the month, my mother gave each of us a saint exam. We scattered throughout our Rodgers Forge townhouse, finding spots to focus on answering the questions.

If I recall correctly, we all received A’s, except my father, who chose to write that his favorite saint was his mother, who was still living. Saints, we children knew, at least, had to be in heaven.

We had so much fun that November that we continued our tradition, some years even celebrating with a saint costume party with friends. As my siblings and I went on to college and then adult life afterward, we kept sharing saints every day of November over email. We called it our “E-saint-a-thon,” and one Christmas my parents gave us E-Saint-a-Thon t-shirts with the list of the year’s saints’ names on the back.

Isn’t that how most families spend the month of November?

As our family grew, and sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren came along, we fell away from the tradition. What has stayed with me, however, is this sense that November is about the saints. I love the breadth of the stories that you can find, the short ones that contain just minimal information about a saint, and then the longer ones that are rich with detail. Some of those anecdotes stay with you because they bring the saints to life as real people.

Today when my children bring saint projects home from school or remind me that we have a saint costume to pull together for All Saints Day, I am grateful that they, too, are learning about the lives of the saints.

As the feast days cross our calendar, we tell our children about saints’ lives, hoping they’ll hear stories that will resonate and stay with them into adulthood. If they never read a 500-page biography of a saint, that’s fine. What I hope is that they will be inspired – truly inspired – by the lives of the saints.

I want them to marvel at how St. Anthony presented the Eucharist to a donkey, who bowed low to the ground at the sight of the Real Presence. I want them to imagine the joy and awe in St. Bernadette’s heart as she saw the Blessed Mother at Lourdes. I want them to consider how they, too, might carry Jesus as St. Christopher did. And I want them to come to see the saints as their friends, their companions on this journey in life.

After all, saints aren’t just people who lived a long time ago and loved Jesus and performed miracles. They are also members of our family. They are our friends in Christ, able to intercede for us in extraordinary ways from heaven. What a gift, that you and I get to be members of this communion of saints, knowing that we have advocates in heaven.

How wonderful to know that we’re all in this together. Oh, how we long to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.