After Brian Doyle’s “Prayer for All Saints and All Souls Day,” in A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle and Muddle of the Ordinary
What makes a saint?
Canonically, it’s three miracles, a mysterious officious inquest, and a formal seal of approval.
But if Bryan Doyle is to be believed, it’s “trudg[ing] humbly beneath immense loads, sharing … mercy and cheer and song and food and drink and courage with everyone they [meet].”
In other words, per David Foster Wallace (on a significant occasion), it’s having the perspective and grace and forbearance to cope in “the day-to-day trenches of adult existence” — in which, as he knew, the apparently banal can take on life-or-death importance.
Brian Doyle described these people, the saints known and unknown (“the latter faaaaar outnumbering the former”) as “all the billions of holy beings who strove and struggled and soared or sank; all of them our teammates on the road to light.” Yes, “even the worst among them.”
It’s an extraordinarily powerful exercise to encounter people in this way: who was this person? Who is this person? Regardless of how this person appears to me, can I summon the grace to wish this person well — as though he or she, like me, might be a holy being crawling or stumbling or walking on the road to light?
We hear a lot about the “banality of evil,” and that’s an important reminder. But All Saints and All Souls days are about the liberating power of the banality of good, the unsmall courage and generosity of showing up for our “teammates on the road to light.”
Nobody needs you to be a certified saint. But who needs you to show up as a teammate?