In academic theological circles there are many complicated definitions of faith. However, the simplest definition of faith is commonly used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church uses real people to define faith.
Today is the Feast Day for All Saints in the Catholic Church. Catholic Saints are people who demonstrated their faith in God while living on earth to such a degree that the Church has decided to use them as examples of faith. The many gifts and talents of various Catholic Saints is NOT what makes the Church decide to call them Saints. Faith is what makes a Saint a Saint.
Another important aspect of the Catholic Tradition is the Church’s teaching that all the faithful are saints. This includes you and me here on earth as well as the Saints in heaven.
There is a silver ring that seems to come and go in and out of my life over the years. I bought this silver ring with the word “faith” inscribed on it when I became pregnant with my first child. It was a difficult time in my life. I was leaving my professional life to become a stay-at-home mom. It was a difficult pregnancy with very strained family relationships. Seeking some solace, I wandered into a Christian book store and saw this sterling silver “Faith” ring. I knew that I needed help from God. So, I bought the ring and put it on my finger to remind myself of God’s presence in my life. I wore this ring for a year or two. Then my life’s struggles settled down a bit and the ring came off.
About eight years later, I was grieving the loss of my beloved grandmother. Because I hadn’t seen this Faith ring in years, I thought it was lost. In the midst of my grief, I allowed my youngest son to play with the CD player in the car by sticking his fingers in it. This is something that I normally would not allow him to do. He pulled out my silver faith ring and asked me “What’s this?” My burden of grief somehow lightened that day when I put on my “Faith” ring and recalled how God had gotten me through some rough times in the past. However, once again the ring was worn for about a year or so then put aside and forgotten.
Another eight years have passed by and today I was driving home from dropping my children off at school. There are disappointments in my life where things have not worked out as I had planned. The future is not clear. The family members I struggled with 16 year ago are now fighting for their own lives, or they have died. My children are about to move away from me and begin their own independent lives. Once again there is a lot of change on the horizon that causes me fear and grief. However, as I shared my fears and worries with God this morning, the silver Faith ring showed up again! I thought it was lost when we moved houses, or when we bought a new car. Yet, as I decided to sort through a bag of clutter that was stuffed in the back of my closet – there it was! The faith ring. It wasn’t lost after all.
Faith is knowing that God is in control even when the circumstances of life cause us feelings of disappointment, grief, or fear. Hope empowers us to keep on going. Love is the confidence that we are all beloved children of one powerful, merciful, benevolent God who is the Great Creator of us all. These are the three theological virtues of the Christian life: faith, hope, and love. No amount of theological study can help us to understand these virtues better than studying the lives of the Saints. Have a happy All Saints Day!