November 1 was a busy day on my magical calendar. The usual batch of meetings, and these notes:
- The First Day of American Indian Heritage Month.
- My knee surgeon’s birthday.
- One week & counting until the official voting day for US Midterm Elections.
- All Saints’ Day.
Yes… it’s a rather odd collection! Let’s just admit that irony abounds.
If you’ve been hanging around a while, you’ve heard me muse about All Saints Day a time or two.
Don’t go… there’s a surprise this year! One that feels pretty big in my world.
It turns out that one of the people recognized on that holiday we didn’t learn much about in the land of Reformed Theology was my grandmother!
Curious? Me, too!
First, though… the understanding of All Saints Day which has lived in my heart for about 30 years.
I was on campus at Columbia Theological Seminary for a Doctor of Ministry course in doing pre-marital and couples counseling.
Walter Brueggemann was preaching in Chapel. For the first couple of minutes I was a bit perplexed.
I mean… Walter is a renowned Hebrew Bible scholar. Saints seemed a bit off the beaten path.
Then, the punch line…
Saints, Walter said, were all the people who believed for us on days when we couldn’t quite believe for ourselves.
That I understood! There have been quite the tribe of those in my life. I imagine there have been some along your path, too.
Ever since that day, I’ve stopped, each year, to make my list. And, more recently, to add an intention. To be one of those people for others.
Like Steve Glenn’s 1 in 5 people, which, come to think of it, feels pretty timely in this moment!
If a teenaged child has 5 adults who will listen to them, take them seriously, and not shame them or blame them for their questions, that child is practically immune from ever attempting suicide.
It’s a pretty helpful way to live and a really timely way to vote!
Then, digging around in the family tree, I learned a new thing. I suspect it wants to be a story for my girls!
Once upon a time… a long time ago, bedtime stories were often about people called saints.
It seems that one of the saints was my great grandmother, a very, very long time ago, when many of the countries had different names than the ones we learned. Her name was Sainte Begga.
But, before she was a saint, she was a little girl. And then a wife. And then a mom. And a grammy.
She had what we would think of as a very large family. A family which was also well known and powerful.
Eventually, Begga’s husband passed on.
And, because those were very different times, many people tried to convince Begga that she needed to marry someone else who was rich and powerful and would own all her things and make her choices for her.
This did not feel like a good idea to Begga, but the rules were different back then.
We, of course, can’t know all the details of this story from so long ago, but what I learned is that Begga decided to live in community with other thoughtful, spiritual women in a place where she would be able to keep her own things and make her own choices, instead of being forced to marry someone she did not love because, as we might say now, it was good politics.
Begga spent the rest of her life, with all those other women, helping the people she could.
It seems she helped a lot, because important people in her family, and what was known as The Church, honored her by telling her story and naming her as a Saint.
Begga had a daughter named Clotilde who was also named a Saint. She was my great aunt… also a long time ago.
There were more people in Begga’s own family, and we’ll talk about them another day.
There were also more people in Begga’s chosen family. They were called Beguines and there are still some of them in our time, helping people and making their own choices.
One thing you should know is that, depending on who is telling this story, it could sound very different. That’s called perspective.
There’s more, of course, as there almost always is. For now, though, this is what I learned when I wanted to know how one of my very own grammies came to be known as a Saint.
And, on All Saints Day this year, I thanked Grammy-Sainte Begga for believing so hard for all of us who would come after her, all these years later. And I re-claimed a old intention for my own journey…
To keep being one of those 5 people for as many others as I can.
And added a new intention…
To keep living – and voting – like everybody matters and women can make their own choices!
I’m beginning to imagine new ways that might happen. And I have a list of new things to learn, which isn’t really unusual for me.
For now, huge thanks to all the saints along my way! And to you for being brave enough to learn this new story!
ps… planning a wedding? Need some enlightened help? Check out VeryLargeHope!
pps… need a reminder? Daphne has you covered with …able to choose tank tops!