All Saints’ Day holds a special place in the hearts of Presbyterians and Protestants. It might surprise some that it has taken on a unique significance for us, overshadowing its traditional importance for Catholics. While our Catholic friends still honor the saints recognized by their institution, in Reformed and Presbyterian churches, this day has evolved into a time for commemorating not only the canonized saints but also the people who have touched our lives, both recently and in the distant past.
All Saints’ Day, and the eve preceding it, provide an opportunity for the church to create a space for the sacred and the everyday lives of our neighbors. More and more, we are leaning toward a more inclusive understanding of sainthood, akin to Martin Luther’s proclamation of the priesthood of all believers, although achieving this radical inclusivity is a work in progress.
In this light, this year, who is your saint or a hero? Whom are you celebrating, grieving, and commemorating this year? Or who left a profound impact on you?
For me, with a mixture of seriousness and light-heartedness, one of my saints this year was a flock of wild turkeys – those marvelous creatures of God, our friendly earthlings, who nearly faced extinction due to human ignorance a century ago. Now, they are making a remarkable resurgence across the Northeast, again due to human intervention and a lack of wisdom in caring for God’s creation.
I grieve, commemorate, and celebrate with the wild turkeys – and their remarkable adaptation to human territories. Their story is a testament to small victories against settler colonialism, the conventional norms of fences and animal control, and the habitats they lost to invasive species centuries ago.
These remarkable birds are unsung heroes, a symbol of resilience and tenacity in the face of adversity. As we commemorate All Saints’ Day, it’s a reminder that saints aren’t just historical icons in stained glass windows but also the creatures that share this planet with us, teaching us valuable lessons in survival and adaptation to life on Earth.
So, as we light our candles and reflect on the meaning of All Saints’ Day, perhaps we could remember that saints come in all forms, even in the shape of wild turkeys, reminding us to be better stewards of the earth and to appreciate the incredible biodiversity of life that surrounds us.