Editor's note:

Happy All Saints’ Day! Frederick Buechner joins us today to reflect a bit on the eclectic parade of saints that have danced the path of Christendom throughout the ages and continue to inspire and instruct us today. Looking at their lives, we cannot help but see how great is the God they serve.

—Renovaré Team

In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a pocket handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.

Many people think of saints as plaster saints, men and women of such paralyzing virtue that they never thought a nasty thought or did an evil deed their whole lives long. As far as I know, real saints never even come close to characterizing themselves that way. On the contrary, no less a saint than Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, “I am foremost among sinners”( 1 Timothy 1:15) …

In other words, the feet of saints are as much of clay as everybody else’s, and their sainthood consists less of what they have done than of what God has for some reason chosen to do through them. When you consider that Saint Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven devils, that Saint Augustine prayed, “Give me chastity and continence, but not now,” that Saint Francis started out as a high-living young dude in downtown Assisi, and that Saint Simeon Stylites spent years on top of a sixty-foot pillar, you figure that maybe there’s nobody God can’t use as a means of grace, including even ourselves.

The Holy Spirit has been called “the Lord, the giver of life” and, drawing their power from that source, saints are essentially life-givers. To be with them is to become more alive.

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Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words, via FrederickBuechner.com.