“Don’t call me a saint,” said Dorothy Day, “I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” Saints are complicated folks. A lot of us are thinking about that today. What stories will people choose to remember and tell about us?
We read a version of St. Patrick’s story at breakfast this morning. It tells his story this way: Patrick was a victim of human trafficking. And then, Patrick was a teacher to those who made him a slave.
Patrick was taken from his home at 16 by slave traders, who sold him in Ireland. In the midst of these circumstances, he becomes a man of faith. Somehow he makes it to Gaul, where he studies and prays, until one day, the sound of Éire’s voices calls him back to Ireland to teach about Christ. I s’pose driving out snakes is one way to look at that kind of work.
There are other ways to tell Patrick’s story. Some prefer the version where Patrick drives out the culture of the Celts. How you get from whatever went on in the fifth century to a thousand drunks toasting the green Chicago River is complicated.
Peter the apostle’s story could be told a number of ways, too: impulsive, stammering reactionary; denier of a friend at his most vulnerable moment; relapsing former bigot. But Peter’s story – which only continues in legend – tells Jesus’ story, instead.
II Peter doesn’t do much damage control on Peter’s image. It just gives us Peter’s voice, a teacher who considers his subject far more important than his legacy:
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.
And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
I may hope to be remembered for virtue, or wisdom, or good-doing. But that’s out of my hands, as is whether I am remembered tomorrow at all. That being the case, perhaps I’ll do more good to tell a story that makes sense out of me today.
May we choose to tell the story of Jesus, whatever may come of our co-tellers, or, “saints preserve us,” ourselves. May we preserve our saints, our company of neighbors and strangers and enemies, telling their stories in light of God’s love for them. May we teach about Jesus, in word and deed, even to an audience that sees us (and him) as a discarded commodity or an occasion for celebrating the very thing we’ve worked to downplay.
Mercy, who knew our true stories before we did and will know us beyond, surround and preserve us, however we are told.
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.