saints among us
“We celebrate all the religions of the world in this room, Oliver. I'm a Catholic, which is the best of all the religions, really, because we have the most rules. And the best clothes. But among us, there is also a Buddhist, Agnostic, we have a Baptist, and we have an "I don't know", which seems to be the fastest growing religion in the world.” – Thoughts from Brother Geraghty from the movie St. Vincent.
I also enjoy Brother Geraghty’s definition of saint – which goes far beyond the textbook definition and delves into the idea that there are saints among us – even if they are not defined that way by religion. Saints – people who do good for others, one willing to sacrifice for another, one who cares for and acts upon those cares, etc. He also reminds us that all saints are first and foremost, human.
To be human…where do I even begin? Of course there is biology that makes one human, and culture, which covers many aspects of humanity. There is also the not so pretty part of our humanness: the mistakes we make, the traps we fall into, the hurt we endure, the challenges we overcome, the pain we spread to others…you get the idea. Really, it’s this part of our humanity that creates saints in the first place.
Oliver knows this too…and that’s why he honored Vincent during the Saints Among Us celebration. Vincent, described as the grumpy old neighbor who plagues Oliver with negative influence. Or Vincent, described as the hero during the Vietnam War, who lost his wife to Alzheimer’s and faithfully does her laundry every week, even though she doesn’t remember him. Vincent, who teaches Oliver about statistics and odds (at the racetrack whoops), and helps him learn about real life. His methods may not always be sound, but his heart sure is.
It’s easy to label people as the “not so pretty part of our humanness,” just as Vincent was labeled. That’s the part that may show the most, or at least the loudest when it does show. And when we do show the other parts, so often our good qualities get justified against, as if our pain is the only part we are allowed to be. Does Vincent not get to be described as faithful just because he’s grumpy? Do we forget about his heroism in the war because he drinks all day?
As Brother Geraghty reminds us, saints are among us. They are the ones who touch our lives in small ways (or big ways) every day. They don’t have to live in textbooks (and most often do not). They are probably not recognized by a religion, but they can be recognized by us, humans. Don’t let someone else’s pain define who they are to you…see them as a whole person, and celebrate the ways that they matter most to you.