A Prayer for Saints
Sometimes I shrink to pray to God, our father, our strength, Lord of all and light of the universe.
Or Jesus, our brother, our intercessor, the God With Us.
Perhaps it’s not God I shrink from, perhaps it’s the whole face of God: unchangeable, smooth, entire. Jesus, our perfect exemplar, who understands perfectly our pains and triumphs, the One who descended below all and emerged ascendant.
Sometimes I want to pray to someone who was and remains broken and sad and imperfect. Someone who has walked the low road—really walked the low road and fallen short. Someone who fought a good fight, finished the course, kept the faith and emerged as everything less than ascendant.
Today my holy envy, on this Sunday morning in the midst of COVID-19, among the ruins of a years-long faith crisis, but with the dim lights shining that I hope this may be true, that almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian, today my holy envy rests with the saints. The faces of God that were mortal yet holy, the faces of God who were themselves sinners and that keep their face turned toward the sinners, the sailors, toward those with lost causes. I long for tangible reminders that they were present: a shinbone, a piece of a cross, a cup they dined with.
I construct my own saints, though I don’t call them that. I keep a picture of my dad, kind and funny and honorable and addicted and selfish. I work with needle and thread and with each stitch sit with my grandmother, grandmotherly and kind but complicated in her own way. I work on the book my grandpa left, who had a romantic and soft heart but abandoned his family when they needed him. Be with me, I whisper to these ghosts. I don’t need divine intervention, I need human incompleteness. Abide with me, tis eventide.
These are the faces of God I seek; not the whole face, unchangeable and unbroken, but the pieces that remind me to be kind, to listen, to cut some slack.
So on days when God is too big, I’ll pray to saints Laman and Lemuel, whose younger brother could be a self-righteous jerk and whose father could only see them as destined to Hell. I’ll pray to saint Joseph who was not Mormon when he saw God. I’ll keep my counsel with Corianton, whose entire life has been boiled down to chasing after a harlot. I’ll send a prayer with Saint Paul, who delivered some of the most meaningful lines I have ever read with the same pen with which he silenced women and gave tacit approval to slavery. I’ll pray with Captain Moroni, who was valiant and clever but also quick to judgement and anger. I’ll mourn with Ether, Mormon, and Moroni who were powerless to stop the destruction of their people but who kept walking every day.
In praying to these saints, I pray to keep my own face turned toward my siblings who are themselves deeply broken and flawed but who, through amazing grace, may become holy.
Perhaps then, together with saints living and dead, we can build a world ready to receive the whole face of God.