Luminous Saints – May 2003

Link: Companions in Christ | Tools & Tips.

E. Glenn Hinson, adapted from Weavings, May/June 2003

Looking backward from the perspective of seventy-one years, I can see innumerable flashes of grace in my life. However exhaustively I search, though, I always end up with a deep conviction that ordinary saints, loving and vitally interested in me, played the leading role in getting me from where I started to where I am now.

In my view, saints do not have to be perfect; they need rather to be authentic. As a matter of fact, I would find it hard to classify someone who had no flaws as a saint because she would not be real. Saints are human. How should we describe them then? Douglas Steere has characterized them in this way: They are persons irradiated by the grace of God who answer back to the love of God in whatever setting they may be placed and “in whom God or Christ is felt to live again.”1 They seek not to be safe but to be faithful. They have developed a gristle that enables them to stand fast in adversity. They love persons rather than humanity in general. They believe all life is sacramental.2

In that depiction I begin to see why human beings like me make their way through and out of the valley of shadows and ascend to high plateaus that lie beyond when ordinary saints walk with them. Saints kindle dreams and inspire hopes.

The Marshes’ and G.C. Busch’s [Hinson describes these two luminous saints in full detail earlier in the article] scratches in my inner life came back to me in a curious way this past year. As I walked every morning through the neighborhood in which I live, during the coldest part of the winter I noticed one house in serious need of repair and painting. I knew a single mother lived there with two young children… Rotting wood and unglazed windowpanes made me shiver, and my mind raced back to those days when my mother and I had desperate need and the Marshes and G.C. Busch and Sons came. What Douglas Steere liked to call "a holy nudge" kept poking me in the ribs of my heart.

It took a dozen trips or so by that house before I figured out sometime in January what I should say and got up the nerve to knock on the door. Noticing that the young woman who lived there had hired someone to paint the facade toward the street two or three years earlier, I asked, "Would I offend you if I asked to finish the paint job on your house?" She quickly assured me that she would welcome help.

Looking backward from the completion of the painting to the day I began writing this article ten weeks later, I can see the Inner Prompter whom I first came to know through the Marshes and G.C. Busch. I have always wanted to thank God in some tangible way for their boundless compassion, and now I think I have.

12Douglas V. Steere, On Beginning from Within (New York & London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1943), 11.
Ibid., 11-26.