I saw the making of a saint in Rome on 14 October, the Canonisation of Oscar Romero. On the day in Rome I felt the excitement of the packed crowd from all over the world and the joy of the Salvadorians, I saw the reverence of Pope Francis as he declared Romero a saint and celebrated the Eucharist with such devotion. But in truth Oscar Romero did not need miracles or petitions to prove his sainthood – he had become a saint 38 years before when he was ‘the voice of a voiceless.’ His words still ring out, challenging our divided and violent world: ‘Those you kill are your own brothers and sisters. In the Name of God, stop the repression.’ While the Church of England already has the figure of Romero as part of the new façade at Westminster Abbey, it took the Catholic Church all those years and the papacy of Francis to recognise his sainthood. Saints have a habit of rocking the boat too much.
All Saints is not about Christian celebrities. It’s about fallible and challenging human beings who, through the grace of God, inspired others to holiness and brought God’s kingdom a little closer. I like the way at St Martin’s the lines are blurred between All Saints and All Souls because many of the bearers of God’s grace never get the recognition. Alongside Saint Oscar I like to think of Dorothy Cone getting off the bus at heaven’s gate with her carrier bag, half bottle of wine and leftover cheese from the Archers, a little disgruntled because St Peter has not given her the job of Head Steward. Or perhaps Mallie Lightbourn inviting Oscar for one of her dinner parties – she’d love him and him her, but she would still refuse to give him the secret recipe for her tomato salad. I also like to believe that heaven will be populated by some of those who this week we remember died homeless in London, or died in the horror of war far from home. For is not heaven the home of all those who seek peace, the place ‘with the ever open door’, no matter who, no matter what – there to provide opportunity, sanctuary, support and a home for everyone? This is our God. This is what God does.
Revd Richard Carter