A few weeks ago an unexpected email arrived, leading to the smallest, yet most treasured, of discoveries. It was akin to receiving an update from heaven, specifically, news of my father.
Not long ago, I wrote a piece on scouting, and Rich Meyer, also a former member of Boy Scout Troop 153, saw the piece and wrote to reintroduce himself. When I emailed back, I mentioned how highly I thought of his father, recently deceased, especially of the work he had done with the scouts.
A day later Rich wrote back:
In mentioning Dad’s……I must say how much I liked your Dad! Do you know that when he ran Mammel’s (grocery), he would buy vegetables from me from our garden, paying me cash, and then put them in the store to sell! I just thought the world of him for doing that. Here’s a dumb kid asking a grown up to do something out of the ordinary and he gladly did it and I’ll always cherish those memories! And he always liked helping with Scouts and even baseball I think? He was a great man!
I call this an update from heaven, because it was a small, but significant, revelation for me. It’s a story about a garden, but it also reveals the Church as a garden, with holiness as its harvest.
The Church acknowledges sanctity for two reasons. The wholeness and loving energy of the saints reveal the very nature of God, but they also display a truth about ourselves, about the nature of the Church. The Church is a garden. It exists “to harvest” men and women of holiness. If the Church produced no saints, if she couldn’t point to lives made whole through her existence among us, what purpose, ultimately, would she serve?
I’m not promoting my father’s canonization. No one who watched him dig our water well, a little deeper, each Spring would suggest that. (I never realized my father knew some of the words he would use while hammering well pipe into the ground.) Yet Rich’s email revealed a small secret of my Father’s life, of his own holiness.
As a kid, Rich was obviously excited and proud of his garden. He had grown something with his own hands. He must have felt a tremendous validation when the local grocery bought his vegetables to sell to others. It made it all worthwhile. That’s what his story does for me as well. It reveals a small bit of holiness I never saw, right there in my dad.
The Feast of All Saints asks us to look beyond the long list of canonized saints and to hunt for holiness among our own, “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Rev 7:9). And when we do find holiness close at hand, we recognize that the Church herself, for all her flaws and sins, is nonetheless a rich harvest for God. Men and women are growing into wholeness within her. That’s worth validating, because a Church without such saints, without a worthy harvest, would serve no purpose, no purpose at all.
Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14 1 John 3: 1-3 Matthew 5: 1-12a
Rev. Terrance W. Klein