Flaying One
Off the Wall, October 30,

When I hear about All Saints’ Day followed by the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, or All Souls’ Day, what comes to mind are not spiders climbing walls, inscribed tombstones or blown up character balloons that rest on peoples’ lawns. Yet somehow I understand it is a weekend for children to dress up, go door to door and have trick or treat and good family fun. That has been the tradition over the ages, and that practice will go on in years to come.

But, I think it is more important to stop for a minute and give thought to just why All Saints is even recognized.

Someone may say, “Why not, after all we have a holiday for everything else, right?” But I’m afraid it goes a little deeper than that. Since most of the church-goers in Latrobe and surrounding communities are of the Christian faith, then it is of utmost importance that followers understand why we honor these heroic people on this day.

So what is a saint? According to Patrick M. Clark, Assistant Professor of the Department of Theology/Religious Studies at the University of Scranton, “Saints are human beings who are at once uniquely themselves and most like Christ. They are human, just like you or me, but they embody to an extraordinary degree the transformation that is possible for all of us through grace. This transformation conforms us to the person of Christ, who is above all the Image of God, but it is also what makes us most ‘ourselves,’” he stated. “That is the beautiful paradox of the Christian life: we become who we really are by allowing God to make us more and more like His Son.”

Talking about the roles of saints, Clark said, “They allow us to connect to every point in the history of God’s kingdom established through Christ…each age, from St. Andrew to St. Ansellm to St Paul Chong Hasang.”

Being a convert, I have still a lot to learn about saints.

While sitting in church one Saturday, listening for what the Holy Spirit wished to tell me, He kept saying, “Little Flower.” I literally was in the dark. I later learned that this was the nickname of St. Therese of Lisieux. She and her two elder sisters spent much of her life in a Cloistered Carmelite community in Normandy.

Being noted for her simplicity and practicality to spiritual life, she became the Church’s model of sanctity. St. Therese died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. After her death, she left letters, poems, and paintings.

Some saints stood firm to their faith, tortured by their fellow human beings until death.

St. Sebastian, ordered to die by an emperor named Diocletian, was bonded to a pole, undressed and pierced by numerous arrows. Still not dying from episode, he was later scourged with rods till he allegedly died (according to Roman martyrology).

Most everyone knows bits and pieces of the story of Joan of Arc. Born from a peasant family in France, she became a military leader at the age of 18 acting under divine guidance. She led the French Army to victory over the British during the Hundred Years’ War. Captured a year later, she was burned at the stake by the English and their French collaborators as a heretic.

Many other saints were beheaded, thrown to wild animals, and a number cast into boiling water, every conceivable evil that could contrived by man to kill his fellow human beings.

One particular tortuous death was that of Saint Bartholomew. He met his surmise when he was flayed. From the website en.wikipedia.org, “Flaying, also known colloquially as skinning, is the removal of skin from the body. Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact. Death is estimated to occur from a few hours up to a few days.

After he went through this process, he was then crucified.

I think it is plain to see, now, that All Saints’ Day is more than a scary time of the year, where spooky things happen, evil tricks are played on people and plastic decorations of arms, legs and blood objects are suspended from railings of porches.

Saints were definitely amazing people who deserve total recognition for standing firm no matter what came their way. They would never turn away from God no matter what challenges stood before them.

I leave you with this question. Could you stand before another and martyr yourself for Christ?

- Paul J. Volkmann
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