Litany of the Saints

On November 5, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Litany of the Saints Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Nov. 5, 2017 Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. November 1 is All Saints Day. Nov. 2 is All Souls Day. […]

Litany of the Saints
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Nov. 5, 2017

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

November 1 is All Saints Day. Nov. 2 is All Souls Day. We’re a day closer to All Souls, and because of our Universalist theology, we usually focus on All Souls at this time of year. Not just some celebrated heroes, but the innate goodness of all souls. But today, we’ll do a bit of both.

In some church traditions, this would be a day to pray a litany of the saints, remembering and invoking the intercessions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, of Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael and all angels, of patriarchs and prophets, of the Apostles, Martyrs, Doctors of the Church, and monastics.

I am happy to recall these saints today, to remember their witness, and even seek their prayers, assuming they are inclined to offer them.

But I want to add some more folk to my list of saints today. I want to lift up some saintly souls today that may have been overlooked on other lists, but that I feel belong in Sunshine Cathedral’s Litany of Sacred Souls.

I want to lift up transgender, gender queer, and gender non-conforming saints and holy souls, like Joan of Arc who took the role of soldier, a role reserved in her time and culture for men. Joan cross dressed, wearing clothes thought proper only for men. And it was gender bending, cross dressing Joan of Arc who encountered angels, who defended her country, and who was martyred for her mystical spirituality and non-conformist living.

I also want to lift up Wilgefortis. According to legend, her father had arranged for Wilgefortis to marry a king whose faith was different from hers. She would have been expected to convert, and she didn’t want to, so she prayed that God would make her unappealing to her fiancé. Sure enough, by the time she was presented to her husband to be, Wilgefortis had grown a full beard. The king rejected her and her father, furious about the trickery, had Wilgefortis crucified. Women in Iberia would often pray to Wilgefortis to help liberate them from unhappy situations, especially abusive relationships.

I also want to pay tribute to St. Francis of Assisi. Some historians say he embraced what were considered feminine characteristics, and that he even admitted a woman into his order of monks…but he admitted her as Brother Jacoba.

Ss. Joan, Wilgefortis, Francis and Jacoba, pray for us.

No litany of saints would be complete that did not include a celebration of same-gender love and attraction.

So I call to mind Doctor of the Church Hildegard of Bingen, now believed by many to have been a lesbian.

I call to mind biblical characters David and Jonathan who made a life time covenant, like a marriage, with each other. When Jonathan died, David said that he loved Jonathan in a way that he could never love women.

I call to mind Ss. Perpetua and Felicity, who were martyred for their faith, and who died in each other’s arms, sharing a kiss.

I call to mind Ss. Sergius and Bacchus, Roman soldiers and Christian converts. They refused to burn incense in the temples of the Roman pagan cults, and so they were paraded through the streets in drag and then tortured to death. Bacchus died first, and he appeared to Sergius in a vision to say they would be reunited in the afterlife, as a couple.

I also remember today Good King Wenceslaus of Christmas Carol fame. “Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen…” The song is based on a legend that says Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia, would routinely wake his “chamber servant” Podiven in the middle of the night to go out and distribute alms to the poor. On the Feast of St. Stephen, according to the legend, Wenceslaus and Podiven were out giving coins to the poor when Podiven’s feet became too cold to continue. The good Duke told him to walk in his foot prints in the snow. Podiven did so, and miraculously, as long as he stayed in Wenceslaus’ foot prints, his own feet stayed warm. Historians tell us that the nature of the Duke’s relationship with Podiven seems romantic.

As we call to mind lesbian, bisexual, and gay saints, I need to name two more from more recent days. The first is historian John Boswell whose research brought many queer saints to the light of modern awareness, and the second is someone who challenged the Roman Catholic hierarchy at great personal cost, including being dismissed from the Jesuit order, Father John McNeill who was a member of this faith community until his death.

Ss. Hildegard, David and Jonathon, Perpetua and Felicity, Sergius and Bacchus, Wenceslaus and Podiven, John Boswell, and John McNeill, pray for us.

I need to recognize that there are holy souls, spiritual heroes, saints of every time and place and culture and faith…and so I honor the Sufi poet Rumi, the progressive Anglican bishop who also explored spiritualism, James A. Pike, prophet of freedom Martin Luther King, Jr., the healer and teacher who influenced my theology of Omnipresence, Malinda Cramer, and the spiritual teacher who advocated an intimate, personal relationship with the divine beyond all dogma and tradition, Paramahansa Yogananda. May they pray for us.

Now, I’ve identified some saints, but let’s switch to All Souls. If God is Omnipresent Love, and if God indeed looks at all of creation and calls it all very good, then you and I are in that great cloud of witnesses, the Communion of saints. We are individuations of the God-force, made in the divine image, filled with divine light. The heroes show us what we really are. As Revelation 21 states, “The home of God is among mortals!” We are the Temple of God’s presence. We are the drop in the Ocean, and we are learning that the Ocean is in the drop.

Ephesians 2. 8 tells us, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God.” Saved, liberated, made whole, perfected….how? By grace through faith. But that doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to believe something you can’t. No, grace is a free gift. It’s not something we earn or can lose. It is a gift of God. Grace is a free, absolutely free gift, so how do we get it? Through faith…but not ours.

God’s faith is the perfect faith that offers the grace that includes us all. We are affirmed by God’s grace through God’s faith in us! God trusts that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake. God trusts that we are worth grace that can liberate us from fear, despair, loneliness and degradation. God’s faithfulness is what offers the grace that makes all things well. It’s not our doing, not our confession, not our traditions, not our opinions, not our sexual orientation, not our gender identity…none of that earns us grace…it’s a gift! Which means all souls are and will forever be in the loving embrace of God. The so-called saints just show us what is true of all us. Our litany of the saints is meant to remind us to take our place among them, because we can…in God’s mind, we’ve always been there. And this is the good news! Amen.

I am…
Created by God.
Surrounded by God.
Loved by God.
Filled with God.
And so I rejoice.

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