All Saints Day (November 1st) is a wonderful festival to celebrate the ‘great cloud of witnesses,’ saints and holy ones that encourage us by their lives, examples and prayers. “O blest communion, fellowship divine!’
The Church of England’s Exciting Holiness gives an authorized modern calendar of saints and holy people. It offers a selection from the great communion of saints. Many and varied people have been chosen for the calendar, some have been honoured for centuries in the church, some are more modern. Of some me know a great deal, of others, such as St Agatha, we know very little, but their legends enrich the corpus of the christian faith.
Looking carefully at the Calendar of Exciting Holiness gives rise to several questions. The selection which the compilers of the Calendar make from the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ is curiously selective and unfortunately imbalanced.
A quick (but we hope reasonably accurate) count shows that 80% of those named are male, 20% female, and only 5% are married.
What extraordinary statistics!
Let’s hope that they don’t reflect the make up of the ‘fellowship divine!’
It is immediately clear that the majority of the ‘saints’ in Exciting Holiness are ordained men, the greatest majority are European, and clergy, and very few are from the last hundred years.
What is true of the Church of England calendar is most likely true of other calendars of saints too. Of course it can be argued that it has ever been thus in the Church, and sadly that is probably true. Although the Roman Catholic General Calendar shows a greater cultural variance than Exciting Holiness it too is dominated by single men. Local churches often rightly have their own local calendars. We do at St Chrysostom’s. This allows for greater variety, and can often lead to a much more inclusive approach.
At a time when words such as ‘reform’ and ‘renewal’ are being used in the Church of England perhaps the Calendar needs a little reform too! Let’s have more women saints, more saints in families or close relationships and please let’s not be so focussed on Europe. .. and why not (more) LGBT saints?
Any suggestions as to who should be included?