All Hallows’ Eve

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!—A Scottish Prayer

One could be a bit frightened by it all: the occupation of Iraq, disintegrating into civil war; the Israeli wall, leaking terrorists, unable to stop the carnage; Syria, snarling at the U.N.; the Muslim slums of Paris writhing with long-suppressed anger; the Iranian mullah-president, invoking Khomeni’s evil ghost. We’ve run out of names for hurricanes and out of chances to compromise on Supreme Court appointees.

But somehow, the quiet, holy act of a tired woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who refused to give in to fear and bigotry is enough to keep me calm, to give me hope, to strengthen my faith. Rosa Parks is just the kind of saint for which All Saints’ Day was meant.

She never healed anybody or resuscitated a corpse. She never got the stigmata, or turned water into wine or talked to animals. She never got crucified or stoned. She never saw crosses in the sky to conquer by, or made parched ground blossom into roses.

She just sat in her seat. She was just faithful to the idea that all people are created equal. In that faithfulness, she brought a nation to penance. A little black woman, crowned now a secular saint, but a saint nonetheless. Her act gives us all courage to do all the little things, which added together make a Big Thing: an authentic life.

Saint Rosa, pray for us. We are a broken people, fragmented into tribes of religion, class, race and politics. We think we are rich, but we are poor, miserable, blind and naked. We think we are strong, but our power is gone—like Samson’s locks, lying on Delilah’s silken sheets. We have trusted in our gods of steel and they have rusted. We have coveted our neighbors’ fields and flocks, and found that ours have been overrun with brambles.

As you enter into the life that is greater than this one, remember us who are left behind.

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