I admit it; I am enamored with saints.  I am fascinated with those who have reached the pinnacle of spiritual freedom, unity with God.  Regardless of their religious traditions, these are men and women who are deemed “scientists of holiness.”  We can learn from them. They are not only guides to the grail of enlightenment but they teach us how to live in a practical and substantive way that can enrich our everyday living. 

Saints never think of themselves as such.  Each has had their own personal demons to face down.  It is in choosing not to run away in the million ways we humans do, but utilizing their trials and struggles for personal growth and focusing on the inner life that they demonstrate another dimension of human potential.  Recovering a bit of the asceticism that has always been the foundational gristmill for spiritual advancement can help us tremendously.  What I mean by this is we don’t need the severe self-denial and austere lifestyle of a Gandhi or a Buddha or a St. Francis, but to give up the current wave of entitlement, to be able to say no to our temptations on occasion, is freeing.  We become able to resist our own compulsive consumption.   

People need to experience God, not be told about God.  Living examples, being very much in the world, do that by inspiring the lives of others.  These are not “feel good” pseudo-spiritualities or for the spiritual elite, but for everyone. Our experience of the Divine informs the self and yet continually needs to be balanced with community.   Reaching out to others is both a natural progression and a means for necessary connection. Indeed, those with spiritual depth often understand social service to be as important, if not more important, than the more traditional activities of preaching and teaching. 

Saints would probably also scoff at the idea of them being mystics, though that is what they are.  Yet mystics are not so mysterious, rather I’ve heard them described as “ones who see into the depth of things through the fissures and fragments of our human experience”.  With single-minded purpose, these friends of God (or to the ALL that IS) are granted a special way of seeing, a heightened awareness of a presence or absence. 

Casting the mystical net wide as the awareness of some sort of ultimate reality that transcends all religions; religion can unify instead of divide.  We can recognize that different traditions can learn from one another, if one if grounded in one’s own tradition and open to another. Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, all can enrich each other’s practices.  For instance, Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk, was influenced by the teachings of Zen Buddhism.

It is not the visions or miracles attributed to those regarded as saints, during their lives or posthumously, that should be the reasons for  reverence.  In fact, that kind of thinking leads to idolatry rather than the harder working of following by example.  It is the spiritual practices and articulated paths that are to be learned from.

That is not to say that we should disregard profound and unusual human experiences. It’s just that without a conscious effort to seek out these mystics, both past and present, their voices quickly become drown out by the difficulties of daily living, the heroes who win World Championships and are given parades, and the Hollywood stories of celebrities.  In an effort to reclaim the saint, human foibles and all, we are being re-called to something larger than ourselves.

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3 replies
  1. Taufiq Abdul Khalid
    Taufiq Abdul Khalid says:

    Dear Nun Tuck,

    Who are you that appear, almost paragraph by paragraph, to reflect the thoughts and belief that I keep within me?

    It was coincidential that I was googling my own blog (yes, pretty shallow am I!), to find my blog on top of the list. Then my gaze was drawn to your blogname. What an curious name, I thought!

    Of course, Saints would say that nothing is coincidential, and everything is fated. So it is kind fate that brought me to your blog. I count myself blessed!

    I am a practising lawyer, and a father. I have no Masters in theology, but I have a Master (of sorts!). I am also a Muslim. I run a small firm here in Malaysia (heard of it?). I used to have an indian lawyer who works with me. We spent many hours talking about religion, about Hinduism, and about Islam (Sufism). Once, in our conversation she remarked that the hindu God, Ganesh (the one with the elephant head) is often depicted sitting ontop a mouse. She explained to me the meaning… Ganesh is intended to represent the human soul, while the wee timorous mouse, to be our egos. The struggle between the heart / soul with the egos is a conflict oft-remarked and taught by all Sufi Masters.

    You are right, Nun Tuck! We may descend into the ocean from different shores. But the further we swim, the more we begin to realise that all humanity, me and my dear friend Sumathi, we all swim in the same one ocean.

    My friend has left my firm because she is moving back to her hometown. I do miss her.

    You are also right that what people call mysticism, is to those who actually know of it, is simply knowledge. I do believe that God gives us knowledge, both mystical and physical, for our benefit. And whatever lore that I myself learn in my Sufi School, is actually actionable in everyday life, for all instances, in relation to friends, family and work.

    I say, “actually actionable” because, i fear that I am a poor, poor mirror of my own Sufi School. I have no claim of special knowledge, save that I know, God is Love and “All You Need is Love” (I love the Beatles).

    I think what you have written here is ‘worthy’ even if it is not ‘respectable’! Who cares for respectability. All Prophets were often denigrated in their own lands for losing their respectability. Hehehe.

    I am glad to have found your blog, God bless and take care!

    Taufiq (Milky Tea)

    p/s – May i link your site from my sinners blog?
    p/p/s – I love Friar Tuck. I even love the Sheriff of Nottingham! Why is it that it is often the villain that gets the best lines? Hehehe.

    • katmon1
      katmon1 says:

      Hello Taufiq, I am grateful for your response to my blog. And I linked to yours and I love it! It is so strange how not only the title of our blogs, but our sense of reverent irreverance is so similar; we do indeed share a common spiritual sensibility.

      And BTW, my Master’s Thesis was entitled The Legacy of the Early Sufi Saints!! The wealth of stories, writings, and examples that these Sufi masters left for us is legendary. I wish you continued fortune on the Sufi path, no matter how “successful” you feel you are (whatever that means!)

      I would be honored to have your readers link to my site and I shall do the same and add your site to my blogroll.

      Salam, Katherine (Nun Tuck)

      P.S. While I can relate more to Friar Tuck, would we even know the story of Robin Hood without the Sheriff of Nottingham to act the scheming, love to hate him, villain??

  2. Taufiq Abdul Khalid
    Taufiq Abdul Khalid says:

    Dear Nun Tuck (aka Katherine),

    Thank you for the kind words! You have the infamy of being the first Nun (actually the first anyone ever. Hehehe) to link to my fuzzy wuzzy blog.

    It is also strange that we appear to have both started our blogs in March.

    I think irreverence, and an ability to take one self not too seriously is a necesary accessory along this wonderful path we have found ourselves on.

    What is the Path? I don’t know, but I have bumped into many kindred spirits, wearing all forms of piety, coming from many faith and creed.

    “We are in all great religions,
    And within each creed,
    We stubbornly live our way,
    Though those who claim ownership
    Of rightness
    Say we are strange and wrong,
    And how we do not belong.”

    This is my blog posting for today. I am very happy. And of the Sheriff? You are right. Who would know of Robin Hood if the Sheriff did not present the challenge. Hehehe, but this is leading to the question of the Devil, which should perhaps one day deserve our fullest discussion! What stories I have heard of him!

    Fair thee well in peace.


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