Remembering people who have kept the faith

November 1, “All Saints Day,” is a time when churches around the world remember and honor people who have completed their life and “now dwell in the house of the Lord,” to use the phrasing from Psalm 23. On this day, it is only natural that we remember people who have been especially close to us and who completed their earthly pilgrimage during the previous twelve months.

From ancient times until our own era, however, All Saints Day has also provided an opportunity to celebrate the faith, piety, and significant works of notable people from every time and place. By keeping their examples alive, we are encouraged to live our own lives with courage, patience, and imagination.

One of the oldest public prayers in Christian worship does this very thing. It recites the names and suggests the good works of representatives from across the age, men and women who have lived exemplary lives in the face of all kinds of challenges. When combined with the hymn “For all the saints,” and proclaimed by a choir weaving its way through the congregation, this prayer form is one of the church’s most majestic and moving acts of praise.

One of the good things about this All Saints Litany, is that the list of names and the character of their mighty deeds can be revised in order to keep pace with developments in the saga of the faith. On the devotional site maintained by Mission St. Clare, I recently came across a distinctive version of the litany that is chanted annually at the Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington, D.C.

In a note accompanying the litany, the St. Clare editor says that It “was composed around 1979, largely by William MacKaye, former religion editor of the Washington Post, though some of the images were taken from A Liberation Prayer Book of the Free Church in Berkeley, California, and has been adapted here and there in the subsequent years.”

I have downloaded this version and adapted the format for personal use. An excerpt is below. The links in this blog and the pdf version of the litany were inserted by the St. Clare editor. To view the entire litany, click A Litany of All the Saints:

Stephen the deacon, the first martyr, stoned in Jerusalem:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Justin, Ignatius, and Polycarp, who refused the incense to Caesar:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Perpetua and Felicity, torn by beasts in the arena at Carthage:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, burned in Oxford:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein, put to death at Auschwitz:

Stand Here Beside Us!

James Reeb, Jonathan Daniels, Michael Schwerner,
Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, shot in the South:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Martin Luther King, shot in Memphis:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Janani Luwum, shot in Kampala:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Oscar Romero, shot in San Salvador:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Martyrs of Rome, of Lyons, of Japan, of Eastern Equatorial
Africa, of Uganda, of Melanesia,
martyrs of everywhere:

Stand Here Beside Us!

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