I greeted a lady named Nati this morning and asked how she was doing. “Poquito triste,” she answered.
“Why are you a little sad?,” I asked.
“Because today is mi santo (my saint)”.
Hmm, okay. Since I had heard that phrase before, I knew it referred to some kind of special day, often accompanied with a celebration, but didn’t know the details.
In fact, several months ago, I was aware that another family in our pueblo was preparing a huge party for their teen daughter celebrating ‘her saint’, but at that time didn’t ask questions. I was, however, impressed by one of the highlights of her celebration that we happened to pass on the dusty street: a very handsome young man decked out in a black mariachi suit with all it’s elegant embroidery, brass buckles and ornaments, the huge sombrero and the black shiny boots riding gallantly on a beautiful stallion toward her house. It was a romantic site. I almost expected a mist to develop as the orchestra strings came to crescendo.
Snap out of it, ladies – enough daydreaming and sighing; back to Nati and her story.
Why would she be sad? I thought to myself.
So I probed. She informed me that her name, which in its entirety is Natividad Maria (Christmas Mary) is the name of the patron saint of that day, and she was sad because ‘her man’ has been away on a drinking binge up in the mountains and did not return to celebrate with her. Besides that, her madrina (godmother) would be coming by later and she had nothing at home to prepare. She was hoping to get into town -for her an almost two hour round trip by bus- and make chicken soup as a treat to serve her guest.
Now I understood her sadness. What I still didn’t understand was why celebrating ‘your saint’ was such a big deal in this culture. So I asked if the celebrating of their saint was as big of a deal as us celebrating our birthdays.
“Sí”, she said. To which she quickly added, “And today, on mi santo, I also begin my 40th year!”
“Oh, so it is your birthday also?” A two-for-one deal!
She gave me a smile with that you-poor-little-gringa-who-knows-so-little look and said, “Yes, of course! That is why it is mi santo.” Here you catch a glimpse into why we missionaries feel absolutely stupid and confused at times.
Seeing my momentary pause and quizzical look, she continued, “It is mi santo today because I was born on this day and because my parents named me after the patron saint. Everyone has a birthday, but not everyone has a santo. ”
I agreed. I don’t have a santo, do you?
I don’t have one because I am one! I am a saint. Not by any self-standard, or even by any religious order. I am a saint, because the Bible calls me one.
I Cor 1:2 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”
When Paul wrote that letter, he addressed it to the saints. These were people who have been made whole, cleaned up on the inside by Jesus Christ and who called on His name.
How about you? If you’re not yet a saint, you can be! You too can be cleaned up on the inside, made complete by calling on His name. Just tell him. Pray. Ask him to forgive you of all your sins and promise to live according to his ways.
When you do, you enter into the community of saints; you are no longer a stranger, but a family member.
Eph 2:19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household”
If you’ve just now done this, you have been born (again) today.
So Happy Birthday, saint!