The Communion of Saints
I think that we, as evangelicals, have lost a lot by discarding all knowledge of the saints of history. We know most of them through John the Evangelist, but then we have no heroes until Martin Luther comes on the scene. At the moment, I don't want to get into icons, or how much attention should be given to the saints; good topics all, but not my purpose at the moment.
While listening to chapel tapes for school, I heard a speaker talking about how we tend to think that biblical figures are so great and beyond us that we could never do what they did. If all we look at is the relatively small number of saints mentioned in the Scriptures, then it is easy to get the impression that these are superhuman people.
But there have been numerous saints other than the ones mentioned. There are saints of all shapes, sizes, races, and personalities. Some were more "successful" than others; some die young, some die old; some are martyred, some live long full lives and die peacefully.
We are all the saints of God. There is no disconnect between us and Paul, no gap of thousands of years. The Holy Spirit preserves His Church; He gives the same strength now as He did two thousand years ago.
Also, the saints are wonderful role models: would you rather your kid hear stories of rock stars and big name atheletes, who maybe made their own way in life (which is, let me hasten to say, admirable) or hear the stories of thousands of men and women of God, down through the ages?
Let me put this another way: one of the most popular comic book series (and current movie series) is the X-Men. For those of you not familiar with the X-Men, let me summarize the basics: Over the past few years, some people have begun to "mutate," and develop strange powers. These people are ostracized from society; some deal with it by striking back at non-mutants, others (led by the great Professor Xavier) seek to help those who have tried to exclude them.
Now to my point: why are the X-Men so popular? One main reason is the sheer number of unique characters: any person can find at least one that they really identify with(my personal favorite is Nightcrawler).
It is the same with the stories of the saints: I may not identify too well with Paul, or John, or Peter. But I can identify with Therese of Liseaux, or Mother Theresa, or Saint John of the Cross. Why have we been denied these stories? When we see only a handful of people who lived two thousand years ago, it is easy to think that these were supermen, and we can never measure up. However, when we see an unbroken chain of thousands, over two millenia, then we know that we can indeed, become like them.
Nemo enim coronabitur nisi qui legitime certaverit. (For no-one is crowned except he who has striven lawfully.)