My Favorite Saint
Beloved in Christ,
My favorite saint is Father Hiram Hisanori Kano, who served as a priest in the Western Nebraska town where I grew up. On December 7, 1941, Fr. Kano had just finished celebrating the Eucharist at Church of our Savior when he was arrested by local police, not permitted to notify his wife and children, and taken to Omaha, where he learned about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spent the next two years in internment camps for Japanese Americans, and became widely known for his compassionate ministry with fellow internees, imprisoned soldiers, and the guards whose job it was to keep them confined.
His was an extraordinary faith and an extraordinary life. He is the only Nebraskan who is a saint in our tradition, and he is deeply loved by people in that state. The fact that he ministered in the area where I grew up makes me feel a particular spiritual connection to him even though I never met him.
Today is the last day of what I often refer to as the fall Triduum of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. In recent years, the trend has been to conflate these into one celebration of all the departed. Mostly that’s just fine, but we miss an important part of our theology when we neglect to keep these separate. Now, more than ever, we need saints. We need people whose lives and spirits have been so taken over by God’s life and love that everything they do shines God’s light with a particular brightness. That is an exceedingly rare thing, but we need those heroes and examples to remind us of God’s presence, and to challenge how we are living and witnessing to the power of God’s love in our own discipleship. Fr. Kano is that for me, and while my life will not shine with the kind of holiness his did, the way he embodied the gospel inspires and challenges me every time I think of him, and I’ll be more faithful because of him.
We also need space to regularly recall our connection to all those, saints or otherwise, who have gone before us. People we have loved and who have loved us, who have worried, prayed, worked, argued, forgiven, and who are now held in God’s nearer presence. Especially in this of all years, where we have all lost so many and so much, it is important to savor what this day reminds us of: love is stronger than death, in Jesus life is changed, not ended, and there is nothing that can fully separate us from the bond we share with God and each other in Jesus. The world needs more saints, to be sure, and I believe all of us should regularly ask God to deepen our holiness. The world also needs more occasions to remember when we are heroic and when we are at our worst, in life and in death, God’s grace binds us all together in an unbreakable embrace of love, until that love is done fully on earth as it is in heaven.
Grace and Peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
Episcopal Church in Minnesota