Saint Iola…set apart!

“I’ve been too busy,” was the reply I offered when asked if I have written anything lately. The answer given, though partially correct, must give ground to the truth of the matter: I have hidden myself from inspiration!

There are many strata of things that inspire. Minor notes of inspiration do not often compel one to such things as writing prose, composing music, or finding cures for common ills. No, rather, they make you pause and smile and perhaps briefly reflect on a similar memory or shared occasion. Major inspirations knock you down, bones to ground, with an overwhelming and inherent necessity to leap buildings in a single bound…for a cause greater than oneself.

Enter stage right: Saint Iola!

Now Saint Iola accidentally popped into my viewfinder suddenly though I was previously aware of her existence. In fact…spoke with her not sixty minutes prior. But this incident of inspiration that would be classified as somewhere between minor and major in its impelling characteristics, became an astounding “in-the-moment” awareness. A flash of clarity that included early life memories…the kind that you know changed who you had become. Chew on that for a minute or two, because if it doesn’t hit you “in-the-moment” then it can be somewhat complex.

And in addition, it seems that inspiration hits me when I visit my mom in the care center in my home town more often than not. Maybe because I have great respect for the generations that have paved my pathways and allowed to acquire gifts that only they could give. Maybe it’s the plight of the suffering of aged ones, who find themselves alone at a time of life they most need someone. Possibly it’s watching care givers who give to those in great need regardless of the glamorous duty they are presented. Truly, all of those realities make me reflect on my blessings and at the same time feel humbled by their evidential status of greatness exceeding my own inadequacies.

It was in this place that I “saw” Saint Iola for the set-apart one that she is.

Iola was my sixth grade Sunday School teacher…for more than a few years for many of us because we loved her so. She didn’t teach so much as she exhibited behavior and compelled us to emulate her example. She led us on a path of self and God discovery and showed us where those paths could merge…indeed with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now it was several years later that my relationship with Christ was confirmed…but sixth grade was when we understood its veracity and our necessity.

Now many of my Catholic friends are scratching their heads and looking up in the canonical lists of saints the name “Iola.” Probably you will not see it as Iola is still among the living. My Protestant friends may argue as to whether a person should be called a Saint rather than a believer if they are not a messianic Jew. Well I’m not going to parse those particular hairs on either head…as it degrades from the intent of my in-the-moment experience earlier today.

David Foster Estes offers this adequate description of the label ” Saint:”

When God consecrates and claims moral beings for Himself and His service, He demands that they should go on to be fit for and worthy of the relation in which He has placed them, and so we read of certain actions as performed “worthily of the saints” (Romans 16:2) and as such “as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3). The thought of the holy character of the “saints,” which is now so common as almost completely to obscure the real thought of the New Testament writers, already lay in their thinking very close to their conception of saintship as consecration by God to be His own.

Iola was gracious, humble, firm, knowing, and loved without reservation the charges that God presented in service to Him! She was one consecrated by God and set apart to service. And she spent her life in the pursuit of God.

It was the clarity of that fact that I saw and was immediately thrust “in-the-moment” where time stood still and I instantly saw her as God intended for me.

Saint Iola…I am humbled and grateful in your presence because you show me Jesus…even today, 48 years later!

2 thoughts on “Saint Iola…set apart!

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  1. As a trained Catholic I was indeed scanning memory banks for the saint named “Iola”. I was motivated to start thinking about the saints I’ve know in my life – they are indeed few and far between, maybe my parish priest from all my growing up years. Father Heinen was always old, irascible, blunt, and tactless. He worked tirelessly for the parish and its people and made many enemies along the way by speaking harsh truths without gentleness. Most people in town had “Father Heinen” stories that described some outrageous encounter or uncomfortable encounter. But now I’m seeing him differently. I doubt that the prophets of the old testament were universally liked for their lovely manners or gentle reprimands. Nope, when you are God’s messenger I think you speak with strong purpose and painful truth and you are not there to make friends. Your are there to tell people what God wants from them.

    I’m glad you had a saint who led gently by example apparently I needed another kind of saint in my life. Thanks for the thoughtful Sunday.


  2. Iola & Don have been our faith brother & SISTER for over 47 years. I have seen her faith in times of trouble and hurts. Her integrity even when others treated them wrong. Her concern for others even when she was sick and hurting. She is a woman of faith as she follows her Lord.
    Mel & Nyla


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