Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus but immediately following some Christians turn their attention to days that recognize some important saints, including the martyr Stephen (Dec. 26), the apostle John (Dec. 27) and the innocent children killed by King Herod (Dec. 28).
Here, Duke Chapel Dean Samuel Wells discusses five historical figures he considers saints, a list that includes a man killed for his faith, a woman raised in Durham and even one person still living.1. Laurence. "Laurence was a deacon of the church in Rome during the persecution of 251. He was told by the authorities to assemble the riches of the church. He said, 'Give me three days.' Three days later they came back, and Laurence had assembled the poor, the blind and the lame. He was roasted on a spit. My first child is named after him."2. Andre Trocme. "Pastor of a Protestant village in the French Massif Central during World War II, Trocme saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazis. The late French President Francois Mitterand visited the village on the 50th anniversary of the war's end. A pacifist and mischief-maker, Trocme was the subject of one of my dissertation chapters."3. George Bell. "Bishop of Chichester during World War II who spoke out against Allied bombing of Germany. He was the mentor of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis. I am a canon of Chichester Cathedral and have a special tie to the place. I believe George Bell was the greatest English Christian of the 20th century."4. Jean Vanier. "Still living, Vanier is the founder of the L'Arche movement for people with and without disabilities living together. He has lived in this way for nearly 50 years. Helping him descend the steps at the Chapel after he preached here two years ago was one of the more profound moments of my life."5. Pauli Murray. "A Durham-raised priest, lawyer and civil rights activist, Murray celebrated her first Eucharist in 1976 in the church her grandmother had attended as a slave -- Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill. I think of her as the patron saint of Durham."