October 31, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Pray gratefully for the saints in your lives

All Saints Day has been a popular feast of the Church for well over ia thousand years.

In fact, the idea of celebrating all the saints started as early as the fourth century with the celebration of all the martyrs who died for the faith.

The feast as we know it originated in the eighth century. It has become a celebration of all holy people, heroes and heroines, especially those who are unsung, some of whom we’ve had the privilege to know ourselves. They show us the way.

In the Mass of the day, we are invited to live the Beatitudes of Jesus that he spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.

His teaching tells us about the virtues which led great women and men to the Kingdom, and, we hope, will direct our journey as well.

The Beatitudes are not an easy ticket to heaven. They tell us a lot about unsung heroines and heroes because, if you think about it, the Beatitudes are a charter of humble dependence on God.

We honor countless saints who the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, said form “a magnificent panorama of lay men and women who, through the activity of each day’s task, were tireless workers in the Lord’s vineyard. After passing unnoticed and perhaps being misunderstood by the high and mighty, they were lovingly greeted by God our Father. They were humble yet great laborers for the growth of the Kingdom of God in history” (“Christifideles Laici”).

The beauty of being Christian saints is this: We don’t have to be brilliant or rich or handsome or beautiful or in perfect health in order to experience the wonder of God’s love and mercy.

The humbling stuff of everyday life can be the stuff of blessed peace. Like absolutely nothing else, God’s love and mercy belong equally to everyone. The gift of holiness and happiness is available to every one of us in this archdiocese—if we open our hearts to say yes to this gift and become saints.

I love the prefaces offered when we celebrate a Mass for holy men and women. At the beginning of the eucharistic prayer, we pray to God: “You are glorified in your saints, for their glory is the crowning of your gifts. In their lives on Earth, you gave us an example. In our communion with them, you give us their friendship. In their prayer for the Church, you give us strength and protection. This great company of witnesses spurs us on to victory, to share their prize of everlasting glory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The saints in heaven are our friends. A countless multitude of friends awaits us in heaven.

As Msgr. Ronald Knox said in an All Saints Day sermon in 1950: “The light of their example shines down on us, and makes it easier, sometimes, to see what we ought to do. They can help us with their prayers, strong prayers, wise prayers, when ours are so feeble and so blind. When you look out on a November evening and see the sky all studded with stars, think of those innumerable saints in heaven all ready to help you.”

I don’t know of a more joyful feast day in the Church that could be timelier to brighten the approaching gray climate of late fall and early winter.

Nothing can pick up a melancholy mood like the witness of the saints. Time spent reflecting on the life of our own local canonized saint, Mother Theodore Guérin, who defied the difficulties of the pioneer Church in Indiana, brings a sense of confidence in God’s Providence.

The valor of our first missionary bishop, Simon Bruté, gives us a firm sense of hope about our future. Nothing in his five years as our bishop could have foretold the future of our local Church as we know it 175 years later—nothing except our faith in God’s love and mercy. Bishop Bruté is a striking example that with God all things are possible. That means for us, too!

I’m pretty sure most of us can think of people we knew, perhaps family, who showed us the way of faith, hope and love in sometimes difficult or dark moments.

As Msgr. Knox said, they helped and still help to make our way easier.

I want to encourage us to take the time perhaps to stop and think of our loved ones in a nearby parish church, or perhaps the cemetery, and pray gratefully for the saints in our lives.

Among our holy friends and family, our Blessed Mother awaits us in heaven, too.

Let’s thank God for our family and friends who have gone before us. Let’s praise God for the gift of our faith. †

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