Happy All Saints’ Day!
I loooove All Saints’ Day. I’m aware that’s not for-real-English, but trust me, the italics and extra vowels are necessary. I really do loooove All Saints’ Day.
And what’s not to love about it? Every time we say the Creed we profess belief in the Communion of Saints, and what could be more exhilarating then celebrating the “great cloud of witnesses”, known and unknown? What could be more inspiring then the chance to reflect on the lives of all our favorite saints and their heroic virtues, while also being reminded of those whose names we will never know, who lived out their lives in quiet fidelity to Love Himself?
I ended up at just the nicest place for Mass, too. Well, saying I “ended up” there sounds coincidental, I’m actually there fairly often, so it wasn’t happenstance I should be there today. This church is absolutely one of my favorites: a Dominican church run by Dominican priests, Holy Rosary.
If you live in Houston and you haven’t been to Holy Rosary, you need to go. It’s beautiful. Someday I’ll have to write a blog post about that church, but for now what you need to know is that it has seriously old-school stained glass windows. I love those windows, each one is a different Dominican saint. They line all four walls of the church: four over the altar, four or five down each side, and three in the back.
That’s important for you to know because the reason it was the nicest place to be was the priest who said Mass. He came out of the sacristy with a big grin on his face, and kept right on grinning all the way to the homily, at which point he let us in on the reason behind the grin.
Apparently, Fr. Juan looooves All Saints’ Day, too.
He pointed out how the church Holy Rosary teaches us something about the Church: when we come, we stand “in the embrace of the saints”.
We actually were surrounded by saints. In an obvious way, by their portraits in colored glass. But, also in a more real way, in a much deeper and truer way we are always surrounded by them, especially at Mass.
It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from the beautiful book Death Comes for the Archbishop, where the bishop says to his dear friend: “Where there is great love there are always miracles. One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”
And that’s what happened at Mass today: you could feel their presence, crowding in and spreading beyond the walls of the church to all eternity. For a brief moment in the year-long litany of saints that the Church celebrates in the liturgical calendar, she calls us to pause, and have our perceptions made finer. As a good Mother, she knows we need the humbling experience of being reminded of the “great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue,” so that our eyes can see and our ears can hear our elder brothers and sisters in the Faith who are there about us always. They reach towards us as guides, as companions, as those who encourage us with the words of St. Paul: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God!”
Mother Teresa famously said, “There is only one reason why you are not even now a saint. You do not wholly want to be.”
In more slangy words: ya gotta really, really want it.
How many of us wake up every morning, and resolve to make the use of the day that of becoming a saint? We all should be. And if you’re already doing that, great. Now, go for that being the use of every second. St. Alphonsus Ligouri wrote a prayer that offered Jesus his sleep and “every moment of the night.” I saw a prayer once that implored the help of Our Lady to love Jesus more, and said “I cannot praise Christ while I sleep, so offer Him my heartbeats as fervent acts of love.” St. Faustina would say before sleeping: “Goodnight, my Beloved; I rejoice at being one day closer to eternity. And if You let me wake up tomorrow, Jesus, I shall begin a new hymn to Your praise.”
The saints by their offers of friendship toward us seek to instill in us the longing that led them to Heaven, the longing to be consumed by what Pope Benedict has called the “flame that burns but does not destroy, that, in burning, brings forth the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it makes his interior form emerge, his vocation to truth and to love.” We must ask that our hearts’ cry becomes today’s responsorial psalm, “Lord, this is the people that longs to see Your face!”
And, really, it’s pretty simple (and mind you, I said simple, not easy): being a saint means being the version of ourselves we were created to be. It means living out our vocation, whatever part of our vocation we’re currently in, with the burning charity God desires us to have. It’s becoming yourself.
Our good Holy Father explains sanctity like this, “to become saints means to fulfill completely what we already are…the saints bring to light in creative fashion quite new human potentialities…One might say that the saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations, in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God’s great light…Nothing can bring us into closer contact with the beauty of Christ Humself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints.”
Do we think of the saints as being, new, creative, full of interior richness and light and beauty?
If not, open your eyes, and see what is there about you always.
C.S. Lewis says it really well: “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.”
That’s part of what we celebrate today, the glorious differences brought out by the one great similarity: all-consuming love for Love Himself. Let us sing with the saints, our truest friends, the words of the Psalmist:
“He is my Love, my fortress;
He is my stronghold, my Savior,
my shield, my place of refuge.”
Then, at the end of all things, we may exclaim with all the saints, “Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”