Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, a solemnity formally instituted by the Church in the ninth century in order to remember and honor all saints known and unknown.
We all have our favorite saints with a capital “S” – Saint Anthony, Saint Patrick, Saint Thérèse, Saint Augustine. Among my personal faves are the Blessed Mother, Saint Anne, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Michael, and Saint Raymond Peñafort.
Yes, we remember all those elevated to sainthood by the Church, but today we also commemorate those ordinary people who quietly lived holy lives in their own little corners of the world – those who now stand before the throne of God.
How many times have we said about someone we know, “That person is a living saint!” The Church in her great wisdom holds up those people as role models for us all.
Year in and year out on the first of November, the Church sets apart this day to encourage us all. They are the “cloud of witnesses” (Hb 12:1) surrounding us so that we can “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” (Hb 12:1-2) Their examples of faithfulness in trial, patience in hardship, and love in all things and their intercession on our behalf will help us reach heaven – our only true home.
Back in August, I read a beautiful mediation that pointed to this feast day. I share it with you today, and pray it blesses you as it blesses me.
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us! Anne
But the inexorable paradox rings down the ages, and if we are not careful it will sometimes sweep like a mighty wind through the cozy house we have built: he that lost his life shall find it. If we want to be all reality, we must first have felt that we are nothing. If we want to say, “I am myself,” we must first have learned to say, “It is you.” There is an apparent contradiction between the lover and the master, between the man of vision and the man of power; but it will be real and irremediable unless we are willing to solve it by dying and being reborn. Unless the grain of wheat, falling into the ground die, itself remains alone…
It is the saints who are independent: they have mastered themselves and are whole; they do what they like and no man can stop them, for they laugh at terror and torture, having nothing to lose. It is the saints who have power: they need not rely on bribery or blackmail or bayonets, for the power is really theirs, within them and it is simply by being themselves that they sway the world. When the lions lick the feet of Paulinus in the Roman arena, when Lawrence makes fun of himself on the gridiron, when thousands flock to the confessional of the illiterate Curé of Ars, when millions love and honor Bernadette because she was humble, when people lose their hearts to the saints not for what they do but for what they are, because in themselves they are real, in themselves they are lovely – that is the power. Real power is like real happiness: you find it when you have stopped looking for it because you have found something even more important to do.
Father Gerald Vann, O.P. (Magnificat, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp. 132-133)