Solemnity of All Saints

Let us rejoice in the Lord and keep a festival in honor of all the saints. Let us join with the angels in joyful praise to the Son of God[1]. Today it is a beautiful feast in the liturgy of the Church: we honor all the Saints in heaven, we celebrate their lives, and of course we pray for their intercession. What they are now, we one day hope to become[2].

In our lifetime, my brother, my sister, we have experienced the lives of many great Catholics some of whom will most likely have their holiness recognized by the Church in the process we call canonization. Two of these are Blessed Mother Theresa and Servant of God John Paul II. Do we need to hear that either had some sort of extraordinary power that demonstrated their holiness? I guess not. We saw their holiness. We experienced their guidance to Christ. We know how each built up the Church with her and his spirituality. We know how they called us to follow them.

However sometimes instead of seeing them as people like us whose heroic lives we can follow, we turn them into preternatural creatures with powers beyond our capability. This is why when Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Social Worker, the worker with the poor in New York City, was once told that she would be canonized, she responded, “I will not be dismissed so easily.”[3]

We should not dismiss the saints so easily by turning them into plastic, fantasy figurines, whose lives are nice stories but impossible for us to follow. No, the saints were and are real people who had to fight the same battles we all fight to serve the Lord. Some of them had terrible tempers, like St. Jerome and St. Paul. Some of them had to recover their spiritual lives after giving in to sin, like St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis of Assisi, and, of course, St. Augustine. Some had to be courageous and stand for the faith when every fiber of their body was terrified at what would happen to them, like St. Thomas More, St. Agnes, or St. Ignatius of Antioch.

The saints were normal human beings like you and me, only they were better at being human than the rest of us. They were fully human. To be fully human is to allow the best of our humanity to dominate our lives. As human beings we are both physical and spiritual. The saints allow the spiritual aspect of their lives to be integrated into the physical. They were and are the best of us.

But they are not plastic. They are real. The first reading for today from the Book of Revelation presents them as gathered around the throne of the Lord. They are seen as very special people, who have answered the call to serve God, people who took their baptism so seriously that they clothed themselves white in the Blood of the Lamb. What a wonderful phrase: Clothed white in the Blood of the Lamb. The baptismal dress is white. To really live their baptism, the saints embraced the sacrifice of Christ. They accepted the blood. So, we honor the saints today. We recognize that they are with God and we call upon their intercession. What do we mean by that? Well, it is very simple: we ask the saints to pray to the Lord for us, to help us in the struggles of our lives. We ask the saints to help us also embrace our baptism in such a way that we also will be clothed white in the Blood of the Lamb.

The saints are our heroes. But they are neither the Fantastic Four nor the Fantastic One Hundred and Forty Four Thousand, I mean the saints are real people whose heroic lives give us the example of what it is to be fully human, and whose prayers give us the grace to be fully the Lord’s.

A question spontaneously arises: What do the saints do in heaven? The answer is, also here, in the first reading: The saved adore, they prostrate themselves before the throne, exclaiming, "Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving … The true human vocation is fulfilled in them that of being praise to the glory of God[4]. Their choir is directed by the Virgin Mary, who continues her hymn of praise in heaven.

Today we are invited to walk the path of the saints, the way of the Beatitudes. The way is narrow and hard. We need faith and courage to walk it. The example of the saints and their prayers encourage us and help us on. St Augustine found it hard to live the Beatitudes, but when he read the lives of the saints he said, "What these ordinary women and men have done, why not me?" Why not? Faith assures us all who heed the call of Jesus and live the life of the Beatitudes that at the end of life we shall, together with all the saints, hear the consoling words of the Lord, Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your master[5]

[1] Entrance antiphon of the Solemnity of All Saints.
[2] NOVEMBER 1, 2009 ALL SAINTS – SOLEMNITY. Readings: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3
3), Matthew 5:1-12a.
[3] American journalist, social activist, distributist, anarchist, and devout Catholic convert. In the 1930s, Day worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist, movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. A revered figure within segments of the U.S. Catholic community, Day is being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.
[4] Ephesians 1:14
[5] Matthew 25:21.
Ilustration: Illustrator of 'Bamberg Apocalypse, The Lamb on Mount Zion (1000-20), Miniature on gilded ground, Staatsbibliothek (Bamberg).

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris