All Saints’ Day is rich and inspiring in meaning. When we look at the lives of the saints, our hope is renewed. In today’s world hope seems to be fleeting. The saints remain our true role models for they have achieved the ultimate goal in life. The source of hope lies above all in God’s grace through Baptism. However this requires a response which is how the saints inspire us. We are called to live a life of heroic virtue, holiness, and a true conversion of heart. This is sanctity, this is our hope.
This day we honor all the saints: not only those recognized as saints but all those who have achieved the eternal reward in the presence of our Lord. In remembering the saints we also recall our own baptismal call and invitation to the same eternal reward. We are united to the saints and become adopted sons of God. God’s grace takes effect in our life and we begin a journey into new life: life in Christ. On this feast day we invoke the intercessions of the saints who have gone before us. How powerful have been their testimonies and great are their prayers before the Almighty.
What does it mean to be a saint? Often there can be misconceptions which distance us from the saints. Sometimes we focus more on the extraordinary testimonies. For instance we recall the extraordinary moments of ecstasy St. Therese of Avila had. Or we think of those saints such as St. Francis Asissi who had the stigmata. It is easy to be left in awe of the ability of St. Padre Pio to read souls and fight with the devil. However these events are only secondary in how they have enriched the Church in extraordinary ways. Sanctity is found in the virtues of daily life. St. Therese lived a life of simplicity. She gave value to all the small things in life out of love for Christ. St. Francis lived a life of total self-giving. God called him and he left literally everything behind, including the clothes off his back. He came from a wealthy family and his father was completely against him going into religious life. As the story goes Francis gave back to his father even the clothes he was wearing and left to serve the poor. He did not feel worthy to be a priest and remained a friar his whole life at the service of the church. St. Padre Pio left for the seminary at an early age and was faithful in his vocation. He sacrificed himself for the salvation of the world imitating Christ Crucified. He was known for his generosity, service, and honesty. Padre Pio actually had the tendency to be quite frank. He called things how they were which were not always easy to take. The saints in there living of the ordinary virtues in a heroic give us something to strife for and imitate. They each answered God’s call and followed. We are each called by God in a specific way. The saints are ordinary men and women who love Christ and live virtue to a heroic degree. No one is born a saint. It is a life long journey of perseverance and fidelity. Virtues are based in the building of good habits. Christ gave His life for them and has given His life for us. Looking at their response and imitation of Christ, what is our response?
There are saints of every age and every walk of life. Who is our favorite saint? It is often a saint to whom we can relate to. In their own circumstances in life they lived holiness. It is proof that we too can live a life of holiness. At the age of twelve St. Maria Goretti gave her life defending her virginity. As a simple peasant girl who lived a life of charity and sincerity she became a saint and martyr. Another example is St. Pier Giorgia Frassati who was known by his friends as, “the sinister one” because of his practical jokes. He was a great outdoorsman and superb athlete. At the same time he was zealous in fraternal works of Charity and giving testimony of Christ. He contracted a disease from the sick he worked with and died at the age twenty-four. His testimony lived on in the hearts of many and died a Saint. Back in the eleventh century there was a great English king who was a man of great power and prestige. King Edward was seen by the people as a honest man and they loved him. He was never stern and always charitable. He placed God first and in the midst of his busy schedule keeping peace in the kingdom, he made daily Mass. He was also frequently known to use his power and wealth to serve the poor. The lives of the saints inspire us to do more. Holiness is not living on you knees in prayer or only for religious. It is for us all to live and strife for. We are all created with different personalities and talents. The key to holiness is not to bury your talents in selfishness but to live for others. This living for others is seen in all the saints and it fosters a life of holiness. “That which you do to the least of my little ones you do to me.”
When we are faced with a challenge do we just give up? We can easily see sanctity as something hard to the verge of seeming impossible. Sanctity is not about being perfect it is about striving for it. The saints inspire us and give us hope. Let us look at the life of St Augustine. While his mom was a devout Christian; his father was a pagan. His family struggled to pay for his education and at the age of sixteen he was not able to attend school. One can imagine what a restless teenager can get into when he has no other commitments. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. St. Augustine fell into this trap, living a loose and sensual life. He spent a lot of time at the theatre and hung around people who were anything but a good influence. At a very young age he fathered a child. God did not give up. His parents found someone to pay for his education and eventually went back to school. He was actually quite an intellectual and fell in love with philosophy. In his reading of Cicero’s ‘Hortensius’ his eyes where opened to the seeking of wisdom which eventually led him to Christ. He began to read scripture but then turned away from it because he did not understand it. Then he met St. Ambrose who taught him scripture. St. Augustine was eventually converted through the combination of his neoplatonic studies, St. Ambrose’s preaching, and the letters of St. Paul. He was away from the Church for years deep in the ways of the world. Then discovering God’s mercy embraced the Church and lived a holy life. Not only did he become a saint but his mother who did not give up hope praying for him daily also became a saint. Behind every saint there is a story of conversion. God works in every soul a different way and calls each at their proper time.
As we celebrate this All Saints’ Day may we take a moment to reflect on the lives of the saints. Seek the personal conversion of heart, set on Christ. Our hopes in the world, those things we desire, pass away. Yet our true hope, our only hope, rooted in Christ will never fade. Sanctity is not easy and each of the saints had their own struggles but kept their eyes on Christ, their hope. There are but two essential questions: What does God want of me and what is my response? We are all called to be saints and though the way is not easy we can always turn to those who have fought the good fight and won the race as St. Paul says. We have received the grace in our baptism. Let us form the habits of virtue giving our self to others in holiness. We want true conversion of heart and to embrace God’s mercy and love. Everyday is a battle, but we are not alone. May we go forward in the company of the saints and in the footsteps of Christ towards sanctity.
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