Bulletin Column, November 1st, 2015
Dear Friends at Saint Frances Cabrini and Immaculate Conception Parishes:
Praised be Jesus Christ! God is marvelous in all of His works, and he is glorified in His saints. This is the bold truth at the core of today’s Solemn Feast of All the Saints. And this same truth is meant to remind us that not only is it possible for all of us to become saints, even more so it is in fact a duty of all the baptized to strive after sainthood with all of our being.
I find that this is a misunderstood concept. Most people quickly dismiss the notion that they could ever actually be a saint (this is a combination of despair and lack of good catechesis), and so they do not bother. Or, maybe more commonly, they live decent enough lives but they are rather mediocre about it all, and they do not sweat the tough teachings of our faith.
But that attitude is such a denial of what it means to be truly human, truly alive, and truly free; these are all attributes to which, on paper anyway, most American’s aspire. A saint is a fully formed, fully alive, fully free person. Someone who, in God’s grace, achieved a gold medal in the competition called life. And most importantly, they did so by coming to the realization that all on their own power, they could not get a gold medal in anything. God’s mercy and grace in the midst of their failures is what actually provides the victory.
Therefore a saint is the opposite of a self-reliant, self-confident, and self-motivated person. A saint is actually a sinner who is so fully aware that he is one, that he falls deeper and deeper into the open arms of God, internalizing the reality of divine sonship.
And in that way, a saint learns true freedom, true wholeness, and true personhood. A saint conforms himself to an ideal and to a law that he did not create. A saint enters into friendship with the Lord Jesus and thereby gains confidence and peace, obtaining them not from within but instead from without.
That all sounds like so much work, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. And so to prevent us from losing our resolve and giving up on the race, the Church gives us this great feast day every year, so that we can celebrate the unnamed multitudes who we are confident God has gathered around his throne in Heaven. It is a celebration of the finish line that all of us truly want to cross as we collapse at the end of life’s race into God’s waiting arms.
Sometimes it is so easy to think we are not going to make it there. Indeed Heaven is for real, and we all believe that, but at the same time we don’t think these days that God has any standards that we have to meet to get there. He’s not a coach who pushes, but is instead a couch who just comforts our immobile selves. So goes the popular view. In that same view, a “saint” is some other category of being that stopped being born sometime around 1900 or so.
The Church proclaims the emptiness of that view. We proclaim standards, and we proclaim greatness in the Lord. We proclaim sainthood as the desired status God has in mind for all of us. And today we proclaim that it is possible not just for the few, but for the multitudes