All Saints Day 2018

The author of Psalm 24 in his hymn commonly used for the procession with the Ark of the Covenant into the sacred temple, asks “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Who can stand in his holy place?” (Ps. 24:3). The Psalmist must have personally witnessed such an impressive procession and left to wonder how anyone could enter the holy dwelling of God.   The Church throughout the centuries stands in wonder as she witnesses the vast number of those who processed up the mountain of God into his heavenly dwelling place.     She too asks, “who are they?”, “who can be in counted in their number?”    

The annual celebration of All Saints Day and the daily procession of saint feast days and memorials in the Roman Calendar reveals the answer.     They are our brothers and sisters, members of the household of God.   They are the pure of heart, the merciful, they courageously suffered persecution, they are the faithful disciples that endured the time of trial.     The saints encourage us to join them in this procession to the Lord’s mountain.   They accompany us through our trials, struggles, even in our failures.   This is what St. Therese of Lisieux meant when she said; “upon my death I will let fall as shower of roses; I wish to spend my heaven in doing good upon the earth.”  

Catholics, indeed all Christians, should examine carefully the lives of the saints.   Reading the accounts of their lives so greatly benefits our spiritual growth because we see their struggles, their challenges, and how they overcame their own weaknesses to shine so brightly.    How could we not be encouraged when we read in St. Augustine’s Confessionsabout his own pagan youth, and how far from God he was even in his quest for wisdom, or the worldly, cold-hearted St. Thomas Becket who after his conversion became poor, and gave supreme witness by his infamous murder in his own cathedral?   

Consider the saints who were never expected to amount to much, the simple hearts who became brilliant witnesses like St. John Vianney or St. Joseph Cupertino.  How could we forget the witness of children who in spite of their youth left us giant heroic examples, the little St. Maria Goretti or the boy St. Jose Sanchez del Rio?    Among the saints are those who endured so much suffering in their lives who turned to prayer which sanctified them, particularly women like St. Rita of Cassia or St. Monica.    Some of our blessed heroes surprisingly struggled with doubt.   St. Jane Frances de Chantal struggled with faith all her life, after her fairy tale marriage abruptly ended with the tragic death of her husband.   St. Theresa of Calcutta, amazingly once wrote “where is my faith? Even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness and darkness, my God, how painful is this unknown pain.”   Even the Little Flower was“overwhelmed by temptations of atheism.”  

As we make our way in this procession to the Father, we often do so limping, barely progressing, and sometimes on the verge of surrender.   As we look up to and marvel at the vast array of the saints we find our strength and resolve to be one day, with God’s grace, counted among their number.  

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