Feast of All Saints
Fra' Richard Wolff has written for us the Litany of the Saints of the Order of Malta. Please pray the Litany on November 19th, the day on which we celebrate the Memorial of All Saints of the Order.
"If I am not becoming a saint, then I am doing nothing."
- St. Theresa of Avila
I have often thought of the Feast of All Saints as 'the feast of no excuses'. We may all rightfully say that we are not a Francis of Assisi, an Edmond Campion, or a Joan of Arc, a Maximillian Kolbe or a John Henry Newman, but all of us have been called to become saints.
The writer, Evelyn Waugh, once described who a saint is: "Saints," he said, "are simply souls in heaven. Some people have been so sensationally holy in life that we know they went straight to heaven and so put them on the liturgical calendar. We all have to become saints before we get to heaven. That is what purgatory is for. And each individual has his own peculiar form of sanctity which he must achieve or perish. It is no good my saying, 'I wish I were like Joan of Arc or St. John of the Cross.' I can only be Saint Evelyn Waugh (insert your own name here) after God knows what experiences in purgatory."
The point here is really drawn from scripture. If we were this minute to join that happy throng of adorers we read of in the Book of Revelation in spirit and truth, we would find in their number people very like ourselves. To be sure, every one of them would be unique and precious in God's eyes. Yet there would be enough similarity - enough ordinariness - to remove from our hearts the illusion that the call to holiness was meant for someone other than ourselves.
And how we long for the communion of saints. They are calling to us, urging us onward, wanting nothing more than that we would join their company. They are seeking right now that we respond to the many graces in our lives that would strengthen our ties, our bonds of communion with them by enlarging our capacity to see as Christ sees and to love as Christ loves.
Our longing must not remain a weak and idle wish or be thought to be an unattainable desire. No, sanctity is real, it is attainable. The means are at our disposal, even as the joys of heaven are beyond all imagining.
By water and the Holy Spirit we are God's adopted children. We have in us already the paschal mystery of Christ as a new principle of life. The seeds of holiness have been planted in us and we pray that in God's good time they have begun to germinate.
It is the Gospel that lays out most clearly the goal of sanctity for us all. Jesus preaches afresh the Beatitudes -one might say, the keys to ultimate happiness as individuals and as a community of faith. When Jesus speaks of the blessed as poor in spirit, grieving over sin, meek and humble, hungering for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, desirous of peace, ready to be persecuted for the sake of the kingdom -Pope Benedict tells us that he is really drawing a portrait of himself. For Christ was all of these in a degree we only imagine -Christ the Son of God and the Son of Mary.
These qualities should frame and shape our lives such that the Father can see in us what he sees and loves in Christ, such that our capacity to love as Christ loved expands so much that we are fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Sanctity to be sure is not earned but received as a gift. It's the gift of becoming that person God called us to be from all eternity.