The Church calendar is a gift. Each feast day of a saint, whether famous or obscure, reminds us of our universal call to holiness, that as Christians, whatever our background or talents, our common goal and destiny is to unite our lives with Christ here on Earth, so we can one day be united, along with the Communion of Saints, with Christ forever in heaven.
All Saints Day on Nov. 1, a holy day of obligation, reminds us of that. As we go to Mass and are united with Christ in the Eucharist and in His word and in our community of faith, we are reminded of our call to be saints, who are not only the subject of statues, paintings and stained glass windows, but who were and are flesh and blood people whose stories unfold every day in our homes, our communities and our world, people like us who confronted sin and weakness but who relied on God’s love and mercy on their life’s journey to heaven.
The saints and faithful departed who have gone before us are commemorated on the Church calendar on successive days, Nov. 1 on All Saints Day and Nov. 2 on All Souls Day, a reminder for us to look to them as role models in loving and serving Jesus in our everyday lives.
In a recent talk to the John Carroll Society – a Catholic group of professional men and women that engages in spiritual and charitable activities in the
Archdiocese of Washington – Msgr. Peter Vaghi, the group’s chaplain and the pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, underscored the importance of holiness, saying, “Being holy is the ID card of being a Christian. It means being set aside for Christ and living a life in Him.”
That call to holiness offers a way for Catholics to renew themselves and the Church in this challenging time as the Church faces the abuse crisis, the priest said.
“Now this is the particular time to rise up as leaders in the Church, in our families and workplaces,” Msgr. Vaghi said. “It is our time to show those who are hurting and whose faith is in crisis, or weak, exactly what it means to walk with Christ and draw daily strength from His living body, the Church.”
The priest said that in a Church made up of both saints and sinners, life in Christ “is a life of prayer, of regular reception of the sacraments, of compassionate outreach for those in need. And it results in sharing this life with others and not being afraid.”
The saints show us the way to Christ. That is why we prayerfully remember them in November and throughout the Church year. And Mary, Jesus’s first disciple and our greatest saint, who opened her heart to becoming Jesus’s mother and who was with him from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem to his death on the cross and was present in the upper room at the birth of the Church at Pentecost, offers us a model of holiness that endures in times of joy and sorrow on the path to sainthood.
Father Patrick Smith, the pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, reflected on both the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and the importance of saints in a recent column in the newsletter for his parish’s Catholic school, writing, “God’s response to scandal throughout history… has not only been remarkable but remarkably consistent. God responds to scandal by raising up saints! That is, in the face of shocking and extraordinary vice, God raises up men and women – old and young – of extraordinary virtue. When things seem worse than ever, God calls his children to shine more brilliantly than ever! We must shine the light of truth on the scourge of abuse and cover-up and the light of hope, healing and acceptance on those who have suffered in isolation and abandonment.”
Father Smith closed his column by noting that children at St. Augustine Catholic School are being taught to live “lives of faith, hope, justice and love,” adding that the school’s nickname, the Saints, is something students there aspire to become, which they witness to when they “boldly announce to every visitor who enters their classroom: ‘Welcome to the home of the Saints!’”
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