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Solemnity of All Saints
By Melanie Williams (Nov 1, 2016)
The Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us" — Hebrews 12:1
Today we celebrate this great cloud of witnesses, all of the Communion of Saints in Heaven. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1174) wrote about this feast day, "The saints have no need of honor from us. … Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning."
Call to mind your favorite saints — John Paul II, Augustine, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Catherine of Siena, Stanislaus Papczynski, Maximilian Kolbe, just to name a few. The lives of these saints should inspire us and set us on fire to become saints, too. All too often we can fall into despair and pusillanimity, thinking that there is no way we can be great like them.
Pusillanimity literally means "smallness of spirit." It is the attitude of the faint-hearted, who dare not approach even the good things they are worthy of. If you are pusillanimous, you believe that because of your weaknesses and sins, you are not worthy of the vocation you are called to as a child of God — that is, being a saint.
In our second reading today, St. John writes, "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God" (1 Jn 3:1). Our vocation as a child of God is a great blessing — it is a great gift of love from the Father. Only one third of our world professes to be baptized. It is not a mere coincidence that you are — you are specifically chosen by the Father for His purposes. Your life is not your own. The Lord has a specific purpose and plan for your life, and it is your responsibility to live that vocation. It wounds the Heart of Jesus when you don't believe that He can give you the grace to become a saint.
Saint Faustina wasn't the most educated of people. She was a cook and a gardener. None of her sisters expected great things to come from her, and many didn't know until after her death the great visions and messages she received from Jesus. Shortly after entering the convent, one of her sisters called her a loafer, and another called her an eccentric. Another wondered "what kind of sister will she make" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 151). Yet, St. Therese of the Child Jesus appeared to Faustina and told her that she would become a saint.
Like Therese, Faustina trusted not in her own greatness, but in the mercy of God. She knew that God could make her a saint — and we should be confident of the same for ourselves.
If God can make the greatest of sinners into the greatest of saints—take St. Augustine, for example, or even Blessed Bartolo Longo, a former satanic priest — He surely can make any one of us a saint, if we deny ourselves daily, take up our crosses, and follow Him. He has the path to eternal life, and it is a path through the Cross to the Resurrection. If we are to become saints, we must accept our vocations, as chosen and beloved children of God, accept whatever sufferings may come our way and offer them with Jesus to the Father. In this "little way," as St. Therese would say, God will give us the grace to become great saints.
You may or may not be officially canonized by the Church after your death, but you sure can rejoice in the hope set before you, that if you persevere in running the race in this life, you will hear at the hour of death, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. ... Come, share your master's joy" (Mt 25:21).