Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Saints - Our "Hall of Famers"

We've all traveled to them, to Cooperstown or Canton, Springfield or Toronto. Wherever we went, it's always the same: We go into some hushed and hallowed hall where individual plaques enshrine those who have excelled at their sport to the point of becoming more than just one player on a team. They stood out. They changed the way the game is played. They inspired generations of young people to follow in their shoes.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The canon (list or "roll call") of Saints are our Catholic "Hall of Fame". They're the men and women who were human beings created in the image of God just like us, receivers of the Sacraments of the Church just like us, lived their lives as men & women, some married and some clergy, some murdered and some died naturally, some scholars and some not-so-smart, some-- well, you get the idea. And for as many as the Church acknowledges as Saints, we know there are countless others known by God (a "great multitude", as St. John told us in this morning's reading from Revelation, "which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue").

To use an overused word, their "diversity" is their beauty: St. Augustine is nothing like St. Anthony of Padua. St. JoseMaria Escriva is not St. Maria Goretti. St. Therese of Lisieux is not St. Frances Cabrini. And yet all are called Saints, Sancte, holy. In a homily on All Saints Day, St. John Vianney said, "If the friendship of Saints living in this world fills us with love for God, how much more then shall we gain by considering the Saints in glory, by invoking them, and taking them for our Protectors!" Pope Benedict, in his homily this morning, said, "How can we become saints, friends of God? An initial response to this question is this: To be saints it is not necessary to perform extraordinary deeds and works, nor is it necessary to possess exceptional charisms. But this only tells us what sainthood is not. The positive answer is that to become a saint it is above all necessary to listen to Jesus and then to follow him and not lose heart in the face of difficulties."

Next time you're in Church, take a look at the statues and the figures in the stained glass. They surround us like spectators at a marathon, offering us nourishment and encouragement, urging us to complete the race they've already run.

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