Solemnity of All Saints

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yet so we are.”

We are all children of God by virtue of our Baptism, and therefore we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Today we celebrate all the Saints in Heaven.  This Solemn Feast is meant to remind us of our brothers and sisters who fought the good fight on earth and now, side by side with the Angels, surround the throne of God in Heaven and continually sing His praises.

In our First Reading this morning, we hear that the Saints whom we are celebrating today are from every nation, race, people and tongue.  The Saints we celebrate today are from all walks of life: some were married, some were priests and religious, still others were single.  Some lived to see old age, some died when very young.  Some were tortured and killed for the Faith.  Some lived quiet lives of solitude.  What they all share in common is that they were all outstanding in holiness.  The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue and witnessed, by the way that they lived in the world, to God’s love.

Their heroic lives can and should inspire us to be more faithful ourselves.  This month would be a great time to read about a Saint.  We are all called to be Saints.  Reading the lives of the Saints can help encourage us in the pursuit of that goal.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola experienced a great increase in fervor by reading the lives of the Saints.

Saint Ignatius was a soldier, who was wounded in battle.  He was hit in the leg by a canon ball.  He ended up spending a lot of time in a hospital bed recovering.  Prior to his injury, he had enjoyed reading fictional stories of knights and chivalry.  While bedridden during his recovery, he asked for some books to help pass the time.  The only books that the hospital had available were some books on the lives of the Saints.

Saint Ignatius was reluctant, but because there weren’t any other books about, he began to read the lives of the Saints to escape boredom.  These stories from the lives of the Saints greatly inspired Saint Ignatius.  They made him feel that he wanted to do the things that the great Saints had done.  These books lifted his mind and heart to God.

Saint Ignatius later reflected on the difference between how works of fiction affected him and how the lives of the Saints affected him.  He came to realize that although reading fiction stirred up his imagination, it left him feeling empty afterwards.  The excitement he experienced in a good fiction book, quickly went away.  The lives of the Saints, on the other hand, were not only exciting; they also drew him closer to God.  When he finished reading the lives of the Saints, he continued to have a sense of peace and joy.

The Saints can be a great help to us.  Their lives of the Saints can inspire us; the Saints also pray for us from Heaven.  They want us to be there with them, and they intercede for us with God.  Some Protestants accuse Catholics of praying to the Saints and thereby give to the Saints the worship that belongs to God alone.  Let us be clear, when we answer such objections.  We worship God alone, but we honor the Saints who are in Heaven.  When we honor them, we honor God Who has done great things through them.  We do not pray to them; we ask them to pray for us.  The Letter of Saint James tells us that the fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.  (cf. James 5:17)  The Saints were certainly righteous, and so their prayers are very efficacious.  They are in Heaven, and in Heaven they behold God face to face.  Their prayers are perfect.  They do not suffer from distractions in prayer, as we here on earth do.  Furthermore, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why would they not pray for us?

The Church calls the relationship between the Saints and us the Communion of Saints.  We are all members of the Body of Christ.  We are called to be Saints.  The Saints want us to fulfill God’s will: they want us to be Saints.  Their lives on earth inspire us, and their prayers for us in Heaven assist us as we journey through this valley of tears.  The Letter to the Hebrews calls them the great cloud of witnesses, which surround us.  (cf. Hebrews 12:1)  Let us remember to often ask the Saints to pray for us, and thank God for the gift that He has given to us in our brothers and sisters in the Faith.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Saints.  May their lives inspire us to an ever-greater holiness; may their prayers gain us Your constant help and protection.

All holy men and women, pray for us!