Recently I met a retired circulation manager for our local newspaper. Since I myself had once worked in the circulation department of our publishing house, we felt a common bond. We both were aware of the myriad processes and unseen tasks that are hidden but essential to a publishing enterprise. Editors and reporters often have their bylines and their day in the sun. With praise or criticism the public gives them some attention. Graphic designers, advertising personnel, printers, and circulation personnel, however, seldom—if ever—get any “press,” photo ops, or recognition beyond a paycheck.
Likewise, in the Church year, there are men and women who are officially recognized as having led a saintly life. Many have their images on prayer cards, icons or in statues. Many books tell of their exploits for God. These folks are called Saints with a capital “S” or Blesseds with a capital “B”.
However, just as a great newspaper requires an untold amount of unseen, detailed work, so it is with sanctity. Striving day in and day out to imitate Jesus and to allow him to take over our thoughts, words and actions demands ongoing, and often unseen, effort and prayer. And for a world to be filled with the presence of the Lord, it takes an untold number of men, women, and children to become “other Christs.”
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (12:1). This great cloud is made up of all those in heaven, the majority of whom are the saints of the everyday. These are all the people who died in the grace of God and who now enjoy the presence of God. Pope Francis assures us that their life is anything but boring.
Today’s Feast of All Saints honors all those who are in heaven, including the “behind-the-scenes heroes.” These are the saints with a small “s” who lived with us, went to the same schools with us, worked the same jobs as we may now fill. They raised their children and perhaps their grandchildren too. They were faithful day in and day out. They loved God, their families, their fellow workers, and even those who may have been nasty to them. I think of a classmate named Peter. After a short time with the Jesuits, Peter discerned his call to marriage. He died shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. As one of those humble followers of Jesus, I trust that Peter revels in the joy of the eternal reward granted to a faithful husband and father.
I think of my own mother who raised thirteen children. She always made room for another person around our table. For a few years our Sunday ritual included squeezing three of our neighbor’s boys into our station wagon for Mass. None of us ever questioned why. We just knew their parents were unwilling or unable to take them.
When there was something hard to do Mom would say, “Offer it up!” That meant, “Do what you didn’t feel like doing as a sacrifice in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” The nuns at school taught us that expression. My mother reinforced it! We were spoiled in a certain sense because both of our parents were there for us. I now realize how much of a sacrifice that meant for both Mom and Dad. I can list them as part of that Great Cloud of Witnesses. Because they are with God who is everywhere, they “surround us,” help us, and await us in heaven. These men, women, and children have “lived through” hard times and now are enjoying heaven.
The heavenly choir of saints has no age restrictions. Children too form part of that heavenly choir. We begin as children to prepare to enter that Great Cloud of Witnesses. I remember a grandmother coming into one of our Pauline Centers one day asking for a prayer book for her seven-year-old granddaughter. “Children have problems too. Maybe it’s with their homework, or getting along with another student,” she told me. “Every child has obstacles to overcome. They need to learn how to pray; how to rely on God. That’s why I want to teach my granddaughter how to pray while she’s young.”
Sometimes kids need extra special help getting through situations in their life. Pauline Books and Media just released a book that aims to help children whose parents have divorced or separated. When Parents Divorce or Separate offers the child skills to cope with the emotional turmoil they feel. As a child of divorce herself, author Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski knows first hand what a child goes through when parents divorce or separate. She learned to say, “I can get through this” with the grace of God and help from trusted adults. The book is an honest acceptance of the grief, frustration or feelings of guilt which kids suffer when parents split. With prayer and wise strategies, the book assures the child that he or she “can get through this.”
God loves each one of us and he brings about our holiness no matter what our life situation has been. I love the story of Saint Martin de Porres, born in colonial Peru of a Spanish father and a former slave dance girl. Martin’s less than perfect family life did not stop him from becoming a model of charity as a Dominican brother famous for helping the poor. Martin’s rapport with God brought him through difficult times. He learned “he could get through” any crisis with God’s help. Today Martin would tell us to pray and to use problems as stepping stones to God.
We are all called to become saints. God’s grace helps us answer that call, day by day, moment by moment. Have a Happy Feast of All Saints and a holy All Souls Day. Both of these days commemorate our loved ones who have gone to eternity. In prayer we can be one with them as they enjoy the presence of our loving God.
Books on Holiness for Young and Old:
My Baptism Remembrance Book. By Martha Moss, FSP. Looking for a remembrance book for a child’s Baptism? This gift book includes pages to record the celebration of the sacrament, prayer pages, bible stories, grade school memories and more. Parents, godparents, aunts and uncles and friends, you may want to consider this treasured keepsake.
Spotlight on the Saints. By Diana Jenkins. Here is school theater at its best. “Modern ‘morality plays’ filled with humor, real choices, and relevant saints… For teachers or anyone planning seasonal activities, these charming yet down-to-earth plays will be a welcome resource for middle grades and junior high!” --Mary Paul McCoughey, OP Superintendent of Catholic Schools Archdiocese of Chicago
57 Stories of Saints. By Anne Eileen Heffernan, FSP. A cast of saints from different walks of life and a variety of countries that will be attractive to the young people of today. These common and not-so-common folks had an uncommon love for Jesus and their brothers and sisters in Christ. The rich selection of true stories in this attractive volume is invaluable.
Saints for Our Times. By Barry Michaels. A Novena Prayer Book that contains lives of saints and timely devotions all in one. A prayer for healing, for the young, for students, and for many more intentions. Sister Faustina, Padre Pio, Edith Stein, Jose Maria Escriva are just some of the saints included in this fine volume.
Spiritual Advice from the Saints. Compiled by the Daughters of St. Paul. Seeking a goldmine of advice in just a quote a day? From the Fathers of the Church to the latest canonized saints of our times, Spiritual Advice from the Saints is a necessary spiritual vitamin for people on the run.
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