Maybe it’s just the company I keep, but I’ve had a bit of trouble convincing folks that you don’t have to be canonized in order for today — All Saints — to count as “your” feast day.
When I float that notion, many of my fellow ‘saints-in-training’ act surprised: As if it’s some sort of radical idea, that ordinary folks…whose names and lives are unknown to the Vatican…could be celebrated for their lives of holiness.
‘Holiness’ is not the same as ‘perfection,’ it seems to me. Or even the same as ‘official recognition.’ It’s one of the things I like best about this feast day: The idea that I can toil in obscurity, love God and serve others from well outside the official spotlight, and still manage to be gathered into glory at the end of it all.
All Saints. We are all saints. Every one of us, according to Paul. Perhaps we have some rough edges that need smoothing…but still God desires to gather us in. And, on a day like today, God gives us encouragement for the journey — through the sweet memory of those who have gone on before us.
I know their names: Tony. Henry and Marge. George and Rose. Ambrose and Gertrude. Dee, Jack, Mike, Marge, Jim, Stephen, Jeff, Mary Anne, JJ, Lou, Fr. Jim, Bro. Marvin, Bro. Joseph, Bob, Nadine, Gilbert, Lavenia. Marcella, Wilbert, Marian, Buster, Jerry, Lucille, Harold, Jean, Joan, Bea, Rich, Shirley, Bob, Jim. Rita, John, Bob, Betty, Paul, Chuck. Harry, Kathy, Joe. George, Vi, Carolyn. Paula, Jimmy, Greg. Paul, Harold, Faye, Jim, Andy, Edna, Theresa, Agnes, Leo, Henry, Jenny, Virgilia. And so many, many, many more — all the saints in my life…
Good luck, trying to convince me that these weren’t holy people — each and every one. And good luck, trying to convince me that God doesn’t enjoy their company as much in the next life…as I did in the present one. No point in debating the matter, really. I’d rather just settle in and rejoice in the witness of their lives…just as we did with these words at Mass today:
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.
For you are praised in the company of your saints,
and in crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.
By their way of life, you offer us an example,
by communion with them, you give us companionship,
by their intercession, sure support;
so that encouraged by so great a cloud of witnesses,
we may run as victors in the race before us,
and win with them the imperishable crown of glory
through Christ our Lord,
And so, with the Angels and Archangels,
and with the great multitude of the Saints,
we sing the hymn of your praise, as without end we acclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord, God of Hosts
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.