Dear Friends, this Sunday’s readings and prayers ask us to consider what it is, “to be a saint” and if that is, in any way, our calling. If we consider that it is very clearly about being, “our best selves,” not only for ourselves but for those others in our lives, then we probably have a chance at it. If we consider, “saints” as folks that are way better than us, then we are pretty much left off the hook. Let’s consider that maybe, just maybe, this “saint stuff” might be for us as well.
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Let us all rejoice with Jesus our Brother and keep a festival in honor of all the saints. Let us join with the angels in joyful praise to the First Born of God.
Let Us Pray
God, Loving Creator, source of all holiness, the work of your hands is manifest in your saints, and the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith. May we who aspire to have part in their joy be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives, so that having shared their faith on earth we may also know their peace in your kindom. We ask this of you, in Jesus’ wonderful name and with the Spirit, All, One God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
- Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14
- 1 John 3: 1-3
- Matthew 5: 1-12
My friends, November 1st which each year marks, All Saints’ Day doesn’t always fall on a Sunday—the last time it did, was in 2015, so while each year we remember this feast, which is about all of us—really, in the broadest sense; this year we have the opportunity to look at this feast squarely, in that today, as you know, is November 1st!
Above, I said that this feast is, “about all of us—in the broadest sense.” If we were to ask someone in the hierarchy of the Catholic church; we might hear something like the definition that I found in the dictionary: A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness, or likeness or closeness to God. I found another definition named as “slang” which read: A saint is a person who is holy, or just very good.
Declaring someone to be a “saint” today in the official Church is much more of a process than it was for the first 1,000 years of our existence after, Jesus. In 993, St Ulrich of Augsburg, in Germany was formally canonized a saint by Pope John XV and by the 12th Century, this process was centralized in Rome with the pope.
It would be my guess that prior to this time, recognizing someone with “exceptional holiness—goodness and closeness to God,” came from people within the community where the person lived. Often these folks could see and name someone, “exceptional” long before the Church, in its hierarchy got around to it.
One present day example that I remember was Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who was assassinated in 1980 for his social justice work speaking out against poverty, torture, and assassinations carried out by those in power within the country. The people named him, a saint, immediately, but the hierarchy of the Church didn’t make it official until 2018. One could say that politics got in the way and wouldn’t be far from the truth.
Keeping in mind that this feast is about, “all of us, in the broadest sense,” the slang definition of “saint,” “a person who is holy, or just, very good” is the one that I would like us to focus on more, as I think it makes this feast day, more real for us—something that we too, might attain.
Now that having been said, I don’t wish to belittle the saints that the Church, in its hierarchy have given official canonization to, but only to lift up a more attainable example for us. In this light, throughout my adult years; I have kept a file that I call, “Present Day Saints”—those I have recognized as persons to look up to and model my life after. It must be mentioned that none of these folks were “perfect” by way of life actions, but each kept and keep trying to be their best—my working definition of a saint. These folks many times stood alone, doing what their consciences told them was right. I say, “Keep trying” because some of these people are yet alive. Saints are not named officially while yet alive, as we know, even though many of us look at them and their deeds as worthy of the title long before their deaths.
In my “Present Day Saints” file are the likes of Gandhi, Sister Joan Chittister, Father Paul Nelson—former principal of my Catholic high school, Father Dan Corcoran, priest in the Winona diocese, a former pastor and friend, to me and my family, Father Dan Berrigan—peace activist and Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who introduced himself, often, to his people in Chicago, as “their brother.” Cardinal Bernardin was also known for speaking of life as, “a seamless garment”–birth to death, that is, and everything in between.
Bishop Raymond Lucker, another saint in my estimation, pastored the New Ulm, MN diocese, beginning in 1976, for 23 years before his death in 1999. At his death, Father Richard McBrien, who taught at Notre Dame University, said that, “Raymond Lucker was one of the finest bishops this nation ever produced.” I had the privilege of working with Bishop Lucker to complete my graduate pastoral research paper in his diocese on inclusive issues within the Catholic church, specifically, language and women in ministry, and I have never known a more pastoral man of the Church.
And of course, my file included Mother Teresa who was officially canonized in 2016 by Pope Francis. As an endnote to my present day saint file; I find it interesting that both Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa—both exemplary human beings had to have their causes for canonization wait until—shall we say, a more merciful, less political pope—Francis, advanced their causes. But again, that is another homily.
Also, I find it interesting, that the priests that I have considered, “saintly” men in our Church, the likes of Paul Nelson and Raymond Lucker never advanced beyond their ending positions once it was discovered that they would speak their hearts and minds for the good of the People of God. Something to consider…
So my friends, perhaps you are wondering why the direction of my comments today—with a lack of focus on the really acclaimed saints of the Church, those canonized and put up on pedestals with deference to the seemingly more common folks walking among us. Very simply put; I want each of you and me to realize that our vocation in this life is to be, at the least, the “slang” definition of saint,” “just a very good person.” If we can do that, whether or not we get it perfectly right; we will have fulfilled our baptismal and confirmational promises to follow, as best we can, in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth.
Certainly, those acclaimed, placed on pedestals and admired officially by our Church can be looked up to; but I, for one, at age 70, know that I can’t aspire to their greatness, which seems far above my abilities, but I do marvel that they could! For me, as your pastor; I am here to say that I can aspire to be more like many good people who walk among you and I—some I have mentioned here and others that you may know. We can challenge each other to do that—at the very least!
Our Scriptures today have much that I would name as, “rich” as we strive to be, “our best selves”—shall we say, “saints?” The writer of Revelation, John the apostle, says of the heavenly gathering that we are all invited to—“I saw an immense crowd, without number, from every nation, people and language.” To that I can only say, “Amen!”
It reminds me of Gandhi, who was said to move toward Hinduism more than any other faith system as he came out of a somewhat eclectic religious background. It was said of him that at one point in his lifetime, he was drawn to Christianity and visited the Catholic church in his Indian village. As he came in he saw a sign that said, “All Untouchables please sit in the back pews.” He immediately left saying that he would become a Christian on the day we began to live like Christians! An interesting thought on this day that we consider what it is to be, “saintly.”
In the reading from John, the Apostle’s first letter, he reminds us of God’s lavish love in calling us—“all God’s children.” Additionally, John reminds us that when we all meet in heaven, we will see God as God truly is—a cause for hope—certainly.
And so friends, for the interim, Matthew shares our brother, Jesus’ words making it very clear what our God wants of us—nothing more or less—that we would work for justice, that we would be sure about what is truly important in life and work toward that—we would call that, “being, poor in spirit.” Additionally, we must be about showing mercy, being compassionate and truthful, working for peace, even when persecuted—the Beatitudes. It would seem that the kin-dom is about all this and if we can, at least, keep trying—while not always, being perfect, that kindom will one day, be ours. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, help us to realize our call to be saints, your chosen ones, living more fully the beatitudes in our lives, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, help us to follow the model of your saints of old and in present times, without the official title, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, help us to see that peace in our world begins with each one of us, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, you were one who welcomed all to the table—to life and to love—be with our community, All Are One, to always welcome everyone at our table and into our lives, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, be with those today—this week, who need work–help that miracle to happen through their willingness—their need, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, give each of us, what we most need today, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
7. Loving God, be with our national political process, allowing the candidates who are best for all the people, to be elected, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
8. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, due to Covid 19 and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them out loud—then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, on this feast day of all saints, be with us, giving us strength to emulate the examples of these people called to love you and your people in special ways. Help us not to be daunted by their examples, but challenged to be our best selves as we strive to be “beatitude” people. Help us to realize that we are never alone, but that we have our brother Jesus as our guide and friend. All this we ask in his wonderful name, with you our Creator and in the guidance of the Spirit, one God who lives with us and loves us forever and ever—Amen.
Let Us Pray—Once again, we realize that we aren’t able to physically gather at your table, but we recall that you Jesus are always with us.
Prayer after Communion
Creator, holy One, we praise your glory reflected in the saints. May we who share this community of friends be filled with your love and prepared for the joy of your kin-dom where Jesus is, forever and ever, Amen.