Feast of All Saints
, in the Christian calendar, is the Feast of All Saints; it's when Christians remember all who have gone before us in space and time.
They were holy, kind, humble, respectful, obedient, loving, caring, brave, etc....
All for the glory of God was their ultimate goal.
There are dozens of saints whose lives and writings have been a great gift. These holy Christians have come from all walks of life, from lowliest beggar to all-powerful emperor.
Reflecting on the lives and examples of the saints has been a widespread practice of Christians since the earliest days of the church.
The Feast of All Saints commemorates all the Church's Saints, known and unknown, canonized or not and in so doing, we honor the Holy Spirit who perfected them, and made them great.
They have paved the way before us and they continue to walk beside us today as we journey through life.
Who is a saint?
The meaning of the terms for “saints” in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin is Holy One. Sanctified or consecrated. The English word "saint" derives from the Latin sanctus, which means "holy."
Human beings like us who followed Jesus and lived according to the Gospel values.
In the Bible
You shall be holy, for the Lord your God am holy (Lev 19; 2)
Jesus said in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor…meek…hungry…the thirsty….the persecuted…” (Mt 5:3-12)
Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect (Mt 5; 48).
Saint Paul himself addresses the Christians as called to be saints (Rom 1:7).
Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. )
In the church documents
The Church has declared hundreds of saints along the centuries. There are all sorts of saints-Male and female, Young and old, Many different Nationalities, King, princes, religious, laity.
All are called to holiness (LG 39).
The Second Vatican Council asked that a "careful investigation - theological, historical, and pastoral" - should always be made concerning the proposal of the devotion to saints (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.23). This instruction found the Congregation for the Causes of Saints already prepared, and today it has been fully tested.
The main task of the Church is to lead Christians along the path of holiness.... The Church is the "home of holiness', and the charity of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, is her soul" (Message for the 39th World day of prayer for vocation, 21 April 2002, nn. 1 and 2; ORE, 5 December 2001, p. 3).
The Apostles Creed: "I believe in the Communion of Saints.”... We are expected to foster devotion to our saints because they are our God given models.
'Are we obliged to pray to the Saints in order to have them intercede for us?' asked St Thomas Aquinas
‘‘He, who does not cherish in his heart a desire to achieve sanctity, may be a Christian, but he is not a good Christian!' (St Alphonsus).
The saints are presented to believers as role models whose lives are worthy to be imitated (Vatican 11).
The lives of the saints show the world "the divine in the human, the eternal in time' - Card. José Saraiva Martins Cmf, (Prefect For The Congregation For The Causes Of Saints, 1998-2008)
There are 10 important characteristics, which are very common in all the saints.
1. God Experience
Since God had intervened in their lives, they gave a free and joyous response to god’s call. Saints are persons who have deeply experienced the dynamic presence of God in themselves, others and the world around. They always live in the presence of God and that would be the foundational experience for all their activities. Each feared losing God’s friendship. Each was dedicated to a gospel-based path to holiness and each abandoned herself or himself to the will of god. They allowed themselves to be directed by God.
2. Reading the signs of the time
Saints are persons who live a prophetic life. Here the prophetic life is not understood in the sense of for-telling the future events rather highly critique of the social, political and cultural context. They read the signs of the times. They interpreted the signs of the times accurately. They appreciated the good things and condemned the social evils.
3. Learnt to respond, not react
Saintly life is a call and challenge for every human being to respond according to the signs of the time. It is life with total commitment to God and to people, particularly for the voiceless. They were servant leaders, holistic thinkers, community builders. Saints are persons who respond to the unjust structures creatively and constructively and by that bring forth justice, love and peace in society. Thus, some were brutally killed on the account of the gospel. For example (Sr.Rani Maria, India). They shed their blood for faith in Jesus.
4. Ordinary things in extraordinary way
Saints are not super-human beings or heroes. They are like, one among us, but lived a simple and exemplary life. St.Ignatius of Loyola once said that a saint is not someone who does extraordinary things, but ordinary things extraordinarily well. “Saints did not all begin well, but all ended well”, said St.John Vianney. Yes. They have done ordinary things in extraordinary way.
The saints were not perfect. They experienced many of the same inner struggles, challenges, and joys that we do. They were extremely human but despite their weaknesses, they were used by God as his instruments. They differ greatly in their backgrounds but they are similar to one another in their deep love for god and their desire to serve him.
5. Neither Workaholic nor Alcoholic
All saints are risk-takers. They tried to become faithful, not successful. They did their best and left the rest to God. They were systematic and well organized. They were well focused and very practical. They ahs personal and social skills. They were not burnt out any way in their tasks.
When we contemplate the lives of the saints, we are sometimes inclined to ask, what sustained them amidst the distractions of their lives? How could these men and women remain in a state of communion of with God? How could they continually center their thoughts, prayers and contemplations on Jesus Christ? How did they keep centered on Christ? Faith sustains, guides them and anchors them.
6. All for the greater glory of God
The Saints are humble,wilingly and lovingly attributing to God all that they have and all that they weill ever be, They lived for the glory of god. They used all means possible. For example Saint Claret.
7. Life well blended with Spirituality and Apostolate
Saints are people of Prayer. They are like Mari and martha ,the sisters of Lazarus. Saints are like good samariatans. They go beyond rules and regulations sometimes.They were Christ oriented, community oriented and mission oriented. They were evangelized before they evangelize. How we can worship God and grow in holiness through both work and prayer, sometimes combined?
8. Content and Context differs
Saints are extremely human, and they are products of their cultures and times. The saints are people of their times. A saint is one who serves God with devotion. They challenged the unchallenged. Content and context differs saint to saint. For example while St.Paul (Apostolic age), St.Sebastian (Persecution period), Francis of Assisi ( Dark ages of the church), Ignatius of Loyala (fifteenth century) lived during the time of division in the church, Don Bosco (19th century) lived in the time of industrial revolution and saint John Paul 11 lived in the 21st century, the Digital Era. Each century had its own problems and issues to deal with. Saints lived during a time of great strife and turbulence. Each contributed what they could do to human misery. Some had natural death. Some embraced martyrdom. For some we have autobiography and for others just biographies and legends. Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church –Tertullian
9. Seekers of soul
All saints are filled with love of God. all saints love other human beings, There is most notable virtue is love. The saints worked for the salvation of souls. Each had a passion for saving sinners. How, through charity and prayer, impossible situations can be transformed and family members converted?
10. To Jesus, through Mary.
The saints were devoted to prayer, Word of God, and Eucharist. The saints loved the church and their religious congregation. The saints practiced great devotion to Mary, the mother of saints. For example Montfort and Don Bosco.
Lessons from the Lives of the Saints
a. As Jesus is the basis and ground of everything. Saints were led by the spirit. Jesus tries to mould us into saints. For example, St.Paul: I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.
b. Important life lessons that we can learn from the Saints are from St.Mary, the Mother of Jesus, I have learnt that sometimes we have to say yes to God, not knowing where that will lead us.
c. Saint Joseph was obedient, selfless, example, a worker and a leader.
d. St.Jude Thaddeus reminded me that nothing is impossible with God and we can feel hope in situation that seem hopeless by asking his intercession.
e. Saints faced suffering and death with courage and hope. For example Saint Sebastian, and Claretian Martrys.
f. Some experienced sublime ecstasies, visions, spiritual revelations, apparitions, and even the stigmata. example (St.Pio).
g. Some are mystical saints from whom we learn the gift of sensitivity. wounds of love as a gift offering, total immersion in virtue and holiness and union with God. Example (St.Theresa of Avilla).
h. Like Mary Magdalene, how no one is beyond the power of the grace of God.
i. How true joy comes not from earthly status, but from following Christ like St. Francis of Assisi.
j. St.Theresa of Child Jesus surrendered to God with child like simplicity and faith. She offered prayers to God for the conversion sinners, priests who preach the good news to those who do not Know Christ. She reminds me of the value of simplicity and missionary zeal.
k. St.Benedict the Abbot reminds of “Ora et Labora” which means “prayer” and “Work”.
l. From St. Antony Abbot of Egypt, I have leant to balance periods of solitude with periods of being busy and involved in the community.
m. From St.Monica of Hippo, who prayed for the conversion of her son Augustine, I have learned the value of persevering in prayer even if it takes years.
n. St.John of the Cross taught the great value of love, at the end of our life and we will be judged by love alone.
o. From Saint John Paul 11 and many other saints, I leaned of the redemptive value of suffering.
p. Mother Theresa of Calcutta embraced all people and demonstrated the love of Christ by serving the broken and outcast members of society. She saw Christ in the poor and suffering. The list goes on….
q. “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”, said Oscar Wilde.
r. Who are some of your heroes? Who has been inspirational for you? Let them be your supporting witnesses. Let them help you live with inspired integrity.