Since I am the pastor of All Saints Parish, and since we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1, I thought I would offer a few reflections on the Saints. All Saints Church has meaningful feature. There are eight statues of Saints representing the parishes originally merged to form the parish. They are placed on either side up front.
These statues often remind me of what we read in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden of sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12, 1-2).
It is as if, in our earthly life, we are racing toward heaven. We are surrounded by a cheering crowd of those who have already reached it – the Saints. They give us encouragement. We can ask them for help, which we do when we pray to the saints. Now, of course, our prayers to the Saints are not like prayers directly to God. When we pray to the Saints, we are asking them to pray to God for us. The ultimate answer to any prayer comes from God.
Why do we get the Saints involved? Why can’t we go directly to God and eliminate the middleman, so to speak? Well, we certainly can. However, just as we can ask others on earth to pray for our intentions, we can also ask the Saints. They spend their time in heaven praying. So asking them to put in a good word for us is not a problem.
The Saints also give us encouragement. We can look to them and see examples to imitate to live holy lives. And there are so many different Saints, that we can certainly find one that speaks to our life situation. There are Saints who were religious and those who were lay people; intelligent and educated and not so intelligent and uneducated; scholars and working people.
Let us not forget, too, that the Saints include the “unofficial” ones who are not declared, not canonized. All our deceased relatives and friends who have made it to heaven are Saints. These are people we can relate to.
Nor only do the Saints provide us with models to imitate, but they also give us the assurance that holiness is indeed possible. They were as human as we are. Some had strayed quite far into sin. But with the Lord’s grace they made it, and so can we. Holiness is not an impossible ideal only a few can reach. It is, as Vatican II teaches, for all.
We run the race of the Spiritual Life surrounded by the Saints. Let us then, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, rid ourselves of the sin that clings to us burdening us and slowing us down, through repentance and virtuous life. Let us persevere in our race through faith and love.
The Saints are cheering us on and helping us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Allow me to close with the prayer from the Roman Missal for the Votive Mass of All Saints. “O God, fount of all holiness, make us each walk worthily in our vocation through the intercession of your Saints, on whom you bestowed a great variety of graces on earth and a single glorious reward in heaven. Amen.”
By Monsignor William Baker, pastor of All Saints Parish, McAdoo.