October 31, 2021: Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Associate Pastor’s Corner
”After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. …These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” –Revelation 7:9,13-14.
There are a lot of saints! Just how many saints are there? The Roman Martyrology lists more than 7,000 canonized or beatified saints, and this is surely incomplete; who can say just how many Christians died for their faith under Roman persecutions in the 1st and 2nd Centuries, or in Armenia under the Ottoman Empire, or under fascism and communism in the 20th Century? Even today it is extremely hard to count Christian martyrs, but a conservative estimate is that 8,000 Christians are killed every year due to their faith. Even the book of Revelation identifies those in heaven, the saints, those who have washed their garments in the Blood of the Lamb, as “a great multitude, which no one could count.”
And so it is right and just that we celebrate the Solemnity of All saints, on November 1st, which is often a Holy Day of Obligation. We not only rejoice in their victory over death, but we call upon them to continue to pray for us who are still fighting the battle in times of great distress.
Saintliness is not something that we must wait for, it is not something that we will do when we grow up. In fact, it is not something that we do at all. Rather, as the philosophers say, doing follows being. And we are, first and foremost, God’s children here and now. It is God who has made us to be saints, made us his holy ones, and we are happy and blessed when we live as God has made us to live, in imitation of Jesus. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God, blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.”
The Church has recognized this blessedness in people from all walks of life. There are saints of all ages: children, middle aged, and the advanced in years. There are saints who are husbands and wives, single people, monks, and popes. There are saints who were rich and powerful, like St. Elizabeth of Portugal, or St. Louis, King of France, there are saints who were slaves, like St. Patrick or St. Josephine Bakhita, who died in 1947. There are saints, who were young adults, like Pier Giorgio Frassati and Therese of Lisieux. There are saints who converted late in life, like St. Angela of Foligno, who spent most of her life as a worldly socialite. The variety of the people canonized by the Church is astounding.
On November 1st we especially remember all those saints in heaven whose stories are not known, but who still give us hope. Most of us will not go down in history as a person of note, heck most of us don’t even merit a Wikipedia page. But it is the Book of the Living that matters, and God never fails to notice our acts of love for him and for our neighbor. Like all of the anonymous saints we celebrate tomorrow, we too are called to be saints. So today is a great day to read about the saints and to find your favorite new saint. All you saints of God, pray for us!