On the Solemnity of All Saints the Church presents all those men and women who have lived their Christian lives to an heroic level and now are enjoying the eternal beatitude in heaven. It is, one might say, a roll call of the Church’s heroes!
In this Solemnity, the Church places before us all those virtuous Christians through the centuries who can act as our models and intercessors in living the Christian life. Today, many people would say that they admire famous sports, film or music personalities who ignite our earthly aspirations. However, the Church presents to us the lives of ordinary men and women who have followed Christ by living a virtuous lives in the service of others and, although whilst on this earth they were not often blessed materially, through their lives they have won the greatest prize of all – heaven! Today we celebrate the fact that they are enjoying an eternity of happiness with the Lord which is beyond our human imagination! “What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot conceive; all that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
In this heroic line-up there are of course the many famous canonised saints who we know and love: the Apostles, St Benedict, St Francis, St Teresa, St Antony, St Pio – the list is vast. However, today we also remember those ordinary people who were never canonised a saint but lived an exemplary Christian life and today are in heaven.
The Church proposes the saints as “models” or even “heroes” such that they can help encourage us and intercede for us in order to live our Christian lives. Today we may be fascinated by a new film or maybe the life of a famous person may interest us, but do they help us to imitate Christ closely and advance on the road to heaven? The saints are those who have overcome every form of human difficulty in order to grow in virtue. For example, St Benedict threw himself in a thorn bush to avoid impure thoughts; St Francis gave up his inheritance to live in poverty; St Teresa of Avila was converted from her tepid lifestyle. In order to fulfil the project God had for them the saints often struggled to do His Will and only by the Lord’s help did they succeed. If we have sins, faults and failings to overcome, it is enough to look at the lives of the saints to find encouragement along the way. If you aspire to help the poor, evangelise the world, look to the saints! The truth is often better than fiction and so it is important to get to know our heavenly friends so that they can inspire us in living our lives today. St John Vianney reminds us that “not all the saints have the same sort of holiness. There are those who could never have lived with other saints. Not all have the same path. But all arrive at God.”
Leon Bloy wrote that “there is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint.” Therefore, we must choose our heroes very wisely so that they can inspire us to follow the Lord and, like them, one day enter paradise!