Feast Day: November 1st | Patronage: everything under the sun| Iconography: every possible human characteristic
A question that has been bumping around my mind as we approach All Saints Day: What is the common denominator among the Communion of Saints? What does every saint have in common?
On the one hand, every saint is so different! Some lived during times of persecution and had to persevere through martyrdom, or just the pressure of a culture that had no room for Christ. Some were acclaimed and praised for their Christian witness – and had to battle the pride that comes with accomplishments – and others were unappreciated or unknown – and had to carry the daily cross of littleness. Among that Communion you have lecturers and leaders, scientists and singers, helpers and healers, martyrs and mystics, and some who traveled the world, and some who were limited to the smallest of abodes.
At every Mass, no matter the other saints mentioned or not during the Eucharistic prayer, at some point we always ask the intercession and communion of all the saints, but what exactly joins us all together? I found myself a bit confused by it all. We’re called to join, and emulate, and befriend the saints, but they are not only different from each other, but different from us! Not only are we led to ask what St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist have in common? Or what is the same between St. Lucy and St. Linus? But also: what can I emulate about St. Matthew and St. Maximilian Kolbe? How do I live a life like St. Paschal Baylon, St. Philip Neri, and Ss. Peter and Paul?
And the question gets harder when we consider the entire Communion of Saints, which includes not only those in glory with the Lord, and those of us still pilgrims on earth, but also those being purified in purgatory (CCC954)? What is the same between me, St. Barnabas, and one of the holy souls? St. Barnabas was a great apostle to the Gentiles with St. Paul. Me, not so much. And, the holy souls are no longer able to preach or produce at all; they can hardly be said to even pray, for they are primarily receiving and being cleansed by God’s Love alone.
Now, hopefully it didn’t take you as long as I to see where this was heading. The only thing that is held in common by all those in heaven, purgatory, and us here below – between every saint and saint-in-the-making; that is, everyone who is united to Christ – is participation in the Love of God. It’s not great courage, nor eloquence, nor optimism. It isn’t found in what they do, say, or accomplish. Not even how much time they spend praying, or fasting, or begging, or giving themselves away. Each of these things are just different manifestations of God’s Love at work in different hearts.
But how do I apply that to myself? “Be more loving!” is not only somewhat unclear, or apt for misinterpretation, or vague, but because my understanding of “love” is limited, this sort of goal ends up forgetting about the examples of the mystics, the holy souls, the contemplatives, the shut-ins, the comatose. Are they not able to be saints?? Of course not! I need to go back to the Lord to learn about Love again.
Here’s where I’m at for now: the saints weren’t just good at giving love, they were also good at receiving love. I think this better incorporates the examples of those simplest, littlest, or contemplative saints. But there’s more to it than that: the saints didn’t just have any kind of love – they weren’t just nice, or charitable, or generous, or patient, or compassionate, or protective, or bold, or secure, or intelligent, or capable – they may have been any of those things, or none of them, yet there was always a fire of Love within them that wasn’t of their own making. They had God’s Love moving them and engaging in them every different person or situation that came their way. They didn’t see the world like an ordinary person, they saw it in terms of Divine Love. They perceived the world; they engaged everything around them; they responded to every person or situation (including themselves) somehow like God Himself does. They understood everything through a lens of Love: In this situation, where is God’s Love at work? As I look on this scene, what does God love about it? In this person, how is God’s Love alive in their heart? Throughout this day, this task, this occasion, when has God bestowed His Love on me?
So then, how do we emulate all the saints? We need merely, yet entirely; simply, if absolutely, become people of Love. How do we do that? Let’s start by taking Jesus’ words to heart: “Love one another as I have loved you” and begin by noticing one way today that God has loved me.
– Fr. Dominic will begin with today: Today I spent the morning with Fr. Michael Meinhart: we talked over different things, enjoyed the crisp autumn morning, had some scrambled eggs, and prayed the breviary with each other. And, in that simplest of ways, God was good to me.