you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Christ our Lord. Amen
(From the Collect of the Day)
Saints are friends we have in heaven. Most of us probably have a favourite saint, or a few. We take inspiration from their lives and their example may offer support and guidance for us, especially at times when our faith is challenged by the ups and downs of life. Who we spend our time with can influence who we become; friends, both living and those in heaven, can make a lasting impact on our lives. On the feast of All Saints, we celebrate lives of ordinary people, known and unknown, who were like lighthouses in their time, reflecting the glory of God with their lives. Knowing that numerous saints have walked before us, we know that we are not on this journey on our own. That is, in a way, what we mean by believing in the communion of saints.
In the last few years that I have been in Ireland, I have met people who are living saints. I realised that I didn’t consider them saints because they were doing something ‘extraordinary’, nor were they perfect. They were in fact ‘only’ living the Gospel, as best they could. I saw something courageous and yet gracious in who they were, though they would probably deny it, if someone tried to affirm it in them. They gave their ‘yes’ to God, and they meant it, and I know it was a costly choice. I presume that they had to renew that commitment in the silence of their hearts many times. What is more, it showed in their lives, you could see it, even if they could not.
Naturally, sanctity is not a thing of the past. Saints still walk among us. We all probably know a few. Maybe they are a family member or a friend or even, God-forbid, someone whom we might consider ‘an enemy’. I believe that a saint is someone whose life shows that God exists, which may often not be very deliberate or intentional, but it may come rather natural to some people. In a way, it is more about God than it is about them.
All of us who have embarked on a spiritual journey are ‘saints in the making’, which at times can be a challenging process, mainly because it involves transforming our own way of being into a Christlike way of living. An invitation to be saints, as the Bible calls all Christians, may be somewhat like a healing process as sometimes healing will involve leaving behind our ways of acting and letting God teach us His way of acting and being in the world. This is something we can learn from the saints. Of course, it is a lifelong task, which will require cooperation with God’s grace. When you think of it, it is impossible to be a saint; we can never be one merely by our own efforts. Holiness is a gift of God, because only God is truly holy. Paradoxically, the further we are on the path of holiness the more truly human we will be; for “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)”
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland