All Saints’ Day is a celebration of all Christian saints held on 1 November annually.
A young woman whom I know has just celebrated her 44th birthday. She is the mother of two children. Early this year she was diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer. After having undergone months of chemo-therapy and a complete reconstruction of her pelvis she is learning to walk again – a very painful process. Two weeks ago, she learned that the cancer has spread to other parts of her body. How does she face this challenging part of her life’s journey?
Then there are the mum and dad expecting their first child. Early in the pregnancy doctors told them that the little one would be born with severe difficulties. What decision do these parents make when they think about the future of their as yet unborn child, the ongoing care, advocacy and more ……..?
The people in each of these stories are facing their difficulties with hope, sometimes tears, many questions, fear but always with courage and love. They inspire us.
As you read this you will no doubt think of people in your life who have faced or are facing significant challenges as they continue to walk their journey of life.
As we move towards celebrating the feast of All Saints, I would suggest that the stories above, your memories, and many unknown stories call us to reflect on the meaning of this ancient feast. Originally it was a celebration of all the nameless martyrs of the persecutions, people who surrendered their lives rather than compromise their beliefs.
Just what makes a saint? What is it about a person that we name them as “holy”?
The Gospel for this feast, the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12, gives us the roadmap for this way of living. Jesus calls us to be meek and merciful. He challenges us to hunger and thirst for righteousness and to work for peace. He assures us then that “the kingdom of heaven will be ours.”
Richard Rohr comments that this Gospel gives us an image of what a healed, whole and liberated life looks like. He also comments that, in all his letters, whenever St Paul speaks of “the saints” he means “the people”, “those who have been wounded, walked through the wounding and come out the other side more alive and more whole.” Perhaps being more whole is about being holy?
So who are the saints among us?
They are the ones who stand tall in times of crisis; who reach out to others in times of need. They are women and men of principle, generosity, patience and kindness. They are the ones who are patient, forgiving and understanding. They are the ones who form us in goodness as they make visible the love of God. These are the ones we celebrate on this feast, together with the saints the Church has publicly named as saint.
And so we ask “all you abiding in the fullness of God’s presence, be with us, rejoice with us, sing praise with us, and pray with us now.
You might like to spend some time with these questions that Sr Dianne Bergant offers for reflection:
Who are the saints in your life?
What makes them holy?
Which Beatitude holds special appeal for you and why?
Annie Bond rsj
Images provided by Sr Annie Bond. Used with permission.