In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis canonized a married couple, Louis and Marie-Zelie Martin on October 18 as part of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Rarely have married couples been canonized, especially parents who had children. By doing this our Holy Father once again reminds us that holiness is within the reach of everyone, no matter our state in life. This couple reached heroic holiness in their own life and at the same time gave a great saint to the Church, St Therese of Lisieux.
Every year on November 1st we celebrate the Feast of All the Saints. This year the solemnity falls on a Sunday. It is an occasion to remember all those who have been glorified. These are the unsung and unrecognized heroes of holiness. They are not officially canonized by the Church and no altars or churches are built in their honor. They are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, single, married and celibate. They hail from all sorts of vocations and occupations and have reached their God-given destiny in spite of the challenges they faced in their respective call in life. Everyone who is in heaven is a saint.
On November 2nd we remember our dear departed as we pray for the souls in purgatory. These are the saints on the way. Right now they are undergoing a process of purification but they endure their testing with the hope that they will be with the Lord soon. Even as we admire them, we pray that their sojourn in that intermediary place will be short. We loved them in life and now we must assist them in death with our prayers.
November 1st also reminds us that each one of us is called to be holy. Often St Paul reminded his Christians that they were called to be saints. In the Old Testament, God reminded the people of Israel:
For I am the LORD your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming creature that moves on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45)
In the New Testament, St Peter reiterates the call of God in Leviticus:
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16)
In the concrete, how do we become holy? There is only one place in the gospels where Jesus issues the call “Learn from Me.” The Master says, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” To be holy means to become like Jesus. The Lord asks us to imitate especially his humility and his compassion. If we can be humble and compassionate like Jesus, then we are holy.
To be humble we need to become a servant. Others’ needs should be more important to us than our own. We should be ready to wash others’ feet. We should allow ourselves to be treated like servants and not protest. As the gospels say, we should be willing to humble ourselves just like Jesus and Mary.
To be compassionate, we need to learn to love like the Father. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus challenges His disciples: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Can we even dream that we can be perfect like our Heavenly Father? No. What does Jesus mean? The Father loves everyone, without any discrimination. He makes the sun shine on the just and the unjust, and makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust. We too must imitate the Father and love everyone, no matter who they are. When we become like Jesus who welcomed everyone including sinners, prostitutes and tax-collectors, then we become holy.
As we recall the saints we have known – in our families, parishes and communities – let us not forget to pray for those who may be still awaiting their reward. Let us dedicate the month of November to all the souls in purgatory. It is a commendable Catholic practice to offer Masses for our dearly departed during this month.
To become saints is the ultimate goal of our lives. All other choices and decisions that we make should be geared towards the realization of that singular goal. It is so easy to get distracted and forget that our final home is in heaven. As parents, as spouses, our fundamental duty is to ensure that our children and our spouses will get to Paradise. The words of Jesus in the gospel should ring constantly in our ears: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul?”
May we – both as individuals and as the parish family – constantly grow in holiness!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...