FROM THE PASTOR
November 2, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler
A hymn I knew as a child says of the holy ones:
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.
It may be a bit simple, but it is true that saints have been in most ordinary circumstances, which is why most of them have gone unnoticed. Canonization makes some of them conspicuous, but they really are “just folk like me” with one difference: they were more alive than others. That is called living in a state of grace to an heroic degree. All violinists have fingers, but not all produce the same music. A lot of boys play ball, but not all end up in the World Series. The problem with that analogy, however, is that the athlete’s exceptional proficiency is attained by natural talent that is developed by hard work.
The saints also have various kinds of natural talent, but no amount of work can match the supernatural grace that produces the spiritual hero. Christ was not superhuman. He was perfectly human. But that humanity is joined to divinity. “Sanctifying grace” allows that mysterious unity to dwell in the soul. St. Paul wrote: “. . . it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Holiness is not ordinary, but our Lord wants it to be available for the asking. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said that to be a saint you need only to give God permission.
All Souls’ Day follows All Saints’ Day as a reminder that there still is a chance for many, perhaps most, Christians to join the ranks of the saints in the ineffable joy of being with God forever in the Beatific Vision. Purgatory is a blessed state of preparation for that. This year the Feast of All Souls falls on a Sunday and is a celebration because the departed souls in the “Church Expectant” have the assurance of attaining eternal joy. There is no fasting on any Sunday, and so the liturgy of the Faithful Departed is a feast, in anticipation of an even greater feast which is the Heavenly Banquet.
During a recent comic book convention here in the neighborhood, I saw someone dressed as the Grim Reaper, in painted paleface and black robe. While waiting for a traffic light, this amiable spook accidentally knocked a bystander with his cardboard scythe and said, “Excuse me.” There the masquerade was clear, for when impolite mortality takes its toll, there is no apology. Death is death. But the holy souls need not fear that, for the Good Shepherd is greater than any Bad Spectre. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
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