Pastoral Sharings: "All Saints"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
All Saints
Posted for November 1, 2015

When I went to India earlier in the year I visited a very interesting Church in Nagaon in the North East built by one of our priests. All around the walls there were statues of the saints. Indeed apart from it having the typical layout of a Church it resembled nothing so much as a Hindu Temple with its many Gods.

Of course, this was the idea since the Church was located in a predominantly Hindu area. The priest realized that if he was to convert any people from Hinduism he had to present them with a Church which looked somewhat familiar to them.

But, of course, his idea had other benefits since he could point to the various saints when preaching the homily and tell the people about their life stories. Neither did he neglect the Old Testament since I also saw statues of Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham and a number of the Prophets.

Another benefit was that the people worshiping in this Church would feel very much part of the Communion of Saints since they would be worshipping God surrounded by the images of a host of wonderful saints.

We have the statues of a few saints in our Church. Outside on the façade we have carvings of Our Lady and St John either side of the Calvary accompanied by St Thomas More and St Peter.

Inside the Church we’ve got very nice statues of St Joseph, St Patrick and St Anthony of Padua as well as statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. All these statues have been restored in the past year and we take this opportunity to thank those benefactors among us who have enabled this work to take place.

Throughout the Catholic Church you will find great affection for the saints among the people with many images of the saints to be found in our Churches. But this was something that the Reformers of the 16th century and the Puritans of the 17th centuries had particular difficulties with and as a result English churches suffered several severe bouts of iconoclasm, meaning the destruction of images, down through the centuries.

If you go to almost any medieval Church in England you will see empty niches which formerly housed statues of the saints. And in some places, especially those high up in the Church which couldn’t easily be reached, you will see statutes with their heads knocked off.

The accusation was of idolatry; that we Catholics worshipped images. But this is far from the truth; we see religious imagery as giving us a window through to heaven. Statues and holy pictures enable us to keep in contact with the saints and to see them as worthy followers of Christ.

The whole point of religious images is to lead us to a deeper worship of God. We don’t worship the saints or their images in themselves, what we do is to ask the saints to pray to God for us. We regard the saints as our supporters and not as objects of worship.

Also when we consider the saints we begin to feel within ourselves a great desire to be like them, to live our lives solely for God just as they did, and we find within ourselves a deep yearning to experience the glories of heaven. When we hear the stories of the saints we are inspired by their great deeds and we wish to imitate their heroic faith in God.

The task of the Church is to produce saints, to encourage each of its members to become inflamed with love for Christ and to live lives wholly dedicated to God. And the way the Church achieves this goal is principally through the sacraments.

Each Christian is invited to come ever closer to God through their celebration of the sacraments. We begin with the sacraments of initiation: Baptism and Confirmation which set us off on the right path in life and dedicates us to God’s service. Later on we are helped to achieve our vocation in life through the sacraments of Matrimony or Ordination. We are enabled to repent of our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to recover from illness or prepare for death through the Sacrament of the Sick.

But the sacrament that helps us most to achieve the stature of a saint is the Blessed Eucharist. It is through our frequent reception of the Eucharist that we are enabled to achieve closer and closer union with God. It is good to meditate frequently on the fruits of the Eucharist in order to come to a fuller appreciation of this wonderful sacrament.

Probably it is the Beatitudes which give us the clearest guide as to how to attain heaven and so join the company of the Saints. It is no mistake therefore that the Church gives us St Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes for our Gospel reading on this great feast.

The Beatitudes are like a manifesto of what it is to be a Christian. We could do no better than to take the Beatitudes as our rule of life.

It is interesting how they are phrased. Jesus does not present them as commandments or instructions or rules but rather he congratulates those who live in this way. He declares how happy or blessed are the ones who are poor in spirit or who are gentle or who mourn and so on.

By phrasing the Beatitudes in this way Jesus helps us to realize that the Christian life is truly joyous. When we hear the Beatitudes we are naturally drawn to them, we find that we want to live like this: we want to become peacemakers, or to be merciful or to hunger and thirst for what is right. We find these desires deep within ourselves and we want to make them an essential part of our lives.

Membership of the Church is the way to become a saint, belonging to the family of God and seeing ourselves as part of the Mystical Body of Christ these are the sure way to attain heaven.

The agenda of sanctity is something we should all adopt, and not just because it will carry us to heaven but also because it will make us more perfect human beings. Sainthood is not merely a spiritual reality it is also something very earthly because acquiring sainthood means that we have become fully developed human beings, more perfect citizens of this earth as well as of heaven.

The saint has all the qualities necessary to be the ideal human being. We are drawn to the saints for many reasons but one of them is certainly because they are extremely attractive people. The saint is a person who demonstrates all the qualities we regard as being those of the ideal human being, which means that they are eminently likable.  

So on this Feast of All Saints let each one of us rededicate ourselves to the life of holiness, let each one of us make it our personal ambition to become one of God’s saints. Amen.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 1, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints: Heroes

Sports are a big part of our culture here in America, as well as in many other parts of the world.   I was raised following the latest achievements of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  My parents following the triumphs  of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.  Your children follow the success of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.  We are all tempted to join the newspapers in making heros of these people.  But what they do on the playing field had little to do with who they are. 


Feast of All Saints

Matthew 5: 1–12

Gospel Summary

For the feast of All Saints we are asked to reflect on the first, and perhaps most important, verses of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. These verses have come to be called the Beatitudes. Since Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount represents the moral ideals taught by Jesus, it is most appropriate to ponder their implications when we honor all the saints, that is, those who lived those ideals in an exemplary way.

The Beatitudes strike the keynote for all of the teaching that follows in the three lengthy chapters that make up the Sermon on the Mount. It is also true that the first Beatitude offers a key to the meaning of the seven remaining Beatitudes in Matthew’s account.


Solemnity of All Saints, Year B—November 1, 2015

It has been said that the saints are God’s most beautiful works of art in human flesh and blood.  Our readings today tell us why that is true.

Gospel (Read Mt 5:1-12a)

On the day when the Church calls us to remember the long, continuous line of saints who have lived in every age since Christ walked the earth, our Gospel points us to the beatitudes.  This makes all the sense in the world, because there is perhaps no clearer picture of what is exquisitely beautiful in human life in all of Scripture than what we find here.


Pope Francis to Youth: The Bible Can Change Your Life.

Now Read It!

In a prologue for a new youth Bible, the Holy Father shared his own personal experience of daily encountering God and Jesus Christ through the Scriptures.
VATICAN CITY — The Bible is so dangerous that some Christians risk persecution to have one. But for Pope Francis, its life-changing role in daily life is important too.

“The Bible is not meant to be placed on a shelf, but to be in your hands, to read often — every day, both on your own and together with others,” he wrote in the prologue to a Bible for youth in Germany.


Why it is Great to Be Catholic

Our mothers taught us to count our blessings.

That’s not Pollyanna denial of the troubles in the world.  It’s healthy Christian faith, hope, and love.  After all, the Church herself was born in a crucible of sins and troubles when her Lord was crucified and died under a heap of shame that made Him an outcast to both Jew and pagan.  The shame only deepened in that His closest, hand-picked disciples all abandoned Him in the most cowardly way.  If there was ever a dark time in history, that day was it.


Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice: I Still Forgive You

In Christ’s relatively short ministry here on earth, He passed many teachings on to His followers. Often those whom He taught could not commit to following those teachings. His teachings were revolutionary and went against much of what the Jews had been taught all their lives.

Still, even when followers would turn away, unable to accept His instruction, Christ continued to preach God’s love, mercy, and expectations.


The Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

The Holy Rosary is often mistaken for mere vain repetition, racking up points by saying as many “Hail Marys” as possible. This could not be further from the truth. The Rosary is a way of meditating on the mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ, seen through the lens and guided by the hand of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This is the first in a series of reflections on the mysteries of the rosary, with each installment focusing on five of the 20 decades. The Joyful Mysteries cover the earliest events in the life of Our Blessed Lord, from the Incarnation through His childhood years.


Why Pray?

Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…
∼ Emily Dickinson

If hope is a virtue we cannot reach heaven without, where then is the handle we need to take hold of to get there? The answer is prayer, which is the voice of hope. It is the language we use to drive home the deepest desire of all, which is for ultimacy, for God. I like to think of it as a missile, a warhead aimed at the heart of God, propelling us straight into his kingdom.


Does Scripture Teach Us to Pray for the Departed, and to Pray to the Saints?

In regards to prayer and the Saints, Catholics do two things to which Protestants tend to object:

Praying to the Saints: Asking the Saints to pray for us, etc.

Praying for the Saints: Praying for the dead, commending their souls to God. Monday, I talked about some of the common Protestant arguments against praying to the Saints: particularly about how these objections tend to be rooted in faulty views of the afterlife. But I didn’t address what’s perhaps the most common objection to both types of prayers, which is some variation of “But where do we see that in the Bible?” We saw Monday that Scripture doesn’t condemn these prayers, but neither does it commend them … right?


Five Ways to Improve Your Prayer Life

How much time and energy is exerted in obtaining a degree from some prestigious University?  How much blood, sweat and tears are expended to win a trophy from some sporting event? How much time and energy can even be consumed in preparing for a surprise Birthday party?   If we can expend so much time, money, emotional and physical energy for such natural pursuits, should we not at least expend more of our time and energy in what is the greatest of all arts, “The art of all arts” and that is learning the Practice of Prayer?


What is a Charism? (Part I of II)

The mere title itself begs a definition but that definition is dependent on the context in which the word is used. Most persons, if at a loss for an exact definition, would perhaps at least associate the word with charisma or charismatic. But each of these words has its own fine tuning of definition.

Charism is frequently associated with the spirituality of religious institutes and this understanding of it will be addressed at another time. Here we will define it as a gift of the Holy Spirit given in a particular way to an individual or to a group to build up the Kingdom of God for the good of the Church.


The Stumbling Block of False Apparitions

I love my Catholic faith so much that the idea of knowing inside information attracted my attention.  Since the Church approved messages of Fatima and Lourdes impacted my life in a positive way it seemed that more would be better.  But false apparitions are fool’s gold—all the glitter of heaven but underneath they are not from God.

After enthusiastically following messages that eventually unraveled, I’ve come to realize that the Church ultimately provides all that I need.


Why Doesn’t the Church Infallibly Interpret Every Verse of Scripture?

Protestant apologists will often pose this question to Catholics: If your Church is really infallible, why does it not just interpret every last verse of Scripture for us? It has had two thousand years to do so. If it cannot do so, what good is infallibility to me?

Most often they will raise this question in the context of a discussion of authority. The Catholic will say, “Without the infallible Magisterium as a guide, all you have is your private interpretation of Scripture. That is why there are so many countless denominations out there.”

The Protestant will counter, “Unless your Church will interpret every verse of Scripture for you, you have no more than your private interpretation, either.”

It seems to be an impasse. How does one work through it?


Top Twenty St. John Paul II Quotes

October 22 is the feast of Saint John Paul II. Here are my all-time top twenty favorite quotes from Saint John Paul II:

1.  “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

2. “True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.”

3.  “When the cross is embraced it becomes a sign of love and of total self-giving. To carry it behind Christ means to be united with him in offering the greatest proof of love … the choice is between a full life and an empty existence, between truth and falsehood.”
~ Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Day, February 2001.


On “Divine Knowledge”

In an “inquiry” addressed to Thalassius (a Syrian hermit), Maximus the Confessor (d. 662 A.D.) states: “He (Christ) has designated holy Church the lampstand, over which the word of God sheds light through preaching, and illuminates with the rays of truth whoever is in the house which is the world, and fills the minds of all men with divine knowledge.” We read such ancient words and ask ourselves: What is this “divine knowledge” of which Maximus speaks?


The Saints and Overcoming Grief

You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice;
you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy….
I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy from you.

John 16:20, 22

A talented painter once gave an unforgettable performance in front of an admiring audience. With rapid strokes of his brush, he quickly and skillfully painted a beautiful country scene, replete with green meadows, golden fields of grain, farm buildings in the distance, peaceful trees, and a friendly blue sky punctuated with soft, white clouds. As he stepped back from his easel, the audience burst into appreciative applause — only to be silenced by the art­ist, who announced, “The picture is not complete.”


Purgatory 101

If terms like hell, sin, and judgment have become unpopular in our culture, the idea of purgatory is positively radioactive.

Many people have a hard time grasping how an all-good God could allow people to spend eternity in damnation. It may be even harder to understand how people who are saved from such damnation end up suffering punishment anyways on their way to heaven—which is not an all-together unfair characterization of what purgatory is.

As confounding as it may at first seem, the doctrine of purgatory is actually simple at its core and also has a solid foundation in the Bible. Here are the essentials of what the Church has taught on purgatory.


Seventh Spiritual Work of Mercy: Praying for the Living and Dead

The final spiritual work of mercy is surprisingly simple and accessible to all: “pray for the living and the dead.” However, at the same time it is very easy to forget in a culture where we are taught to be independent and divorced from our past.

First of all, while “praying for the living” is a practice accepted by almost all Christians, the modern world is constantly telling us to feed our own appetites before even thinking about other people. Unknowingly, we revert to a “me” centered prayer life. We ask, and ask, and ask, and ask and get annoyed with God when He does not give us what we want.

A Woman Gave a Great Dinner to Which She Invited Many

Kari Duane inherently understands the parable of the wedding banquet.

And I think we all can learn something from her.

Kari Duane is the 53-year-old mother of Quinn Duane. Quinn was engaged to a young man named Landon Burop, and they had planned to be married October 17 in a lavish California wedding.

Just days before the wedding Landon got cold feet and called off the wedding.


Help Me Understand Attacks of the Devil (Part II of II)

Editor’s Note:  In part I, we looked at the first strategy of the devil in the spiritual struggle: corrupting the heart.  Today, we will examine the second and third strategies: turning aside the will and getting us to give up.  Here is the question we are considering:

Dear Father John,  I seem to be constantly tempted to, or away from, one thing or another.  I would like to arm myself as much as possible against this spiritual darkness.  Would you help me understand attacks of the devil?


Burying the Dead as an Affirmation of Life

The growing tendency to resort to cremation is eroding the longstanding Christian tradition of burying the dead. One who considers both the sources of this tradition and Church teaching finds good reason for the Church’s belief that burial is strongly recommended over cremation. Regardless of what the supposed benefits of cremation may be, we would do well to consider both relevant Church teaching on the matter and possible unintended effects of the trend toward cremation. In truth, a reverent burial of the dead is consonant with, and supportive of, a pro-life worldview.


Fearing the Silence

Why do we fear coming to God? Why does turning to God come only once we have no where else to turn in our trials?

Rather than God being first, we turn instead to friends, family, spouses, culture, society, and only when other sources are exhausted do we turn to Christ in prayer. Obviously, these all could very well be God-given avenues of advice and comfort, but He wants us to bring all things to Him, especially in the moments we are most afraid to come to Him.


When Death Knocked on Her Husband’s Door

Beth stared out the hospital blinds as the sunrise crept through. The beauty of it did not register with her as her thoughts raced, wondering how her husband was doing, and how long it would be until things were back to normal. Finally, the doctor came in. “Please step out into the hallway with me,” he said.

At last we’ll get some answers and figure out what we need to do to get through this, Beth thought. She stepped out and the nurse that was with her followed. The doctor’s thick Kenyan accent made him difficult to understand. Without emotion, as if it were a trivial matter, the doctor said, “You’re husband has six months to live.”

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