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.http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2306
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
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.