INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
Today we honour, not just the canonised saints, who are likely to be well known, but all the uncanonised ones, who are unknown and unrecognised. Every one of us has known a saintly person. Let us pause briefly to recall one person, now dead, whose life inspired us. [Pause]
Lord, you make us holy by helping us to be gentle and merciful in our dealings with other people. Lord, have mercy.
You make us holy by helping us to be pure of heart and makers of peace. Christ have mercy.
You make us holy by awakening within us a hunger for what is right. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Apocalypse 72249-14). Here we have a vision of the victorious followers of Christ rejoicing in his presence in the heavenly Kingdom. They come from every nation, race, tribe, and language.
Second Reading (1 John 321-3). St John tells us that in heaven we shall see God as he is. However, if we want to attain to this vision we must live like Christ.
Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12). Here Jesus stresses the qualities he wishes to see in his disciples, qualities we see exemplified in the lives of the saints.
The saints have played a central role in the growth and development of the Christina faith. They were people who dared live the life of a Christian. Therefore, it is important that the story of their deeds be kept alive in the Christian community. However, wrongly understood, devotion to the saints becomes a hindrance rather than a help. It’s easy to turn the saints into mere objects of cult, or to use them simply as a means of obtaining favours.
There was a monk by the name of Damian who lived in a shack in the hills. Though he was said to be very holy, the vast generality of people dismissed him as odd, if not actually insane. The real reason they dismissed him was because his life was a reproach to them, and they knew they could never live as he lived. Damian had some admirers. These revered him for his simplicity, gentleness, and deep Spirituality, and often came to him for advice and guidance.
From time to time his admirers sought to honour him, but he would have none of it. He was accustomed to say: ‘Don’t honour me, honour Christ. Don’t imitate rne, imitate Christ. He must increase, I must decrease. He is the original, I am only a pale copy’.
Eventually he died. He was hardly buried when a vigorous cult sprang up and a frantic hunt for relics got under way. One man got his walking stick. Another his pen. Another his shoes. Another his well-worn copy of the Gospels which, by the way, he immediately locked away. Another got his spiritual diary. However, since it contained no accounts of visions or miracles, but only the sparse account of his struggle to die to his false self and to live to his true self, having read it hurriedly he put it away and never opened it again.
The shack of course was turned into a shrine. People came there from far and near, most of them drawn only by curiosity. A few came to pray, hoping that some of Damian’s holiness might somehow rub off on them. In the local church his body was preserved. It was here that the real cult was centered. Every year a solemn novena was held in his honour. It concluded with the blessing of the saint’s hand.
A scholar wrote a biography of the man who was now openly referred to as ‘the saint’. It enjoyed a hugh circulation. In it the author laid out all there was to be known about the details of the saint’s life, right down to the exact times he got up and went to bed.
Thus it went on. The cause of his canonisation was introduced. The people who dismissed him as odd while he was alive now became the greatest advocates of his cause. If only they could get him canonised, they would thereby remove him so far from them they would feel dispensed from any serious attempt at imitating him.
There was, however, one man who shunned all this. He hadn’t a single relic of the saint. He had never read his biography, nor had he made the solemn novena. But he remembered what the saint had said: ‘Don’t imitate me, imitate Christ. He is the original, I’m only a pale copy’. He was the only one who allowed the saint to change his life.
It’s easy to get devotion to the saints all out of focus, so that they become objects of superstition and sterile cult. They become people who are good to know because they are close to the Boss and, therefore, may be able to obtain favours and cheap graces for us.
Of course the saints can win favours for us. But we must get our priorities right. They should first serve as models for us in our following of Christ. They should not be used to provide us with shortcuts and ways of evading the hard slog and the narrow road.
The Church sets them up as models precisely because they imitated Christ. They are reminders to us of what life is about. They encourage us. They inspire us. And yes, they intercede for us, so that we may be bolder in walking the path of the Gospel.
Of what use would it be to boast about what a great devotion we have to a particular saint if this devotion does not change our lives?
‘Of what good is the Word of Christ without an example?’ (Dostoyevsky).
‘What great prophets have said is forgotten, but what heroes and saints have done is still remembered’. (Thoreau).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
The saints show us that, in spite of our weakness, it is possible with God’s grace to live like Christ. Let us pray to our heavenly Father for the grace to imitate them. R. Lord, hear our prayer.
For the Church: that all its members may realise that the holiness is the most important thing in life. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For all our leaders: that the saints may inspire them to be gentle and merciful, wise and prudent, in the exercise of their responsibilities. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For all those who are suffering persecution because they are living the Gospel. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
That our devotion to the saints may bring us closer to Christ, the model of all true holiness. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, with the saints to inspire and guide us, and with Christ to help us, may we seek after holiness, and so live lives that are worthy of you. We make our prayers through Christ our Lord.
The Spiritual life is the life of one’s real self.
We cannot become holy if we are false.
We can only become holy by being ourselves,
our ordinary selves.
The saints take on various forms,
and this is as it should be.
We do not come out of a common mould.
Each of us is an original.
Our supreme task in life is to draw out
all that is authentic and truly our own.
Alas, many people go through life
with a pale copy of their true selves,
whereas if they walked the way of the saints
they could have the original itself.
The saints were holy because they Were themselves.
They show us what human beings are capable of
when they are true to all that is best in them.
They even give us a glimpse of God himself
because his image shines out through them.