Hard to believe that just over 5 years ago Mary MacKillop was canonised a Saint on 17th October. One statement I remember hearing regularly in that time was that the Church does not make Saints, it recognises them.
In my transition into the Catholic Church as a convert, some questioned how I could take on a devotion to the Saints when I had not had that as a part of my tradition in the past. Along with simply taking on the beliefs of the community into which I believed God called me, one of the most enlightening considerations of the Saints came from a friend of mine. He said that his understanding of the Saints was strengthened by the many people he met in his life who were deeply committed to their faith and to their prayer life. When you had something challenging you, these were the people you asked, “Would you please say a prayer for me.” Those simple words, in the ear of a faithful person, are so encouraging.
We know many people who have those certain qualities of faith, whose prayers seem to lift us to be better people than we thought we might be and, although they have no one identifying their miracles, still have a miraculous impression on our faith and who simply bring a new power of God into our lives. This is certainly the reality of those whom the Church recognises as canonised saints.
The Feast of All Saints captures the belief of the Church that great faith is demonstrated in many people, including those who have not been recognised by the Church. They are imbued with a saintly character and move directly into the Communion of Saints. It is a day for celebrating great acts of faith, known or unknown, and for how such people inspire us.
All Souls, the day which follows, then gives the opportunity for those whose lives have not been ‘saintly’ yet, whose journey has now become caught up in the resurrected Christ in a new way. Our Catholic Bible includes the books which Luther excluded but which supported prayers for the dead. We believe that God will bring all people to himself in Jesus Christ through various journeys (Titus 2:11). God gets them in the end.
Thankfully, God gets us and may our journey become ‘saintly’.
Fr Bob Harwood