Church Life,  Faith and Life,  The Saints

A Luminous Reflection

Relics of the Saints displayed in the Pantheon, Rome. Image © Will Ross

Pope Francis spoke today and he touched on a subject he has mentioned on many occasions in the past. He spoke about holiness and reminded us that it is not something only for the greatest among us, but is an invitation extended to each and every one of us.

He said –

A saint is a luminous reflection of the Lord of history.
The path of holiness is universal.
It is a call directed toward each of us that begins with Baptism
and is unique and unrepeatable for each person.

Christianity is itself the seeking to be a reflection of the Lord, so that something of His own divine light is seen within us; holiness is the invitation to embrace that path fully, so that we are ablaze with the light of the Lord, in a way which the Church describes as ‘heroic’. The Church uses this precise word because it reflects the reality – holiness is certainly possible, but it is not easy.

Pope Francis has written at some length about our call to walk the path to holiness in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate – On The Call To Holiness in Today’s World”. This is a very beautiful and encouraging document, written like the letter of a beloved grandfather – I greatly recommend it to anyone who has not yet read it, as well as to anyone who seeks to be holy, or who is not sure of what holiness consists. Holiness is very different to the image we may have of it.

It is tempting for us to think that true sanctity is not really possible in this present day and age. And yet we are mistaken if we believe this – every age has it’s own saints, both the canonised and the entirely unknown; they tend to be the reminders of what is possible in any age, of what is good and true and holy, and they point out a path which is contrary to the spirit of any particular age and which leads to Heaven.

The ‘luminous reflection’ part of the Holy Father’s words remind us clearly of one crucial thing – holiness is not our work. The light with which the Saints shine is not their own, but reflects the light of the Lord. They reflect that light in a pure way, because they place no obstacles in its path. And so, like diamonds, that divine light enters them, sparkles brightly and consistently within them and then dazzles all around them with it’s brilliance.

We may think that even if sanctity is actually possible, even today, then it is not for us. And yet the call to holiness is – as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us – truly universal. No-one is excluded or excepted from this call. The invitation is placed before us in Baptism, the sacrament in which we are made “priest, prophet and king”, which roles we are expected to live out thereafter.

Holiness is the antithesis of the spirit of the world – it is, therefore, ‘counter-cultural’. It is not what the world expects; and it is not what the world wants, at least in one sense – because it shows the true spirit of the world in a dark light, standing greatly in contrast to the spirit of the Kingdom of God. But in another sense, such holiness does indeed dazzle the world – the brilliance of the diamond of holiness is incredibly attractive. In fact, the Holy Father has previously said that “holiness is the most attractive face of the Church”. And he is absolutely right.

It may be that we are never remembered by the Church with a feast day, that our relics are never placed in the altars of Churches, and our names are never known to the world – but then, that is not what holiness is about. Rather, holiness is a path we walk day after day, in hiddenness and in silence, loving God and neighbour above self, and making use of every possible opportunity to deepen that love ever more perfectly, for no reason other than the Lord invites us to do so. Holiness is our response to his divine call – remember, it is His work, not ours.

Speaking today in the winter of 2022, almost sixty years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, our Holy Father is giving us the same message as those Council Fathers who were gathered in Rome – that we are all called to be holy.

This is a good time to stop and listen and to decide what our response to that call will be.


Catholic | Retired Nurse | UK

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