The Saints

Present Tense Saints

For two thousand years, the Catholic faith has proposed to every one of us that we are called to become Saints. When the Lord walked the earth, He counselled us – “Be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Mt.5:48). A saint is a person who has faithfully walked that way of perfection of which the Lord speaks, reaching Heaven as it’s conclusion.

And so if the Lord tells us to ‘be’ perfect, then it may be hard to achieve – but it is at least possible.

It’s all too easy for us to think about the Saints in Heaven in the past tense; they have been and gone, even if today we give them a brief thought. We ask their help in specific matters, but I wonder how often we truly look to them as our friends and our guides along the path of life, as examples whose virtues we are supposed to try to imitate, our teachers in exactly how to ‘be holy’.

Yet when we profess our faith in the Creed, we speak of them in the present tense – “I believe.. in the Communion of Saints”. So the Church is giving us a clear message there – the age of holiness has not passed; the call persists and the possibility of answering it remains.

Perhaps that is one reason why each age produces it’s own saints, each of them seeming to answering a question posed by the time in which they lived – and often, their lives standing in stark contrast to the spirit of their age.

Be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect

We also think more often of the canonised variety of Saints – those whom the Church has placed before us as exemplars, the very act of canonisation being a declaration that they are now in Heaven; but there are many other saints, also – these ones not canonised.

And not all saints are dead – you may well know (or know of) certain people who have a deep reputation for authentic holiness. I can think of one or two of whom I am aware, and I am reasonably certain that these people are living in a deeply holy manner, even if they will never be raised to the honours of the Altar nor given a feast day for the world to celebrate and remember them.

Further, there are those souls who live deeply holy lives but who are perfectly hidden within the world; you will never know their names nor recognise their faces, but the Lord knows them and He keeps them busy with His own work on behalf of the world. Such souls are His gentle light in the world and they support the world by means of their prayer and sacrifice.

In his exceptional Apostolic Exhortation entitled “Gaudete et Exsultate – on the call to holiness in today’s world”, Pope Francis reminds us that “holiness, then, is not about swooning in mystic rapture” – rather, it is about contemplating the face of Christ, especially in the faces of all those around us. Holiness of life consists of loving God and loving neighbour, doing this constantly and to an heroic degree, day in and day out.

This extraordinary document of the Holy Fathers explodes some of the persistent myths about what holiness looks like, and it outlines a way to live a life of real holiness. In short, it reminds us that even in this day and age, the Lord is still calling every single one of us to answer that ‘universal call to holiness’ of which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council spoke.

Perhaps on this Solemnity of All Saints, we might ask our heavenly friends to pray for us and obtain for us whatever graces we need that will encourage us to answer that call, to follow that example, to become holy, as our Father in Heaven is perfect.



Catholic | Retired Nurse | UK

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