Nicole Grimes as Blessed Kateri
I really like the feast of All Saints and enjoy celebrating it. One reason is because the Feast of All Saints is a big tent feast. Everybody is in it. We are all together. While we haven’t achieved eternal life, we are certainly candidates for it. We are on our way, and most important today is that we are on our way together.
Another reason why I like the feast is that I grew up in a parish named All Saints. My mother was in the parish when it started in 1907. It was a young diverse Catholic community out on the northern edge of Houston and about three miles from downtown. Today, All Saints would be considered an inner-city parish but it has a lot of life. Gentrification has made it young again.
We are a very mobile society and over the course of several decades, Catholics might live in a good many parishes. That is understandable but there is a certain sadness to it, since it causes so many of us to be spiritually rootless.
All Saints was a marker in my life. My mother, father and three siblings were buried from that church. I made my First Communion, Confirmation and celebrated my first Mass as a priest at the altar of All Saints. Later, as a bishop, it would be the first church where I would celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. To me, All Saints in the Houston Heights is a sacred place that provided me with clear markers for my spiritual journey.
All Saints! Such a crowd. Think of it- millions, millions, and millions of men and women who faced an unbelievable range of difficulties and burdens in this life but maintained their faith in Jesus Christ or lived good lives according to their consciences. Not all the saints are saints at this moment. All of us are, however, on the journey to sanctity and we are on that journey together!
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Catholicism sees itself as an enormous family of faith. I mentioned in an earlier blog that one of the things that I love about day-to-day Catholicism is our firm belief in the Communion of Saints; that those of us here on earth, and those who have gone before us and are with God, can be united by prayer and the saints assist us by their intercession before the throne of God, and by the example that they had given to us while they were among us. Through this firm belief about an interaction between heaven and earth, there has developed a secondary belief or practice; namely, that saints with whom we feel a special relationship, either because they are our patron or they did the same type of work that we did, are concerned about and respond to our requests that they join their prayers to ours as we worship the infinite God. St. Thomas More is the patron of lawyers. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine are patrons of scholars. Black teenagers have St. Charles Lwanga. It is interesting – it is almost like having a lobbyist in heaven!
The above facts are going to affect the way the liturgy manifests itself in the next few months. Pentecost and several of the major Christological feasts are behind us and we are going into that second half of the year, which simply passes by the rather bland title, “Ordinary Time.” We say it is ordinary because the exciting seasons that centered on the coming of Jesus, his saving work, his resurrection and return to his heavenly Father are all behind us. The mood of these seasons will not appear again until December. However, the Church doesn’t want us to fall asleep so it scatters into the liturgy the lives of wonderful men and women who have gone before us and the Church asks us to look at them, to use their example, to attempt to walk in their footsteps the way that they walked in the footsteps of Jesus, and to live lives that are based on faith.
A joint feast, marking two of the most extraordinarily lives, is soon coming up. I am talking about the Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, which we will celebrate on June 29th.
Peter and Paul – the Catholic Church always puts them together. They are the basic rocks, bricks, slabs, foundation on which the Church of the first century would be built. Peter would work in the Jerusalem area and then move on to Rome while Paul would cover a great deal of the eastern half of the Mediterranean. They laid a marvelous foundation and they brought the message of Jesus to the people of that period and ultimately both of them would die for their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul would be decapitated and, tradition has it, that Peter would be executed upside down, as he did not feel worthy to die in the same way as his Lord.
How blessed we were to have them among us and how much we need men and women today to imitate their burning desire to tell the world the joyous news of Jesus of Nazareth.
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