Thursday, November 1, 2012

Solemnity of All Saints

Msgr. Jack Stewart and I worked together, off and on, for some twenty years. In all that time I never saw him commit a venial sin. Never a sign of impatience, an unkind word, a hint of self-indulgence.

For many of those years, despite his position as the vicar general of the archdiocese, he lived in a simple room at the back of a rather dilapidated rectory, cooking his meals in a well-used crock-pot. He was observably faithful to his prayers, diligent in his priestly duties, and a model of humble service in every way.

But he wasn't most people's idea of a saint--he could be long-winded and his personality was not dynamic, and much of his virtue was concealed from view. Nevertheless, he was holy to the core and in many ways heroic in both everyday life and in facing the challenges of cancer which claimed him at 75.

Remembering Msgr. Stewart on this great feast of All Saints, makes me think of four things. The first is the universal call to holiness--the important fact that every one of us, whether priest or lay, married or single, young or old, is called to live forever in heaven.

The second is that we can reach this goal just by living out the demands that life places before us. "Doing the daily" is an expression used to describe meeting our basic commitments to ourselves, others, and God. No-one needs special challenges to live their baptismal calling: daily duties, performed with charity and effort, form us as saints.

If holiness was a rare achievement, we wouldn't need a feast of All Saints!  We could fit them all on the Church calendar.

The third thing this day reminds us is that the saints weren't perfect. Sometimes their lives give the impression of that, but there's nowhere in our Catholic tradition that says saints never sinned. All I said about Msgr. Stewart was that I never saw him sin--I didn't say he never sinned, and I certainly saw his slow style tempt others to commit a sin or two! If you think that holiness equals perfection, you'll quickly become discouraged and abandon any plans of becoming a saint yourself.

Finally, today we celebrate the friendship of the saints. While we try to be friends of the canonized men and women whom we most admire, very rarely have we met them (although I had the privilege of meeting two recent Blesseds, Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa).  But we've all met the unsung saints on our journey through life, and we can truly feel their closeness and experience our communion with them.

Both the example and the intercession of all the saints are great sources of Christian hope and joy, and we're blessed to have this annual reminder of the place they have in our lives. In the wonderful words of the great English writer Msgr. Ronald Knox, "When you look out on a November evening, and see the sky all studded with stars, think of those innumerable saints in heaven, all ready to help you."

1 comment:

  1. Msgr. Smith

    Just found this in my "spam" folder. Gail sent it to me. Of course I "unspammed" it. This brings back many memories of Msgr. Stewart. Thank you for remembering him and bringing him to the attention of others. I never saw him commit a venial sin either (I think the only person who tempted him to sin was Sister Catherine). He had a way of dealing with even the most exasperating people in that special way of his. And he had the most subtle sense of humor that some never quite got, like Sister. He would make his wry comments, then she would go off downstairs and he would look at me with that twinkle in his eye and give me a wink. Lil