Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Apollinaris, a bishop and martyr. He was sent by Peter to be the first bishop of Ravenna, Italy. He preached the Gospel so well that he infuriated the pagans, leading them to beat and exile him. But he returned. Not once, not twice, but three times. Every time he returned, the pagans beat him and sent him away. The last time he returned, he was martyred. May the Lord give us courage to do what must be done in the face of evil.
“Never say, ‘What great things the saints do,’ but, ‘What great things God does in His saints.'”
– St. Philip Neri
“As we adore you, O God, who alone are holy
and wonderful in all your Saints,
we implore your grace,
so that, coming to perfect holiness in the fullness of your love,
we may pass from this pilgrim table
to the banquet of our heavenly homeland.
Through Christ our Lord.”
– Prayer After Communion, Solemnity of All Saints
Today the Holy Church celebrates All Saints Day.
We celebrate the saints,
that “great multitude which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue”
that glorious “cloud of witnesses,”
the citizenship of heaven,
the assembly of the patriarchs,
the ranks of the apostles,
the host of the prophets,
the council of the apostles,
the mass of martyrs,
the noble company of confessors,
the choirs of virgins,
the company of the blesseds,
the congregation in the promised land.
We celebrate the glorious, faithful saints,
men and women who never lost their thirst for God,
who served him faithfully and fiercely,
the famous and the forgotten,
the old and the young,
the popular and the not,
the popes and the peasants,
the religious and the remnants,
the mothers and the fathers,
the holy innocents and the repentant guilties.
St. Bernard said something like this: I tell you, when I think of all those saints, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning to be among their number.
May it be so for us!
When I was younger, I thought Halloween costumes were only for young kids. There seems to be a trend these days that older kids dress up, too. I dressed up as Pope Francis this past week. Had some issues with the mitre, hence this scratch. I also thought, when I was younger, that what we celebrate today and tomorrow–All Saints and All Souls–were for old people. My vision of a saint was the church ladies who yelled at us kids for being noisy, or those long-bearded fellows one sees in religion books. I think this is a common understanding of All Saints and All Souls: these are feasts for the old folks.
It’s interesting, then, that the Holy Church should give us readings about baptism today, on this day set aside to remember All Saints. The first reading reveals to us a vision from St. John. What a vision! “I had a vision,” John says, “of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” This is a vision of the Christian faithful, from every tribe and race and age and place, all gathered into one in Christ. Here comes everybody, as James Joyce put it, that is the church.
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.
Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!
All over Facebook this morning was this fantastic little poem, attributed to Pope Francis:
We need saints without veil or cassock.
We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers.
We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends.
We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their power.
We need saints who have time everyday to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity.
We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality that is part of our time.
We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social changes.
We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world.
We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to CDs.
We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.
We need saints who like movies, the theater, music, dance, sports.
We need saints who are social, open, normal, friendly, happy and who are good companions.
We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world.
Evidently, according to CNA, the pope was reciting a poem that was already written, one inspired by the late Pope John Paul II.
In any event, the authorship doesn’t matter.
Its message is dead on.
Let’s pray for saints. And for the millions gathered at World Youth Day right now!