This week, our Catholic faith celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints (a.k.a. “All Saints’ Day”). Our faith does, indeed, teach us that there is a whole host of people who are in Heaven enjoying the Beatific Vision, aside from those whom the Church has declared specifically (that is, canonized). This is the day in our liturgical year when we celebrate those men and women.
This annual celebration always provides an opportunity for me to think about the saints whom I have known, those men and women who have led holy lives but who haven’t been officially canonized. Every year, I come to understand more and more fully that I have known legitimate saints. And I come to understand that the list of such people is growing year after year. So, I want to tell you briefly about a couple of the saints whom I have known, and I want to remind you of how you should act to commemorate any saints whom you have known.
One man whom I am quite certain occupies a place in the communion of saints is Dale. I am fairly certain that Dale’s prayers for me are one of the biggest reasons that I am now Catholic. He prayed me into the Church!
When I attended Dale’s funeral, I didn’t pray for the repose of his soul as I usually do at funerals. Instead, I asked Dale to pray for me because I had a powerful sense that he was already enjoying full communion with God, and that I need his help to attain the same. This is one of the key markers of a saint: that we ask for their prayers because we know they have a direct and deep connection with the Lord.
Another saint I have known is Patsy. Patsy was on my RCIA team at the parish where I work. She liked to claim that she was the longest-serving RCIA team member in the United States. For thirty-five years she came faithfully to assist in shepherding people into the Church. She was so dedicated that she even escaped nursing home security on several occasions to be there!
From Patsy I learned the value of suffering for the Lord and for others. Not only did I learn the value of it, but I learned the way to do it. Patsy lived in terrible pain. For the last several months that I knew her, she lived with a fracture in her hip. Yet, she always greeted me and RCIA candidates joyfully, offering her prayers for our sufferings and never mentioning hers. I cannot think of a person I have known who suffered more, yet who brought more light to groups of people who were searching for truth.
There are probably other legitimate saints whom I have known in my relatively short life. I’m sure there are saints whom my readers have known, too. So, how should we approach and honor these holy men and women?
The first thing that we can do is to tell their stories. The only way that the saints have become popular, powerful intercessors on our behalf is because we have come to know their stories. We have connected with them about particular details. We should do the same with these yet-to-be-canonized saints. Tell about their lives. Tell about their habits of holiness. Tell about their heroic suffering and even-more-heroic virtue. That will allow more people to know them, love them, and ask for their intercession.
Asking for their intercession is exactly the thing to do next. After all, we believe that the saints have special intercessory power; and we believe that these men and women are saints. Our litanies of saints shouldn’t only contain Michael, Benedict, Francis, and Teresa. We should include the Dales and Patsies whom we know. How will the necessary miracles be attributed to their intercession if we do not begin asking them to intercede for us?
Finally, we must ask these holy men and women to share with us the communion that they are already experiencing. We have the ability, and the right, to ask them to show us the way to the Father. Dale can show me the way by devoted prayer to God through the Blessed Mother. Patsy can show me the way of redemptive suffering. I need to ask them constantly to help me learn those truths, and to help me come to see and know the Trinity more fully.
The modern world is a difficult place, and it only will get more difficult because of the crisis of faith and secularism that we are facing. If we are to face that crisis, and to overcome it, we need to call upon the intercession of those who already stand and worship before the throne of God. We need the help of Augustines and Aquinases as well as the help of Dales and Patsies. Let’s begin by asking them simply, “Pray for us.”