My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It’s great to be home
As many of you know, I was in Rome for most of the month of October. I had the honor to be a delegate to the Synod of Bishops on marriage and the family.
It was a great blessing for me to be with our Holy Father Pope Francis and also my brother bishops, who were about 270 bishops from more than 110 countries. I know, obviously, Pope Francis was very welcoming and he was a blessing because he was working with us almost every day.
We had this general congregation with all the participants — 270 bishops and then about 50 experts and another 50-60 men and women that were witnessing and giving presentations about marriage and the family.
So it was a beautiful gathering. I wrote about it in my column this week in The Tidings, so I’m not going to say too much about it. But obviously it was a great moment for the church to be together and reflect on the needs of marriage and the family. And especially — and that’s what Pope Francis wanted: finding new ways to accompany young couples getting prepared for marriage, young newlywed couples, and everyone because marriage and family as we know are so important in God’s plan for our lives and for society.
But believe me, I am happy to be home. It was too long!
During the Synod, on one of the Sundays — the Sunday that we began our final week of work — as you probably know, Pope Francis canonized a married couple: Louis and Zélie Martin. They were parents of nine children and one of them is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.”
And I was thinking as we celebrate today the feast of the Solemnity of All Saints, that they are a beautiful sign of today’s feast day.
Because All Saints, my dear brothers and sisters, is our feast. Your feast and mine. Because all of us are called to be saints. That’s not just a nice thought or a good idea. It is the goal of our lives. It’s why God made us. To be saints.
Sounds like something impossible, but it is our call.
So day, as celebrate this beautiful solemnity, as I said before, it is a good day to reflect on the intercession of the saints that we have in the tapestries, a beautiful example of the Communion of Saints. But also reflect on our own call to become saints.
Because the saints are not “perfect” people. Even when you just look at these beautiful tapestries we can see that the saints are “normal” people. They’re just like us.
Think about these new two saints, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. They are not saints because they did miracles or great things. They were not canonized because they had a daughter who was a saint. In fact, they had a simple, humble hidden life. He had a job, so did she. He was a watchmaker and she was a lacemaker.
Their life was just a totally normal life, rooted in the normal rhythms of daily Mass and everyday duties. Exactly the same things that we all do everyday: earning a living, making meals, doing the housework. Teaching the children, serving in the community, spending time together as a family.
That’s who they were, and that’s who we are. They were ordinary spouses and parents, trying to live faithfully the teachings of the Church and relying on the grace of the Sacraments. And that’s the way we become holy.
Sometimes we think of the saints as having some — I don’t know — some special lives or it’s difficult sometimes for us to relate if we don’t really understand and think what it is to be a saint.
The call to holiness is just a call to be faithful to God in the ordinary things of our lives.
So we are called to be “everyday saints.” So the question for us today: so what make a saint? What it is that’s special? Do we have to have special graces or perform miracles or be just super holy? What is it?
I always think of two things: the first is love. The saints know the love of God and they want to share that love.
In the second reading that we heard today, St. John talks about this love. He says:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The saints know that God is our loving Father and that we are his beloved sons and daughters. And the saints know that God made all of us to be with him — to live as one family of God in his Church.
So that’s the first thing about the saints. Love. The second thing, in my understanding about the saints — or how to become a saint — is service.
In the first reading that we heard this morning, from the Book of Revelation, the saints are called “servants of our God.” That means the saints know they have a mission, a purpose in life. The children of God always have a mission — to serve God’s plan for creation, God’s plan for the world. And to serve one another.
This is the beautiful vision for our lives that Jesus sets before us in the Gospel passage that we heard today: to love God and to serve our brothers and sisters.
It sounds easy, but we know that it’s challenging. It’s possible. We all are called to be saints, don’t forget that. Because that’s what really gives meaning to our lives. Everything that we go through in the personal circumstances of our lives makes sense when we understand that we are called to be saints — to love God, to serve God, and to love and serve our brothers and sisters.
Of course, today’s Gospel gives us a lot of practical things that we need to do in order to be saints. Because the Gospel is about the Beatitudes, the beautiful words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
The saints are always men and women of the Beatitudes. When you look at all of them in the tapestries and when you look at all of us today we are called to be men and women of the Beatitudes. Every one of us. People of the Beatitudes.
They are a beautiful description, the Beatitudes, of the qualities and attitudes that we need in order to really become saints.
To be a saint we have to be meek and poor in spirit. We have to be peacemakers who are hungry to bring justice to the world, especially for the poor and vulnerable.
To be a saint we have to be merciful and have a pure heart. We have to mourn and be in solidarity with those who suffer.
And finally, to be a saint, we have to be willing to undergo persecution for the sake of God.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, today we especially need to pray for the grace to grow in these qualities and attitudes — to live with the spirit of the Beatitudes.
With the complete understanding, and the confidence that we can do it. That we are really called to be saints. In this way, and with the help of the grace of God that comes to us especially through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist — Holy Communication — we can become real saints in the 21st Century.
May Our Blessed Mother Mary help us to follow our vocation to be “everyday saints.” To be people of the Beatitudes — who love God and serve him, by sharing his love in our families and in the world.
1. Readings: Rev. 7:2-4, 9-14; Ps. 24:1-6; 1 John 3:1-3; Matt. 5:1-12.