Homily for All Saints Day 2020

A triple window depicting Saints Peter, Edward the Confessor and Paul in St. Edward's Church, Kettering

Stained Glass Window in the Choir Gallery of St. Edward’s Church depicting St. Peter, St. Edward and St. Paul

Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few
– it is the obligation, the call, and the will of God for every Christian

Once I read such a funny story about a little boy who went with his mother to church for Mass. When he got inside the church, he was most delighted with the colorful stained-glass windows of various saints.

  • “Mom, who is it?” – asked the curious boy pointing at one of the stained-glass windows.
  • “This is Saint Peter holding the keys to heaven” – his mother replied.

The boy remembered his mother’s answer. When a few days later one of the teachers asked the children at school: Who of you can explain what it means to be a saint or what is a saint? The little boy replied without hesitation: – A saint is such a man through whom the sun shines in the church!

As every year, on the first day of November we celebrate All Saints Day. However, very often when we think or talk about holiness, we – like this little boy – imagine paintings, stained-glass windows and statues that we can see in many churches. We admire all those people who have achieved holiness. Some of them were gifted by God with supernatural gifts, others dedicated their lives to God as martyrs defending their faith. Today the Church gives us examples of many saints, and I think none of us would be able to remember all their names. Also, in today’s first reading, we have heard of “a large number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language…”

Some saints are very popular and famous because they lived in the 20th or 21st centuries. Some of them were popes like John Paul II, some bishops like Oscar Romero or John Henry Newman, or kings like Saint Edward – patron of our Parish. But today’s Feast reminds us that saints are also ordinary people who lived among us as parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. Perhaps they were not very gifted people and never achieved any fame or great popularity. Perhaps their lives were not marked by any supernatural gifts such as revelations, miracles, stigmatas. But they tried to be: poor in spirit, gentle, hungry and thirsty for what is right, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, they were persecuted because of what is right. All of them tried to implement into their lives everything that Jesus says in today’s gospel. Eight beatitudes – they are like the eight ways or eight guides that help us achieve holiness. They are like a wonderful remedy for any obstacles we may encounter or experience on our way to heaven.

Pope Francis once said a very wise thing: “Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few – it is the obligation, the call, and the will of God for every Christian!” But All Saints Day reminds us of one more very important truth of our faith, which we profess every Sunday, saying: I believe in the communion of Saints. Today the church reminds us once again that we are not alone as a Church community. We don’t have to carry our crosses or daily struggles alone. Instead, we have a community of brothers and sisters who are already seeing God face to face, praying for us and helping us on our journey to heaven. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said “If I am ever a saint, I will constantly help those who are in darkness. I will be absent in Heaven – to bring light to those who are in darkness on earth.”

Finally, I would like to recall the example of a very new blessed – Carlo Acutis, whose beatification took place a few weeks ago in Assisi. He was only 15 years old and died of leukemia in 2006. One day in his diary, Carlo wrote the following words: “Before I started preparing for Confirmation, I didn’t have a strong relationship with the saints. They all seemed inaccessible and mysterious to me – locked behind a stained-glass window, hanging high above my adolescent head. Their job was to be saints and my job was to be me. I have never felt a call to holiness, and never considered the possibility that living saints just walk among us. When I had to choose a saint patron for the sacrament of Confirmation, the list of saints I knew a lot about was very short. Finally, after a long search, I chose St. Nicholas. Reading about him on the Internet, I was touched by the image of St. Nicholas, who anonymously gave coins to those in need.

In the book “My Life with the Saints” Fr James Martin the Jesuit wrote that “none of us is to be Teresa of Lisieux, Pope John XXIII or Thomas More. We are to be ourselves and we are to let God work through our individuality and through our own humanity”. The beatification and example of Carlo Acutis and many other saints is a message that each of us can become a saint, because all Saints – like each one of us – were just ordinary people.

And finally, I would like to add one more thought to our reflection. Well, it seems to me that this little boy was quite right when he said that a saint is a person through whom the sun shines. Yes, a saint is definitely such a person through whom the sun of God’s love shines very brightly. Let us pray through the intercession of all the Saints that this extraordinary light of God’s love shines through each one of us.

Fr Gregory