During the month of November, the church recalls all those who have gone before us. We begin on the 1st with a celebration of All Saints, looking to the holy men and women who have already gone on to heaven. This is a beautiful time to celebrate that goal of our lives: our heavenly reward.
Some may misunderstand our Catholic devotion to the saints, but it is clear in Scripture that the early Church gave witness to each other and held up examples of holy living:
“For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the holy Spirit and [with] much conviction. You know what sort of people we were [among] you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers.” (1 Thes 1:5-7)
In honoring the saints, we look to them for inspiration as to how we can follow Christ more perfectly and we seek their intercession. While Christ is the model for Christian living, we also look to imitate holy men and women living out their faith. As St. Paul says: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1)
We look to those who have gone before us, having lived a life of faith. We recognize that they are still actively surrounding us and cheering us on as a “cloud of witnesses” - as described in Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We sometimes use the expression that we are praying “to” a particular saint. In fact, we are asking them to pray with and for us to Jesus. Just as we ask those that we know in this life to pray for us, we also ask these holy men and women who are in heaven to pray for us. They are not excluded from that role of interceding to Jesus on our behalf. In fact, they are privileged intercessors for us since we read in the book of James: “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” (James 5:16)
In November, as we also pray for those who have died, let us look to the saints for inspiration and hope. We see in them that it is possible to persevere in a life of holiness. Reflect upon your favorite or patron saints. Ask them to pray for you and to pray for all of us that we might live as we ought in this life, transforming the world around us to reflect the love of Christ in all we do.
At the end of our journey on this earth, may we be privileged to join all the angels and saints worshiping God forever. Inspired by the saints, let’s “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
Jesus, I trust in You!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary