All Saints Day
All Saints Day
November 1, 2017
Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the Gospel; so did Thomas, apparently, but his version didn’t make the cut. John the Baptist was the tail end of a lot of patriarchs and prophets. Of course there were the followers of Jesus: Peter and Paul and Andrew and James, Phillip and Simon and Thaddeus and Barnabas and a lot of others. Some of their lives ended with honor and glory; others we really don’t know all that much. And of course, for those of you who remember the Roman Canon, there was Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus , Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian. (Remember them?) There were quite a few popes like Pius X and John XXIII and John Paul II. Others founded religious orders, Dominic and Alphonsus Ligouri, Ignatius of Loyola and Vincent de Paul, Bernard and Benedict and Anthony and Francis. And please don’t forget all the women: Mary, of course, the only one some might argue that got a head start on sainthood by her immaculate conception, but still. There was Mary Magdalene and Agatha and Lucy, Clare and Jane Frances de Chantal, Agnes and Cecilia, Catherine of Sienna and Tekawitha, and of course, Mother Teresa. There was Monica and Rose of Lima and Martha and Maria Goretti, Elizabeth Ann Seaton and Frances Xavier Cabrini. And how about good ol’ St. Christopher and St. Nicholas and St. Wenceslaus.
Some were single and others were married; some died in their old age and others died as mere children. They were nuns and brothers and priests, hermit monks and popes and bishops, and lot and lots of lay men and women. Some were brilliant scholars and others never got a chance to learn how to read. At first they were simply proclaimed saints by popular devotion; it wasn’t until the end of the 10th century that the first person was declared a saint by Rome. Some are given designated days in the church calendar to remember them and others, countless others -probably more than 10,000 others- we remember today on All Saints Day.
But do you know one thing they all had in common? They all had belly buttons. Seriously! They did. Which is another way of saying: they were all human. They were all children of God, just like you and me. They didn’t become saints by magic, somehow hatched like spiritual superheroes! They had moms and dads, were born screaming little babies and were baptized. They caught colds and blew their noses; they got belly aches when they ate too much candy; they were brave, sometimes, and scared to death at other times. They were like you and me. They listened to the same Beatitudes that we did today in the Gospel and received Communion; they prayed, and most of them struggled once in a while to keep on believing. But each and every one of them, their own unique way, taught us what it means to follow Jesus Christ to the very end. It’s what they did and that’s why we honor them on this All Saints Day.
And you know what that means for the rest of us belly-button people? That means that there is hope for us to one day be with them, as the prayer goes, to be “saints among the saints in the halls of heaven.” All we have to do is not give up, ask for forgiveness, be merciful to others, remain humble, stay faithful. Follow Jesus. To the end. “…and your reward will be great in heaven!”