The feast of all the Saints is an invitation to each of us to celebrate the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews, those esteemed people of exceptional holiness, like St Therese of Lisieux, St John of God etc.
But Pope Francis stresses in Gaudete et Exsultate (2018) that the feast is also about ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, like you and me, who live hidden lives of goodness, trying our best daily. Do we realise who we really are? We are ” called by name, chosen, loved, cherished, precious in God’s eyes, temples of the Holy Spirit,” carriers of the Divine.
And yet we ask : am I holy? What is holiness? Pope Francis likes to talk of the saints “next door”, the ordinary people who do their best, who reflect God’s presence in all sorts of small ways and gestures (GE 6-7), despite their faults and failings. Sainthood/holiness is “about warming people’s hearts, walking with them in the night, dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, mending their brokenness” in a ministry of consolation. Mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel, ever drawing us into greater inner and outer freedom, “into a habitual openness to the transcendent”. Thus we learn to bow in reverence to the multiple expressions of and paths to holiness in our complex world today, and to respond to the many urgent cries for help.
So November 1st, let us celebrate who and what we are, our uniqueness and diversity, our step-by-step learning to live in the limitless love of God.
Sally Hyland ssjg