Our Children and the Communion of Saints
In postconciliar years, children of grade school ages have been encouraged to combine a celebration of All Saints Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. With the help of parents, teachers, or catechists, they find success stories from the Judeo-Christian heritage. These stories include: kings and queens, biblical heroes, Indian and American saints, teen-aged saints, founders of religious orders, and modern-day martyrs who have suffered for their faith in persecuted lands all over the world. Children don costumes similar to the saint of their choice, and the list is endless. It might be King David, Queen Esther, or Ruth of the Hebrew Scriptures. Others might include St. Kateri Tekawitha of the Mohawk Indians, those saintly Jesuits who ministered to the Indians in Upper New York State and Lower Canada; there is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first Italian immigrant and American educator, St. Martin de Porres, St. Maria Goretti, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux. They may even dress up like their own sainted grandparents.
Today, though our youth admire social and sports super-stars, the Church takes pride in her own success stories. Throughout the course of the liturgical year, all of us, young and not-so-young, celebrate not only the mysteries of Jesus and the Mother of God but also the feasts of the saints in heaven—official and unofficial. Their lives exemplify what genuine success stories really mean, and they are worthy of our admiration and imitation.
St. Paul’s Saints
A cursory reading of the Pauline corpus reveals that Paul often referred to his Gentile communities as saints. Not that they had realized sainthood. It was important for them to understand their vocation as saints-in-the-making. Each was to become Saint _____.
In our own twenty-first century, how many thousands have been martyred simply because of their profession of faith! “What are saints except geniuses–geniuses who bring to their works of virtue all the splendor, eccentricity, effort, and dedication that lesser talents bring to music or poetry or painting?” So writes Phyllis McGinley. “Like musicians, painters, poets, they are human beings, but obsessed ones. They are obsessed by goodness and by God, as Michelangelo was obsessed by line and form, as Shakespeare was bewitched by language, and Beethoven by sound. And like other geniuses, they used mortal mean to contrive masterpieces. (Phyllis McGinley, Saint-Watching, 17).
Completing the Roster of Saints
Each of us may keep our own list of men and women, not officially sainted, whose feast days are celebrated on November 1. Take for example, Rose Kennedy, a valiant woman who, in her own lifetime, raised nine children, including her severely mentally disabled daughter, Rosemary. She sustained the deaths of three sons and a daughter. In her touching memoir, Times to Remember, she writes “If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith—for faith in Him, in His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy—trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable providence. When I start my day with a prayer of consecration to Him, with complete trust and confidence, I am perfectly relaxed and happy regardless of what accident of fate befalls me because I know it is part of His divine plan and He will take care of me and my dear ones” (444).
Do our thoughts ever turn to those renowned artists who have given the world deep satisfaction through their own creative works—painters and sculptors, writers, poets, musicians, and composers? What of scientists who have made for healthier living, and those who have expanded our awareness of the heavens? Our many civil leaders and emancipators can also claim a place of saintly honor.
What of the selfless entertainers of our time, those who gave us respite from daily cares? With their hilarious comedic fun, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, for example, entertained thousands of troops fighting in World War II—especially during Christmas time.
Fred Astaire, himself a remarkable artist, once said of Judy Garland that “she was the greatest entertainer who ever lived.” In her short, tragic career that was mishandled by MGM Studios, she gave her heart unstintingly, thrilling her audiences as she sang directly to each of them. How curious, that she endeared herself to them by singing not only “Over the Rainbow,” but “Get Happy” whose lyrics point to the feasts of All Saints and All Souls:
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“Forget your troubles, come on get happy
You better chase all your cares away.
Shout hallelujah, come on get happy
Get ready for the judgment day.
The sun is shining, come on get happy
The Lord is waiting to take your hand
Shout hallelujah, come on get happy
We’re going to the Promised Land.
We’re heading across the river, wash your sins in the tide
It’s all so peaceful on the other side. Refrain.
In this triduum of beauty—October 31, November 1, and November 2, we give thanks for all those who have enriched our lives. We seek communion with them, our saints galore.