If eulogies are anything to go by, then every person who has passed on from this life was a saint during his or her lifetime. I recall a simple but meaningful eulogy shared by a man at his father’s funeral Mass …
“My father did nothing in his life that the world would call special. He worked hard for his family and always tried to follow the straight and narrow path as he saw it. He was always the one who was there for us, kind and understanding, offering help when needed. God was very real in his life. His faith was always strong, and people said of him the most important thing one can say of a man, ‘He was a good man’ I doubt if my father ever thought about being a saint. I do know that in his own way, he was one. And he, more than any priest or bishop or canonised saint, taught me what it means to live the humble, simple life of faith.”
His father may have had his faults and he may have led an ordinary life, but to this son, he was a ‘good man’ and in his eyes, he was a ‘saint’.
The Catholic Church believes that ‘anyone’ can become a saint. Whatever our commitments may be, whatever our vocation, whether a priest, married or single person, a religious brother or sister, we are all called to be saints. Yes, this may seem a rather lofty directive. Few people ever really feel up to the challenge. I don’t think that any of us wake up each morning, look in the mirror and say, “I want to be a saint, a saint like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a saint like Thomas More or a saint like Pope John Paul II.” We struggle with our earthly duties and challenges while viewing sainthood as reserved for “the chosen few”.
The Catholic Church recognises individuals whose lives exemplify the state of holiness through canonisation. The Church does not hold these individuals up as being better than any of us. On the contrary, the Church recognises these individuals as prime examples of what we are capable of doing, if we “live in the fidelity of God’s grace”. If they can do it, why can’t we?
In his book entitled ‘Surrender’, Fr Larry Richards states that the Church isn’t a museum of saints. It’s a hospital for sinners; sinners on their way to becoming saints. Each one of us on this earth are on a journey. Just like the saints before us, whether canonised by the Church or held dear by only our loved ones, we will experience challenges, temptations, sufferings and hardships, and we must strive to overcome them by emulating our saints in heaven. Saints who have taught us by their lives how to live faithfully, who have given their lives for the sake of the Good News, and now live in God’s presence, encouraging us, and interceding there for us.
And like the young man who delivered his father’s eulogy, let us not forget the faithful departed, saints with a small “s” – who may never appear on a church calendar with a feast-day named for them, but who lived a life and left a memory calling us to love more deeply in the faith of Christ.
Image: Fra Angelico – All Saints