YOUR QUESTIONS

Sr. Louise Zdunich

November 29, 2010

Question

Have we forgotten the saints? All Saints' Day was not mentioned at my church nor was there a Mass that day but there was a Mass on All Souls' Day.

 


Answer

I don't think we have forgotten the saints as we do have feast days with required Masses for saints who are universally venerated. More localized saints can be celebrated on their feast days, too. The problem was the saints seemed to dominate our spirituality, leaving little room for the role of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In 1969, the liturgical calendar was reformed and Christ was placed again at the centre of our Christian lives while the saints were given their appropriate place as followers of Christ.

However, there was no intent to abolish devotion to the saints. Less emphasis was given to the sanctoral cycle and saints who were more legendary than real were eliminated. One of these was St. Christopher whose name means Christ-bearer and since we are all Christ-bearers one can see how a legendary figure could develop.

The feast of All Saints is meant to celebrate all those in heaven, while on feast days we focus on one saint. On All Souls' Day and throughout November, we pray for all the souls in purgatory.

At other times, we usually focus on those who were closer to us on earth so our prayer is more personalized. We are part of the communion of saints with those in heaven and in purgatory. We profess this belief in the Creed but do we really reflect on what we mean?

HEROIC LIVES

Even if we don't forget, I wonder if we neglect these important heroes of our Christian faith. These ordinary human beings led heroic lives and should be our models.

The Church puts the exemplary lives of these persons before us to teach us how we too can live out our Christian faith from day to day. It is usually more attractive and easier to follow an example that we can see and hear than it is to try to forge an independent model.

Today, in our society, more than ever, people honour and venerate their heroes. Look at the cult-like following since their deaths of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Living sports figures, singers, as well as film stars become heroes whose presence seems to bestow an aura around them. At very young ages, our children emulate the lives of these people.

But are their lives really the kind we want our children to copy?

It could be the easiest thing to introduce saints to very young children as they like stories. This may sound simplistic but how many parents read them bedtime stories of the saints? And later, how often do we give them books of the saints to read?

St. Francis

CNS PHOTO | OCTAVIO DURAN

St. Francis

Ask your teens to name some saints and see how many they know. Do they realize when they do things to help the poor, they follow the example of great saints like St. Vincent de Paul or Mother Teresa who gave her life to serve the poor?

Do they know the story of Father Lacombe, the giant of our own province? Or St. Margeurite d'Youville, foundress of the Grey Nuns who were pioneers here in teaching and nursing?

And we adults, which saints lives could we tell them about?

FAMILIAR SAINTS

It is true that many saints are hard to relate to because they lived in a different part of the world and in such different times. But there are many saints from which we can choose.

Pope John Paul canonized a large number of saints. Just recently our own Brother Andre was canonized. His was a simple ordinary life of great faith worthy of imitation.

The saints should be our heroes. They reveal to us in a vivid, down-to-earth manner what it means and how to live as Christians and as Catholics. They have shown us what is important in this short earthly life and it is not about amassing things or amusing ourselves.

CHRIST'S EXAMPLE

Their lives have been the embodiment of Christ's life and holiness on earth. They have obeyed Christ's command to love one another as he has loved us (John 15.12). Through love of God, they have followed Christ's example of serving others.

"As I have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13.14-15). Truly, they became Christ to others.

(Other questions? Email: zdunich@telus.net)