They are literally all around us... and who are they?
Last updated 11/21/2007 at Noon
Hold that question for just a moment. Allow me to tell you a quick story. My Dad lost his house in the Rice fire. He like over 200 folks in our community literally lost everything. He got out with a couple shirts, a few pairs of pants and some important papers. He lost the house, all the contents, all our family pictures, and all my school memorabilia. At a few months shy of 89, this was a BIG shock. He has adjusted well, praise God!
My sisters came from Colorado and Florida and have treated him like a king. He is now settled in with me and doing well. The other day he was in Major Market getting some items that he needed and doing some grocery shopping. When he arrived at the checkout counter there was a lady from the parish right in front of him. They began conversing and when she was done, she stayed to finish the conversation. As he checked out, she quickly reached into her purse and paid for my Dad’s items. He tried to resist, but lost the battle. He came home and was overwhelmed by the goodness and generosity of this woman. He kept saying, “But why would someone want to do that for me?” My Dad has told me several stories like this one. He has received cards and pies and prayers from people near and far.
Now, back to the question, “And who are they?”
For Roman Catholics (and I suspect for many of my Protestant brothers and sisters) the 1st of November is celebrated as the Feast of All Saints. There is an ancient Latin saying in our Church, “Lex orandi, lex cridendi.” (Forgive me if I misspelled the Latin.) It means, “As we pray, so we believe.” On the Feast of All Saints, the opening prayer for the Eucharistic liturgy said in part, “May we who aspire to have part in their (the Saints’) joy be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives.” I have been thinking about this prayer. The “Saints” are men and women who have opened their lives to the Spirit of God and have learned to let the Holy Spirit lead them daily. All of us who are baptized are called to be “Saints.” This is at the very essence of the Christian journey of faith. We are cleansed of our sins in Baptism and filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
The entire journey of faith is about learning to surrender to the Spirit of God working in and through us. Paul was so in tune with this fact. In his letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 11, Paul says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will bring your mortal bodies to life also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” A little further in the same chapter, verses 26-27, Paul continues: “The Spirit, too, helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech. He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the Saints as God himself wills.”
Paul did not think of the Saints only in terms of those who had died. He referred to the Christians in the communities he had founded as the “Saints” of God. A big mistake made by a lot of us Catholics is focusing almost exclusively on the “Saints” as the body of men and women who have gone before. Indeed there are holy men and women who are now with God whom we aspire to imitate. But, they are not the only “Saints.”
Since the Rice fire began to ravage Fallbrook on Monday morning October 22nd the “Saints” have literally been all around us. My Dad has been touched over and over again by the goodness, generosity, concern and love of so many people—Saints! We have all witnessed people doing heroic things. We have all seen folks going out of their way to help and give and heal others. I for one am convinced that this is God’s Holy Spirit working in people. Many are consciously responding to the Holy Spirit, and some, I believe, are not aware that it is the Holy Spirit moving them, but are none-the-less moved by God’s Spirit. Over and over, I have heard stories and personally witnessed people rising up and doing Godly things. I’ve heard a few bad stories as well and I have witnessed a few evil actions. Yes, in the midst of disaster and tragedy sin abounds. But, as Paul has said, “despite the increase of sin, grace has far surpassed it.” (Rom. 5:20)
Sometimes it take tragedy to make us see things the way they really are—to see what is most important and what is most real. I feel that I have learned that the “Saints” are alive and well. They are literally all around us!