By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Okay, All Saints Day was yesterday. Isn’t it time to move on? Not yet, I’ll argue. The point of the feast is worth recalling for at least 48 hours – and ideally for much longer than that.
A couple of weeks ago I was presenting the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus Encounter for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. We were talking about the importance of role models in our lives. Someone mentioned the value of having saints – meaning formally canonized saints – as role models. Then someone else spoke up and started talking about the “living saints” that had helped shape and were still helping to shape her life.
We all appreciated what she had to say. We all are blessed with “living saints” in our lives – if we but take the time to notice.
In fact, if we’re old enough, some of those wonderful role models who were living saints for us once are no longer alive. I number my parents and grandparents in their ranks. Indeed, many of us remember when Mother Teresa was still living and serving the poorest of the poor – and how we thought and spoke of her as a saint long before she was canonized on Sept. 4 of this year.
For us she was once a “living saint.” Now she is no longer living, but since she has been honored as an official canonized saint, she can go on inspiring people across centuries to come.
I don’t want to diminish the value of those saints in the official canon who can inspire us in so many ways. But I do want to remind people that the ranks of “All Saints” include a whole lot of people who will never be canonized – but who are or were saints for us all the same.
Just as it’s good to study and reflect on the lives of canonized saints for inspiration and guidance, it’s good to reflect on the lives of those “living saints” who have been close to us. When did they help us? How did they help us? How can we thank them? How can we pass on their goodness in the people we meet?
All Saints Day is a feast – but it’s also an opportunity and a challenge for us. Because we are called in our own lives to be saints to others. And if we stop to think about the saints who have played such important parts in our lives, we can see how important it is for us to try to be saints in other people’s lives.
Who, if anyone, will think of you when All Saints Day rolls around again ... and again ... and again?