The Saints: a power that transforms the world

Revelation  7,2-4.9-14
Psalm  23
1 John  3,1-3
Matthew  5,1-12



Many are the men and women who fill up the yearly calendar of the saints and the blessed of the Church, but those who are written in the Book of Life, God’s register, are infinitely more. Today, the suppliant prayer of the Church turns to all of them in remembrance. They are men and women of all tribes, languages, peoples, nations, ages, times, professions, social conditions, famous and unknown, rich and poor, faithful and converted sinners…, whoever they are, as the Christian liturgy sings on the feast of All Saints. Universality is, then, the first characteristic of this feast. Some people rightly call it “the national feast of the Church” that experiences and believes in the “communion of saints”. We find ourselves like in a huge “cathedral of holiness” which is open to all and where there is room and glory for all, as St. John tries to explain in the book of Revelation (I reading). He speaks of “a great multitude, which no man could number” (v. 9), celebrating a liturgy of worship to God, to whom alone belongs the salvation He offers to all (v. 10.12). It would be an absurd claim to limit the salvation to one hundred and forty-four thousand people impressed by the seal (v. 4) or to exclude others, as some sects claim for various reasons. (*)

The only treasure of the Saints is to actually be and live as God’s children (II reading), loved by the Father (v. 1), all called to be similar to Him (v. 2). On the journey towards a progressive resemblance with the Father, the believer knows that he has to make choices of purification (v. 3) consistent with the hope that fills him. Consistent choices to the supreme witness of fidelity in the “great tribulation, washing their robes and making them white in the Lamb’s blood” (I reading, v. 14).

Who is right, then? Who has made the right choice? Many call them poor or wretched people… Jesus in the Gospel calls them blessed! Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the gentle, the pure in heart, the merciful, those who have been persecuted, the peacemakers… The beatitudes are, in the first place, the biography of Jesus, describe his choices and his behaviour. They are the mirror of Christ and, therefore, the programme of every disciple. The beatitudes are radical choices which transform the heart of people and make them instruments of God’s revolution and the world’s transformation. An objective and serene reading of history reveals the positive powers and transforming forces of society which were set in motion by men and women according to God’s heart, like Augustine and Benedict, Francis and Dominic, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, Rose of Lima and the Martyrs of Uganda, Daniel Comboni and Don Bosco, Therese of Lisieux and Charles de Foucauld, Teresa of Calcutta and Josephine Bakkita, Oscar Romero and Annalena Tonelli, Gandhi and the Trappists of Tibhirine. They, like very many others, are authentic benefactors of humanity.

Their personal and doctrinal witness lives on in time as model, exemplariness and power of attraction for us. The saints and people of good will, even though far away in time and unknown to us, are not a kind of dry and useless mummies, they are living and dynamic people who exercise a positive influence on humankind and the events of history. They now live in God’s life and continue to love: they love God and us. They have a special power of intercession on our behalf. They are our true benefactors! Such is the extraordinary and missionary value of prayer of intercession, practised by Christ, the Holy Spirit, Mary and the saints, accessible to every person, living or dead. Prayer is a means of personal sanctification and of missionary intercession accessible to all.

The existence of people like them is a proof that it is possible to live as saints, namely as disciples of Jesus, for everyone! Holiness of life is not a sealed enclosure reserved to a few privileged people or to lonely mystics… It is instead an apartment building, always open to new tenants. There is no need for special passport, not even for the sacrament of Baptism. To live as God’s children is a gift that He offers to everyone who looks for Him with a sincere heart. The missionary, a man or woman of the Beatitudes, as John Paul II calls them (RMi 91), announces everywhere, by deeds and words, the plan of a Father who sent his own Son, Jesus of Nazareth, to give to all life and happiness in abundance.

Happiness is achieved by the quality of a life spent for God and at the service of the brothers and sisters. True happiness is linked with the holiness of ordinary life, as John Paul II teaches: “The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. It is also clear however that the paths to holiness are personal and call for a genuine training in holiness, adapted to people's needs” (NMI 31).

The saints are the healthiest part of the tree, the most vital and luxuriant, the safest branch, the one most strongly attached to the trunk. To contemplate their final destiny leads us to reflect on the after of human existence, which depends from and influences the now of life. The best preparation for the after is certainly the honest and creative use of the talents we have received, among them of the gift of faith. A faith joyfully lived and humbly shared. This is mission!

The Pope’s words

(*)  “The world appears to us as a garden, where the Spirit of God has given life with admirable imagination to a multitude of men and women Saints, of every age and social condition, of every language, people and culture. Every one is different from the other, each unique in his/her own personality and spiritual charism. All of them, however, were impressed with the seal of Jesus (cf. Rv 7:3) or the imprint of his love witnessed through the Cross. They are all in joy, in a festival without end, but, like Jesus, they achieved this goal passing through difficulties and trials (cf. Rv 7:14) each of them shouldering their own share of sacrifice in order to participate in the glory of the Resurrection.”

Benedict XVI
Angelus - 1st November 2008

In the missionaries’ footsteps

- 1/11: “Feast of All Saints”: who continue to exercise their missionary service of intercession.

- 2/11: A day of prayer for All the Faithful Departed – The day of the ancestors.

- 3/11: St. Ermengaudio, bishop of Seu d’Urgell, Catalogna (+1035), one of the greatest Spanish evangelisers in the lands regained from the invasions of the Arab Muslims.

- 3/11: St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639), a mulatto who lived in Lima (Peru), in the Convent of St. Dominic, as a religious Brother, doorman and a nurse; he was a man of fervent prayer, austerity and charity.

- 4/11 St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), archbishop of Milan; a man of doctrine and charity, he organised synods and seminaries for the formation of the clergy, promoted Christian life through regular pastoral visits.

- 5/11: Bl. Guido Maria Conforti (1865-1931), bishop of Parma, animator of the missionary spirit in the ecclesial community, founder of the Saverian Missionaries.

- 7/11: St. Prosdocimo (c. III), considered to be the founder of the Christian community around Padova and its first bishop. 


Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website:  “The Word for Mission”