There is a story told about a Muslim priest and a Catholic cleric who were boasting about their religions. “I bet you we have more saints than yours,” said the Catholic to his Muslim friend. “Oh yes?” he retorted. “Let’s make a bet. You mention a saint and for every name, uproot a hair from each other’s head.” “Okay,” the Catholic priest said. “You begin.”
“St. Mustapha,” the Muslim blurted out. He selected a long, thick hair from the head of the Catholic priest and pulled it out. The Catholic priest retaliated, saying: “Sts. Peter and Paul,” likewise, uprooting two big hairs from his friend’s head.
The Muslim paused then said: “Sts. Muhammad, Ali Baba and 40 companions.” A good 42 hairs! Smarting from the big “harvest,” the indignant Catholic priest grabbed all the remaining hairs of the Muslim and triumphantly declared: “Todos Los Santos!”
Today, 1 November, Solemnity of All Saints, the Church has “devoted this to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints. Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God, and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God’s perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us. By celebrating the passage of these saints from earth to heaven the Church proclaims the paschal mystery achieved in the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ; she proposes them to the faithful as examples drawing all to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she pleads for God’s favors” (cf. SC 104).
Today’s feast thus helps us to be aware of the universal call to holiness. It is no accident that among the saints whom the Church venerates there are people of every age, nation and social condition. Moreover, it is not only those who are canonized who are “saints”, but all believers who live and die faithful to the divine will.
The Church is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as “uniquely holy,” loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her. He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (see cf. LG 39).
The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect (LG 48 par. 3). Hence, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state-though each on his own way-are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect (cf. LG 11 par. 3).
Sanctity properly so-called consists in simple conformity to the Divine will expressed in the exact and constant fulfillment of the duties of one’s proper state. Seek, therefore, the will of God: nothing more, nothing less, nothing else (Pope Benedict XV). This is also re-affirmed by Blessed Henery Suson when he writes, “Our Sanctification consist entirely in conformity to the will of God. I would rather be the vilest man on Earth with the will of God, than be a seraph with my own will. He that gives his will to God, gives him all he has.”
The world has urgent need for a springtime of holiness to accompany the efforts of the new evangelization and to offer the people of our day, who are so often disappointed by empty promises and tempted to discouragement, an indication of the meaning and reason for renewed confidence.
The sons and daughters of the Church are called to respond to this challenge through a serious, daily commitment to becoming holy “in the conditions, duties and circumstances of their life . . ., showing forth in that temporal service the love with which God has loved the world” (Lumen Gentium, n. 41).
Today’s Solemnity of All Saints invites us also to fix our gaze on the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage: paradise. “I go to prepare a place for you”, the Master says to his disciples in the Upper Room, “that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going” (Jn 14:2-4). Heaven is “the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). This is always what we pray for, what we strive for, and what we hope for.
Thinking of heaven, following Christ, the Way, the Truth and the life, gives us that tranquillity and courage which are indispensable if we are to face our daily problems with the sure hope of sharing one day in the eternal joy of the Communion of Saints.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Mt 5:3-10). This is what the Church repeats to us today, holding up before us the saints, those “who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7:14), and have drawn in abundance from the treasure of Redemption. They now precede us in the joy of the heavenly liturgy; they are examples of Gospel virtue for us and help us with their constant intercession.
Yes, as we pursue the life of holiness after their examples and struggling to inherit the Kingdom of God prepared for those who love him, let us humbly ask for the intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…So by their fraternal concern our weakness is greatly helped (LG 49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5).
When St. Dominic was dying, he said this consoling words to his brothers: “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” Similarly, St. Therese of Lisieux, in her dying moments, said, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth” (The Final Conversations, tr. John Clarke (Washington: ICS, 1977), 102).
To the Blessed Virgin, who in her Assumption into heaven followed the destiny of the risen Christ and anticipated that of all men, we entrust the strong desire for life that the liturgy stirs up at this time in our hearts. Mary is the first fruit of the redeemed, the dawn of salvation for the human race. May contemplation of her, our heavenly Mother and the Queen of all saints, be for us a motive of “certain hope and comfort” (Lumen Gentium, n. 68).