As the Jubilee Year of Mercy draws to an end, we are afforded a most profound time for reflection and contemplation. Yes, it happens every year in our liturgical calendar but this year may be just the year the full impact of the feasts of All Saints and All Souls reach our hearts.
Many of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy when we consider the likes of St. Theresa of Kolkata or St. Francis of Assisi. We so admire what they have accomplished in their lives including miracles and giving all for service to the poor. There is little or no chance we could ever be like them much less emulate them. We convince ourselves to be content with lives of quiet desperation, sinners one and all, not even sure God even notices us at all much less considers us worthy of forgiveness and mercy.
We become very self-critical when we assess the qualities usually ascribed to official saints: give up riches, spend every waking hour helping people, often praying only as time permits after a hectic day of being with God’s people, showing patience beyond measure, joyfully forgiving the faults of others, giving to God all apparently insoluble problems, sacrificing their own personal comfort and gain so as to give to others, eating after others are fed, spending time on their knees. We could never measure up we say! But then we reconsider.
Perhaps, in our most quiet of moments, we pray to the “someones” of our lives who mean more to us than anyone. What about our mom, dad, sister, brother, grandparents, in-laws, sons and daughters as examples, those in our midst and those who have gone before us in faith and love? Have we not been humbled by the countless sacrifices they have made in loving us and helping us understand what God’s love really means? Have we not marveled at the selflessness shown as they gave us their love unconditionally? Have they not been saints to us? Are they any less deserving of our respect, love, prayers and honor than those whom the Church formally recognizes? Are they not the real saints to us? Are they not whom we turn to in prayer? YES!
The Church gives us a litany of saints as a “hall of mirrors” actually. We are encouraged to look and try to see in them, those we love dearly and hold closely. We are asked in this Year of Mercy to be gentle with how we judge others, gentle with how we judge ourselves less we miss the face of God in those around us. Yes, even the homeless who struggle each day to find meaning in simply taking a breath. May we join together this year proud of our family saints and grateful for the saints God sends us each day in the lives of the poor. Holy men and women all … pray for us.