Years ago I wrote a book on the lives of the saints honored in our church calendar. Saints like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles, the martyrs, founders of great religious orders, men and women recognized for their great holiness.
It was a hard book to write and I’ve never felt satisfied with it. My dissatisfaction isn’t just from not capturing their lives as well as I would have liked. I think it’s because we can’t capture what the saints experience at all.
A saint is someone who enjoys a completed life, a life we haven’t seen yet, a life we hope for. “We feebly struggle while they in glory shine.” We can never capture the final steps of their story.
The letter of St. John we read today on the Feast of All Saints tells us that. We haven’t seen yet what God intends us to be. We haven’t completed our lives yet; we complete our lives when we join the company of the saints.
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are…
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”
The saints we honor in our calendar led extraordinary lives; they were shining examples of faith, hope and love and changed the world they lived in. What’s interesting about today’s feast of All Saints is its promise that they’re not the only ones in heaven. There are unnumbered saints in God’s company, saints who lived obscurely, without any sign of the extraordinary.
People like us.
I like St. Bernard’s advice about saint-watching in today’s Office of Readings:
“We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory.”