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Some of the Many Misconceptions about Saints

Posted : Oct-29-2020

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​Fr. Biju Kannampuzha is the pastor of St John Vianney Parish in Barrie, Ont. 

We celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1st. In doing so, we celebrate not only those who have been officially proclaimed saints throughout the ages, but also those who, in quiet and unassuming ways, lived a Christian life in the fullness of faith and love. 

It’s about all the good and holy people who have ever lived. During our time on this world, many good people will cross our path and enrich our life: parents, grandparents, godparents, teachers, parishioners, coworkers and friends. They are not perfect, but they are in their own way, great human beings.

I am not sure if you aspire or expect to be a canonized saint one day. Personally, I don’t fantasize that one day the Pope will proclaim to the world what a great saint I was. I don’t imagine my picture will be found on the walls of churches around the world. I don’t envision any statues of me being hoisted high in processions. And I don’t kid myself about the possibility of people coveting my remains as pieces of relics.

But the good news is we celebrate those saints whose names and lives we do not know, because they had regular lives of extraordinary faith – like ours. We celebrate those saints whose faces will never be on holy cards and who will never be called the patron of anything. 

We celebrate these invisible saints whom the world did not know or perhaps whom the world mocked and persecuted. Those who were poor and who mourned. Those who were meek and hungry. Those who were merciful and pure. Those who yearned for peace, justice and righteousness. Those who were insulted, persecuted and ridiculed all because they longed to see the face of God by making this world a better place. We celebrate those who, even now, rejoice and are glad, and whose reward indeed is great in Heaven.

So, the Solemnity of All Saints challenges us to ask ourselves: Do I long to see the face of God? Do I long to sit in His Kingdom in glory and honour forever? How do I become a saint? 

What Saints Are Not

First of all, it’s important to clarify a few mistaken ideas about saints. 

The movies, stories and stereotypes that we have seen and heard about saints are clearly misleading. They portray saints as people who have no fun. They make us think saints are people who are serious all the time and never laugh.  

The truth is, being holy is not boring. It’s not necessary to live a mundane life of solitude and misery. Saints are people like you and me who have experienced life and enjoyed worldly pleasures in moderation. They drank beer and wine, attended concerts and sporting events with friends, cheered on their favourite teams and travelled the world. They socialized, laughed and told jokes.

In fact, some saints had great senses of humor. 

Once St. Bernard was dedicating a new church that happened to be filled with flies. All the monks were busy swatting the insects. He looked at the flies and declared, “I hereby excommunicate all of you.” Everybody laughed with him. The next day they unexpectedly found hundreds of dead flies laying on the church floor.   

St. Thomas More, as he laid his head on the chopping block, moved his beard aside and told the executioner, “My beard has done no wrong.”  

St. John XXIII, when he was a newly elected pope, heard one elderly lady say to her friend, “He is fat!” He turned to her at once and said, “But, madam, you must know that the conclave is not exactly a beauty contest!” 

Yes, being holy is not boring; rather it’s being happy and joyful.

Another misconception of saints is that they are people with no common sense. Some movies portray saints as totally detached from everyday life, living in a fog with no concern for what happens in the world. They walk around in a daze, speaking in a far-off voice. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Saints are people who have the most common sense. They make life liveable in the most difficult and hopeless of circumstances. 

They fed the poor and hungry when no government or agency could. They built schools and orphanages, gave counselling and advice. They attended to the daily needs of everybody around them.

A Day of Hope

The Solemnity of All Saints fills us with hope because the destiny and reward of those who have gone before us is not inaccessible to us. The glory of Heaven and the face of God are not far away from us! 

But being a saint requires a new commitment from us in our journey of life. We have to look at our lives and be faithful in our vocation, whatever it may be. We need to remind ourselves every day of the call of the Second Vatican Council to become holy; to become the eyes and feet and hands and face of Christ, the son of God, who manifests himself in the world.

Now back to the most relevant question of the day: How do I become a saint?

Today’s responsorial psalm gives us three practical steps to become a saint: “One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” 

Sinless hands: good deeds. Clean heart: noble thoughts. Desires not vain: worthy relationships.

The good news today is we can be saints. These three steps are what we should heed in order to join God in heaven one day and become a saint.  

Sinless hands: good deeds. Clean heart: noble thoughts. Desires not vain: worthy relationships.

In today’s responsorial psalm we sing, “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.” Are we?

This reflection is based on the readings for the Solemnity of All Saints: Revelation 7.2-4, 9-14; Responsorial Psalm 24; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5. 1- 12a.