I love All Saints’ Day. Besides the famous saints we all know, November 1 is the time for all the unsung heroes — people you and I know that have that aura of sanctity about them — often very humble faithful people who go unnoticed by the world.
As we continue to hear echoes of the Second Vatican Council, certainly the universal call to holiness is a keystone. In response to our baptismal call, we should say that we all are called to become saints — saints that God has created us to become. Recently I tweeted a poster of Blessed John Paul II on October 22, his feast day. The headline included a quote from him: “Become who you are.” That is a saint: one who becomes fully whom God has created.
I also used to love Halloween. Now, since I live in the Cathedral rectory I don’t get to see children dressed up in their costumes and going from house to house.
I recall it well in Knoxville and Pennsylvania. So many children came with such an excitement. What I really enjoyed were those days when children came to Catholic schools dressed as their favorite saints. I honestly don’t remember doing it myself as a child, but it was the practice in the parishes in which I served. Many forget that the vigil of All Saints or All Hallows Day is All Hallows Eve or Halloween.
I recall a survey from some time ago in which school children ranked the profession they admired most. Surprisingly, “saint” was on the list, but sadly, it finished next to last. The new evangelization calls us to restore the awareness of saints by raising up witnesses for Christ, e.g. people who humbly and faithfully live their lives in such a way that they are examples — heroes — to us all.
It is a deficit of our culture that heroes are not as visible as in the past. I guess it is human nature to seek the imperfections and blind spots in leaders, but our age seems to be really good at it. Recently, I read another book authored by Eric Metaxas entitled, 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, in which he seeks to restore that lost art of promoting heroes. It was an easy read with one chapter for each hero. George Washington was there, as was Jackie Robinson. I also was delighted that Metaxas, not a Catholic, included a chapter for Blessed John Paul II.
Having heroes or every day saints involves challenging all to become their best. In what has become standard for September, I enjoyed about 11 meetings with priests and lay leaders — both to give accountability for this past year in the Archdiocese and to inspire enthusiasm for the Catholic Services Appeal. My favorite part is the question and answer session when invariably people begin their questions with: “Do you know what the Church should do?”
Jokingly, I answer that by the way they are looking at me, I sense that what they mean is: “Do you know what the Archbishop should do?” We laugh, but the feast of All Saints makes it clear that the enterprise of Jesus Christ and his Church is about each of us and all of us. We are called to become the saints that God has created us to be and to take the initiative to make our Church and our world a better place.
On November 16 I will travel to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to take part in a special pilgrimage and encuentro (meeting) to promote the intercontinental mission of the new evangelization. Encouraged by Pope Francis, representatives will gather from North and South America to take stock of what progress has been made and to invigorate the efforts to “go out” and announce the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
It is a continuation of the fifth gathering of CELAM (Episcopal Conference of Latin America), which in 2008 met at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil and proposed a continental mission calling for disciples and missioners. Pope Francis, in his service as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was a major participant in that 2008 gathering.
On the closing day, November 19, I will represent the USCCB in a panel discussion to sum up in 20 minutes the efforts for evangelization throughout the United States. As I do so, let us pray that the solemnity of All Saints will allow us to petition the saints to intercede for us as together we seek to become the saints we are called to be and invite others to do the same. That’s the new evangelization. Saints of God, come to our aid.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz