Called to be Saints
There is only one tragedy in life and that is that more do not will to seek sanctity
Editor's Note: In honor of this glorious Holy Day of Obligation when we honor the Church Triumphant, Father Louis Campbell presents a timely sermon on a variety of saints past, present and future. There is no one alive who cannot will to be a saint. There are countless examples of men and women from every walk of life who strove to become holier. He points out that we will never know how many are saints today until the final day when we see the wonders of Heaven illuminated by the countless stars of the saints. Wouldn't it be wonderful if our star was included in that magnificent gallery of lights? Father shows how that is not only plausible, but very, very possible. He also points out that in these times when humanism usurps godliness, and when the worth of a human life, created by the Almighty, becomes important only in the fallible expectations of man's mindset, that one of the ways to sainthood begins by doing all we can to protect the innocent unborn. Within those wombs could be countless future saints - still not bodily formed human beings - who will grow and nurture into responsible members of Christ's Mystical Body to carry on the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church.
At all times and in all places God has called forth saints, to be witnesses for His Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and for His Kingdom which is to come. Some of their names are known to us. Others are known only to God until Judgment Day, when they will be seen to shine like the stars of Heaven for all eternity. Until then the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints, not only to honor them, but to remind us that we are all called to be saints. Today we need saints, and we need to be saints.
Father Louis J. Campbell
The saints were the wisest of all people, because they understood that some things were worth striving for - the things that last forever, whereas other things were passing away with this world. The took to heart the words of St. Paul to the Colossians, "Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth" (Col.3:2), and of Jesus Himself, the firstborn of all the saints: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust and moth consume, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consumes, nor thieves break in and steal. For where thy treasure is there also will be thy heart" (Mt.6:19-21).
St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the Apostolic Fathers of the Church, being a disciple of St. John the Apostle. He was appointed by St. Peter as the third bishop of Antioch. In the year of Our Lord 110, he was sentenced to a martyr's death in the arena by the Emperor Trajan, for refusing to worship the gods of the Romans. On the journey to Rome in chains and under guard, he was in a state of spiritual exaltation, and wrote seven letters to the churches.
In his letter to the Church in Rome he wrote: "No desire burns in me for material things, but only living water speaking within me, saying, 'Come to the Father.'" "I am writing to all the Churches," he said, "and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg of you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ."
Perhaps you consider St. Ignatius, a Father of the Church and a great martyr, a little out of your range. After all, we are only ordinary people, and how can ordinary people be saints? Well, even the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were among the poor and unimportant people of their time. There was St. Tarcisius, a boy of twelve, a martyr of the Eucharist, and St. Philomena, martyred at the age of thirteen. St. Dismas was a common thief, and St. Benedict Joseph Labre, a beggar. St. Frances of Rome was a wife and mother. St. Isidore was a farmer, whose wife, Maria, also became a saint. And how did the saints rate themselves? Said St. Ignatius on his way to martyrdom in Rome, "Now I am beginning to be a disciple."
The possibility of sainthood is there for all of us. I think it was the sister of St. Thomas Aquinas who once asked him how one might become a saint. "By willing it," he replied.
Consider the case of Blessed Margaret of Castello. Margaret was born to Italian nobility in the year 1287. If Margaret had been conceived in these days of prenatal diagnosis and the cruel abortion of those considered unfit, she might never have breathed the air of this world, since she was a badly deformed dwarf and a hunchback, totally blind from birth - not a likely candidate for sainthood, one would think. To her parents she was an unwanted child, kept well hidden in their castle under the care of a servant.
From the age of six, Margaret spent fourteen years walled up by order of her father in a tiny cell by a church, where she could hear Mass and receive the sacraments, and be fed through a window in the cell. Encouraged by the chaplain, she began to advance in the spiritual life, spending her time in prayer and fasting.
At the age of nineteen, Margaret was taken by her parents to a shrine in the vain hope that she might be cured, and there they abandoned her. Blind and helpless, Margaret was befriended by beggars and survived with their help. After many additional trials and sufferings Margaret was able to become a Third Order Dominican, and spent the rest of her life in prayer, and in helping the poor and the sick, until she died at the age of thirty-three. Her remains were later found to be incorrupt, and she was beatified in 1609.
Who can tell the marvelous deeds of the Lord? To Him every child conceived in the womb is precious, and a potential saint. To Him there is no such thing as an unwanted child, a lost cause, or a hopeless case. Just ask our patron, St. Jude. On this Feast of All Saints we are all reminded that there is only one tragedy in life - not to be a saint. You would do well to borrow your motto from St. Ignatius: "Now I am beginning to be a disciple."
November 1-3, 2002
vol 13, no. 127
"Qui legit, intelligat" Father Louis Campbell's Sunday Sermons