Remembering the ‘saints’ who lived among us

    Last year, Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, celebrated the feast of All Souls in the papal crypt in the Vatican grottos. There, he prayed for the souls of his predecessors and reminded Catholics of the reality of the communion of saints.
    In his remarks on Nov. 1, 2012, Benedict XVI said that the holy day of obligation “helps us to reflect on the double horizon of humanity, which we symbolically express with the words ‘earth’ and ‘heaven.’” In other words, we are called to acknowledge human frailty and the necessity of purgatory, as well as the insistence that our prayers for those who have departed from this world can help those souls with their process of purification.
    Moreover, the month of November has become associated with the necessity of prayer for the departed, with lists of names for those to be remembered placed near the altar. In this way, the sacrifice of the Mass is offered for those souls in purgatory.
    Nov. 2 has become known popularly as All Souls’ Day, which focuses on the celebration of everyone who has passed on to live eternally in heaven. In this way, we are called to remember that it is not only the saints who are holy, but that all people are called to live lives of holiness. This feast day, then, is a celebration of all of the people that we know who have lived as witnesses of holiness. As we honor our family members and friends, we experience joy at knowing that their ordinary lives allowed them to become holy. We also experience faith and courage, knowing that we, too, can achieve holiness in our own everyday lives.
    One of my brother’s favorite saints, and my confirmation saint, is St. Therese of Lisieux. Her story exemplifies the little, everyday means by which we can achieve holiness and grow firmer in our devotions to God. In her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” St. Therese says that she “will seek out a means of getting to heaven by a little way – very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new.” Her “little way” continues to inspire people, for she knew that God’s love was shown through mercy and forgiveness, and she knew that she would never be perfect. Instead, she displays profound trust in God by approaching him in her childlike way of simplicity. By continuing to worry about how she could achieve holiness on earth, St. Therese remained little, for, as she says, “It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven.” Her “little way” was demonstrated in ordinary, everyday tasks, in which she took every opportunity that she had to sacrifice, no matter how small it might seem, without giving any thought to whether those sacrifices went noticed or unnoticed.
    By reminding ourselves of the everyday sacrifices and the simple kindness that we can display to others, we, too, can live our lives according to St. Therese’s “little way.” By being mindful to others and selfless, we can step in the direction of holiness. As we take the month of November to celebrate and honor those who are now living in heaven, perhaps we can think about their lives and draw witness to their holiness by embracing the little, ordinary things that we remember as manifestations of their faith and their aspirations of following in Jesus’ footsteps.
    Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at

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