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Father Muench Says...

Journeying with joy toward sainthood

Aug. 1, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Summer can be a good time to think about our faith and what it means to be holy. Summer gives us more time for reading and for quiet prayer. I have been finding time. This summer I’ve been considering the lives of saints. I also find the prayers at Mass – especially the weekday Masses – are more meaningful, and so many of them give me a deeper insight into holiness. I find myself preaching more about holiness, also.

As an example, the Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation #1, prays: “O Lord, help us to work together for the coming of the Kingdom, until the hour, when we stand before you, saints among the saints in the halls of heaven.”

Each time I pray this at Mass, I am challenged to look forward to my time with the saints. This Mass prayer tells me, and all in the congregation who are listening, to look forward to being with the saints in the halls of heaven.

What will it take for me to join those saints? Here, I think of my friend, Catherine Doherty, the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate, who wrote and taught so much about being holy. In her Little Mandate, she writes: “Preach the Gospel with your life – without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.” The Holy Spirit will lead us if we are open and listening, so that we will find the holiness that will be reflected by the way we live our lives.

I am still reading and praying over Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” There is so much about holiness in that letter. He gives us pictures of the kind of holiness that leads to becoming a saint. Pope Francis writes that a saint is a person “that is joyful and full of good humor.” He wants to make certain we do not get the wrong idea, so he continues: “Saints are far from timid, morose, acerbic, or melancholy or just wear a dreary face. They radiate a positive and hopeful spirit.” (122)

I am so pleased he wrote this section. Too many people – too many religious people – have a rather strange image of a saint. Many think of a saint as a monk buried in a monastery, or a missionary off to some foreign land or possibly some lay man or woman who is in church all the time.

These kinds of images would discourage most of us from wanting to become saints.

Pope Francis goes on in his letter to urge us to realize saints look just like you or me. Saints bring joy and peace into their communities. Saints make the world a better place by the way they live and by what they do. They truly are joyful people. Pope Francis writes, “That joy brings deep security, secure hope and a spiritual fulfillment that the world cannot understand or appreciate.” (125)

As I look back over my own life, I know that I have many saints who were my friends. They made a difference in my life, my community and the parishes where I was pastor. They truly radiated joy and peace. It was part of their lives. My ideas about saints are influenced by the saints I have known. Now is the time for all of us to get busy on our journey to becoming saints.

I remember a man, a rather good friend, who would come to me for confession. He would always begin by saying, “Well, Father, I’m no saint.” I always wanted to respond (actually, I didn’t), “Then you better get busy; it is after all the only reason we are down here.”

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