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Father Muench Says...

A day to honor all our saints

November 4, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

All Saints Day is my favorite holy day. The first week of November is one of my favorite and busiest weeks of the year – All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and four birthdays to remember. That week includes the birthdays of priest friends, and then my own birthday in that week also.

I love the celebration of All Saints day. On that day, I remember my favorite people, since my favorite people are all my saints. Some are actually canonized saints, but most of them are not canonized, that is not yet, but they are my saints.

You would recognize many of my favorite saints – that is the canonized ones. They are all rather well known. A good example would be St. Francis of Assisi. I have had the good fortune of spending time in Assisi. For me, it is a holy, special place. Wandering around Assisi by myself established for me a close friendship with St. Francis. Another example of a favorite saint is St. Pope John Paul II, one of more recent Popes. I must tell you that I had my picture taken with him. That is rather special isn’t it – to have your picture taken with a canonized saint.

At the same time, on All Saints Day, I also call to mind all of my favorite saints who have not been canonized by the Catholic Church. In fact, some of these saints of mine are still very much alive. As you know, the Catholic Church has a very complicated procedure that studies an individual’s life before they are declared a saint. I have made my own decisions about many of these favorite saints, people whose lives are being studied as part of that process. Some of them you will recognize, for they are well known people. I want to mention to you Thomas Merton and Catherine Doherty. I have experienced Merton through his writings. I know Catherine Doherty and many members of her community, Madonna House. She was a friend and lived the life of a saint. They both had a profound influence on my life, showing me the way to my own vocation.

Many other of my favorite saints you will not know. They include some relatives and many friends that have been important parts of my life. I would here mention my mother, and I would certainly give you a list of several priests with whom I worked with in ministry. However, I must include among my saints several who were and continue to be strangers. They entered my life for a brief moment and truly showed me something important about holiness, and in that way touched my life. For various reasons I never got to know them. They are strangers, and yet they are among my saints.

The Catholic Church choses those who are to be canonized as saints because of the holiness of their lives, yet also to demonstrate to us and to the world what holiness is like and that holiness is possible. They chose those who have had a profound influence on the lives of so many people. These saints have shown what it means to “Love God about all things and love your neighbor as yourself.” The lives of the saints fill many, many volumes, and each one of us can find a saint who has a story much like our own. Their holiness often gives us a powerful example to follow, and yet there are many who lived a very sinful life and then found conversion and reconciliation with the Lord.

I remember here a fellow who often comes to me for confession and always begins by saying, “Father, I am no saint.” I usually answer in the same way each time, “Well, then, you better get busy. Becoming a saint is the only reason that we are down here.”

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