Saints are on my mind. We’ve just passed what I think of as a triduum of holy days: All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and all Souls Day. Yesterday we Dominicans celebrated the Feast of Martin DePorres, our Peruvian brother. Today is the feast of the great reformer Charles Borromeo.
In our common prayer, this whole week is given over to remembering the deceased sisters and brothers of the Order of Preachers. We are also, incidentally, getting ready to launch a jubilee year for the Order marking 800 years since Pope Honorius III issued a formal papal document making real St. Dominic’s dream for an Order of Preachers.
If that weren’t enough, for the U.S. Church, it’s National Vocation Awareness Week.
Does it seem odd to you that during a week commemorating a lot of dead people, we are also giving a LOUD shout out to young women and men to consider a vocation as a sister, brother, or religious priest?
Not at all! “The saints” or “the holy ones” are those who have been baptized into Christ Jesus and live their lives for Christ. In his angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis made reference to the Communion of Saints. He called it “Our big family” and said it was “Made up of all the members of the Church, those who are still pilgrims on earth, and those – immensely more numerous – who already have departed and gone to heaven.”
Think Great Aunt Lena. And Uncle Frank. And if you are – as I am, a family historian – think fifth great-grandmother Molly Porter.
Think about more than just dead people.
Think about the selfless neighbor who came to your rescue when your mom’s car broke down on her way to pick you up at pre-school. Think about the janitor who makes sure the trash is emptied in your calculus classroom every morning. On weekends, does he quietly help out at the soup kitchen? Think about the manager at the grocery store, or the elderly lady who unlocks the church every morning. Do they care for ill spouses or disabled children, giving their love completely? Think about the aid worker in Syria or Iraq, who may be the only one standing between hunger and death for hundreds of refugees.
I think about many of my own Dominican Sisters.
- Sister Barbara Bogenschutz, who serves in solidarity with the Sioux Indians at Pine Ridge in South Dakota.
- Sister Trinita Eddington, who humbly meets the heath needs of dozens of people who are poor, or homeless on the streets of Jackson, Miss.
- Sister Ann Brummel, who oversees the education needs of hundreds of students at Rosary High School in Aurora, Ill.
- Sister Regina Marie Bernet, an octogenarian, who through art therapy helps heal the emotional wounds of women and men incarcerated in central Illinois prisons.
Now think of yourself.
Yes, you. You, too, are a member of the Communion of Saints. You, too, have a vocation to love. You too, as Pope Francis says “bear the surname of God.” Your family name is God, because you are God’s child.
Welcome to the family. Welcome to the Communion of Saints.