Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
The Christian calendar is dotted with names we know and love – St Francis, St Patrick, St Mary Magdalen, St Martin de Porres, St Catherine, Our Lady herself and St Joseph – but on ALL SAINTS day we celebrate all the blessed in Heaven, all those who have gone before us in faith. Most of them we cannot name but they are the men and women of every age who have faced up to death and now have their full share in the Resurrection as they live eternally in the presence of God. St Cyprian could write around the year 250 “how great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honoured with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God … to delight in the joy of immortality in the kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends”.
As we look around us today there is so much sadness, and so much sheer badness seems to colour so many world events. The news, day after day, depresses us, pulls us down, and makes us question the nature of our humanity. Why is there so much that disturbs, that is cruel, and that is just plain evil spoiling so many lives? In asking us to contemplate the saints, the Church wants us to raise our eyes to catch a glimpse of heaven, to realise that there is more to this life than appears at first sight, that unseen, but vibrantly, vitally alive all around is another dimension. This is not to escape from present realities, but to embrace a fuller context as we share St John’s vision in his Apocalypse (7:9): “I saw a huge number, impossible to count of people from every nation, race, tribe and language: they were standing in front of the throne”.
But what will heaven be like? When Monsignor Alfred Gilbey was once asked by a lady whether her pet dog would be with her in glory he replied that if this would make heaven for her then she would be reunited with her pet. There is much wisdom in the priest’s response for we can, as yet, only imagine heaven in terms of our own experience of happiness. It is not wrong to apply all that we now understand of goodness and beauty, of love extended and accepted, to what will be (how could we do anything else?), but with the proviso that “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now, I know in part: then, I shall understand fully” (I Corinthians 13:12).
Our tentative vision of the saints in glory is not just a foretaste of what will be, nor just a reassurance of their ongoing concern and intercession: our contemplation of them is a challenge to us here and now. Therese of Lisieux, writing about herself as a small child, said that even from a young age she had wanted to be a saint. Not to be canonised and have her statue put up in churches all over the world, but to want to become what God intended her to be, a holy person, mirroring something of his own Being, able to claim, with St Paul “it is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians2:20).
The saints show us that it is possible to live a holy life while on earth, and to look ahead to future glory. St John could say: “what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed, all we know is that when it is revealed we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is” (I John 3:2). The example of the saints shows that sanctity is attainable, that holiness of life is within your grasp and mine. If we really want to become saints, we can: if we really do want to join those in heaven, we will.