Reflections by Pedro, a Courage member
All Saints’ Day is celebrated every year on 1 November and is followed by All Souls Day on 2 November.
The phrase ‘Communion of Saints’ was first used in a 5th century version of the Apostles Creed. Catholics believe that the communion of saints is made up of the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven), the Church Militant (those of us still on earth and striving to reach heaven) and the Church Penitent (the holy souls in Purgatory). The mystical union embodied in the communion of saints enables the Church Triumphant, led by Christ as the Head of the Mystical Body, to assist by their prayers, merits and continuous intercession, the Church Militant and the Church Penitent, whose ultimate goal is the glory of Heaven.
The celebration of All Saints Day is a significant feast in the Church calendar as it is not only a commemoration of the multitude of saints, known and unknown, but also a celebration of their lives, sacrifices, good works, faith, piety, and holiness during their earthly life. It is also a foretaste of the reward in store for each one of us if we live by the spirit of the Gospel. The list of known saints includes martyrs, Apostles, popes, religious, hermits, social workers, and lay people from all walks of life.
While many of us would hesitate to consider ourselves saints or even remotely close to being saintly, it is worth remembering what St Teresa of Calcutta said, that ‘Saints are only sinners who keep trying’. Therefore, if we wish to become a saint, we need to strive, to hope, to pray, to rely on God, to get up whenever we fall into sin and to strive to do better. We can examine the lives of the saints, learn from their struggles and challenges, and try to model some of their behaviours. For instance, St Therese of Lisieux exhorts us to do small things with great love if we cannot do great things in our life.
The martyrs who’ve died for their faith spans from the early Christian martyrs like St Stephen, St Agnes, St Cecilia to the 20th century bishop Oscar Romero who was assassinated at Mass on the altar for speaking up against government abuse of power, social injustice and oppression of the Church in El Salvador. Perhaps one of the most important lessons we can learn from the martyrs is that standing up for our faith and speaking the truth is an expression of our trust in God and that He will always provide us with the necessary graces and strength to do His will.
Many of the founders of religious orders are also recognised as saints by the Church. St Francis of Assisi, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Bruno of Cologne, St Dominic, St Benedict, St Alphonsus Liguori and St (Mother) Teresa come easily to mind. Religious who have become well-known saints include St Teresa of Avila, St Anthony of Padua, St Therese, and St Clare of Assisi. What can we learn from the lives of these saints? That ‘God will not be outdone in generosity’ (St Ignatius of Loyola) and ‘Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life’ (Matthew 19:29).
The number and variety of saints in the Church is so long and so wide that it is highly likely that we can each find a saint or even a few, whom we can relate to, who can inspire us and help us to live up to the call to be holy (Leviticus 19:2, 1 Peter 1:16). Here are a few lesser known saints who have inspired me with their lives and their holiness.
St Vitalis of Gaza (625 AD) was a hermit for many years. Around the age of 60, he became a day labourer in Alexandria, Egypt. He compiled a list of the city’s prostitutes and visited each one of them to give her money that he had earned as a labourer, so that she could stay free of sin for at least one night. Then he would spend the night praying on her behalf. As a result of his efforts, many women were converted to Christ and started life anew. For some of them, he also arranged marriages, and dowries. For others, he found places in religious communities. For all his work, he was sworn to secrecy as he had no desire to be recognised for what he’d done. However, trouble came when some of the city’s inhabitants were angry with him and he was violently attacked and died from the resulting injuries. This little-known saint’s empathy for the oppressed in society, his courage to stand up for them regardless of what other people might say, and his love of God’s lowliest creatures, are virtues for me to aspire to in my long journey towards sanctity and union with my Saviour.
Blessed Carlo Acutis (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/blessed-carlo-acutis) was a 15-year old Italian teenager who died of leukaemia. During his short life, he was devout at prayer, attending daily Mass and praying the Rosary frequently. He also displayed empathy and would often defend his disabled friends from bullying in school; he was also active in volunteering to help the homeless and destitute. In addition, he had a strong interest in computers and used his talents and skills to document all the known Eucharistic miracles. I find it edifying that a 15-year-old teen has so much to teach me about Christian love and virtue, about defending the disadvantaged, and about anchoring our lives in the Holy Eucharist and the Rosary.
Venerable Satoko Elisabeth Kitahara was a 29-year old Japanese who converted to the Christian faith after looking at a statue of the Blessed Mother and being moved to respond to Jesus(https://www.ncregister.com/features/from-privilege-to-ragpicker-the-life-of-servant-of-god-satoko-kitahara). She spent the last 8 years of her life ministering to the ill, displaced, orphaned and outcast in Ants Town, a settlement of impoverished and homeless folks recovering from the aftereffects of World War II. She also renounced her wealth and status in order to live in the settlement so that she could be like them. As a result of the poor living conditions in the settlement, she succumbed to tuberculosis before she even reached her 29th birthday. What I can learn from this story is the generosity of spirit to care for the underprivileged in society and to look out for them as best as I can, and to remember what Christ said in Matthew 25:40 – “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Today we join the Church to give thanks for the many saints. They are examples for us to live our Christian faith better. They are also God’s gifts to inspire us to become saints too.
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Pedro is a Catholic who identifies as LGBTQ and is journeying with Courage.
The opinions and experiences expressed in each entry in the Reflections page belong solely to the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Courage Singapore. Some entries have been edited for length and clarity.