On Thursday we celebrate the great feast of All Saints. We recall those countless men and women who over two millennia have served Christ in an exemplary way and enjoy now the bliss, joy and glory of heaven. Some of them we know but so many are unknown. They come from every people, language, colour and nationality. They witness to the fact that Christ is what really matters in life and through their service to him they have extended his love into all sorts of situations. We are called to emulate their example. We are called to share the love of Christ in our world today. We are called to make his good news known. But the wonderful thing about this feast is that those who have gone before us are not ignorant or uncaring of us. Quite the contrary. They are, as the letter to the Hebrews has it, a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who show us that love is possible and, moreover, urge us on with their prayers and support so that we too can join them in the glory of heaven. Christianity is not merely a personal matter, though of course it needs a personal response to Christ, but it is communal. Next week’s feast shows us that the community of the Church extends beyond time – and that we are part of something quite wonderful. P.D.
In every generation the Word of God has to be preached afresh. We must never take it for granted that we or others from ‘Christian homes’ do not need to hear the gospel for ourselves. If we become complacent about that preaching then superstition and indifference will soon be found within the Catholic community. Each person in every generation has to make their own the faith handed to them.
The saint we celebrate on Wednesday reminds us of that fact. St Anthony Claret was born in Spain in 1807. He was ordained a priest in 1835 and quickly realised the need to preach the gospel and began giving missions and retreats in the region of Catalonia. He founded an order, the Claretian Fathers to spread the good news more effectively. In 1849 he became Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba and continued his work there. His preaching of the gospel was so effective that more than once his enemies tried to destroy him. He died in 1870 in exile in France.
St Anthony Claret realised that preaching and teaching went hand in hand. As well as his ‘religious’ work he was active in setting up schools, museums and libraries – a clear sign of his conviction that all truth is from God and leads us to him. May his prayers help us as we educate the next generation and lead them to make their own the faith they have been given.
Few of us reading this Gazette would believe ourselves to be rich I’m sure – we all have bills to pay, commitments to meet, expectations to fulfil. We all wish we had just a little bit more money. But when we stop to think about what that ‘little bit’ more would achieve in our lives I think we’d agree that it would achieve so much more in the lives of the poorest people on our planet. If we’re honest our ‘little bit’ more is wanted to buy luxuries, for the poorest that ‘little bit’ brings them some of life’s essentials – clothing, food, warmth, education.
We live in one of the world’s richest countries. It is hard for us to imagine what it is really like to be poor: to be constantly hungry, to have no possessions save what we can carry, to have no access to clean water, to see our children receive no education. And yet this is what life is like for millions on our planet.
At this time of the year we give thanks for the harvest. How will we do so? Cafod’s Harvest Fast Day gives us a sensible and constructive way to thank God for his blessings to us. By denying ourselves a little we give others so much. Be generous!
We live in a celebrity obsessed age, and the effects that obsession is having with our children is increasingly clear to see. More and more youngsters simply want to be famous for being famous, and the powerful forces of advertising and marketing puff up their products to make them attractive to the young and vulnerable. The saint we celebrate today is renowned throughout the Catholic world. Her statue and picture are found in thousands of churches and millions of homes. And yet in her lifetime she knew none of this. She simply did her duty and said her prayers, and died in obscurity in the northern French town of Lisieux in 1897 at the age of 24.
Therese’s fame comes from her little book, The Journal of a Soul which was published after her death. She speaks there with great candour about her difficulties and doubts but also about her overwhelming belief in the power of love. It was this that won for her a devoted following. Therese insisted that God could be loved in the little things, the ordinary, everyday, humdrum things of life. Her own brief life was a celebration of that conviction, and millions have tried to imitate her.
We should ask Therese for her prayers so that we come to realise that what really matters in life is not fame and fortune but love of God and neighbour.