THE SAINTS WERE NOT “SAINTS”

Today, November1 is All Saints Day. It is one of the holy days of obligation on The Church’s liturgical calendar. On this day, we celebrate the heroes and heroines of our faith – those men and women whose lives have become an example and encouragement for our own Christian journey.

The saints whom we celebrate today were people who led virtuous lives when they lived on earth. When we read or listen to their life stories, we can’t help but admire them for the virtues they stood for – courage, honesty, humility, generosity, self-control among others. These were people who were willing to die for the faith they professed. And indeed, a good number of them were martyred for the faith – when all they needed to do to avoid martyrdom was to deny their belief in the LORD. Yet they refused to be intimidated even by death.

When we consider all this, it is tempting to think that the saints were special people who possessed some superhuman qualities that enabled them to live as they did. It is tempting because when we regard them as such, we can safely place them on a pedestal where all we do is to admire them and sing their praises without placing ourselves in a position where we are burdened to emulate their example.

These ones whom we venerate today were no special than we are. They were flesh and blood like the rest of us and they were certainly not spared the temptations we face in our own Christian journey. When you read their writings you’ll notice that there were times in their lives when they fell.

In his Confessions, Augustine wrote about an illicit affair he had with a woman in his youth and many other wrongdoings. Mother Teresa also at a point in her life questioned her faith in God, “where is my faith… I have no faith…” she wrote. Even Paul of Tarsus, the New Testament apostle at one time described himself as the “chief of sinners.” These are just three out of the countless examples that reveal that these saints were no super humans. They were not extraordinary individuals. They were ordinary men and women like us who learnt how to take advantage of God’s grace and mercy to lead extraordinary lives. “Men and women are not born saints with special gifts and privileges. They fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, and as they conquer, the spirit of Jesus begins to shine through with more clarity” says Mother Angelica.

To learn from these heroes and heroines of our faith, we need not only read or study their victories but to contemplate on their failures as well.

Today, as we admire and celebrate these ones who have triumphantly gone ahead of us in this journey, we ought to admit that it is not enough to just admire and recount the beauty of their lives. It is important that as we venerate them, we strive to replicate the virtues they lived and died for in our own lives as well.