The saints who walk among us

The saints who walk among us

Posted: Wed, 28 Oct 2020 15:05

The saints who walk among us

In his reflection for the Feast of All Saints this Sunday, Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB turns our thoughts to the everyday saints in our midst, who support and inspire us, and to Don Bosco's reminder that holiness is for each and every one of us. Image: Part of the 'Communion of Saints' tapestry group, created by John Nava for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, USA.

I love the tapestries that hang in Los Angeles Cathedral, created by John Nava. His 'Communion of the Saints' always takes my breath away: so often the statues or paintings of saints that adorn our churches depict them as 'other worldly' and too good to be true-they are literally 'plaster-cast Saints'. Nava wanted to create a piece of art that everyone could identify with. He choose 135 saints from various ethnic background, male and female, young and old and across two thousand years of Christianity. This being the home of Hollywood, Nava worked with a casting director and scoured the city for suitable models to represent the saints. Twelve untitled figures, including children of all ages, represent the many anonymous holy people in our midst—saints live among us and we know, instinctively, who they are. All the figures direct our eyes to the light of the great Cross-window above the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated. After twenty months of research and sending digital images to the the high-tech looms in Bruges, the tapestries took only two months to complete and shipped to the United States to arrive on the infamous 9/11—a day to go down in history as a sign of hatred and violence. As the tapestries were unveiled to a nation and city reeling from disaster, the artist Nava proclaimed:

This is the time when you want to love humanity and see something that is really, truly uplifting and beautiful.

We all need our heroes: they might come from the world of sport or the arts. We need those who will inspire, support and help us in the daily 24/7! In these pandemic days we need heroes even more than ever. The anonymous graffiti artist ' Banksy' has a wonderful piece depicting a child playing with toy heroes: the usual suspects such as Batman or Wonderwoman are put to one side as the child plays with a doll in the guise of a nurse! In the height of the lockdown we gathered on our doorsteps, along with our neighbours, to 'clap our NHS heroes'. Some of these nurses, surgeons, porters and cleaners made the ultimate sacrifice in offering their skills to victims of COVID-19.

The strength of today's feast is that we are all called to sanctity—a call that Don Bosco fully believed in. Even in the poverty of Valdocco, working with some of the roughest street youths, Don Bosco saw their basic goodness and care—this is well documented in the life of Micky Magone (why not get the very readable biography of the young saint by Philip Cascucci sdb from Don Bosco Publications?)

As we have seen over this past six months, trauma, pain and hurt can hit any of us and swiftly cut us down. We can lose our confidence and become a shadow of ourselves. Nothing prepares you for it, but what gets you through, in my opinion, are the people I call saints who are supportive and are there for you when others have thrown you under the bus. When you are at your lowest, like Jesus on his Way of the Cross, we need a Mary, a Simon of Cyrene or a Veronica. If you do nothing else this week, then show COMPASSION—it does not have to be much: a telephone call, a text or even a slow-mail card. YOU can be that saint this week! Be like Mary, Simon and Veronica! Pray you have people like them, young or old, in your social bubble as we may have to endure a second national lockdown.

You can easily be a saint and you do not have to be ascetic like the Syrian, Simeon Stylites; he is noted for sitting on a platform on top of a pillar for 37 years. You would probably wonder about the wisdom of such an act; however, in his desire to get closer to God,he actually brought out the best in others. We are told of the local community in Aleppo, especially the children, bringing food and goodies to him. Saints are like that: their vision of God and their unique relationship with God is not something that they jealously guard; rather they SHARE it with others. Think of Mary of Magdala who, on meeting the Risen Lord in the Garden, ran to SHARE the good news with the apostles hiding in their own lockdown of the Upper Room. Saints realise that it is each of us, doing what we can to the best of our ability, who will make our world a better place. Saints take their prayer seriously as they live our central Christian prayer: 'thy kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in heaven.'

As we see in the lives of saints, declared by the church or not, there is an integrity and a desire to build bridges and not walls. Think about those heroes in your life: those whom you respect, those who have brought you closer to God, those who have inspired and been there for you, especially during these hard days. In thanking God for your saints or 'angels without wings', who walk among us, why not reflect? I CAN be just like them if I remove something of my jealousy or selfishness or narrow-mindedness or lack of care! Pray that our world can become an even better place because of people just like you. Pray that the influence of our saints will impact on our lives so that negativity is destroyed. Pray that our saints/heroes help us to bring a little more compassion and respect. Saints make a difference and you can be that real difference in the life of another. Be a hero; today be a SAINT:

Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy.

The saints do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others.

Pope Francis

Tags: Gospel, Homepage, Prayer, Salesian Spirituality, Salesians of Don Bosco