Saturday, October 31, 2009

For All the Saints

Celebrating a Solemnity
All Saints' Day

This is the stained glass dome over the sanctuary of the chapel of Mount St. Aphonsus Pastoral Retreat Center. Our monastery of Mother of Perpetual Help is on the property of the Mount which opened in 1909 as the major seminary for the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists (Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer). It was transformed into a retreat house in the late 1980s. It is surrounded by hundreds of acres on the west shore of the Hudson River in Esopus, south of Kingston, NY.

Depicted here is the arrival of the soul of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, religious founder, moral theologian and Doctor of the Church, into the realm of heaven where the three persons of the Blessed Trinity and the Blessed Mother welcome him with all the angels. Below them is an array of saints; on the left martyrs and apostles and on the right well known saints like Teresa of Avila and St. Francis Xavier and also Redemptorist saints, most prominently St. Clement Hofbauer and St. Gerard Majella. Just below the dome are seen just the heads of twelve mosaic angels, each representing a virtue. It was the custom of Redemptorists and Redemptoristines to focus on one of these virtues each month of the year.

This work of art is an appropriate image for this great feast - "the saints in vast array." We all have our favorites, our patrons, our courts of last resort when the chips are down. Some may have a very particular devotion to a saint like Therese of Lisieux. Others have made a study of a saint like John of the Cross whose depths can never be fully plumbed.

But today I suggest that we think of the saints we ourselves have known, the saints we may have in our families, in our circles of friendship, in our church communities, or even in the larger culture around us. Those who have died are in the Communion of Saints. We do see and experience and benefit from the saintliness of others. We need to think about them, remember why we call them saints, what made them saints. Maybe in the thinking some of it will rub off on us. For them we owe a prayer of thanks to God. We owe thanks to the 'saints' who may live with us or befriend us or serve us in some way. The age of miracles has not passed. IF we think about it, we will remember some. If we look around we may see some in action.

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