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All Saints' and the Kingdom of God

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of your Son: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Three years ago, a Slovak Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church died at the age of 91. He had been ordained secretly under the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia, working for 9 years in a factory, secretly offering pastoral care to the people. When he was found out, he was sentenced to prison, and when it was found out that he was celebrating the Eucharist for the prisoners, he was put in isolation for nearly ten years.

Here’s what he says about it:

“[it] was the most terrible punishment. Yet necessity is the mother of invention, so I discovered a very simple system to break up the isolation. I imagined I was making spiritual exercises. I followed a very detailed and intense daily program. I began in the morning with a good hour of meditation,”

He also says that, surprisingly enough, his daily ration was bread and a little wine, which he would consecrate, praying the Eucharistic prayers from memory. He would review theological and biblical texts, also from memory, in his head. When he was tired, he would sing hymns. After 18 years of this, he was released, and found work as a street sweeper.

On feasts like All Saints' Day, we celebrate just such anonymous saints, who died "in the sleep of peace with the mark of faith," who didn't live lives which were great by earthly standards, but lives which were great by heavenly standards, striving for a kingdom that is above. Knowing that they are members of the one body of Christ, they committed themselves to be conformed to the image of the Crucified, not laboring for the fleeting happinesses of this life, but by grace approaching the unending joy of Christ's kingdom. These are concrete examples of holiness which we very much need, but more than that, we share in their gifts! When we read the accounts of the saints, we should understand - their victory is our victory, their sanctity our sanctity, because the saints understand that everything they have, everything they are, belongs to God in Christ.

I am also reminded on this day that the purpose of a parish church is to make saints! The parish church is the crucible in which all of our rough edges are smoothed out, and the dross burned up, so that we can become who we truly are: human beings made in the image of God, called by His grace, and set apart for good works! I call upon you, therefore, to be steadfast in this calling. Don't let anything get in the way. Don't let any weight drag you down. Do not be afraid!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV

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