It’s the Feast of All Saints tomorrow — one of my favorite solemnities! As it approaches each year, my thoughts go to a mental image of all the saints around the throne of God, and I always feel a bit overwhelmed with emotion. The other day I happened to be listening to Sara Groves’ song “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and the lyrics evoked that familiar, stirring response in me. I thought I would share a few of the lines. Groves’ is talking about what she sees in her mind when she thinks about “all who’ve gone before and lived a faithful life:”
I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad,
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul.
I see the young missionary and the angry spear,
I see his family returning with no trace of fear.
I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights,
I see the sisters standing by the dying man’s side.
I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor,
I see the man with a passion come kicking down that door.
I see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road,
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load.
And when the Saints go marching in,
I want to be one of them.
Her sung words build into a litany that stirs up your insides until you are ready to bubble over. Yes! I want to be one of them too. That is why this feast is so special — we should all want to be saints, for that is what we are called to be. And heaven holds this glorious crowd of holy men and women cheering us on until we get there.
The saints were people just like us, but they were people who lived lives completely surrendered to God. They held nothing back. Many were martyred. Some suffered unimaginable atrocities. Some gave their lives in place of another. Some simply lived one faithful day after another for a lifetime. But each story tells us that their end can be our end too. Each story echoes St. Paul’s words:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
But we aren’t meant to fight that fight, finish this race, and keep our faith all by ourselves. The most overwhelming part of that image of the Saints before God is that they are praying…for you and for me. No, we are not in this alone; we have the wonderful gift of the intercession of the Saints. They are praying with us and for us, praying us to heaven. Remember St. Therese’s words: “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.”
So tomorrow, as you go to Mass and the litany of the Saints is read, let that not be lost on you. They are praying for you. Those ordinary men and women who lived extraordinary lives are praying for you and me to do the same. And I don’t know about you, but when I think of that, I want to be one of them.