All Saints Day – The saints of tomorrow are among us today


Saints Paul, Peter, Charles Lwanga, Maria Goretti, and Agatha
From the Tapestries at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California, USA,
By John Nava

On November 1, Christians all over the world will celebrate “All Saints Day”.  About the saints, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written:

To become saints means to fulfill completely what we already are, raised to the dignity of God’s adopted children in Christ Jesus ….  There is no isolation in heaven.  It is the open society of the saints and, consequently, also the fulfillment of all human togetherness ….. One might say that the saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations, in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected.  Their light, coming from God, allows us to know better the interior richness of God’s great light …. Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ Himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom His own light becomes visible (Angelus, 1 Nov 2005).

So, to become a saint is simply to become the best version of ourselves, to become the person that God imagined for us, dreamed of us, on the day that we were conceived in our mother’s womb.  We know about many great and heroic women and men whose stories were sufficiently well known that they have become the saints officially inscribed in our liturgical calendars and the martyrology.  In fact, however, heaven is full of many unnamed women and men whose stories will never be known widely, at least not this side of the Parousia.  Nevertheless, they, too, are saints.

Sometimes we tend to think of ourselves as “sinners” and of holy people, especially the canonized, as the “saints”.  In fact, however, in the Church of the New Testament, the saints are the baptized, the members of God’s household.  This is how Paul addresses the letters he writes to the various local churches, the letters collected in the New Testament.  So, all of us are both sinners and saints, sinners in our struggles to live the gospel with integrity, but saints in potentiality.  As Pope Francis likes to say, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”.

The saints of tomorrow are among us today.  Some of us may have an intuition about who they are; in other cases, they are completely hidden from us.  And saints are often found in those regions of the world facing the greatest difficulty, the greatest persecution and suffering.  This is surely true of the people of South Sudan.  If you have been there, you probably have an intuition as to who some of those saints, living and dead, are.

Last week, we were treated to an extraordinary webinar on the Solidarity Agricultural Project in Riimenze.  Sister Rosa Thi Le Bong, RNDM, an accomplished agronomist who was the director of the project for some years, was our featured speaker.  As I reflected on the work of Sister Rosa and her colleagues in Riimenze, I came to appreciate more deeply how very radical the project is.  In the Western mind, our flight from embodiment has led us to undervalue the Earth and manual labor.  What is “important” in our scale of values (or “dis-values”) is intellectual work, or work that makes lots of money.  And so, we often consider working with the Earth to be a menial task best left for migrants and others who have few other options.  We can see that this is true by reflecting on how farm workers are often treated and compensated.  We want food for our bodies kind of like we want gasoline for our cars, but we have little appreciation for the sacredness of the Earth from which the food comes, or the dignity of the work of the farmer whose genius and love for the Earth makes the production of food possible.

As our world continues to descend into crisis and chaos, it occurs to me that Sister Rosa and her colleagues are doing exactly what Benedict of Nursia did when he founded his monastic communities in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire.  The status quo was no longer working for people, and an alternative had to be found.  Benedict founded those communities, initially in the rural areas around Subiaco, and they eventually spread all over Italy and eventually wider Europe and the rest of the world.  Agriculture within the bio-region of the monastery was an essential aspect of those monastic communities.  They learned how to cultivate food and became masters in the production of wonderful cheeses and wines and other agricultural products.  Perhaps it is time to return to the genius of those early Benedictines?

Here is the text of a popular folksong by Dave Mallet about gardening that draws out the deep incarnational spirituality of the process:


“Garden Song”

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below, ’til the rain comes tumbling down

Pulling weeds and picking stones, man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own ’cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain, find my way in nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain to the music of the land

Plant your rows straight and long, temper than with prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong if you give her love and care
Old crow watching hungrily, from his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below, ’til the rain comes tumbling down

Elsewhere we will make available the recording of the webinar with Sister Rosa as well as the text, in English and French, of her remarks.

In closing, I wish you a blessed All Saints Day and Month.  Here are some beautiful words about the saints by His Holiness Pope Francis:

The Solemnity of All Saints confirms that we have a place with God, as Pope Francis said, “not because we are good, but because the sanctity of God has touched our life…. We can compare the saints to the church windows which allow light to enter in different shades of color. The saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God in their heart and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own hue. But they were all transparent; they fought to remove the stains and the darkness of sin, so as to enable the gentle light of God to pass through. This is life’s purpose: to enable God’s light to pass through; it is the purpose of our life too” (Magnificat, 1 November 2022).

Date Published:

01 Nov 2022


Fr. David, Mission Promoter


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Latest news, South Sudan, Solidarity, Sustainable agriculture, All Saints Day

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