Who do you think are the Saints-in-Making? Would they be the living (those who are still on earth but doing some extraordinary things for love of God and neighbors) or the dead (those who are in the state of purification in “purgatory” hoping to reach the heavenly home)?
I recall in one of my previous CCD classes, I had the opportunity of teaching middle school kids about the relevance of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. While Halloween activities seemed more exciting to the kids (as it was the day before the Halloween eve), I thought, however, that it was necessary to instill in their young minds the need to pray and honor the saints in heaven and remember their departed loved ones who are still in the state of “purgatory” expiating for their sins. They may not have understood much about the concept of “purgatory”, however they realized that offering prayers and good works for the dead are important, with the belief that these offerings would help the souls lessen their sufferings in purgatory.
As I was about to end the lesson, the Director of CCD (the late Fr. Thomas Catania whom I have paid tribute in one of my blogs ) entered the room, listened to us for a while and ended our discussion with a very encouraging statement which captured the kids’ attention. He said, “All of you can be “Saints-In-Making”, which made the kids wonder, at the same time happy to hear about it!
Indeed, everyone can be potential saints. We are actually called by our Lord Jesus to holiness and eventually to sainthood. We are not prevented to strive to be holy, to be passionate about God and to achieve a closer relationship with Him. However, to achieve such goal would require hard and rigorous process. There were certain ordinary people who have exemplified holiness, doing extraordinary things while on earth, and they are Saints in heaven now. Oh yes, it is doable if one wills and does it. Let’s just remember what Jesus said, “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. If we follow God’s commandments, we will have eternal life or we can go straight to Heaven.
However, we are not perfect. We fight against our weaknesses as we go through life which somehow cut our relationship with God. But if we ask God’s pardon for our sins and resolve to sin no more, and recite our prayers with acts of devotion, and undertake the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, God will surely open wide the treasury of His goodness and compassion. God is so kind that He won’t fail us if we fervently pray to Him and ask for His mercy.
As such, it is best to strive hard to go to Heaven while still on earth, than passing through the state of Purgatory or much worse Hell. Based on accounts of some Saints who have seen Purgatory, it was reported that in the said place of purification, the graver and the more committed sins are committed, the longer the period of expiation and the more intense the pain. Thus, it is noted that the members of the Church “Militant” (the living) are fortunate than those who are in the Church “Suffering” (refers to the souls in purgatory) because they are given second chances to repair the damage done in their lives and purge their sins. But of course, the most fortunate and blessed of all are those who are now with the Church Triumphant (the canonized Saints) as they are already in Heaven. They don’t need our prayers but we can ask them to pray for us.
How about those who have already died but are still in the state of purgatory? What can we do for them? St. Robert Bellarmine, one of the Doctors of the Church, once taught that the Church Suffering are much closer to God than the Church Militant. Some also say that in Purgatory, even if the pain of the soul is dreadful, the joy and the overconfidence that they will be with God someday is greater than the pain. The souls in purgatory while expiating for their sins are destined to join God in Heaven once they have completed the purging process and have received God’s forgiveness. As such, their potential to be “Saints-in-Making” is more and is almost there, they’re just waiting for the right time.
It is understood that for the souls in purgatory to be quickly released from their current state or to at least lessen the burden of their sufferings, they need help from us specifically to offer prayers for them. The souls of the dead people can no longer pray for their sake. So, they need our prayers, especially the prayers from those who are living in the presence of God. Based on the Church’s teachings, if we pray for the dead (those who died in faith and grace but still need to repay for sins committed), if we offer masses, recite the Holy Rosary along with our sacrifices and sufferings with grace, we do not only help the souls shorten their time in purgatory but we gain indulgences as well. So, that’s a two-fold return on investment there for those who pray for the dead!
Pope Francis in one of his previous tweets on the day of All Souls Day confirmed that because of our faith we visit the graves of our loved ones to pray for them especially those who are most in need and those who are not remembered. He further stated, in one of his visits to a cemetery: “Christ gives us hope, even in death”. Yes, it’s not only where “there’s life, there’s hope”. Likewise, during his Angelus address at the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed that “the saints of all times, which we celebrate together today, are not simply symbols, distant human beings, unreachable. On the contrary, they are people who have lived with their feet on the ground. They have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and its failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey.” That’s true. As Christ followers, we know where we go after death and we believe that there’s life beyond earth. As mentioned earlier, God still give us many second chances when we fail. There’s still something that can be done to us, with us and for all of us, both the living (by doing good works) and the dead (to pray for those who are in purgatory). We have a God who is ever present and who loves us powerfully and faithfully. And that’s more inspiring, and hope-giving answer to life’s most perturbing question, can we be Saints-in-Making?
Yes, it is possible. And if we want to be saints-in-making, we have to double our efforts in answering the universal call of the Church for all men and women, regardless of state in life, to seek holiness and sainthood. Don’t worry if we have so many unpleasing pasts, God does not discriminate. St. Augustine once said, “Every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” There are saints who have not lived perfect lives, they had scars too and specks in their eyes. Some lived with vices and bad habits, some faced so many challenges, but they were able to overcome it with the grace of God. So, nothing is too late to start in doing good, just try to live now the humble and simple life of faith and you will be in the right track. The place we live in is the right place for everyone to exemplify God’s teaching and commandment to be His servant in our everyday life, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as you love yourself”.
As November is the month dedicated for the Saints in heaven and the holy souls in purgatory, let’s ask help from the Saints in heaven to pray for us and for us to pray for those in purgatory, so that the living and the souls in purgatory can be Saints-in-Making.
On this special feast day, we have to encourage kids not to don scary and weird outfits for the Halloween, but to teach them on how be good children of God, to participate in the communion of saints by dressing up as their favorite saints just like what the kids did as shown in the featured photo above. Aren’t they awesome in their saintly clothes?
By the way the kids got small packs of goodies as my Halloween treat for them! And what did I get in return from the saints-in-making? Oh, it was their gratefulness and naughty grins which gave me joy!