At baptism, we become part of the “communion of saints” – the awesome fellowship flowing between Christians both living and dead.
So, what advice might our heavenly role models give the living so we can become saints on earth, in the here and now?
That was the crux of the All Saints’ Day Mass at The Good Shepherd School, celebrated belatedly Nov. 14 following the weather-forced closure of area schools earlier in the month.
The Gospel chosen for the Mass – the “Beatitudes” given to us by Jesus in Matthew 25 – offer Christians a helpful roadmap on how to live the way God intended his children to live. But Josephite Father Henry Davis, the Mass’ celebrant, said the saintly life can also be boiled down to four characteristics exemplified by every canonized saint:
• Holiness: “Holy means something that is blessed, something that is sacred, something that is of God,” Father Davis said, urging his young congregants and their teachers to take even small moments to pray and listen to God’s voice, which guides them toward the holy.
• Goodness: “To be a saint you have to live in the goodness of the Lord – doing what’s right, doing what’s proper, doing what’s correct – even when others might tempt you to do something that’s the opposite of good,” Father Davis said.
• Mercy: “Sometimes mercy means that you have to forgive people, even when they hurt you,” the priest noted.
• Love: “The kind that comes from God; the love that Jesus exhibited. If you’re filled with God’s love, you already know how to live,” Father Davis said. “If you do all these four things, guess what? You’re gonna be a saint!”
Father Davis, the pastor of Corpus Christi-Epiphany Parish and the chief religious officer at St. Augustine High, cited several examples of saints who show us how to be holy, good, merciful and loving:
• Servant of God Mother Mary Elizabeth Lang, who founded the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence to care for the sick and teach young people.
• Servant of God Augustus Tolton, the first African-American to be ordained a Catholic priest.
• Blessed Mother Henriette Delille, the New Orleans-born free woman of color who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, catechized the enslaved and cared for the sick and elderly.
• St. John Paul II, the pope who witnessed to the power of mercy by visiting his would-be assassin in prison and forgiving the man.
• St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who was repeatedly sold as a slave and mistreated by her abductors until becoming a nanny for a kind family, gaining her freedom and serving as a Canossian religious sister in Italy for 45 years. “She said if she met her captors, she would thank them for keeping her as a slave, because if it were not for that, she would not have become a Catholic and she would not have had God talk to her heart to become a sister,” Father Davis told the students.
A very special Offertory was conducted at the Nov. 14 Mass, with fourth graders carrying up 3D-printed symbols – each researched and produced in their computer classes. The symbols represented a canonized saint – or soon-to-be saint – with ties to the New Orleans area:
• St. Joan of Arc: a fleur de lis representing St. Joan’s hometown of Orleans, France.
• St. Louis King of France: the boot-shaped state of Louisiana, which bears his name.
• St. Frances Xavier Cabrini: a book representing her love for learning and her teaching of New Orleans’ orphans.
• Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos: the medical symbol of a snake wrapped around a central rod, representing Blessed Seelos’ care for New Orleans’ yellow fever victims.
• Our Lady of Prompt Succor: the hurricane symbol, calling to mind Our Lady’s intercession in times of severe weather.
• Venerable Mother Henriette Delille: a family inside a house, alluding to the religious community she established (the Sisters of the Holy Family) and her care of children.
• St. Katharine Drexel: the seal of Xavier University of Louisiana, which she founded with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
Father Davis couldn’t resist ending the Mass with a playful plug of the other “saints” on everyone’s minds. The priest dismissed his congregants, asking them to “go out, praising our saints in heaven and on our football team.”
The Mass concluded with the singing of “When the Saints Go Marching in.”