All Saints Day 2010 Reflection with Father Terry Tastard

We call them cat’s eyes.  You know, those luminous markings along the middle of a road that light up when your car’s headlights shine on them.  They are such a reassuring sight when you are driving along an unlit road late at night.  They guide you around the curves, keep you from going off the edge and separate the lanes of traffic safely.

The saints do the same thing for us.  As we move forward day by day through our life, they are there to guide us safely.  They do this by the quality and courage with which they have lived their own grace-filled lives.  In times of war, anger and hatred, there are saints like Francis of Assisi who remind us of Christ’s call to reconciliation.  In times of terror and persecution there are saints like Maximilian Kolbe who teach us through the example of their own quiet courage.  In times of confusion, when the culture around us seems set against Christianity, we turn to the doctors of the Church, ranging from the divine simplicity of Thérèse of Lisieux to the thought-provoking insights of Augustine of Hippo.  Or perhaps we turn to holy people like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who round richness in poverty, and fulfillment in humble acts of service.  In times of laxity or institutional tiredness, we see inspiration from the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola, or the evangelizing zeal of St Paul himself.

Then there are the hidden saints.  Not quite hidden – you and I have noticed them, but they are probably unaware that they have inspired us.  I think that everybody knows a quiet saint who will never be canonized but who has shown us something of how to live as a follower of Christ.  In a cynical world, these are the people whose faith leads them to be generous, kind, patient, full of hope.  In a world of knocks and bruises these are people who bear hurt, or, more difficult still, indignity, with stoicism and faith.  In a world where many people yearn to help or make a difference, these are the people who seem to see the opportunities and to use them.

What has given these saints their strength?  Quite simply, it is their faith.  More than that, it is their faith in God shining through the face of Jesus Christ.  They are men and women who have been caught up in the love of God, that is to say, God’s love of us and the love of God that this in turn awakens in our hearts.  Saints are not inspired by a cause, or motivated by ideals, although they may well have causes and as Christians they certainly have ideals.  No, saints are people who have been able to know God’s love, and by entering more deeply into it, they have been given grace.  It is tempting when we think of saints to think of them as people who are very different from ourselves.  Actually, the real challenge of the saints is that at one point in their lives they were very much like ourselves.  But the message is also that no matter how feeble or conflicted we may feel, Christ can still reign in our hearts and make us messengers of his kingdom.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His latest book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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