The Communion of Saints
October 12, 2022
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a saint as: the “holy one” who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. The church is called the communion of saints, of the holy ones. (CCC 823, 828, 946) We take time this month to reflect on a couple of the holy ones that inspire us each of us to strive to answer the universal call to holiness.
Be Not Afraid
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son”. In 2002 Pope St. John Paul II stated this in his closing mass for World Youth Day challenging us all to become the saints that God created us to be. We celebrate this amazing saint’s life on Oct 22nd which is the anniversary of his papal inauguration. Typically, saint feast days are commemorated on the anniversary of their deaths, but due to his extraordinary papal legacy which spanned almost three decades we honor him on this day. Surviving the fall of communism and living through the degradation of the human person inspired him to focus much of his papacy on instilling the dignity of life and encouraging people to serve God and live their faith courageously. On the day he was elected as Pope he proclaimed to the world, “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.”
“Be Not afraid”, quickly became a motto for the Pope’s pontificate. He was an active leader who traveled worldwide to minister and bring this message to people everywhere. He wanted all people to recognize the face of Christ in others and to strive to serve them by giving a gift-of-self. He was known and loved by many due to his humility, hope, and holiness. He spoke with kindness and conviction when he stated,“What really matters in life is that we are loved by Christ and that we love Him in return. In comparison to the love of Jesus, everything else is secondary. And, without the love of Jesus, everything is useless.”
Pope St. John Paul II is renowned for his love of young people and challenging them to live their faith. As a bishop his favorite role was that of teacher, and minister to young Catholics. He often went on camping trips, skiing adventures, and was always available to listen and to offer advice. This connection to the youth only grew stronger during his pontificate when he founded World Youth Day in 1985. Students would travel from near and far to attend and hear the wisdom imparted from this inspiring leader. In his book, The Meaning of Vocation the Pope encouraged us all to respond to Christ’s call to become a saint. “Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.” This prophetic saint is also the author of Man and Woman He Created Them — A Theology of the Body. This great work on the human person’s vocation to love as God loves (willing the good of the other, desiring heaven for one another) is the foundation for the Ruah Woods Institute’s K-12 curriculum.
Striving for Sainthood
We recognize that in these difficult times we need others in our lives who encourage us on our path to holiness. The Catholic Church honors the saints as those that have served God here on Earth by living heroic and virtuous lives. These people offered their lives to others to lead them closer to Christ. On the Solemnity of All Saints Day (Nov. 1st) we remember those who are with God in heaven and celebrate those Christians who achieved spiritual maturity in their earthly life. The saints have always been a source of origin and renewal in the most difficult moments in the church’s history.
Pope St. John Paul II emboldened the youth by declaring, “Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium!” As parents and educators our role is to help children realize that they too are called to become saints. In our REVEALED Second Grade curriculum (Lesson 4: Original Unity— Part 2) we introduce the idea of “Saint Helpers” with an activity to find, match and read about various saints who helped to support and encourage one another. These saints are from a variety of walks of life and relationships such as parent/child, husband/wife, priest/parishioner, teacher/student, siblings, classmates, and friends. This activity demonstrates that anyone can become a saint when they follow God’s call to love and serve Him through their vocation. To wrap up this activity, we have the students create their own holy card. On this card it asks them to reflect on the good choices they can make in their daily lives to help them to become a saint. By reflecting on the lives of the saints we are inspired to surround ourselves and grow in relationship with saintly people, live holy lives, and serve God as they did in whatever way we are called!
In our middle school ROOTED sixth-grade curriculum (Unit One: Creation is a Gift) the students are introduced to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He was born in Turin, Italy and from a young age developed a love of God and a special devotion to the Eucharist. He worked daily to serve the poor, orphans, and returning servicemen from World War I through his generosity in giving both his time and money. A story is told of a time when he had to walk many miles home as he had given away the last of his bus money to the needy! His charity did not just simply come from giving something physical to others, but instead by giving completely of himself. Like Pope St. John Paul II, he was an outdoorsman who enjoyed skiing, climbing, and seeing the beauty in all of God’s creation. He developed a deep spiritual life with a particular devotion to Our Lady, and often shared his love of the faith on adventures with his friends. Sadly, Pier Giorgio contacted polio and died at the young age of 24.
In 1990 he was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II. During the ceremony the Pope dubbed him, “The Man of the Eight Beatitudes” for the way that he lived the gospel through his words and actions. When visiting his tomb, he honored this young man by paying homage to his daily witness to Christ in the way he courageously lived and led others to God. In Ruah Woods Institute’s curriculum, the students are directed to reflect on this amazing example by writing about a person in their own lives that reminds them of Pier Georgio by leading a holy life and encouraging them and others in their faith.
In your prayers this month, take time to read and reflect on the lives of the saints. These holy men and women are beautiful role models who can lead us to a deeper faith by reflecting on the way they came to serve Christ here on Earth through a total gift-of-self. Now, they fulfill their most primary vocation, one we are all called to, spending eternity in heaven with God.
Written by, Dena Reany,
Curriculum Consultant for Ruah Woods Institute in the Western US
(former Catholic school educator for 20+ years)