See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”
1 John 3:1

My Dear Friends in Christ,

Have you ever started a project and then realized that you don’t have the right tools? I’m sure that like me a number of you took your quarantined time to organize and improve your house. I like to consider myself a Mr. Fix-it (which means I watch more HGTV than actually fix things) so I did try a number of projects some of which worked great and others…not so much. On several of those projects, thought, I realized in the middle of it, that I didn’t have the right tools to finish. I’m constantly amazed at how a complicated job becomes easier when you have the right tools.

In November, the church has an ancient practice of remembering the dead, of bringing to mind and heart and prayer those who have died. It helps assuage our grief but also reminds us that they are not gone, helps us to recognize that our community is bigger than what we see, bigger even than this earth. Our community includes, we are in communion with those who have died. Death does not have the final word. The Church begins this remembrance with our feast of All Saints asking us to remember the Saints and understand the communion of saints as one of God’s many gifts to us.

All Saints Day is about having a great tool for a life well lived. The saints are not some outdated notion painted on the walls of irrelevant churches throughout Europe (or in statues and icons in our churches for that matter). Like any tools, they assist us in doing better the main job given to each (being a follower of Jesus) and to all (being a community that helps others to “Love God. Love Others. Make Disciples”). The Communion of Saints, this great cloud of witnesses, spurs us on both to do and to feel better about our life with Jesus. This gift to us comes in the example and the intercession of the saints.

God’s always at work and needs no intermediary, but God also uses every vehicle to reach out to us and draw us close. The saints are one of the most profound of those vehicles. I love and am comforted in recognizing that someone before me has faced the challenge I have or that I’m going through. There’s a saint for everyone, someone who can assist each of us. But there is also a saint for each experience I face, the challenge of growing as a human and as a disciple – Mary, (@20 BC – @45 AD) Wife of Joseph, Mother of Jesus, especially when I feel alone or miss my own  Mom, when I need to be loved, not for any particular reason or when I’m low, when only the love of a mother can suffice. I also like that there are different titles and images for different moments. My new favorite is Mary, Untier of Knots because many things are beyond me and sometimes I struggle even to know what to do. 

my call to serve quietly and gently as God wills it rather than I will it – Joseph (?? – <33), Husband of Mary, Foster Father of Jesus: Joseph loved Mary. God intervenes in a dream to ask Joseph to trust Mary, to take her into his home and raise the Son She was bearing. Jesus learned from Joseph not only carpentry but what a good father is. The image Jesus had of our heavenly Father came in large part because of who and what Joseph showed Jesus.

my name (being the best “Robert” I can be)Saint Robert Bellarmine, Priest, Bishop, Cardinal, Scholar, Apologist (1542 – 1621): rich, well connected, brilliant, able to  speak clearly, sought to put all of his gifts in service to God and to the poor.  More personal than that, he served as the rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where I studied. He was buried near that university in the Church of Saint Ignatius and I would visit  his tomb for Mass on my day off. I also visited twice with every exam: once before (pleading for his help and intercession) and then once after (thanking him if I did well and chastising him if I didn’t)!

my state in life (for me, that’s priesthood; for you it might be marriage for a committed single state)Saint John Vianney, Priest, Pastor (1786 – 4 August 1859): loved the Lord and wanted to serve as a priest. Was not smart enough to get through seminary and had to be granted a dispensation to be ordained. Sent to a small, out of the way parish where he could do the least harm. He allowed God to be at work, transforming the people through his service, teaching, concentration on the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and his complete dedication to the salvation of their souls

our parish patron of Saint Francis of Assisi – Francis, Religious, Founder of the Franciscans (1181-1226): A joyful man who loved Jesus and sought to serve, who gave up his wealth to serve and identify with the poor. He saw God in everything and sought to unite himself to God, always in JOY. I love his simplicity and his single mindedness and his ability to allow God to speak to and work through him, enough to change the entire world.

overcoming my difficulty and dryness in prayer –  Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Religious, Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity (1910-1997): served with absolute integrity the poorest of the poor and who called herself the Saint of Darkness about her own difficulties in prayer.

my current service in the Church (leading and serving in changing and challenging times) Pope Saint Paul VI Priest, Bishop, Pope (1897-1978): Immediately following the Saintly Pope John XXIII, Paul VI completed and sought to live the essence of the Second Vatican Council and serve by its tenets. He struggled to understand how to serve in an age with changing social norms, societal goals and the understanding of what human dignity required.

understanding better the prophetic role God is calling me to live: Oscar Romero (1917-1980) Priest, Archbishop, and Martyr, allowed by the ruling junta to become Archbishop of El Salvador because he towed the Fascist party line. Once he began serving as Archbishop, he grew to understand the suffering of his people and spoke out ever more forcefully against any who would harm his beloved flock. In the act of celebrating Mass, he was assassinated by the junta in an attempt to silence him.

my failures, especially when I fail Christ or anotherPeter Fisherman, Apostle, Pope, Martyr (? – @68 AD). Brash and Bold, often speaking before he thought, Peter was a  passionate man who loved Jesus Christ and allowed Christ to call him. Peter also allowed Christ to forgive him after he had abandoned Jesus (see the rooster in the top, right-hand corner?).

my struggles to balance work and prayer – Benedict, Religious, Monk, Abbot, Founder of the Benedictines (480-543): Benedict’s Rule for his monks was about achieving a balance between prayer and living and work. His motto was “Ora et Labora” (Work and Prayer). He was all about hospitality and welcoming any and all who came to his monastery (perfect patron for our emphasis on radical welcome)! I studied with the Benedictines for my License in Sacred Theology.

finding God in the events and moments of my life – Ignatius of Loyola Priest, Religious, Founder of the Society of Jesus (1491-1556): who started the Jesuits after reflecting on how God was present to him in his recovery after war. I’ve preached the whole Easter season about who God is and how God works: God is present. God loves us. God has a plan. But sometimes, I must admit, that I need to look a little harder to see more clearly how that all plays out for me. It’s one thing to know this intellectually but it’s another, as we just said in our Wavelength series, to replay my day from God’s perspective.

my struggles to keep focused, to remain courageous and to continue to trust in God – Pope John Paul II Priest, Bishop, Pope (1920-2005): John Paul began his pontificate by shouting out the words, “Do not be afraid.” More than just speaking them from the balcony of Saint Peter’s, he lived this truism. Facing the Nazi and then the Communists, he spoke out clearly about the need for Christ and the call for us to trust in Christ. I’ve needed this more than ever with all we are facing as a nation, not simply freedom from fear in the face of unrest or the lack of respect and civility but even more freedom from fear about engaging difficult topics like racism, justice, life and culture.

my poor attempts at humor – Philip Neri, Priest, Religious, Founder of the Congregation of the Oratory (the Oratorians) (1515-1595): Saint Philip was especially attentive to serving young people and used a great deal of humor to reach them and others, especially in making more difficult messages easier  to hear.

And I love that the well of saints will never run dry continues to grow. On October 31, Michael McGivney, Priest, Founder of Knights of Columbus (1852 – 1890):  who looked to provide spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help to the widows and orphans of its members. These men were being exploited in the Industrial Age and Fr. McGivney sought to protect and provide for them in an age when so many around the world are exploited, I’m reminded that “even a parish priest” can help others.

Just few days before that, on October 20, 2020, Carlo Acutis (1991-2006), an English-born Italian Catholic schoolboy and amateur computer programmer was beatified. He was best known for documenting Eucharistic miracles around the world and cataloguing them all onto a website that he created in the months before his death from leukemia. He was noted for his cheerfulness, computer skills, and deep devotion to the Eucharist, which becomes a core theme of his life. He died at the tragically young age of 15, offering his suffering for the pope and for the Church. I must admit that before his beatification, I had not heard of him, but I love the fact that he became a saint under the very same circumstances that we face. And to see him, dressed in the clothes of our own day and age just reminds me that God can work with all people, with anyone willing to be open.

Take some time this week to reflect on the saints. Think of some who might be your patrons. Perhaps it’s one who shares your struggle. Perhaps it’s one who shares your name. Perhaps it’s one that just inspires you and makes you want to be a better disciple. In any case, finding a good patron saint (or indeed several patron saints) is like having the perfect tool for the job. Can you get the job done without it? Sure. But’s it’s so much nicer and easier when you don’t have to struggle as much!

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. In the meantime and following, please pray with our Blessed Mother under her title of the Immaculate Conception (image right). Under this title, Mary is the patroness of our beloved country. Or pray with her under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe (image left). Under this title, Pope Saint John Paul II named her Patroness of All America (North, Central and South America). She represents how close God and how much God looks after those who are poor and struggling. As the Queen of Peace and Reconciliation, Mary also intercedes for us and can help us overcome any division or vitriol that may occur, even in our own hearts.

Know of my continued thoughts and prayers for you.




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