Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Nov. 1 at Catholic High School and Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock.
Today and tomorrow we call to mind our special bond with believers who have passed from this life to the next, a bond which we call the Communion of Saints. We are the Church Militant, still struggling against evil in this life.
Today we celebrate the Church Triumphant, those who are already in heaven. Tomorrow on All Souls day we pray for the Church Suffering, those still undergoing purification in purgatory. Today we ask God to inspire us to imitate the heroic faithfulness of the saints and we ask these saints to intercede for us with God in our own earthly struggles.
Anyone in heaven is a saint, whether officially canonized or not, and every one of you is called to be a saint as well. The only alternative is to go to hell, because in the end purgatory is just a way-station for those who will eventually make it into heaven.
Many of you know that as a priest in Oklahoma, I was very involved in the cause of Blessed Stanley Rother, the first officially declared martyr born in the United States. But my involvment with saints is much more extensive that than.
For instance, I have been present for the canonization of several other Americans: Kateri Tekakwitha, our first Native American saint, and Sister Marianne Cope, who ministered to lepers in Hawaii for 35 years along with St. Damian DeVeuster, plus other American saints, including John Neumann and Junípero Serra. I was also present for the canonizations of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.
What all these eight saints have in common is that they were all teenagers or young adults when they responded to God’s call in their lives. Blessed Stanley Rother was a graduating high school senior who entered seminary right out of high school, and Marianne Cope entered the convent two years after graduation.
Kateri Tekakwitha didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, but she too was drawn to the Lord as a teenager and was only 24 when she died after giving courageous witness to her Catholic faith to her fellow members of the Mohawk tribe.
The message for us is that every one of us has an important role in God’s plan and that he calls people when they are still teenagers. I myself was in 11th grade when I began to feel the Lord’s call in my life more intensely. Here in Little Rock, in every one of my 11 years as your bishop — except last year — at least one young man has entered the seminary from Catholic High.
But you know, they didn’t just hear that call the week before graduation. Every one of them had been praying about it and feeling God’s tug in their heart for several years before they finally got the courage to quit resisting and say instead, “Yes Lord, your servant is listening.” And, of course, there are many other roles in God’s plan to which he calls people and by means of which he draws us to himself. For instance, St. Marianne Cope was called by God to be a nurse, and it was through her nursing lepers that she grew in holiness and became a saint.
That’s the difference between a vocation and a career. A career is something we choose; it is a response to the question “What do I want to do with my life?” and so remains focused on the self.
A vocation, on the other hand, responds to the question “What does God want me to do with my life?” and so is focused on something bigger than the self — and that is where true happiness and holiness lies.
How about you? God calls teenagers. If you feel that tug, but are afraid to respond, what’s the reason? Cowardice? Fear of making a commitment? Fear is a very common obstacle. We want to live up to the best that is in us, but we are weak, so the Church holds up for us all these canonized teenage and young adult saints to intercede for us and for us to imitate.
Some of these saints were called to serve the Lord as priests or religious; others like Kateri Tekakwitha were called to serve him as laypersons. Every one of you has an important role in God’s plan and God does call teenagers.
Do you have the courage to say yes? It is through your response to his call that you will find holiness and happiness, fulfilling your role in God’s plan — and thus this feast day when we honor all the saints will become your feast day as well.
Please read our Comments Policy before posting.Article comments powered by Disqus