The Solemnity of All Saints

A reflection for the Solemnity by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

What made the saints?  What unifies them is that they all strove to seek God’s will.  That is the most important point that unites the saints – the will of God.  It takes the grace of God to do His will.  We are called to seek it at all times and to remember with confidence that God only wills good things for us, He wills the very best.  We have the ability to choose His will or not.  Can you surrender completely and hand something to God and say, “What do you want me to do?  What is your will for me?”  That is what the saints did, and not just once, they made it a lifelong practice.

Saint Benedict is so adamant about us giving up our wills, our pushiness, our desires, our way of doing things, our vision of who we are, so that we can know God’s vision of who we are.  Self-will is so strong that if we don’t learn to recognize it and to intentionally do God’s will instead, we’ll always be fumbling, we’ll never be steady.  God’s will is steady; God’s will is stable.

One way of discerning God’s will is that what we’re asked to do will require us to depend on Him.  You need the grace to do God’s will.  And that’s what the saints did so well.  They depended on God for everything.  They asked God for everything.  The Saints were so confident in the help of God.  They never tried to do it alone.  

I recently read that in the process of canonizing a saint, the person is declared “Venerable” after the Vatican Congregation determines that the Servant of God lived a life of heroic virtue.  Heroic virtue doesn’t mean a person was perfect or sinless, but that she worked aggressively to improve herself spiritually and never gave up trying to be better or grow in holiness.  That means we’re all candidates!  As Benedictines, we take a vow of conversion – no wonder there are so many Benedictine saints.  It’s what we do every day.  We get up and try again.  We keep trying because we want to, we want to be holy, we want to belong to God, we want to sing His praises.  We want to intercede for the world.  We want to live for Him.  We want to care for what He loves, and we want to live with Him forever.  Those are the ingredients of a saint right there.

So don’t grow slack.  Seek God’s will.  He seeks you and He desires only our good, only our good.  Pray for the will of God for each other.  Join your will with God’s and will it for another and you will be saying the best prayer you could say for anybody.  

Thank you for being faithful to end, for persevering and for struggling when it was hard.  Thank you for loving when it is hard to love, because that means that God is doing it for you.  Let’s celebrate the Saints and ask them for help.  Reach up and ask them.  And then maybe 200 years for now, this feast of All Saints will be our feast too.  I wish it for all of you.

“The Solemnity of All Saints is “our” celebration: not because we are good, but because the sanctity of God has touched our life. The Saints are not perfect models, but people through whom God has passed. We can compare them to the Church windows which allow light to enter in different shades of colour. The saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God in their heart and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own “hue”. But they were all transparent; they fought to remove the stains and the darkness of sin, so as to enable the gentle light of God to pass through. This is life’s purpose: to enable God’s light to pass through; it is the purpose of our life too.”

Pope Francis, Angelus Address for November 1, 2017
Artwork by our retired Abbess, Mother Maria-Thomas, OSB

On Gaining Heaven

This November, as the Church remembers in a special way all the departed, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB, reflects on what it takes to inherit the heavenly kingdom

Sunrise over our monastery

“Heaven is not a place where there is the mere vocal repetition of alleluias or the monotonous fingering of harps.  Heaven is a place where we find the fullness of all the fine things we enjoy on this earth.  Heaven is a place where we find, in their plenitude, those things which slake the thirst of hearts, satisfy the hunger of starving minds, and give rest to unrequited love.  Heaven is the communion with perfect Life, perfect Truth, and perfect Love, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be all honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

We have probably all experienced those “thin places” in life where God peeks through and seems to say, “I’m here!”  We thank God for those moments, because they make us stop in our tracks and realize His presence.  These “thin places” are little glimpses of heaven.  I think that hell is more like a house of mirrors.  Before Adam and Eve fell, there was something like a clear crystal between them and God, and they saw Him perfectly; but then after they sinned the crystal became a mirror, and they became totally self-centered.  And that’s why we go to Confession frequently—to open up that mirror again.  They say that heaven and hell have the same banquet, but the spoons are really long, so in hell everyone is trying to feed himself and misses his mouth, while those in heaven get to enjoy the feast because they are feeding each other.

When we die and stand before God to be judged, it won’t be scary if we already know ourselves and know Him.  Do you remember those teachers in school who really tried to help you out before the exams by telling you what to watch out for?  Didn’t you love those teachers?  Well Jesus in the Gospels does the same thing for us (cf. Matthew 25:31-40).  His teaching on our judgment is also outlined in the Catechism: [God will say on that day,] “I placed my poor little ones on earth for you.  I, as their head, was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father—but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need.  If you have anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1039).  This is a beautiful section of the Catechism because it tells us each what we need to do.  We are appointed specifically to love the little ones in our midst.  The little ones are each one of us, and we have to pay attention to what we place before and in each other, because ultimately it goes to God.  So whatever we do to one another, we’ve done to Christ.  Choose to do today what you want to do for all eternity.  If you spend your life praising God, blessing others, and loving them, that is how you will spend all eternity.  

Don’t think the Saints aren’t watching and fighting for you.  It’s never too late to turn around; all of the Saints had to.  Each Saint has been won by God, and not one of them didn’t have to struggle in life.  I bet heaven goes crazy cheering over the ones who hell thought they had.  Let God be victorious in you.