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Surrounded by such a Cloud of Witnesses: Reflection on the Solemnity of All Saints

November 1, 2007
All SaintsThe month of November is the month of the Saints. November 1 heralds a time of serious reflection and prayer with the Saints and Blesseds of our Catholic tradition. It is also a good opportunity for us to take stock of the way that Pope John Paul II changed our way of viewing the Saints and Blesseds. The very way of "reading" saints has changed. In only 26 years of pontificate, John Paul II gave the Church more than 1,338 Blesseds and 482 Saints. They are travel companions, in joy and suffering. They are men and women who wrote a new page in their lives and in the lives of so many people. This was precisely the Pope's message: Holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity -- a great lesson reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and its call to universal homilies (Lumen Gentium).
Is it possible to sketch a model of holiness à la John Paul II? It is a holiness lived day in, day out. A saint is an authentic, concrete person, as John Paul II has told us over and over again. That person’s testimony of life attracts, teaches and draws, because it manifests a transparent human experience, full of the presence of Christ. For the Polish Pontiff, the call to holiness excludes no one; it is not the privilege of a spiritual elite.
The real "stars" of John Paul II's Pontificate were the saints and blesseds who did not try to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke. A saint is an ordinary person, a doctor, a university student, a nun who was a former slave, a priest who endured the Soviet gulags, a married couple, a catechist, a young mountain climber. Friends.
There are those within the Church, who criticize John Paul II accusing him of creating an "inflation" of Saints and Blesseds. I disagree with those voices, especially after many years of working with young people. They, in particular, have a desperate need for real heroes and heroines, models and witnesses of faith and virtue that the world of sports, cinema, science and music cannot provide.
Our Lady and the SaintsThe world needs credible witnesses more than teachers. With his decision to proclaim so many Blesseds and Saints, John Paul II has wished to propose figures capable of accompanying us along our journey.
Karol Wojtyla himself was an extraordinary witness who, through his heroic efforts and especially his suffering, communicated the powerful message of the Gospel to the men and women of our day. A great part of the success of his message is due to the fact that he was surrounded by a tremendous cloud of witnesses who stood by him and strengthened him. He introduced us to his many friends who form that cloud of witnesses: they are none other than the Blesseds and the Saints.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
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