Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Saints Day Homily: These are the Ones who have survived the time of great distress.

Fr. Michael Denk

Homily for All Saints Day

November 1, 2009

St. Barnabas 5pm and 7:30 am

It’s interesting the way that we celebrate Halloween before All Saints Day. What makes it possible for us to celebrate, delight in, and laugh at Horror? One of the scariest things that we are facing right now is the Swine Flu and what do you think the number one costume is? Swine Flu. Followed by Michael Jackson, President Obama, Vampires, and Witches. What enables us to laugh at something so scary? It is the realization that we will survive. Sickness and even death is not the end, they are not the final answer.

Revelations declares “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress.” What enables us to go on in life despite it’s horrors is that others have made it through.

Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Bill W. began the first support group in 1935 in Akron, OH. In 1997 there were over 114,000 groups and today AA Support Groups can be found all over the world. It is an example of how we can be helped by seeking out those who have survived. Here’s a story from the Big Book: Chapter 3, “Women Suffer Too.”

I went to a meeting to see for myself this group of freaks or bums who had done this thing. To go into a gathering of people was the sort of thing that all my life, from the time I left my private world of books and dreams to meet the real world of people and parties and jobs, had left me feeling an uncomfortable outsider, needing the warming stimulus of drinks to join in. I went trembling into a house in Brooklyn filled with strangers . . . and I found I had come home at last, to my own kind. There is another meaning for the Hebrew word that in the Bible is translated "salvation." It is: "to come home." I had found my salvation. I wasn't alone any more.

That was the beginning of a new life, a fuller life, a happier life than I had ever known or believed possible. I had found friends, understanding friends who often knew what I was thinking and feeling better than I knew myself, and didn't allow me to retreat into my prison of loneliness and fear over a fancied slight or hurt. Talking things over with them, great floods of enlightenment showed me myself as I really was and I was like them. We all had hundreds of character traits, of fears and phobias, likes and dislikes, in common. Suddenly I could accept myself, faults and all, as I was—for weren't we all like that? And, accepting, I felt a new inner comfort, and the willingness and strength to do something about the traits I couldn't live with.
It didn't stop there. They knew what to do about those black abysses that yawned ready to swallow me when I felt depressed, or nervous.

Sometimes the saints seem like a group of “group of freaks or bums” that we couldn’t possibly relate to. However, when I read the lives of the Saints and their writings and pray with them I discover that they have been through a lot of what I go through. In the Saints I find friends, understanding friends who often know what I’m thinking and feeling better than I know myself. They have faced the struggles and difficulties and temptations… and they have survived! Not only do they give us encouragement but they also are with us to guide us and guard us.

Here are some of my favorite sayings of Saints who have survived the times of great distress…

Julian of Norwich reminds me very simply and strongly:

All shall be well

St. Francis DeSales calms me when I am anxious

"Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and ever day. God will either shield you from all suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations"

Faustina couldn’t say it any simpler and more powerful:

Jesus I trust in you

St. Augustine helps me to understand my restless:

My heart is restless until it rests in thee

St. John Vianney reminds me how simple prayer can be:

“I look at the good God and the Good God looks at me.”

St. Therese of Lisieux reminds me that

Nothing is small the eyes of God. Do all things you do with love.

St. Teresa of Avila helps me to be patient on the journey.

Let nothing trouble you

Let nothing frighten you

Everything passes

God never changes


Obtains all

Whoever has god

Wants for nothing

God alone is enough.

St. Francis de Sales reaffirms the need for patience of which I can’t hear enough:

Have Patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.

St. Ignatius gives me the courage to continue on and work through the distress of life.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Though deservest;

To give and not count the cost;

To fight and not to heed the wounds;

To toil and not seek for rest;

To labor and not ask for any reward

Save that of knowing that we do thy will.”

St. Philip Neri reminds me to take it one day at a time and remember what is most important.

The Best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last.

St. Angela Merici motivates me

Do now; do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die.

St. Gregory of Nyssa helps me to look beyond the problems and frustrations.

Hope always draws the mind from what is seen to what is beyond.

St. Jerome encourages me to seek friendship with the saints.

A friend is long sought, hardly found, and kept only with difficulty.

He reminds me to seek out these saintly men and women both on heaven and earth who have walked through the difficulties and are there to help and support me.

Revelations declares “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress.” The saints are there for us to help us on the journey and to inspire us. It’s long been in our tradition that we can look to them for inspiration and that they can intercede for us and walk with us on the journey.

Begin by learning about them and getting to know them and their lives. Here are some books from simple to more in depth that can help inspire you:

All Shall Be Well: Hope and Inspiration from Great Catholic Thinkers. Jane Cavolina.

My Life with the Saints. James Martin.

All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time by Robert Ellsberg

Butler's Lives of the Saints

The saints remind us of the victory that Christ has won for us. They help us to laugh in the face of death and embrace the crosses with joy.

"Spark the Flame" 8th Grade Retreat Class of 2010