Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Cultivation of Saints: A Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints

The Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
Solemnity of All Saints

November 1, 2015

The Cultivation of Saints

The longer I live in the County, the more agrarian my outlook is becoming. I pay closer attention to the seasons. I’m interested in how the crops are doing. I get concerned about the ratio of sunlight to rain during the growing season. And I’ve been reflecting on why this is the case. I’m not a farmer, so I have no immediate or economic stake in the well-being of our farms, but there’s something wholesome and satisfying and fulfilling about driving through the countryside and seeing how it all happens. Every time I see a farmer out in his field, or a tractor driving slowly on the side of the road, it’s a simple but touching reminder to me of how God brings about great things in small ways. A simple seed is planted in the soil…it’s watered, fertilized, grown, and harvested out of the ground, giving us the food that we so desperately need to survive. It’s amazing to me just how good and how masterful of an artist God is…He’s created this world not only with such order and efficiency, but also with such great beauty. The warm bread that adorns our dinner tables first adorned the landscape as amber waves of wheat. The heaping pile of mashed potatoes first graced the country side as beautiful and vibrant blossoms. Even our steaming broccoli first colored the horizon with its deep hues. And all of this beauty, all of this goodness, it all starts as a tiny seed planted in the ground. For those of us with eyes to see, the land, the soil, unlocks a great Mystery of our God, the Masterful Artist that He is, and how He arranges the universe and orders all things for His glory and our sanctification.

Today, in the shadow of another successful harvest season, with barns and stomachs full of God’s bounty and ready to endure the trials of winter, the Church places before us an important feast day: that of All Saints. Today we commemorate all of those many men and women throughout time who have graced the land and hearts of us all with their simple beauty and sanctity. We recall today not only those who have been officially raised to the altars by canonization, but all of those – known and unknown – who figured out that the sole and full meaning of life is to live for God in Christ. They are the living wheat who adorned the fields of humanity and the grains willingly crushed to become bread for the spiritually hungry. In their simplicity, in their goodness, in their truthfulness, in their humility, in their joyfulness, in their sufferings, and in their holiness, they have shown us, as Fulton Sheen so often said, that life is worthy living if it is truly lived in Christ. For two-thousand years, countless men and women – fathers, mothers, children, aunts, uncles, priests, sisters, bishops, teachers, blacksmiths, bakers, seamstresses, rich, poor, young and old – have heard the call of Jesus Christ, and in their own way according to their own state, heeded His call and followed Him to their eternal homeland. They are the true salt of the earth and the light of the world. They have borne so much fruit for mankind, feeding us and nourishing us with the fruit that God’s grace produced in their own lives. But like anything that bears fruit, these holy men and women did not fall from the sky…they were planted, cultivated, grown, and harvested from the ground.

Typically when we think of the saints, we tend to imagine them as they are so often depicted in art…pristine, other-worldly, and unreachable. We ask ourselves how we could ever be as pure as St. Thérèse of Lisieux or as innocent as St. Maria Goretti. We find it impossible to think that we could have as much strength as St. Catherine of Sienna or as much courage at St. Louis, King of France. We tell ourselves that we could never be as detached as St. Francis of Assisi, as eloquent as St. Mark, as wise as St. Thomas Aquinas, or as humble as good St. Joseph. And yet every time we tell ourselves these things, every time we place the saints on unreachable pedestals, we cheat ourselves out of a proper understanding of what holiness is, what is looks like, and how it is attained. We forget that all of these holy men and women started off as we all do…as small seeds. We forget that they, like us, sprout up out of the soil, grow, and bear fruit only by the means of the light of God’s grace. Every single one of us is planted by God in the same soil and every single one of us is called to great holiness. We might never have our pictures unveiled in St. Peter’s Square, we might never be given a feast day or remembered throughout the Universal Church or given the title “saint” – but we can, and in fact we must, strive to be counted among the throngs of holy men and women known by God, who have fought the good fight, and who have attained the blessedness of His Kingdom.

The holiness of all the saints is an organic holiness…it didn’t fall from the sky, it didn’t just appear in them, it was built up over time in their souls by God’s grace and their resolve to cultivate it. The virtues that they attained – faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, courage, humility, patience, modesty, chastity – they all began as seeds to be nurtured. Their acts of love – simple or great – didn’t come from nowhere…they were the fruit of these virtues and the result of much sacrifice. This kind of holiness, when it is discovered, can unleash such great power and beauty into the world. By God’s grace this holiness is not reserved to a select few…it is available to us all. And it all begins in the ground.

For our part, following the example of all these holy men and women, we must focus now on cultivating the soil in which we find ourselves. We must allow the sweet dew of God’s grace to seep into us, allowing our roots to grow strong and deep. We must allow Christ to feed and fertilize us with His Body and Blood, giving us the nourishment we need to withstand the harsh and bitter conditions we sometimes have to endure. We must allow the Holy Spirit to prune us when we grow in ways we ought not and allow Him to weed out whatever it is that prevents our good growth. We must allow our Lady, the Queen of the Saints, to protect us with the mantle of her motherly care. And we must call upon and look towards the example of all those holy men and women who have grown out from the soil in beauty, truth, and goodness, and who have provided so much fruit for the Lord’s harvest.

Today, we give God thanks for all of His manifold blessings and we ask for a continued out-pouring of His grace into our lives and hearts, that one day, when our labors are complete, we too might be counted among those who feast for all eternity at the banquet of Lamb.

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