When the Saints go marching in!
O, When the saints go marching in!
O How I want to be in that number!
When the Saints go marching in!
This is a joyful, exuberant chorus of a Dixieland Jazz song often played at funerals in the old French Quarter of New Orleans. Joy and exuberant mirth are not too often equated with either funerals or saints.
More often than not, many think of saintliness as being a state of going around with folded hands, eyes cast down to the ground, and a solemn face.
The kind of face that is quick to frown at human happiness and joy. Yet, it was St. Theresa of Avila who prayed: “From sour-faced and sad saints, deliver us, O Lord.” The saint, filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the most joy-filled person in the world. And this gift is shown sometimes in the most difficult of human suffering.
The First Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated to the Saints. All Saints are remembered-the past ones and those still living. Another fallacy about sainthood- it does not happen after death. The gift is given to us now. To be a saint is our vocation, our calling. signed with the sign of the Cross. A prayer was recited that we would be:”a spiritual lamb of the flock of Christ, a child of light, sons and daughters of Christ’s Kingdom.” Through the plunging into water and the power of the Holy Spirit we entered into the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ. Then we were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit to live out this wonderful life given to us. A lighted candle was presented to us as symbols of how we are to go through life as a child of light. And we became saints!
So, dear readers you are saints now. We gather together as spiritual lambs of the flock of Christ. If St. Paul were to write us a letter today, he would begin: To the Saints of St. Joseph’s Parish. He would refer to us as God’s “Holy People”.
Sad to say, we often do not feel like spiritual lambs, nor do we always act as holy people. Yes, we forget, and today is given to us as a reminder. We are reminded that a whole company of saints has gone marching before us. The epistle today tells that they are cheering us on.
This feast does not commemorate a company of “immortals”, people removed from ordinary human experience. The daily struggles and cares we experience, they experienced. They struggled to live the kind of life described by Cardinal Suhard observed: “to be a saint means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist”. They experienced doubt, weakness, loneliness and fear-just like to the rest of us. Like us, they were not perfect human beings.
What did they have in common? I think that they applied themselves seriously to the task of being human. They took seriously an old formula we were taught as children; “Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next”.
The multitude of Saints is cheering us on as we join the race to the goal that is Christ. The great crown includes the so-called “canonized” Saints and the countless number of others Included are those we have known in life-parents, relatives, friends
St. Paul asks if there is anything hindering us, are there things that are entanglements that are tripping us up? The important thing is that we keep our eyes on Jesus. He stands with the great multitude and He has His hands wide open to welcome us into the number who is marching into glory.
An almost forgotten Liturgical note: Tomorrow begins a period once known as “the Apostles’ Fast, “Petrivka”. It lasts until the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29. The discipline of this fast no longer exists, but it might be good to keep a spirit of prayer and fasting for peace in the world, and the safe return of service men and women to their families and home.
+Fr. Thomas Glynn