There are as many saints as there are stars in the sky…
The night sky in its magnificent beauty has beckoned to me ever since I was a small child. At night, especially on a summer’s night, I would slip away and sit on our front porch, or better still, I would lie on the grass and just look up at the stars. I learned to recognize one constellation from another and once in a while view an eclipse of the moon.
That is why a statement made by our parish priest during my growing-up years has stayed with me my entire life. One Sunday, during his homily when I was in about the sixth grade, he said,
“There are as many saints as there are stars in the sky.”
This spoke to my very soul. I could almost feel the constellations of saints surrounding me. To this day, I still love to watch the stars and I still imagine constellations of saints above watching over our earth, well, watching over me.
When the newly-constructed Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles opened its doors several years ago, I was captivated by the beautiful wall hangings filled with saints, all facing the altar with eyes riveted on that sacred sanctuary. It brought that statement back to me again, “There are as many saints as there are stars in the sky.”
Isn’t that a beautiful thought?
It speaks to my heart so deeply, I think, because the stars are filled with a beauteous light.
“There is one glory of the sun,
and another glory of the moon,
and another glory of the stars;
for star differs from star in glory.”
1 Corinthians 15
There are so many saint- constellations – the constellation of martyrs, of virgins, of confessors, of holy men, of holy women, of pastors. Each constellation is different and each saint-star within the constellation is entirely different also, in appearance, in talents, even in holiness.
It is a fruitful, if mind-boggling meditation, to think about how different each human being really is. We each have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, some hair and yet look at the immense variety of facial countenances. We all have basic vocal cords, yet what a wide range of voices emerges from us, alto, soprano, and yet each one of these is different in tone.
Saints are something like that. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that each person is a reflection of one particular attributes of God. This is a wonderful thing to think about and meditate on. Each of us is called by God precisely to glorify Him in a uniquely special way.
Yes, we are all called to become saints. That simply means becoming the very best person each of us can be, choosing virtue over vice, and corresponding to the graces God gives us moment by moment. Vatican Council II gave us a whole chapter on this, “The Universal Call to Holiness.” It is magnificent.
April 27, 2014, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church added two new stars to the constellation of saints, St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. We celebrated with a “Pope Party” at St. Joseph Campus on Divine Mercy Sunday. I thought, yes, this is right. This is the way we are meant to be. Happy. Filled with life to the brim and overflowing and living simply in accordance with God’s law. My whole being shouted “YES!” It’s a shame that we don’t find too many times to celebrate life so wonderfully in today’s world.
What blessed times we live in. Of course, I know that we also can say about our time in history, with Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” An example of this can be found in the wars of the last 100 years, atrocity after atrocity. Yet, concurrently, saints are living right here at the same time, in our same world. Some of them blaze with a light that streaks across the sky for all the world to see, like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Faustina, and our two newest Saints: Saints John XXIII and John Paul II. However, most are humble folk who you will never see center-stage. They go about their lives quietly in their corner of the Lord’s Vineyard. Yet, in their small, hidden ways, they each shine with their own unique light.
Remember the parable about the field where the enemy had sown weeds among the wheat? Should we go and pull the weeds? No, Jesus says, “Allow both weeds and wheat to grow together until the harvest.” Why? It is not worth the risk of mistaking even one shaft of wheat for a weed. And in the case of human souls, some who seem determined to sow weeds end up responding to grace in ways that shake the foundations of society, like Saint Augustine. In the darkest times, in the horrendous evil perpetrated by man, God raises up the Saints to give us hope, to lead us safely home to Him. Perhaps their lights shine even brighter in the midst of such deep darkness, reminding us that God’s love is deeper and higher and wider.
“…be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world…” Philippians 2:15
May each of us shine like the stars for all eternity!
St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII, pray for us!