Homily for Sts. Cyril and Methodius

St. Cyrill and St. Methodius are the patron saints of the parish Church where I am live and am assigned as a deacon. We celebrated their feast as a solemnity last Sunday. The readings were Acts 13:46-49 (Paul and Barnabas saying that after rejection by the Jews, they turn to the Gentiles, since Christ has charged them to spread the Gospel to all peoples) and Luke 10:1-9 (the sending of the 72 disciples).

Today Jesus speaks in the Gospel about a harvest. Who of you (children) has harvested fruit or vegetables from the tree or vine? (Children name various fruits they've harvested.) There are many good fruits and vegetables one can harvest and enjoy. Do you know what happens to the fruit if no one harvests it? (It spoils.) Yes, first it gets a bit overripe and doesn't taste as good, then it rots and you can't eat it any more, it's no good, at least not for us, maybe bugs and worms still enjoy it.

Something like that can happen with persons, too. It's sad, but sometimes good things in people spoil and are lost, because no one recognized them, helped these persons to harvest and preserve them. There is a lot hidden within everyone. But it is to be brought out, and one needs help for that. Not everyone can already read when they are three years old. They need someone to help them learn to read. We need people, too, to help us learn to love, to have faith, to trust.

Jesus knows this situation. He says, „The harvest is great, but the workers are few.“ He doesn't mean the harvest of fruits and vegetables, but the harvest of love, trust, faith, hope. Seeds of these beautiful, wonderful things are present among men. But they have to unfold, to grow, and one has to make them one's own. Otherwise they are dry up and perhaps vanish. Jesus wants everyone to be a loving person, a believing person, one who can hope and trust even when bad things happen. But Jesus sees a problem. There are few people to help make this happen, few workers. He gives us two answers to this problem. He says „Pray that the Father send workers for the harvest.“ Our Father knows what we need, and he can see to it that the people we and others need are there for us. And he says to his disciples, “You go! Go tell the people what I told you, God is with them. He is very close to them.” He sends them out. The disciples were happy with Jesus, happy to listen to him and to his message. But they should share this happiness with others, too. Jesus gives them some advice on how they can do this more effectively. They shouldn't carry too much around with them, so that they can travel more freely from one place to another to carry the message, so that they don't have to worry constantly about their money and other possessions. They shouldn't constantly move about trying to find the best place. When someone invites them into their home, they should stay there for some time and preach the good news.

But it wasn't only those persons, who saw Jesus and spoke with him, who went out and told about him. Again and again there have been such men. Our church gets its name from two such men: Cyrill and Methodius. They were brothers, who after public life and work entered a monastery to devote themselves to prayer and contemplation, to spend time with Jesus, like the disciples did. And this was a beautiful and lovely thing to do with their lives. But a request came from the Slavic people: “Many have come to us and told us of Jesus andhis teaching. But we couldn't understand them very well. We need people who will talk to us in a way they we can understand, people who are familiar with our language, our customs and ways of doing things.” The two brothers were asked to go there and to instruct the Slavs in the Christian faith, and they accepted this mission. They considered it important that Christian faith, the bible, and the liturgy not come across as something altogether foreign forced on the people, did not want to say to them, in effect “There's our faith. If you can make anything of it, well and good. If not, we can't do anything more for you.” They put much effort into translating expressions of faith and the liturgy so that it was understandable for the people. To that end they invented an alphabet for the language. Our alphabet, the Roman alphabet, was less suited, since the sounds are so different. In this way they made Christ's message, always one and the same, the message of faith, love, and responsibility, understandable for the people there.

When we look at the Cross, we see to its right and left many cards that all say the same thing, peace, but in many different languages. In the upper-left corner, the third from the top, it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet that Cyril and Methodius invented. Christ's Gospel has to be translated into the languages of the people. But for Cyrill and Methodius, as for us, it wasn't and isn't only a matter of speaking the right language such as Italian, German, English, Slavic. It is also a matter of so speaking about the faith, so celebrating it, and so living it, as to better help people to be drawn to it and to understand it. Let us pray that, through the intercession of these two patron saints, God grant us, as a parish and as individuals, the grace to witness to, to speak about, and to live our Christian faith, which we have ourselves heard and received, so as to bring others to Christ. Amen.

Living Without Mortal Sin?

Do some persons live and die without ever committing any mortal sins? Recently Fr. John Zuhlsdorf ("Fr. Z") stated that "there is only one woman ever who" was "entirely free of mortal sin throughout their life”. Despite correction by several commentators, he continued to defend his claim, putting forth the arguments that (1) one cannot prove the absence of mortal sin (since God alone knows the heart), (2) "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:10), and (3) "by definition Original Sin is mortal sin and we all commit it. We all have the guilt of Original sin."

In the past I have also heard somewhat similar opinions from other sources. So, a few remarks on the matter:

(1) The burden is on the one who claims that a person who has done wrong to prove it. If someone claims that St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, committed a mortal sin, it is up to the one who claims this to prove it. It will not do to say "prove that it's not so!" Granted one cannot directly prove that St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Maria Goretti, St. Dominic Savio, Bl. Jacinta of Fatima, etc., never committed a mortal sin, it surely lies on the one who accuses them of having committed mortal sin to prove it. To claim as a fact that someone committed grave evil is objectively slanderous unless one has some way of being sure that they did so. Now Fr. Z seems to suggest having a solid basis for making this claim in the doctrine that grace is a gratuitous gift (we can't know with the certainty of faith if we are in the state of grace), and that we all sin (1 John 1:10). However, and here lies the problem, the saints and doctors of the Church do not agree with him in his interpretation of these doctrines and their implications.

(2) From the Fathers through the Council of Trent and beyond, the assumption is that some, but not all, fall into sin after baptism. It is clear that grace suffices to in fact persevere a substantial length, and indeed an entire life, without sin. It may be a minority, but it is supposed to be at least some.

I quote also St. Thomas Aquinas, responding to an objection that grace cannot be a habit in the soul, since a habit is something stable and permanent, whereas grace is easily lost, since it is lost through a single act of mortal sin: "Although grace is lost by one act of mortal sin, it is not easily lost, because it is not easy for someone who has grace to do such an act, on account of his inclination to the opposite action, as the Philosopher says in Ethics V, that it is difficult for a just man to do unjust deeds." (De veritate q. 27, a. 1, ad 9). If mortal sins are not frequent in all Christians, then you can be sure that some have died without committing any mortal sins (since some die a few years after reaching the age of reason, some a single year afterwards, some a few months afterwards, etc.), unless, far from positing the traditional providence of God that preserves some people from any mortal sin ("caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul." Wis 4:11), one posits a very special providence of God seeing to it that everyone other than Mary falls into mortal sin, a rather problematic hypothesis.

(3) Moreover, we have positive, and strong evidence that individual persons have lived without committing any mortal sin: certain persons, who have been canonized as saints by the Catholic Church, have testified that other persons (also later canonized as saints by the Catholic Church) lived and died without committing any mortal sin. For example, St. Robert Bellarmine testified it of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and St. John Bosco testified it of St. Dominic Savio. This view of St. Aloysius life is moreover affirmed by the liturgy itself, in which we pray, "O God, giver of heavenly gifts, who in Saint Aloysius Gonzaga joined penitence to a wonderful innocence of life, grant, through his merits and intercession, that, though we have failed to follow him in innocence, we may imitate him in penitence." The implication of this prayer is that St. Aloysius preserved baptismal innocence, and that the vast majority of persons did not. (Updated correction: Or the prayer may mean by "innocence" that he committed not only no mortal sin, but also none or next to none fully deliberate venial sin; then the implication would be that the vast majority of persons have committed at least some fully deliberate venial sin.)

Leaving aside the theological and rational arguments (which are in favor of some living and dying without committing mortal sin), if one has to choose between St. Robert Bellarmine, St. John Bosco's, and the Roman liturgy's view, and the personal interpretation of another individual, one would be wise to side with the saints and with the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

(4) Regarding St. John's statement that "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar" (1 John 1:10), I simply recall his own statement in the same epistle, "All wrongdoing is sin, but there are some sins that are not mortal," as well as "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God." (1 John 3:9)". The sins we are commit, the "daily sins" (St. Augustine), are in most cases venial sins, and John is including these when talking about sin when he says "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar."

(5) Regarding original sin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches explicitly that original sin does not have the character of personal guilt in us, nor is it "committed" by us: "[Original sin] is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" – a state and not an act.
Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 404-405)"

In any event, even if one could theoretically call original sin "mortal sin" by analogy, that is not the traditional Catholic usage of "mortal sin" (Otherwise it would be senseless to ask, for instance, whether someone could be in original sin and venial sin, without mortal sin, as St. Thomas Aquinas does), nor is it the usage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

To sum up, the testimony of the saints and of the Church is that grace can and does indeed preserve some people (and not just the Blessed Virgin Mary) from all mortal sin, and also points out some concrete saints whom grace has so preserved from mortal sin throughout their lives.

Therese of Lisieux – Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience

Today the Holy Father's General Audience was on St. Therese of Lisieiux, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The greater part of the audience is a retelling of her life. In the last two paragraphs the Pontiff reflects on her significance for us. I have translated these two paragraphs from the Italian. (An English translation is apparently not yet available.) Pope Benedict XVI points out that the saint is especially a guide for theologians. The science of theology that relies upon study depends for its vitality upon the "science of the saints", the science that comes from union with God in love and prayer.

Dear friends, with St. Therese of the Child Jesus we too should be able to repeat to the Lord every day that we want to live from love for Him and for others, to learn, at the school of the saints, to love authentically and totally. Therese is one of the "little ones" of the Gospel who let themselves be led by God in the profundity of his mystery. A guide for everyone, especially for those who, in the People of God, carry out the ministry of theologians. With humility and charity, faith and hope, Therese enters continuously into the heart of Sacred Scripture that contains the mystery of Christ. Such a reading of the Bible, nourished by the science of love, is not opposed to academic science. The science of the saints, in fact, of which she herself speaks on the last page of The Story of a Soul, is the highest science. "All the saints have understood it, perhaps most especially those who filled the universe with the radiance of the Gospel teaching. Is it not indeed from prayer that Saints Paul, Augustine, John of the Cross, Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Dominic and so many other illustrious Friends of God drew this Divine science which ravishes the greatest minds?"(Ms C, 36r). Inseparable from the Gospel, the Eucharist is for Therese the Sacrament of Divine Love that lowers Himself to the utmost to raise us up to Him. In her last Letter, on a picture that represents the Baby Jesus in the consecrated Host, the Saint wrote these simple words: "I can not fear a God who for me has become so small! (…) I love Him! For he is nothing but Love and Mercy!" (LT 266).

In the Gospel Therese discovers above all the Mercy of Jesus, to the point of saying: "To me He gave His infinite mercy, through it I contemplate and love the other divine perfections! (…) Then all seems to me radiant with love, Justice itself (and perhaps more than anything else) seems to me clothed in love"(Ms A, 84r). Thus she expresses it also in the last lines of the Story of a Soul: "As soon as I look to the Holy Gospel, I breath the perfumes of Jesus' life, and I know which way to run … It is not to the first place, but to the last that I hurry … I feel that even if I had on my conscience all the sins that one could commit, I would run, my heart broken with sorrow, into the Arms of Jesus, because I know how much you love the prodigal son who returns to Him" (Ms C, 36v-37r). "Confidence and Love" are therefore the final point of the story of her life, two words that like beacons have illuminated her whole path of holiness, so that she can guide others in the same way as hers, the "little way of confidence and love," of spiritual childhood (cf. Ms C, 2v-3r; LT 226). Confidence like that of a child who abandons itself into the hands of God, inseparable from a strong commitment, rooted in true love, which is a total gift of self, forever, as the Saint says in contemplating Mary: "To love is to give everything, and to give oneself" (Because I love you, Mary, P 54/22). Thus Therese shows all of us that the Christian life consists in living fully the grace of baptism in the total gift of self to the love of the Father, in order to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, His very love for all others. Thank you.

Baptism of Blood

Some time ago a question was raised about the baptism of blood, and how this is applicable to infants. Normally a martyr is someone who witnesses to Christ in the ultimate circumstance, when it means giving up his life for Christ. But infants don't know anything about Christ, and thus seemingly can't witness either to the person of Christ or to Christian truth. In what sense, then, is the shedding of their blood a baptism?

I said then that the intention of the one who kills an infant, an intention directed against Christ, is reason enough to see the infant as standing in the place of Christ, and consequently, likened unto Christ in his suffering, and thus receiving the grace of Christ. This intention against Christ is most direct in cases such as that of St. Simon of Trent, a two year old child killed out of hatred for Christ.

I also suggested that "being unjustly put to death" might, from God's point of view, count as such conformity to Christ, and thus be a way to receiving grace in the case of an infant, whose will does not place any impediment to grace.

The case of St. Coloman provides some, if only weak evidence for this. He was an Irish monk who was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and in Austria detained under suspicion of being a spy. Unable to explain his purpose, since he could not speak German, he was tortured and killed. He is celebrated as a martyr, despite the fact that he was put to death by Catholics not for religious, but for quasi-military reasons. Though he found his death while making a pilgrimage, the final or decisive factor (a kind of formal cause) constituting his martyrdom seems to be being unjustly killed, or being unjustly killed despite his religious intent (rather than because of it), since (at least according to one account I've seen) he showed his cross and pointed East to indicate his intentions, but wasn't believed.

St. Therese of Lisieux

Today is the feastday of St. Therese, virgin and doctor of the Church.

"Merit does not consist in doing or giving much. It consists in loving much." (Letter 142, to Celine).

"When I have committed a fault that makes me sad, I know well that this sadness is the consequence of my infidelity. But do you think I stop there? Oh no, I'm not so silly! I hurry to say to God: My God, I know that I have merited this feeling of sadness, but let me offer you all of it as a test that you send me out of love. I regret my sin, but I am content to have this suffering to offer to you. (Last words of St. Thérèse as recollected by Sr. Agnes of Jesus.)

Sayings of St. Therese of Lisieux on Love

Beatification of John Henry Newman

"Cardinal Newman's motto, 'Cor ad cor loquitur', or Heart speaks unto heart, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness."

"The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing 'subjects of the day'. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world" (Pope Benedict XVI, Sep 19, 2010, Beatification of John Henry Newman).

From the Holy See Press Office – Read More

Married Saints – Why so few?

Why are there so few married saints? And especially, why are there so few who were canonized precisely as married persons? Most married persons who have been canonized have not been canonized precisely as married persons, but as martyrs, or as religious or widows in the case of those who devoted themselves to the religious state or the state of widowhood after their spouse's death (or in some cases, by the mutual agreement of the spouses). And to my knowledge, in the modern formal process of canonization there have been no married couples canonized as such, though two couples have been beatified together, and may in the future be canonized: Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini, and Louis Martin and Marie Celine Guerin (the parents of St. Therese).

The different explanations made for this fact can be grouped into three categories:

(1) There simply aren't many married saints, because of the practical concerns of married life that make it hard to focus entirely on God and his will.
(2) While there are plenty of married persons who are truly saintly, the exemplar of holiness can be seen more evidently in martyrs or religious than in married persons, and therefore it is mostly these who are canonized.
(3) Married saints are not so frequently recognized for what they are.

Sometimes one of this reasons is given as more or less the entire explanation, but I think there is actually some truth in all three of these explanations:

Fewer married saints

(1) St. Paul says, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. … The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. … so he who marries does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better." (1 Corinthians 7:8,32-35,38) The evangelical counsel of chastity (see Mat 19:10-12) is proposed as a means for securing "undivided devotion" to God. The Christian tradition retains this idea, so that it is said "You would find many among us, both men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion with God" (Athenagoras, A plea for the Christians, Chap. 33).

Pope John Paul II mentions the fact that most canonized saints are religious as evidence for the value of the religious state as a means to perfection, thus suggesting that the superiority of the religious state as a means for growing in the love of God is a reason for the greater number of religious canonized:

Religious communities are called to the duty of perfection, clearly expressed by Christ in his conversation with the young man: "If you wish to be perfect" (Mt 19:21). Later, down the centuries, the Church's tradition has given a doctrinal and practical expression to these words. The state of perfection is not only theory. It is life. And it is precisely life that confirms the truth of Christ's words: do not the majority of canonized saints come from religious Orders or Congregations?

These words, from a pope who has himself canonized a number of married persons, and who is always careful to note the call of every person to holiness and to the perfection of charity, are not without their weight.

But is the scarcity of canonized married persons due principally to the fact that marriage isn't as suitable a means as religious life for attaining holiness, or is it also due to the fact that marriage wasn't properly appreciated as a means for attaining holiness? Because the married state was not seen as a particularly helpful state for growing in divine love and holiness, those who intended to devote themselves most earnestly to this spiritual growth tended to refrain from marriage if possible, with the consequence that there were relatively few exemplary holy persons in marriage. St. Augustine points out: "[There are some marriages in which the spouses are not divided in heart, but completely devoted to God.] But they are very rare: who denies this? And being rare, nearly all the persons who are such, were not joined together in order to be such, but being already joined together became such (On the Good of Marriage, n. 14). That is, where there are few examples of holy marriages, people will more rarely enter marriage seeking or expecting to become holy through marriage." In this sense, the paucity of married saints is arguably a self-reinforcing prediction. The more emphasis that was put on the religious state as a means to holiness, the more rarely would persons choose marriage in order to become holy. And with fewer persons choosing marriage as a means to holiness, the fewer persons there were who attained exemplary sainthood in marriage, etc. (See my earlier post, Is Marriage for the Weak?).

Visibility of holiness

(2) In the early Church, only the martyrs were regarded the way we now regard canonized saints (the term "saint" itself was then used for all the faithful). In martyrdom the imitation and love of Christ is most perfectly manifest, inasmuch as Christ himself gave his life for the life of the world, and inasmuch as there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for the beloved. As martyrdom became more infrequent, but people still needed contemporary examples of sanctity to honor and to look to, the notion of venerable sainthood was extended to those who did not lay down their lives in martyrdom, but who, as far as possible, left everything to follow Christ, since this is the next most clear manifestation of the Christian call to deny oneself and to follow him.

In fact, the path to holiness always involves the evangelical counsels in some way; if not literally, as in the consecrated state, and least in spirit. All Christians are called to follow the spirit of the counsels. And naturally, the taking up of the counsels both literally and spiritually, as practiced by the saints who embraced the evangelical counsels literally, is the example or model for following the counsels spiritually. And in this sense, religious are already seen as models for the laity, not in the sense that the laity should desire to imitate the exterior form of the life of consecrated religious, but in the sense that they should imitate the inner content, that which is expressed, or meant to be expressed, by the exterior form of life of consecrated religious.

As regards canonized saints' being models of holiness, there could be advantages and disadvantages to having "normal" persons from every state of life canonized. On the one hand, one might argue that people need models of sainthood in the state of life in which they live, and so the model of life provided by the consecrated religious is not adequate for married persons–they also need models of saintly married persons. In fact the idea of saints being models was less emphasized early in the Church than it is now. From the point of view of being models, there is much to be said for having numerous canonized saints from every Christian state of life.

On the other hand, one might argue that canonizing people who seem entirely "normal", could lead to a misunderstanding of the radical call to perfect holiness addressed to every Christian. There is a certain danger of looking at all that the saints have in common with us, becoming self-complacent, and neglecting the need to purify ourselves more and more.

Recognition of holiness-process of canonization

(3) The holiness of "normal," married persons living in the world was less likely to be recognized, because the formal process of canonization required much time and effort, a detailed investigation into the person's life, and accepted miracles. These conditions were more frequently and better provided in the case of religious than in the case of married persons: (a) religious communities have much more people and time for seeking canonizations of their members than normal lay persons do; (b) for much of the Church's history, religious were better educated, and were more likely to be able to write, and thus to become known through their writings, whereas lay persons were only known through more direct contact; thus more recorded information about their life would be available (especially important in cases when the cause for canonization was taken up only many years after the person's death), and there would be more people interested in and supporting the person's canonization.

Supporting this argument, those lay persons who were well-known, and who had more persons interested in their canonization; either on account of their position, as in the case of royalty (St. Edward the Confessor, St. Louis of France, Bl. Karl of Austria), or on account of mystical experiences or visions (e.g., St. Catherine of Genoa, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi), have been, in comparison with their small numbers, relatively frequently canonized.

Biography of married saints

Some books have been devoted to biographies of married saints. John F. Fink has compiled a biography of twenty-four married saints (the link is to the description at the publisher, Alba House. The book may also be purchased at Amazon). These twenty-four saints do include several who were canonized for other reasons, such as St. Thomas More, canonized as a martyr.

A book by Ferdinand Holbock describes briefly the lives of over 200 married saints and blesseds: Married Saints and Blesseds: Through the Centuries.

Francis on the Special Virtues of Particular Saints

This post continues the theme from the previous post, on the unique character of each saint, who is distinguished by particular virtues. St. Francis de Sales has the same understanding. "We say some were saved by faith, others by giving alms, others by temperance, prayer, humility, hope, chastity, because the acts of these virtues shown forth in these saints" (Treatise on the Love of God, Book 11, Ch. 4). Of course, each virtue is valued to the degree that the divine love shines in it: "After we have extolled these particular virtues we must refer all their honor to divine love, which gives to each of them all the sanctity they have."

St. Francis recommends the practice generally of choosing a virtue at which especially to aim, though naturally not to the exclusion of other: "It is well for everybody to select some special virtue at which to aim, not as neglecting any others, but as an object and pursuit to the mind" (Introduction to the Devout Life, Book III, ch. 1). He then gives various examples of saints who were devoted particularly to the practice of certain virtues: Saint John, bishop of Alexandria, who had a vision "in which he knew that it was pity for the poor which God commended to him, and from that time he gave himself so heartily to practice it"; Saint Louis, who visited hospitals; Saint Francis, who loved poverty above all; Saint Gregory, who received pilgrims, after the example of Abraham, and who, like Abraham, received the Lord himself under the guise of a pilgrim.

And so some of God’s servants devote themselves to nursing the sick, helping the poor, teaching little children in the faith, reclaiming the fallen, building churches, and adorning the altar, making peace among men. In this they resemble embroidresses who work all manner of silks, gold and silver on various grounds, and thus produce beautiful flowers. In the same way the pious souls who undertake some special devout practice use it as the ground of their spiritual embroidery, and frame all kinds of other graces upon it, ordering their actions and affections better by means of this chief thread which runs through all of them.

Read the full text of these two works by St. Francis de Sales.

Every saint is unique

Virgin Mary and saints
St. Catherine of Sienna in her Treatise of Divine Providence keeps to the teaching that the virtues are connected, i.e., that whoever has one virtue, must have all of them. Nevertheless she teaches that God gives to each person one particular virtue as principal: to one he gives principally love, to another justice, to another humility, to another faith, to another prudence, to another patience, etc. It is then especially by the exercise of this virtue that the person grows in all the virtues, due to their being connected in love. (In another words, it is chiefly in the one principal virtue God gives the person that the divine love is expressed and actualized, and yet because it is truly divine love that shines forth and is exercised in this virtue, this love is deepened and increases, and thus gives greater strength and vitality to all the virtues, of which it is the heart.)

The love of God and neighbor, while it elevates and ennobles all human faculties, and while it does require a struggle against the baser inclinations of nature, does not destroy or level out different characters or personalities, but perfects them. Every saint thus has his own unique character, by which he grows in and lives out the holy love of God and neighbor. We will only fully appreciate this in heaven, where we will see the full beauty and harmony of how all the different saints show forth in their own special ways the glory of God's love.

Feast of all the Saints

Crucifixion with saints by Fra Angelico
On the feast of All Saints, we honor all the saints who lived in the divine love, both the known saints and those who are unknown or forgotten. There are too many saints for every one of them to have his or her own feast, and there are many saints who were not recognized as such here on earth, or if they were recognized, only by a few. May this "great cloud of witnesses" also spur us on in recalling that we too are called to be holy as our Lord is holy, we are called to take up our cross, to give our lives, to follow after him in love. Leon Bloy wrote, "There is but one tragedy: not to be a saint." Likewise there is only one real "success" in life: to be a saint.

In this image by Fra Angelico, the saints are depicted in adoration before Christ on the crucifix, who is the source of all holiness. The saints also in heaven worship the "Lamb who was slain."