Pope Francis is underscoring the importance of the common, “next-door” saints who, without being officially recognized, give us an example of what it means to serve God and love one another.
In his Angelus message on the Christian feast of All Saints, the Pope said to the large crowd assembled in the sunny Saint Peter’s Square: “we experience in a particularly vivid way the reality of the communion of saints, our extended family, made up of all members of the Church, both those who are still pilgrims on earth, and those—immensely more—who have already departed for heaven.”
The saints, he added, are examples to imitate. “Not only the canonized ones, but also the ‘next-door’ saints, who, with the grace of God, strove to practice the Gospel in the ordinariness of their lives.”
These common saints, Francis said, “have not been canonized” and yet they are saints nonetheless. “We, too, have met many of these saints. Perhaps we had one in our family or among our friends and acquaintances. We must be grateful to them, and above all we must be grateful to God who has given them to us, and who put them into our lives as living and contagious examples of a way of living and of dying in fidelity to the Lord Jesus and his Gospel.”
“In our lives we have known and know so many of these good people, and we spontaneously say ‘this person is a saint,’” Francis said, leaving aside his prepared text. “These are the next-door saints, who without being canonized live among us. To imitate their gestures of love and mercy is a way of perpetuating their presence in this world.”
These evangelical gestures are the only ones that resist the destruction of death, he said. “An act of tenderness or generosity, a time spent listening to another, a visit, a kind word, a smile. In our eyes, these gestures may seem insignificant, but in the eyes of God they are eternal, because love and compassion are stronger than death,” he said.
The Pope said that the description of the multitude of saints offered in the Book of Revelation presents them as “a people who belong totally to God, a huge number of the ‘elect,’ dressed in white and marked by the ‘seal of God.’”
Bearing God’s seal, Francis continued, is an allegorical way of saying “that the saints belong fully and exclusively to God; they are his property.”
All of us Christians, Francis said, should be aware that we have received this gift, this seal in our Baptism and “we have become His children.” The saints, he said, “are those who have lived in the grace of their Baptism, who have preserved intact this ‘seal’ by behaving as children of God, trying to be like Jesus, and now they have reached the goal, and finally ‘see God as He is.’”
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