Homily – All Saints Day MMIX 11/1/09

Homily – All Saints Day MMIX 11/1/09

Every year on All Saints Day, for at least the past six years since I’ve been here, the entire  Catholic Regional School next door comes over to the Church for a 9:30 School Mass, and I’m the main celebrant (since it falls on a Sunday this year, the School is going to have a votive Mass of All Saints later this month).

What’s makes the All Saints Day School Mass different than the other school Masses during the year is that every 5th Grader in the School dresses up like one of the Saints, and at the beginning of Mass, these 30 or so little Saints come marching in down the center aisle in front of the priest.

And at the homily, I call each of these little saints up to the Altar and ask each one “What’s your name?” “Where did you live when you were alive?” “Why are you a saint?”

And they know the answers, the 5th Graders know their Saints. That’s because the Saints are as fun to dress up as as they are inspiring to learn and read about.

For example, there’s a little 5th Grade girl dressed up as St. Therese the Little Flower, wearing her trademark brown and cream colored Carmelite Habit.

St. Therese is carrying in one hand a Crucifix – to remind us that at age 24, she died the slow painful death of Tuberculosis without any pain medication to comfort her,

But in the other hand Therese has a dozen roses, to remind us that despite the tremendous physical and even worse spiritual suffering she went through, she nonetheless radiated joy and faith to all who came to visit her on her deathbed, cheering up those who came to cheer her up.

Then there’s another 5th Grader dressed up like a prisoner, in black and white striped shirt and pants, with the number 1-6-7-7-0 written on his shirt.

It’s none other than St. Maximillian Kolbe, the polish Franciscan Priest, who tells me that in the concentration camps during World War II he accepted death in a cramped starvation bunker so that an innocent man with a wife and children wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

Some little saints have swords on them (plastic ones of course): St. Joan of Arc, who tells me that at age 17, she led the entire French army to victory and drove out those bad Englishmen.

Then up comes St. Michael the Archangel, who God sent to help St. Joan of Arc, which was a good choice seeing as St. Michael leads the Heavenly Army of Angels to victory over Satan’s Army of Demons.

Then up come saints who ruled nations, like St. Louis King of France, St. Elizabeth Queen of Hungary, St. Thomas More Chancellor of the Realm of England.

Martyr Saints who shed their blood in almost every country: Charles Lwanga in Africa, 14 year old Anna Wang in early 20th Century China, Edmund Campion in England, Isaac Joques in North America.

Then some of the 5th Graders dress up as 5th Grade saints, children their age, such as St. Don Bosco’s little pal St. Dominic Savio, who would appear to Don Bosco in dreams after his death; and Bd. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the Fatima children who died very shortly after the apparitions just as Mary said they would, and the 11 year old martyr St. Maria Goretti who died forgiving the man who murdered her.

And still other 5th Graders dress up as American Saints, such as Bd. Kateri Tekakwitha who was ostracized by her fellow Mohawks for converting to Christianity;

St. Katherine Drexel, who’s father worked with JP Morgan and who gave up a 20 million dollar inheritance to become a Nun and help black and native Americans;

Blessed Andre Bessette, the simple religious brother who miraculously healed thousands of crippled people, and who would come to Woonsocket to raise money to build what is now the biggest shrine to St. Joseph, the Oratory of Montreal.

And finally, the newest Saint in the Church, St. Damien of Molokai, a priest originally from Belgium, who for 16 years lived on a island of lepers in what’s now the state of Hawaii, being a father and a priest to these lepers until he himself came down with leprosy and died of it.

As we honor all these saints and more this All Saints Day, I’d like to draw our attention to just one more saint we should probably be praying to these days: Saint Sebastian.

Saint Sebastian was an early Roman Martyr who the Emperor had tied to a stake and shot with so many arrows that the ancient account said he looked like a porcupine.

He miraculously survived this first death by arrows, but was later martyred by being beaten to death.

Because St. Sebastian survived death by arrows, Christians down through the centuries have invoked him against the plague and other infectious diseases. Hundreds of Churches to St. Sebastian were built in Europe thanking St. Sebastian for keeping the plague or some other disease from coming to their town.

Let us pray to St. Sebastian, that the swine flu may not take any more lives, and that we and our children may be kept safe from it.

May St. Sebastian, Our Lady Queen of All Saints, St. Joseph and all the Saints protect us and help us to follow Jesus, that one day we may go marching in to Heaven to worship with them around the Heavenly Throne.

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