Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To be a saint is the vocation of everyone | Solemnity of St. Clare


I'd like to start with an impromptu poll among everyone here. By a show of hands how many here would like to be a saint? And again, by a show of hands, how many think that when all is said and done, you will in fact, be a saint? Good, I was hoping to see a lot of hands go up, especially in a group of religious and those following our beloved Clare and Francis.

There is a story that you may have heard before about the great Trappist mystic and writer Thomas Merton. Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert. Robert was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. Robert stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to become a saint?” Merton asked. His friend said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

As we gather tonight to commemorate and celebrate Our Holy Mother Saint Clare, we are in the final months of the Year of Consecrated Life called for by Pope Francis. As he called for this year, Pope Francis put a remarkable challenge before all of us living the vowed life. He said that religious women and men must “wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in the world. It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. Religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women who are able to wake the world up.”

Now this task can seem daunting if we feel that it is our job alone, or even as our small group, to wake up the entire world to the truth and reality of the Gospel. What great plan could we come up with? What big strategy could we develop for the whole world. And, that’s when we remember that we are followers of the saints of Assisi. We “wake up the world” by being simply, profoundly, and fully who we are called to be. That was the great message and awesome plan of Clare and Francis. They both held the simple proposal that the Gospel could be lived; that it was possible to live the life devoted to God that Jesus came to reveal to us in its fullness. Clare and Francis showed us so profoundly – and yet so simply – that this possible. And, I think, that is why you and I are here. We believe it too; so much so that it lead us to leave our former lives and live a life of total dedication as a consecrated person. And, following the Gospel is just another way of saying I want to be a saint. I believe I can be a saint.

Pope Francis said, “To be a saint is not a privilege for a few, but the vocation of everyone. Saints aren't supermen and they weren't born perfect. They are people who, before attaining glory in Heaven, lived a normal life, with joys and pains, struggles and hopes. But when they knew the love of God they felt it with all their hearts.”

When we feel that sainthood is beyond us, out of our reach, we are probably thinking about the legendary saints – Clare and Francis, Anthony, Mother Teresa, Mother Cabrini – we are thinking of the saints who converted crowds of thousands by their preaching, who established schools and hospitals and orphanages and more by the droves, who established religious communities that grew and expanded and covered the world. And maybe for us, that isn’t our road to sainthood. But those glorious women and men were not saints because of the quantity of work they accomplished or even the eloquence of their holy speech – they were saints because they were faithful to God and to what God asked them to do; and because they did that with all their heart and lives. And, that is our road to sainthood too. We can be like them in the way we love God, in the way we follow Him completely.

As we celebrate Clare today, we are reminded that the goal of our existence is Paradise! That is what Clare learned herself and taught her sisters and us. The documents of the Cause of Canonization for St. Clare tell us that she said this as she was preparing to meet Sister Death, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for He who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.”

Following St. Clare and St. Francis is really a way of saying, this is how we will become saints. Following the Gospel, relying fully on God, devoting ourselves to prayer, to charity, to our life together, mercy, compassion and devotion to the poor – these are the ways that our beloved Founders have taught us are the road to holiness, the pathway to sainthood, the very Way that will bring us to heaven.

Clare was a saint because she recognized God’s love in her life and followed Him with all her heart without reserve or hypocrisy. She spent her life serving others, enduring suffering and adversity, spreading joy and peace. She is a saint because she did not put conditions on God in her life.

Today, through this feast, Saint Clare gives us a message. She tells us: trust in the Lord because the Lord does not disappoint! He never disappoints, He is a good friend always at our side. Through her witness Clare encourages us to not be afraid to speak about God and the Gospel – to be witnesses of the Gospel capable of waking up the world.

“To be a saint is the vocation of everyone.” “All we have to do is desire it.” Let us entrust our prayers to the intercession of Our Holy Mother Clare and ask her that our hearts might be filled with the desire to be saints.

May the Lord give you peace.

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