The following is an article written by Sr. Joetta Huelsmann, PHJC, Director of John XXIII Retreat Center. A shorter version will appear in this weekend’s edition of The Catholic Moment, newspaper of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana.
Who Are the Saints?
This week we celebrate the feast of All Saints. Often we emphasis the canonized saints in the church calendar, but this feast is a day to recognize those people who have no designated feast day and who are in heaven.
Thomas Merton in his many writings refers to sanctity as nothing more than becoming ourselves. We need to have faith in the life that God has called us to. Each of us has a special purpose and calling in life and is meant to live that out to the best of our ability.
When I think of saints I remember my parents who lived a simple life and who were the best persons that they could be for our family. My dad was a farmer and loved the earth. He enjoyed praying on the tractor while he was alone in the fields. He delighted in bringing new life to this world as he helped pull a calf from a pregnant cow who was having a difficult delivery. He labored with other volunteers to build a new church by their very own hands at St. Mary’s in Trenton, IL.
My mother did the usual household chores of cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing, gardening and helping out on the farm. She also was involved in the community making quilts for parish picnics, serving as president of the Mother’s and Friends club at our Catholic high school. And as all mothers do, my mom chauffeured her children to all the places that they needed to be.
Together my parents modeled for us seven children what married love should be. We knew that each Saturday evening was their date night as they went to dances or played cards with their friends. They took time to nourish that special relationship away from us.
They taught us to reach out to our neighbors as we all pitched in on butchering days and at harvest time to whoever needed our help. When our hand-me-downs no longer fit us, we passed them on to our cousins in need. Because our family home was between the railroad tracks and a major highway, we were frequently visited by transient workers. My mom always welcomed each of them on our enclosed porch for a meal. My parents showed us the corporal works of mercy.
When I think of saints I also think of a friend who died of cancer several years ago. He was a volunteer at the parish that I worked out. He helped with the returning Catholic Program, “Remembering Church.” He himself had come back to the Catholic Church so was able to relate well to people on the same journey. He lived with his elderly dad to care for him in his senior years. He was involved in the St. Vincent DePaul Society distributing food and items to families or individuals who were in need. When the grocery store had a two for one sale, he would often give the second item to someone who he knew might like that item or was in need. He, like my parents, did little things with great love.
So a saint doesn’t have to be successful in great things. But they do need to bear fruit with their lives. I encourage you to look back at your life this month to give thanks for those saints with the small “s” who have modeled that journey of being the best person that they could be. They responded to God’s invitation to be who they were created to be. Give thanks for those people in your life, and give thanks to God for creating you with all the gifts and blessings that make up your life.
By Sr. Joetta Huelsmann, PHJC