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PREFACE I OF SAINTS
This preface is used for All Saints, Masses for Patron Saints, and for any Masses for saints that don’t have a proper or more proper preface.
The glory of the Saints
Everyone envisions going out of this life in a “blaze of glory,” but the brightness of glory can actually go supernova just one step beyond it, when, after our physical death, Our Lord judges us and says “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21 and 23). A saint doesn’t seek vainglory, the fleeting honors, and successes of this world, but the Heavenly glory Our Lord promises to those who are faithful to him. In John’s Gospel Our Lord taught that in glorifying him his Father would be glorified (see John 13:31-32, 14:13) and that as disciples we glorify him and the Father through bearing fruit that lasts (see John 15:8, 17:10, 21:19).
“For you are praised in the company of your Saints and, in crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.”
The Catechism teaches us that no one has merited the grace that starts us on the path of holiness (see n. 2027); it was a gift made to us for no other reason than the goodness and mercy of God. The Catechism also defines merit as “The reward which God promises and gives to those who love him and by his grace perform good works” (see “Merit” in the glossary). We could do nothing meritorious in this way if Our Lord had withheld that initial grace of conversion or any other grace, which is why when we do make those graces bear fruit our merits are jewels on the crown of glory that Our Lord has already promised and fashioned for us.
“By their way of life you offer us an example, by communion with them you give us companionship, by their intercession, sure support, …”
If we are in a state of grace we are not only in communion with God and our fellow believers on earth but also those who have gone before us into Heaven and now enjoy eternity with God: that is the communion of saints. Every loved one, or even stranger, who has been redeemed and entered into glory is a brother or sister who wants us to arrive too, and intercedes for us to help us join them one day, just as we intercede for those who have died and are being purified (in Purgatory) so that they may reach Heaven.
The Church also beatifies and canonizes certain members of the Church to present them to us as models of the holiness of life for us to imitate. There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter saint; the paths to God are as many and varied as the people who seek him. With a little homework, we can find a saint who speaks to us, our situation, our obstacles to holiness, and not only draw inspiration from his or her life but ask him or her to pray for us as well and receive spiritual support.
“…so that, encouraged by so great a cloud of witnesses, we may run as victors in the race before us and win with them the imperishable crown of glory, through Christ our Lord.”
The saints in Heaven, and the holy people in our midst, are the “cloud of witnesses” (see Hebrews 12:1) that encourage us to keep running the race of this life to win the glory of Heaven. This image of running the race and winning the crown comes from none other than Saint Paul as his martyrdom drew near: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
In the same letter St. Paul reminds St. Timothy that “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Every athlete must learn the game, practice, and discipline himself and compete well. Through good spiritual reading, prayer, sacrifice, and charity we too can crown the gifts of Our Lord in us. Let’s get running.