On the Feast of All Saints

From the Rev. Berthold Von Schenk:

Strange as it may seem, we make our approach to the reality of heaven by considering the saints.  Now let us not get any false notions.  We did not say that we make our approach by praying to the saints, to have them intercede for us, or anything like that.  "Well, who are the saints?" you will say.  "I know.  I see them in statues in some churches.  They are in stained glass windows.  Those people suffered from a wonderful outbreak of supernatural power in the early days of the Church.  They are a wonderful set of people who did some wonderful things years ago which can never be done again."  That is the average conception of saints. The saints were human men and women.  They struggled and were tempted as you and I are tempted.  They were men and women who have overcome, who triumphed in their struggle and surrendered; whose imperfections were made perfect through Christ.  But note this, they achieved their union with divine love from exactly the same plane on which you and I are.

It was a sad loss to the church, a grave mistake, when a few stupid people pushed the saints out of the picture.  It was a sad mistake when they took them out of the life of the church, but it was even a greater mistake to place them into the niche of supernatural people.  What has the church substituted for the saints and their glorious triumphant lives?  Perhaps respectability, which is not holiness.  It usually only means that you have not been found out.  And that is exactly what we too often have in our churches--deadly, cold, stiff, starchy respectability, people who have lived sheltered lives, with no need, no poverty.  The reason why some of them have not been bad is because they did not have much of an opportunity to be bad, and perhaps no courage to step out of their routine.  And that is what a lot of people call religion.  Respectability can never be genuine religion.  Because it has often been substituted for true sanctity, it has not infrequently taken the life out of the Church.

In place of that smug, cold, soulless, respectability we must put the passionate love, first for Jesus, and then for sinners for Jesus' sake.  We must have a reckless, supernatural, sacrificial love, supernatural in its vision; supernatural in its power to transform our lives; supernatural in its power to heal the souls of men.  Let us get off that pedestal of respectability and fall on our knees and learn to be saints!

No wonder that we have lost our savor.  And if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall the church be salted?  We need saints.  If it helps to have their statues around, let us have them.  We have pictures of our loved ones in our homes.  Why not of the saints?  By being thus reminded of them we can realize that men and women, of flesh and blood, have actually lived and have been saints.  And then we shall begin to believe once more that what men and women have been and have done for Christ, men and women can be, and can do, today.  We can bring the saints down to earth again when we realize the glory, which they now have, began here on earth; their supernatural love began while they lived as men and women.

"Who are these arrayed in white?"  the answer is given by John: "They are the saints who have come forth out of great tribulation." The one essential condition in the life of every saint which made it possible for the life in heaven to begin on earth was the one thing which we seek so madly to avoid, the one universal fact which faces every single soul on earth--suffering.  These are the saints.  Not a few angel-faced, spineless people.  They were human, of flesh and blood.  Very human at times, beaten, wounded, scarred, for the saints always bear the stigmata of their Lord.  When they were persecuted, what did they do?  They returned love, invincible, divine love, purified of self, and in union with their crucified Lord they received their foretaste of Heaven.  This is the mystery of the Cross.  These saints got their divine love on Calvary.  That is where you and I must get it.

--The Presence (Ernst Kaufmann Inc., 1945), pp. 124-126

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Derek White