Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 28, 2002
All Saints Day puts sainthood in focus
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Happy All Saints Day!
Not on a par with "Happy Birthday" or "Merry Christmas," but to many people All Saints Day often means either an obligation to go to church, or worse yet, doesn't mean anything except the day after Halloween.
After all, there are feast days for saints virtually every day of the year.
If you have a special devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, you will remember him on Oct. 4, or you would honour St. Joseph on March 19.
Maybe "All Saints" is just too big, too many.
When I was researching the holyday, I discovered Paula Frances Mary di Rosa, who was born in Italy in 1813 to a fairly wealthy family.
She spent a lot of her time and money assisting poor and sick people, including nursing them through a cholera epidemic. She founded a school for deaf girls and a boardinghouse for young women who laboured in local factories.
She convinced her father that she was not going to get married and, as a result, she began a religious order called the Handmaids of Charity, which was dedicated to caring for the sick.
She took the name Sister Mary of the Crucified.
When war broke out in northern Italy, her order of nuns worked on the battlefields and in military hospitals despite opposition by both doctors and the military.
However, the nuns proved to be invaluable.
She died a few years later, at the age of 42.
After reading St. Mary di Rosa's story, it was easy to see that she was energetic, determined and brave.
She was also intelligent, gentle and selfless.
But the real reason she intrigued me was something she said: "I can't go to bed with a quiet conscience if during the day I've missed any chance, however slight, of preventing wrongdoing or of helping to bring about some good."
I believe those few words sum up the reason she is a saint. They show the power of compassion and conscience at work. When loving service to other people is transformed into a moral imperative, it is a sign that God's work is being done.
The dictionary defines conscience as "the awareness of a moral or ethical aspect of one's conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong.
" Not merely preferring what's right, but choosing to act rightly makes the difference in our lives and the lives of all we touch.
A minister once asked a class of youngsters, "If all the good people in the world were red and all the bad people were green, what colour would you be?"
A little girl frowned with concentration while she thought about it, then smiled and raised her hand, saying "Reverend, I'd be streaky!"
Most of us are kind of "streaky."
But if being human means we aren't perfect, it also means that we are God's children, capable of changing and growing in his image.
We can become people of faith, hope and love.
Being human means that we can be compassionate and merciful, that we can respect our consciences enough to "prevent wrongdoing" and "bring about some good" every chance we get.
So Happy All Saints Day to you - and maybe you're a saint.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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