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Headed Home -Companions on the Way

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(11-01-09) For half a century I drove home four times a year from Mount St. Mary's to visit my parents in Albany, New York. Twenty-six of those years are etched sharply in the memory of my heart. That was the time my parents made their home at the Little Sisters of the Poor-just outside Albany. In my visits I simply covered for the chaplain, hung loose in the Lord, and helped out as needed. My overall striking impression was the holiness that I gratefully experienced among the residents and the Little Sisters. They taught me, as you have taught me, that to be genuinely human is to be holy.

Two weeks ago the lady who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, Jeanne Jugan, was officially declared a saint. Friends, I've never waited for the sound of Vatican chimes which signal the official declaration of those who are in the glory of the Lord. I prayed to Jeanne Jugan---and Damien of Molokai-well before Rome "clocked them in." I find myself praying to those "not officially certified"--- to Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador (try the film or DVD "Romero")-- ato the martyred priest-missionary in Guatemala, Stan Rother, a Mount seminary alumnus. These men were murdered by government forces as they served the oppressed and voiceless poor---Romero killed while celebrating the Eucharist; Stan murdered in his rectory; I find myself attracted to a Thomas Merton-Trappist priest-whose meandering quest for the Lord deeply influenced my own journey; to Dorothy Day who has opened countless eyes to the causes of poverty.

You and I find ourselves praying at times to the hidden "saints" who have shaped our lives---those who have never made and never will make the headlines.

We honor today the saints---our sisters and brothers in the Lord. We pray not only to those who are officially recognized as saints-we find ourselves praying as well to ordinary people---our parents, members of our own families, fellow workers, our neighbors next-door or down-the-street-teachers of our yesteryears---those women and men whom we may have never thought of as particularly holy--- yet, upon deeper reflection, we gratefully admit that, in God's provident love, they have somehow nurtured deeply our own growth in Jesus living in us. We realize that we sit upon their shoulders. As we lovingly reflect on these people we glimpse at times certain ones who have definitely helped us to grow more deeply in the Lord's ever-consuming love for us. It may well be that that a few of these persons may never even mentioned the Lord Jesus to you and me-but, somehow their insights-the way they responded to challenges in their lives---the way they lived for others - stop us in our tracks. In gratitude we find ourselves praising them and praying not merely for them, but to them.

The saints serve as models for our own life. United with God they can pray for us as we meet difficulties or problems similar to the ones they had. As we become familiar with their lives and sift through the countless stories told about them we might hit upon a few of them who could easily serve as our "older sister" or "brother". . we turn to a Therese of Lisieux when we are discouraged about sickness. .. to a Thomas Merton when we find ourselves struggling with the Church; to Peter when we honestly think our faith is drying up; to Catherine of Siena who felt frustrated with organized religion.

Our sister-companions or brother-companions in the Lord persistently attract us: Consider the joyful example of Francis of Assisi as he lived in loving service to the outcast and the disinherited; the steadfast dedication of Thomas More to principles which cost him his life (by the way the film or DVD version of A Man for All Seasons -serves as a fine introduction to Thomas More.) You might find yourself drawn to the joyful sense of humor of Pope John XXIII- humor is so essential to living our Christian calling. (After entering the Roman Hospital of the Holy Spirit, Pope John was introduced to the sister who ran the hospital. "Holy Father," she said, "I am the superior of the Holy Spirit." "You're very lucky," said the pope, delighted. "I'm only the Vicar of Christ.")

The saints are models of what our lives could be. We hope to become what they are. In no way does this mean that we should imitate their particular day by day work. Mother Teresa sharply cautioned against such imitation: She frequently told people: "Find your own Calcutta".

The haunting question challenges us: "Can you and I become saints?" No matter how crazy, confused or complex our lives may be, the answer is "yes". To become a saint is to find your "true self"---the self that God created you to be. If I ask you the question: "Do you believe that God will make you what he created you to be?" - - and you answer: "Sure, I do." Then, my follow-up question is: "Do you then consent to let God do this-to make you what he created you to be? Do you consent?" And, friend, if you give your consent-then , please realize that you have the desire to become a saint." On your topsy-turvy journey to sainthood -please do not think that you have to be 100% perfect. If that were the case, you'd no longer be human. Remember that to be perfectly human is really to be imperfect .

In surrendering to God's love for you as you search for your

"true self" you'll find that the Lord is with you. Once in a while may you take heart as you look back on your life--- be it looking back on a moving experience that you had a year ago-a month ago---a day ago. You will then be able to say: "Yes, there was God, " with you on your journey. A matter of looking back to see the presence of God in your life here and now. That was what Mary may well have done when she looked back on the day she surrendered to the will of God-the day she became a mother.

Enjoy the journey!

Read other homilies by Father Paul