November is traditionally the month of the Holy Souls - when we pray for our brothers and sisters in Purgatory. I can imagine a great cheer going up in that place of purification every 1st November as the souls there remember that people will be praying in earnest for them. To be honest there should be cheering every day: as Catholics we have a duty to pray for the Holy Souls - the bond of love as members of the Church should urge us to do so. And let's face it, most of us will have a spell there, so it would be a good idea to make friends with the Holy Souls so when they enter heaven they will repay the debt they owe those who have prayed for them by their own prayers.
But this month is also the month of the Saints. Apart from All Saints, all the religious orders and congregations celebrate a feast day in honour of their Saints this month. My order, the Discalced Carmelites, celebrate All Carmelite Saints on the 14th. In Ireland we celebrate All Saints of Ireland on the 6th.
Reflecting on my post on the two children being proposed for Sainthood (I have just discovered that a friend of mine knew Carlo Acutis!), I was thinking about the Irish men and women who, if they had lived in another country, would now be Servants of God and on the way to Sainthood. As I have said many times (forgive me for saying it again), Ireland tends not to like Saints, or at least, is not too keen on opening Causes.
Well, I have had an idea. Here's a question for all of you who are reading this blog - Irish and non-Irish: do you know of anyone who seemed to you and to others to have lived a life of heroic virtue? Do you know anyone who may have been a Saint? I am particularly interested in hearing if you did - and especially if it was an Irish person. We need to start identifying these holy people so as the Church in Ireland moves towards reform, we may begin to take our place in the universal Church and participate fully in her life, and that includes the recognition of people among us who have lived heroically saintly lives. Hopefully in the years to come the opportunity to open Causes will be there. Perhaps now we need to be doing the groundwork, and that includes, of course, prayer.
Some will say: the Church has more important things to be doing than worrying about Saints. Well, as Thomas Aquinas would say, I answer that: Saints are a sign of a healthy Church, both local and universal. If a diocese is not producing Saints, then there is something not quite right there - the local church is failing to sanctify its members. I would also say that the process of making Saints and the growth of the cult brings many blessings to a diocese: a good bishop can see endless evangelical possibilities in the promotion of a local person to the altars, while establishing a sanctuary of prayer and grace in the diocese centred on the tomb of the Blessed or Saint. So it is not merely an exercise in putting a title on a holy person - it is putting new heart and joy into the faithful.
I remember during our last Fraternity pilgrimage - to Turin, when we visited the tomb and home of St Gianna Beretta Molla in Mesero outside Milan. The town was full of images of "their Saint" - there was tremendous pride and devotion. Her clinic was a site of pilgrimage, and during our visit locals popped over to meet us and tell us their stories of St Gianna. They loved her and they loved God even more because he had chosen one of their own and glorified her before all the nations. They prayed to her and learned from her life. Those who had known her had been touched by her life and goodness. Those who had not known her were inspired and wanted to come to know her so as to come closer to God, to his mercy and his help.
How wonderful it would be for local communities here in Ireland to experience that: to have the blessing of God through the holy life, example, and yes, miracles, of one of their own whom God has raised up. There are many in Ireland who were sanctified, we need only recognise it. So, my dear friends, your homework for today is to identity these holy people and begin to pray. And then we will see what happens.