For all the saints

Often we go along in our lives struggling for goodness, or some approximation of it, with one eye on our future in heaven and the other, sometimes a keener, eye on what is happening to us now at this moment—our work, our preoccupations, pains, bothers, worries, hopes, ambitions, fears. As Madeleine Delbrel humorously put it, “Lord, I love you more than general...but right now, in their brief, passing moment I would love an English cigarette...or maybe a Gauloise even more.” Daily things have a way of pushing themselves to the fore as important, and to an extent they are. Yet there is a hierarchy of values to be learned and observed.

In the midst of this muddle of relativity, we are reminded today of the real order of things. What comes through to us in this feast is that for the company of saints, their desire, up to and including the final point of material crisis, was not a doughnut, but holiness, and love embodied. It was Jesus. At the point of crisis, these saints received their desire—their heaven, Jesus in his glorified body—not finally as disembodied spirits, but in their own real bodies, made holy by obedience.

The matters of our present life matter because it is through the experience of them day to day that we learn what is actually important. It is through the experience of our days that we learn, for instance, what love is, how to exercise it, and what is worthy of it. Second, we learn to desire the holiness that makes saints. And we have those saints, the whole company of people to look to for help and example, people not unlike us. This is what mimesis was made for, this is where mimesis is an entirely good thing.

The more we take on the holiness of Jesus, and paradoxically, the more aware—the more here we are—in the midst of our material life, the more the desires of our lives sort themselves into proper relative order. In a day of crisis, perhaps our last day, the effective residue and the habits formed by the slowly accumulating pile of everyday decisions and choices we’ve made will be tested. By God’s mercy and the prayers of the saints, may all these be shown to be made of love.

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