Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Many Benefits of Gratitude

Dr. Emmons and his books

(Thanksgiving 2017: This homily was given on November 23, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Luke 17: 11-19.)

(No audio available for this homily.)

His name is Robert Emmons.  He’s a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.  I mention him this Thanksgiving morning because Professor Emmons has spent the better part of his professional career researching the subject of gratitude (what it is; why it’s important; how to cultivate it in our lives, etc.), and his work is so well-respected that some people have gone so far as to call him “the world’s leading scientific expert” on the subject.

After studying more than 1,000 people of various ages (from 8 to 80), Dr. Emmons has reached the conclusion that giving thanks is beneficial in many different ways.  He puts the benefits he’s discovered into three separate categories: physical, psychological and social.  He says that, physically speaking, people who cultivate gratitude in their lives …
  • ·         Have stronger immune systems
  • ·         Are less bothered by aches and pains
  • ·         Tend to have lower blood pressure
  • ·         Exercise more and take better care of their health
  • ·         Sleep longer and feel more refreshed when they wake up

Psychologically they …
  • ·         Have higher levels of positive emotions
  • ·         Are more alert, alive and awake
  • ·         Experience more joy and pleasure
  • ·         Have more optimism and happiness

Socially they …
  • ·         Are more helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • ·         Are more forgiving
  • ·         Are more outgoing
  • ·         Feel less lonely and isolated

To all of that, of course, we, as Catholics, would add that thanksgiving also has spiritual benefits.  Aside from that fact that it strengthens our bonds with our brothers and sisters in Christ, gratitude also makes our relationship with God stronger—and it opens us up to the many blessings that he wants to give us in our lives.  Case in point: the healed leper in today’s gospel reading from Luke 17.  After he comes back to Jesus and thanks him, our Lord gives him a blessing that the other nine did not receive: the grace of salvation—which in the grand scheme of things was a much more important blessing than his physical healing was!

Had he not expressed his gratitude as he did, he would not have received that special—and necessary—gift.

Dr. Emmons goes on to say that genuine gratitude has two components, both of which (not coincidentally) we see in this healed leper and in his response to Jesus.  The first is an affirmation of goodness.  When we’re truly grateful, we’re implicitly affirming the fact that goodness exists in the world (which, unfortunately, isn’t as obvious as it used to be!  And, if you don’t believe me, just watch the news or read a newspaper.  There’s a lot of bad stuff going on out there these days.).

In going back to Jesus to give thanks, this healed leper was affirming the goodness he had experienced through our Lord when he was healed.

The second component of gratitude according to Dr. Emmons is the recognition that the good things we’ve experienced and are grateful for have come from outside of ourselves.  He says (and here I quote): “True gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset [which, of course, we are!]—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

In the case of the healed leper, he acknowledged another person (a divine person) and he acknowledged a “higher power” (God himself) to be the source of the gift he had received.

And he did those two things at the very same time (since Jesus was—and is—a divine Person, God himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made man).

So, obviously, if we want to reap the many benefits of gratitude in our own lives, we’ve got to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” within ourselves—which requires some discipline and effort.  In his writings, Dr. Emmons offers some practical suggestions on how to do this, two of which I’ll mention today. 

The first is to keep a “Gratitude Journal.”  He writes: “Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy.  [Set] aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life.”

That, of course, is something we can do every day even if we don’t keep a journal.

Which brings us to his second suggestion, which is to make a vow to take some time every day to give thanks.  He says, “Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed.  Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as ‘I vow to count my blessings every day,’ and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.”

Those are two very simple—and very helpful—suggestions that can be incorporated into our life simply by following them during our personal prayer time.  We talk about the importance of praying every day.  Well, one of the things we should always do when we pray is to spend some time thanking the Lord for his many blessings.  In that sense, every day should be a “thanksgiving day” for Christians!

Let me end my homily this morning by saying this: It’s great to hear someone from the secular world like Dr. Emmons talking about the good things that can come into our lives from giving thanks.

But the fact of the matter is, my brothers and sisters, the Catholic Church has been doing that for 2,000 years!  We’re often told that the Catholic Church needs to “get with it”—that the Church needs to “catch up with the world.”  But this is yet another example of how untrue that is!  This is yet another example of the fact that it’s actually the world that needs to catch up with the Church!

Which means that when we do sit down to thank the Lord for our blessings each day, one of the first things we should thank him for—and one of the most important things we should thank him for—is that we’re Catholic!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What Matters Most is not What You’ve Been Given; What Matters Most is What You DO With What You’ve Been Given




(Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on November 19, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 25: 14-30.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-third Sunday 2017]

I just finished reading a short (but excellent) book entitled, “Littlest Suffering Souls—Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ,” by Austin Ruse.  It tells the stories of three extraordinary children: Audrey Stevenson, who had leukemia and died at the age of 7; Margaret Leo, who suffered from spina bifida and died at the age of 14; and Brendan Kelly, a Down syndrome child who also had leukemia and died when he was 15.

Here’s how Austin Ruse describes what these children had to face during their very short lives:

What strikes you first about their stories is how much [these children] suffered. We are talking about intense and long-lasting physical and mental pain, excruciating suffering, the kind that would make a Marine call out for his mother in his final moments.Both Audrey and Brendan received invasive treatments of chemotherapy, steroids, spinal taps, and eventually bone marrow transplants. They lived long stretches of their lives without immune systems where danger lurked behind every errant microbe.Margaret Leo had titanium rods inserted into her back in order to slow the bending of her spine. Instead the rods bent. To this day they sit on her father’s office desk to remind him of what a bad day is really like.Audrey’s parents had to order her to talk about her pain so they and the doctors could help. Margaret would rarely mention her pain and mostly smiled through it. In the deepest pain, Brendan tried to make his parents laugh so they would not worry about him. Most children are not like this. We adults aren’t like this.

Now in many ways they were normal children.  Brendan, for example, loved sports and a good party; Audrey loved to play with her sisters and her friends.  But, at the very same time, they all exhibited extraordinary faith in horrific circumstances—as well as a deep love for Jesus, the sacraments and the Church.  And their faith and love affected many of the men and women who came into contact with them—including a lot of people with big jobs in the federal government (which, as we all know, can use all the extra faith and love it can get!).  That’s because Brendan’s parents and Margaret’s father know lots of powerful and influential people “inside the Beltway”.  Brendan’s mom and dad once worked for President Bush in the 1990s and Margaret’s father is vice president of the Federalist Society—an organization of lawyers and law students in Washington, DC that includes some Supreme Court justices.

In fact one of those Supreme Court justices actually keeps a picture of Margaret on the desk in his office to this day.  That’s how inspired he was by her faith and witness.

All of this illustrates the point I want to make, which also happens to be one of the lessons we learn from this gospel parable we just heard from Matthew 25: What matters most is not what you’ve been given; what matters most is what you DO with what you’ve been given.  Brendan, Margaret and Audrey were all given a cross to carry—an extremely heavy cross.  They could have responded to that cross with hatred and anger and self-pity and despair (which would have been understandable, given the intensity of their suffering).  But instead, they chose to do something positive with what they had been given.  They used their physical crosses to grow closer to Jesus, to encourage and inspire others, and to help other people through their offered-up sufferings and prayers (prayers which had some very powerful effects, including some physical healings).  As the author, Austin Ruse, put it:
God placed these little suffering souls in these places and in this time for a reason and one of those reasons is so their stories can touch the souls living in the grand houses of Great Falls [Virginia, where Brendan lived], McLean [Virginia, where Margaret lived], Paris [where Audrey lived] and beyond.
Including, now, Westerly!

Which brings us to the parable of the talents that we just heard.  One footnote here as I begin: A “talent” in first-century Israel signified a weight; which means that talents differed in value depending on what they were made of (either gold or silver or copper).

Obviously a talent of gold, for example, was worth more than the same weight of copper.

We’re told in the parable that the first servant was given five talents by his master, the second was given two and the third was given one.  But that’s not what’s most important in the story!  What’s most important in the story is what they DID with their talents.  As I said a few moments ago: What matters most is not what you’ve been given; what matters most is what you DO with what you’ve been given.

And the third guy in the parable did NOTHING—which is why he was condemned by his master!  The other two used what they had been given and were rewarded for their efforts.

This parable reminds us, first of all, that there are two kinds of sins that we commit in this life: sins of commission (when we choose to do something evil) and sins of omission (when we fail to do something good—something we could do and should do).

Most people when they go to confession only confess the first kind—that is to say, their sins of commission; very few confess their sins of omission.  And yet they are just as common!  If we fail to defend our Catholic faith, for example, when we could easily do so, we commit a sin of omission; when we know someone is being falsely accused of something and we remain silent, we commit a sin of omission; when we fail to pray regularly, we commit a sin of omission; when we fail to say “thank you” to someone who does something nice for us, we commit a sin of omission.

This was the kind of sin the third servant committed.  Notice that he didn’t DO anything that was grossly immoral.  He didn’t use his talent to buy illicit drugs or to pay for a prostitute.  He simply did nothing with it.  That was his only fault—but obviously it was a big one.  It was a big one because the talent was given to him with the understanding that it would be used.

This parable also reminds us that God expects us to use our talents (here meaning our “gifts”) for his glory and for our neighbor’s good.  Some of us may have many “talents”—many gifts—of this kind (like the servant in the story who had five), others among us may have less.

But, remember, the quantity doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter to God, as it didn’t matter to the master in the parable.

What matters most is not what you’ve been given (one talent or a hundred); what matters most is what you DO with what you’ve been given.

So what are you doing with your talents? 

Let me close now with the words of a song that I came across earlier this week online.  It caught my eye because the last line of the refrain is similar to the theme-line of my homily.  The song is entitled, “What You Do With What You’ve Got,” and the refrain goes like this:

It’s not just what you’re born with
It’s what you choose to bear
It’s not how big your share is
It’s how much you can share
And it’s not the fights you dreamed of
But those you really fought
It’s not what you’ve been given
It’s what you do with what you’ve got.

Like those three children—Brendan, Margaret and Audrey—may we use everything we are given in this life (our gifts and yes, even our crosses) for the glory of God and for the good of our brothers and sisters.  Amen.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Live Like You Were Dying

"St. Francis in Prayer" by Caravaggio (1571-1610)

(Thirty-second Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on November 12, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 25: 1-13.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-second Sunday 2017]

“Live Like You Were Dying” is a song by country music singer Tim McGraw, that came out back in 2004.  It eventually went to number 1 and won the Grammy Award that year for the Best Country Song.  It tells the story of a man, in his early 40s, who gets diagnosed with a terminal illness.  When the man is later asked about what he did in response to hearing this bad news about his physical health, he answers first by listing three things he did that were obviously on his “bucket list”.  He says, “I went skydiving; I went Rocky Mountain climbing; I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.”

But then he says these things, which are far more important:

“And I loved deeper; and I spoke sweeter; and I gave forgiveness that I’d been denying. …I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t, and I became a friend a friend would like to have. …I finally read the Good Book, and I took a good, long, hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”

And he ends it all with the classic line: “Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

Live like you were dying.

That’s exactly what I believe the Lord is telling us today in this gospel parable from Matthew 25: Make sure you live like you were dying.  In other words, make sure you’re living your life with an awareness that someday it will end, and that you’ll then be called upon to (as the Bible says) “render an account” for what you did—and for what you didn’t do—during your time on planet earth. 

Notice that all ten virgins in this story were invited to the wedding feast—just like all the people of the world are invited to the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb of God in heaven.  But only five had oil in their lamps; only five were ready to meet the bridegroom when he arrived.  The “oil” there can be seen as a symbol of “sanctifying grace”: the grace that Jesus won for us by his passion, death and resurrection; the grace that makes us pleasing to God; the grace we need in our souls in order to pass through the pearly gates of heaven!

And the analogy holds given the fact that in the story the oil was not transferrable!  That’s a very important detail.  The wise virgins were not able to share their oil with the foolish ones.  Each of them was personally responsible for the condition of her own lamp.

And so it is with us and our souls.  As Professor William Barclay put it in his commentary on Matthew, “There are certain things we must win or acquire for ourselves, for we cannot borrow them from others.”

This is why confession is so important.  We receive sanctifying grace into our soul through baptism, but we can lose it through mortal sin.  The ordinary way to get it back is through the sacrament of Reconciliation.

When was the last time you went?

Now what I really like about Tim McGraw’s song is that it indicates that the main character—the man in his 40s with the terminal illness—has lived a better and a more fulfilled life since his diagnosis.  That’s why he says, “Someday I hope you [too] get the chance to live like you were dying.”

He’s not wishing evil on us there; what he’s doing is expressing his hope for us!  He’s expressing the hope that we will experience the same kind of transformation in our lives that he’s experienced in his.  From all that he says in the song, it’s clear that he’s been transformed in his relationships with other people (“And I loved deeper; and I spoke sweeter; and I gave forgiveness that I’d been denying. …I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t, and I became a friend a friend would like to have.”); he’s been transformed in his relationship with God (“I finally read the Good Book”); he’s even been transformed with respect to his sins and failings (“I took a good, long, hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”)

The implication is that he would do some things differently.

His terminal disease has made him aware of his own mortality—and that’s a good thing (as I hopefully have already made clear in this homily)!  It’s a good thing because it’s reality!  The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that we do not have on this earth a lasting city.  That’s a fact.  Life is short.  And if you don’t believe me, just ask an elderly person.  (“Father Ray I celebrated my 95th birthday last week.  Where did the years go?”—I’ve heard elderly people say that kind of thing lots of times over the years) 

But we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that we do have a lasting city here—and that way of thinking can lead us to ignore God, and delay our repentance, and have the wrong set of priorities in life.

Like the man in this song did before his diagnosis.

The great saints, praise God, never fell into the trap.  They avoided it.  They avoided it because of how they looked at things.

In this regard, there’s a wonderful painting of St. Francis of Assisi by Caravaggio, the Italian artist of the late 16th century.  Perhaps some of you have seen it.  The title of the painting is, “St. Francis in Prayer,” and it shows the saint kneeling prayerfully, with his attention riveted on the object that he’s holding in his hands.

And what is the object he’s holding?

A cross?  No. 

A Bible?  No.

It’s a skull!  A human skull!

St. Francis is holding a human skull gently—you might even say “lovingly”—in his hands as he prays and meditates.  Which isn’t surprising, because apparently he had a skull in his possession and would sometimes bring it with him to the breakfast table so that his fellow friars could meditate on it too!

And St. Francis was not unusual among the great saints of the Church.  Many of them, believe it or not, kept skulls in their bedrooms or on their desks, which is why you will often see them in the portraits of canonized saints.

So why did they do this?  Were they obsessed with death?

No!  Quite oppositely, they were obsessed with life—eternal life—the eternal life that Jesus had died on the cross to give them.  They did not want to miss out on that life for anything; they didn’t want to be like the five foolish virgins in this parable!  So they kept this symbol of death around: a human skull.  They kept it around to remind them that they needed to be ready for that moment of death always, since, as Jesus says here, none of us knows the day or the hour when the Lord will come for us. 

And, in the process of doing this, these holy men and women lived fulfilled and joyful—albeit sometimes difficult—lives.

They lived like they were dying—even when they were in good physical health—and because of that they now live forever in a place where there is no death.

A place where we will also be someday, if we follow their example.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

When Priests Don’t Meet Your Expectations

The Bishop's 'Cathedra' in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.

(Thirty-first Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on November 5, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 23: 1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirty-first Sunday 2017]

Some of you have probably heard this before, but it bears repeating today:

If a priest preaches more than 10 minutes, they say he’s long-winded.  If his homily is short, they say he didn’t prepare it well.  If the parish funds are in the black, they say he has business savvy.  If he mentions money, they say he’s money-mad.  If he visits his parishioners, they say he’s nosy; if he doesn’t, they say he’s a snob.  If he has dinners and bazaars, they say he’s bleeding the people; if he doesn’t, they say there’s no life in the parish.  If he takes time in the reconciliation room to advise sinners, they say he takes too long.  If he doesn’t, they say he doesn’t care.  If he celebrates Mass in a quiet voice, they say he’s boring; if he puts emphasis in his words, they say he’s an actor.  If he starts Mass on time, they say his watch must be fast; if he starts late, they say he’s holding up the people.  If he’s young, they say he’s inexperienced; if he’s old they say he ought to retire.

I guess that last one applies to me now (probably a few of the others do as well—but we won’t go there!).

The point of this little reflection, of course, is that sometimes people have expectations of their priests and religious leaders that are excessive and unrealistic.  Not even St. Peter or St. Paul could live up to them.

And sadly, these unmet expectations sometimes cause people to leave the Church and abandon their Catholic faith—and, in certain extreme cases, to lose their faith in Jesus entirely and perhaps even to abandon their belief in God.

Just the other day a woman emailed me about a priest who embarrassed and humiliated her publicly (this didn’t happen locally—let me make that clear), and she was honest about the fact that she was hurt so deeply by what he did that she was tempted, for a moment at least, to abandon her faith entirely.

Thankfully she didn’t.  But others have in similar circumstances.

This problem of religious leaders who don’t practice what they preach is nothing new, and it’s certainly not something that’s peculiar to the Catholic Church.  Every religious group has experienced it—including the Jews of the first century (as Jesus makes clear in the gospel text we just heard from Matthew 23).  Our Lord says there, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.”  One note of clarification here: This wasn’t literally an old chair from the time of Moses that the scribes and Pharisees took turns sitting on!  The “chair” in this text is a symbol: a symbol of authority—a symbol of the legitimate religious authority that the scribes and Pharisees had in the Jewish community of the time.

We employ the same symbolism in the Catholic Church today when we use the word “cathedral” to describe the principal church of a diocese.  The English word “cathedral” comes from the Latin word “cathedra” which means “seat”.  A cathedral, therefore, is the place where the bishop has his “seat”—which is literally a chair (the big, presidential chair in the sanctuary) which only he is allowed to sit in during Mass.  If I or any other priest celebrates Mass in a cathedral, we have to sit in another chair—because only the diocesan bishop possesses the authority that the “cathedra” (the big chair) symbolizes.

The scribes and Pharisees taught the people the Mosaic Law, so in a certain sense they possessed the authority of Moses in the first century Jewish community. And because they had this legitimate authority Jesus tells his disciples, “You must obey them!”

“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.”

I think Jesus would say something similar to us today when we encounter an uncharitable priest (or bishop or deacon) like that woman did whom I mentioned earlier in my homily. 

He’d say, “Yes, you must obey them when they tell you to live the Gospel, but don’t do the things they do.”

This is a very important message for you to take to heart, my brothers and sisters, because God does not want your faith damaged or destroyed by an unpleasant encounter with “Father Pharisee”—or when your parish priest fails in some way to meet your expectations.

And it CAN be damaged or destroyed in such circumstances, as I said earlier—especially if your expectations are excessive and unrealistic.

Which leads to this very interesting question: What should you expect of your priests?

What are some realistic expectations that you should have of your clergy?

Well, here are a few that I think you should have …
  •  You should expect them to believe—not just in God and Jesus, but also in everything the Catholic Church teaches and professes to be revealed by God.  Basically that means everything in the Bible and the Catechism.  That’s what we expect of converts to the Catholic faith, so it shouldn’t be too much to expect the same thing of our clergy.

You should also expect them to teach these doctrines—and not their own personal opinions—to their congregations.
  •  You should expect your bishops, priests and deacons to acknowledge the fact that they’re sinners on the same pilgrimage that you’re on—like Pope Francis did when he was elected to the papacy and was asked to describe himself.  He said, very simply, “I am a sinner.”  That kind of humility goes a long way in ministry.
  •  You should expect your clergy to avoid scandalous behavior, and to pursue holiness in their personal lives.  That’s just basic Christianity 101!
  • You should expect your clergy to be obedient to the authorities that God has placed over them—especially their bishops.  Some priests, unfortunately, are not obedient to their bishops, and yet they expect their parishioners to be obedient to them!  That’s wrong!
  •  You should expect your bishops, priests and deacons to have the courage to address the hard issues of the day (like abortion and euthanasia and so-called “gay marriage”).  In other words, you should expect them not to be spiritual wimps!
  •  You should expect them to avoid opulence and materialism.
  •  You should expect them to live simple, detached lives.
  •  You should expect them to care about the poor and those in need.
  •  You should expect them to be men of prayer—who even pray about their ministry, so that God can help them to see what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and what he wants them to do next.
  •  And, of course, you should expect them to be men devoted to the sacraments of the Church.

Those are all reasonable, realistic expectations.  There’s nothing outlandish or excessive about them.  So in closing I ask you to pray for us!  Pray for all bishops, priests and deacons in the Church today: pray that we will meet or exceed all these expectations in everything that we do.

And if we fail to meet them from time to time because of our human weaknesses (like the scribes and the Pharisees failed), don’t give up on your Catholic faith, and certainly don’t stop praying for us—because that’s precisely when we need your prayers the most.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Mark Wahlberg and the Desire to Be a Saint

Mark Wahlberg

(All Saints’ Day 2017: This homily was given on November 1, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12a.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: All Saints 2017]

I want to begin my homily on this All Saints’ Day by speaking about Mark Wahlberg, the well-known actor.  Now if you know anything about him—and his personal and professional history—you might find it a little odd that somebody would use his name and the word “saints” in the same sentence!

But that’s precisely the point.

Wahlberg has become a practicing Catholic in recent years, but prior to that he was definitely not what you would call a “good role model” for our youth.  Among other things he was involved with gangs, he spent some time in jail for assaulting a Vietnamese immigrant, and he made some bad decisions in terms of the roles he played in feature films.  Last month he spoke at a Catholic youth conference out in Chicago, and there he said, “I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.”  When he was asked about particular movies that he regrets starring in, he mentioned “Boogie Nights” specifically—a film in which he played a porn star.

And this is a good thing!  It’s good that he feels this kind of regret for some of the roles he’s taken in the past.  It shows that he’s developing a good conscience.

Now he’s got a long way to go—even his views on things like so-called “gay marriage” need some refining.  But it does seem that he has the desire to move forward, the desire to grow closer to God, the desire to become “the best possible version of himself”—the desire, in other words, to be a saint.

Which is the first step to becoming one!

When he goes to Mass today, on this holy day of obligation, I hope and pray that his desire for sanctity will intensify—because that’s one of the purposes of this celebration!  It’s one of the reasons we have All Saints’ Day on the Church’s liturgical calendar.  We gather here to honor our brothers and sisters who’ve already made it to heaven; our brothers and sisters who lived the Beatitudes, and who are now a part of that vast crowd that St. John saw in that vision we heard about in today’s first reading from Revelation 7.  We gather, in other words to honor ALL the saints of heaven: the canonized and the un-canonized.

But, in honoring them the Church wants us also to be inspired by them!  The Church wants us to be inspired by them to pursue holiness ourselves.

Mark Wahlberg needs that inspiration (especially in the environment he lives and works in).  But we all need it too, because we’re living right now in a culture that’s constantly pulling us away from God and his truth.

All you saints of God, pray for Mark Wahlberg and for us, that we will have a deep, strong, unwavering desire to become saints ourselves.  And pray that we will ACT on this desire each and every day of our lives. Amen.