During the month of October, the Church remembers many holy people who “have gone before us marked with the sign of faith!” Among the many are: St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Oct. 1); St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4); St. Teresa of Avila (Oct.15); St. Ignatius of Antioch (Oct. 17); St. Luke (Oct. 18); St. John Paul II (Oct. 22); Sts. Simon and Jude (Oct 28). Men and women from various walks of life who, at times, struggled with remaining faithful, endured sickness and suffering, but always kept Jesus as their focus.
One of these holy people that we experienced in our own lifetime is St. John Paul II. He had deep faith by his vision of the Church’s role in defending human dignity and the life of the spirit. He was nearly killed in St. Peter’s Square in 1981 and visited his assassin in prison and offered his forgiveness. In his final years we all witnessed the effects that Parkinson’s disease had on his body, and through it, he humbly offered a different kind of witness.
I certainly would be remiss if I did not mention St. Francis of Assisi. Here was man who struggled with what direction he should go with his life. Was God calling him to be a contemplative or a mendicant? Was the Order developing as it should? Many questions, illnesses, and doubts filled his life, yet he always gave praise and thanks to God – “My God and my all.” St. Francis, near the end of his earthly life, composes the beautiful Canticle of the Creatures identifying all of God’s creation as Brother and Sister, even death!
As we remember and reflect upon these holy people it is a good reminder that we all are called to be holy witnesses no matter what our God-given vocation is. St. Paul reminds us: “It is He who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ, till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature” (Eph. 4:11-13). I am certain that St. Paul would include in this list parents, grandparents, single folks, children, young adults, contemplative men and women, etc. Each of us is to lead good holy lives to the best of our ability in the service to each other and to build up the Kingdom of God.
--Vincent Delorenzo, OFM