Sermon Notes – May 5, 2024 – “We Have the Tools to Become Saints”

“We Have the Tools to Become Saints”

Father Peter Fitzgibbons

May 4 – 5, 2024

Gospel: John 15:9-17

In your prayer life, I encourage you to thank God for keeping you safe.  Also, ask your Guardian Angel to cover you with his or her wings so that you may have a safe night free of temptation and illness and can sleep soundly.  Do the same when you get up in the morning.  Ask your Guardian Angel to protect you with their wings as you go through your day to protect you from the dangers of satan, both temporal and spiritual.  Also, remember to say “thank you” at night and in the morning for their watchfulness over you. 

This past week we had the feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna.  She did a lot for the Church in her short life.  She was only 33 when she died, medicine being what it was five centuries ago.  In her short 33 years, she lived an extraordinary life.  I used to love reading about the lives of saints, which is why I never read fiction . . . it was boring.  The amazing thing about Saint Catherine is that she had no initials before or after her name like Most Reverend Bishop, STD (Doctor of Sacred Theology and not a disease), DD (Doctor of Divinity), or JCD (Doctor of Canon Law).  Whoopee!  That does not impress me.  I have initials after my name, and I also have a nice title – Very Reverend – which went south when the bishop retired.  Does that make me a brighter person?  Not necessarily.  All it proves is that I can pass tests. 

However, knowing how to take tests doesn’t mean you are holy.  Look at Saint Therese of Lisieux.  She didn’t graduate from college, nor did she take the Lay Ministry Program offered by our diocese.  But a century later, the Church made her a Doctor of the Church for her holiness.  Saints Therese and Catherine, like so many other saints, reached out and grasped the means to lead a holy life and change the world or their piece of it.   They cooperated with God’s grace each in their own vocation.  Their ability to become holy was the same as ours is today through the Sacraments offered by Holy Mother Church.  They had the same means to become holy as we do.  We all have different abilities and vocations.  Bob will not allow me to handle power tools.  He made that decision so that I wouldn’t hurt myself.  The staff will not allow me to work on phones and on computers.  Also, I know better than to try to work in the kitchen.  That’s not going to happen in my lifetime either.  We all have talents and abilities in every different sphere.  However, we share one common ability, no matter our education, which is holiness.  You are here so that you can take advantage of it and convert the world as the saints did.  I am at least twice the age of Saint Catherine of Sienne when she passed, and I am almost three times the age of Saint Therese de Lisieux when she passed.   Holiness is not a comparative thing, but when I think back on my life, I don’t know if I have done anything that compares to them.  I may have some explaining to do in a little while.  So, in my meditation, I reflect on how to aspire to greater acts of holiness and penance so that I may become like them. 

The ability to be holy does not atrophy.  If we get hurt and are laid up in bed for a while, we get to take physical therapy.  That’s a lot of fun!  I was at the hospital and these pretty young ladies came in.  They seemed so sweet, but the next thing I heard from the patient’s room was “OOOOOOH!”   I have a massage therapist who helps me with my bad back.  When the pain gets to be too much, I let out an “AAAAAH,” and she’ll say, “I’m helping you, Father.”  I feel it!  I really do!  Our muscles atrophy when we don’t use them, but the ability to be holy does not.  The ability to be holy is always there to be reawakened, enlivened, and fulfilled.  The ability to be transformed and to transform the world around us is always there.  We never lose it.  We just have to cooperate with the means to be holy that God gave us.  Holiness is not given to us because we are nice people.  I would like to think I’m the greatest guy I know, and I usually do.  But holiness and my talents have not been given to me because I’m me.  They’ve been given to me to use for you.  So however close I get to Almighty God, that closeness is not a reward for being who or what I am.  It is a gift for you to help build up the Body of Christ.  We have the same ability to be holy just as the great saints did.  We don’t need initials before or after our names.  We don’t have to participate in any special programs or ministries.  I think about the parish I grew up in.  It was crammed with WWII veterans.  Think about what those men and women did.  It was a small French-speaking parish, but they built a church, a school, and a convent.  They also produced five priests from my generation.  Two of those priests have passed.  I remember those men and women very well because it was a small parish.  None of them held spiritual degrees, but they had Christ in their hearts.

Some of us were early bloomers like Saint Catherine, and some of us were late bloomers.  We won’t know what we have and have not accomplished until we are standing before the Throne of God.  The same gifts that were made available to the saints when they cooperated with God’s grace are available to us.  They show the amazing transformation that can happen when we cooperate with God’s grace.   You can find a saint who was in any condition you may have but who was transformed.  The Church investigates potential saints quite vigorously.  They comb through everything written or said by candidates that could be made suspect.  It’s like a spiritual colonoscopy.  So, when people are raised at what is called the Dignity of the Altar and declared a saint, you know their lives have been investigated thoroughly.  The same grace Saint Catherine or any of the saints had is available to us anytime.  God can, does, has, and will give us that same transforming power to change our piece of the world by bringing God’s love, grace, and peace to those who need it.

Father’s Reflections . . .
I’ve been thinking about the four law enforcement officers who were killed in Charlotte two weeks ago.  Despite everyone having fresh plumbing, computers, and cell phones, there’s a lot of evil in the world, so it’s not a lack of stuff that makes people bad.  They’re sick.  Those four brave men won their eternal salvation.  Please keep their families in your prayers. 

How will you apply this message to your life?  _______________________________________

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