We want whatever it is they had to rub off on us, or at least, to inspire us to keep going -- and growing -- in faith.
Life is so fast and so full that many of us experience it pretty much as a blur. But if we stopped for a moment to think about the gift of life, we'd realize that every human person -- body and soul -- was made for heaven. That's a lot to digest. And by a lot, I mean that the gift God has made us is more than we can begin to imagine.
I know how challenging I find it to keep sight of the goals I set for myself. However noble or challenging those might be, they are temporal and small compared with the eternal purpose for which God created us. Each and every one of us was loved into being by the God who is love itself. In other words, we are created by love, from love, and ultimately for love. We call the love we're meant for "heaven."
The word "heaven" contains all the deepest longings of every human heart. Heaven is where wrongs are righted; where hopes are fulfilled; where lost years are restored; where sin and regret are washed away by mercy.
I think heaven is why so many people show up when the relics of a saint come to town. Explaining this ancient tradition to the uninitiated isn't easy. I mean, there is something a bit strange and primitive about putting the bodily remains of someone long dead on tour. But when we know that one of us has made it to heaven, we want to be close to them. We want whatever it is they had to rub off on us, or at least, to inspire us to keep going -- and growing -- in faith.
Over the past year, the Church of Boston has had the privilege of hosting the relics of three saints: Maria Goretti, Charbel Makhlouf, and most recently, Padre Pio. I think one of the most powerful things about these experiences is the sheer number of Catholics who have made the effort to come. Hundreds and thousands of people gathered not only to honor these saints, but to pray with them in a way that only physical presence can offer.
That is what the communion of saints will look like on the other side of eternity. We'll run into all the people who have accompanied us on the journey; both those who shared only a few steps, and those who have been alongside us the whole way. We'll gather around the throne of God together, and tell our stories of his faithfulness. Our wounds will no longer cause us pain or shame. Instead, they will be glorified as Christ's are.
Standing in line at the cathedral last week, I couldn't help but think about the fact that the saints don't really have any special advantages over the rest of us. They were baptized in the same holy water, received the same Eucharist, and worshipped in the same way we do. The homilies and music they heard at their parishes probably wasn't any better or worse than most. The religious education they received probably wasn't perfect. The families they grew up in weren't perfect either. And with the exception of the immaculately conceived Mother of God, the saints were sinners like the rest of us. If they can make it by God's grace, so can we.
Making it to heaven has been God's plan for every one of us from the beginning. The power of his grace can overcome every deficit and obstacle between us and the hereafter. That is what the mortal remains of a young Italian murder victim, a Lebanese hermit, and a Franciscan mystic remind us. As St. Paul wrote, there is "nothing (that) can separate us from the love of Christ" (see Romans 8: 31-39) nothing but the free will he gave every one of us.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is the author of “Adoption: Room for One More?”, a speaker, musician and serves as an Aquisitions Editor at Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.
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