31 October 2020

Characteristics of the Saints

St. John the Divine was nearly a hundred years old when he was exiled to the island of Patmos. It was there that he had his great vision: “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

This was his great vision of all the saints, and they were standing there because of everything that has gone before – their holiness is the fruit of all the events in Christ's life, from His Conception and Nativity, to the Resurrection and the Ascension and Pentecost – all those things happened to make saints.

What is a saint? First, we should understand that saints aren’t born; rather, they’re made. We are all born with the potential to become saints. The only difference between those who aren’t saints and those who are, is the difference between people who repent and confess after sinning, and those who refuse to repent and so continue in their sin.

And because one of the purposes of the Church is to make saints, so the characteristics of the saints are the characteristics of the Church. In the Creed we confess that we believe “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” These words which define the Church, also define the saints.

The saints are One because they are together. We speak of the communion of the saints. The saints are One, they are united with one another because they are united with Christ.

The saints are also obviously holy. The word “saint” (from “sanctus”) means holy. They’ve been made holy by Christ, through the sacraments, through prayer, through grasping hold of and using God’s grace daily.

The saints are also Catholic, that is, “universal.” In other words, their holiness is the same in all places and at all times. We commemorate all the saints of all countries and of all centuries and of all backgrounds. We recall saints of all ages, of all nationalities, men, women and children, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick. They all confess the same Faith. The holiness of the Saints is universal throughout all ages.

And the saints are Apostolic. They share in the same Faith and Tradition that Christ gave to the Apostles, and they shared this Faith with the world through their words and in their lives. Their holiness wasn’t just for themselves; their holiness was for the whole world.

In keeping this Solemnity we ask the prayers of all the saints, that through their constant intercession we might be made saints, to have our place with them as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic people of God.