Tuesday December 12th 2017

A WORD FROM YOUR PARISH PRIEST 5th November 2017

Several years ago, when we were still students, Fr Andrew Burns and Bro. Richard organised a five day hike for ourselves and the postulants of that time in the Drakensberg.  The hike started at Cobham, near Sani Pass and ended five days later at Oliviershoek.  It is known as the Giant’s Cup Trail.  Each day we walked around eight hours a day.  At midday, we stopped for Mass and then had lunch.  Every afternoon the hike ended at a camp with huts and ablution facilities.

None of us were experienced mountain hikers but a trail had been set.  You could see the path up the mountain that others had used.  And to make sure you knew which of the trails to follow, all along the way, at suitable points were stones at the side of the path with a little foot painted on them pointing in the direction we were to go.  Sometimes, at farm fences, a little foot, pointing in the right direction, was painted on top of the post at the stile where we climbed over the barbed wire fences.

Without the signs we could have become hopelessly lost.  And even with the markings, you had to be alert.  Our two fastest walkers, Bro. Gavin and Emile Jones, took a wrong turning at one stile over a fence, and I was sent running after them.  They were walking so fast, it took me fifteen minutes to catch them up.

The trails had been laid by experts from KwaZulu-Natal Parks Board.  You have to wonder at all the work which went into choosing the paths from all the animal and human tracks laid over the centuries on those mountains.

The saints have done something similar for us.  They were the pioneers on the paths on the Christian journey.  They have laid the original trails.  They have put down marker stones and painted little footprints on the gate posts to tell us where to go.  The Church and the Mass is the resting place each evening to refresh us for the next day’s journey.

The saints have toiled the roads before us.  As ordinary human beings like you or I, they have set an example of determination, dedication and sacrifice.  And, precisely because they are ordinary human beings like us, they show us what can be achieved when we allow God’s grace to work within our hearts.

From earliest times, Christians have always looked to the saints for an example.  Some saints took a direct path to Christ.  Others were a bit wandered at the beginning of the journey, stumbled, blundered, before getting it right.  Some seem to have had an easy path.  Others have enduring physical and spiritual suffering.  Some have been persecuted by others.  Others have attracted enthusiastic followers.  But all have shown us what is possible when we allow our human love and courage to be a tool in the hands of God.

Today, though, in a special way, we remember all the numerous saints who have never been officially canonised.  All around us (even today) there are people whose stories guide and prod us onward on our journey.  These are people in whom we see the two great commandments — love of God and love of neighbour — have been joined to an extraordinary degree.  There are the saints of our own lives too, the ordinary good people who have made it possible for us to begin and continue this great Christian journey.  These are the people who first taught us our faith or people we know and love who have shown us what it really means to be a Christian, a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend.

They are too numerous to have a specific feast day and so we have today’s feast to remember the encouragement and inspiration these men and women gave us as they went before us, blazing a trail.  Each one, in their own way, have made it just that little bit easier for us.  And when we experience weariness and a sense of failure or futility, it’s as if they are saying to us, ‘Don’t give up.  We went through the same things and we know it’s worth it!’

There is always the temptation to create ‘plaster’ saints, to put them on a pedestal, and light a candle and then console ourselves with the idea ‘well, it was okay for him, for her; but I can’t be like that!’

But the saints are models for us precisely because they were absolutely ordinary human beings just like us with the same weaknesses.  They become reminders of what is possible for an ordinary human being, they inspire us, guide us.  And of course, they intercede for us.

But they cannot do the Christian journey for us.  Nor do they provide a short cut.  We have to make the journey.  The saints help us to dare the journey.

Fr Tony Hunt used to tell a beautiful story of a group of school children taken on an outing to a great cathedral.  The glory of that cathedral was the huge stain glass windows all around the building, many of them showing the saints and their lives.  That night, one little boy said to his mother, ‘I know who the saints are now, mum!  They are the ones who let the light through!’  That is a perfect description of who we should be: we should be the ones through whom God’s light shines so that people encounter Christ through us.

Fr Scott, CSsR

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Garden of Remembrance Project update

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