The world has its need of honor for those who have labored in its service. It guards with jealous care, the long bead-roll of high and historic names, that stand out bright from the dim obscurity of a past; men, whose deeds are household words, and whose names have become part and parcel of the history of the world; who have been identified with the historic glories of their own particular country, or even with the greatness of the human intellect itself. Poets, statesmen, orators, philosophers, lawgivers, warriors, philanthropists; the world has them all in memory, and has a ritual of its own to celebrate their honor. The school boy nourishes his youth with the story of their achievements; the man sets them before him, as models in his pursuit of the objects of his ambition.
Nor do I wish just now, to quarrel with the world for the honor it so cheerfully pays to illustrious names. It is an honor grounded on one of the noblest instincts of our nature, the instinct that prompts us to reverence the qualities that make men great. I do not quarrel with the world on this score, nor do I wish just now to point out, as I easily might point out, that the world has not always been happen in the selection of its heroes; that it has sometimes honored with its fame, men whose only title to distinction was, that their crimes had been gigantic; that even the best of them have effected but little permanent good, and none that was unmixed with evil; that their noblest words have in them no anodyne for the familiar sorrows of humanity, nor has any deed of theirs borne any fruit that can appease the hunger of the human heart. Still, let them have their honor, in the measure with which the world metes it out to them, each in his own degree; one name living for a day in the columns of a newspaper, another graven with a pen of adamant, n the pages of immortal books.
But, I ask you, shall the great Church of God that has had given into her hand the hearts of peoples; that sits and keeps her everlasting watch over the highest destinies of men; that guards their individual souls from the moment of birth to the moment of death; that consecrates their toil, and sanctifies their pleasure; that stands by them, so lovingly and so close, through all the varied scenes of life, and lays them when they are dead before her altar, and lifts in their behalf the voice of the prayer that follows them, powerful and prompt to succor to the unseen land beyond the grave; shall this great Church have no heroes of her own, or, shall she suffer her heroes to be be forgotten, the men whose names are associated with her origin, her growth, and with all the thousand triumphs she has been winning from the first, over the devil, the world, and the flesh; shall this great Church find, and fix upon, no special time to cherish in the hearts of her loving millions, the memory of her saints?
It is not meet that it should be so, and it is not so. The Church has sent her voice to-day through all her wide domains, to tell her children upon earth to hold high festival, in honor and remembrance of her children in heaven. To-day, accordingly, we come from ur work, and our business, and our worldly pursuits, to kneel before God’s altar, and unite in offering up the Holy Sacrifice to the memory of the saints of God. To-day, the veil is raised, and we seem to see that heavenly host amongst whom, it is our dearest and most cherished hope that, we one day may find a place. Patriarchs who lived upon the hope of the Savior Who was to come; prophets who, from the mountain-tops of vision, shouted down to the desolate world the tidings of His coming; apostles who saw Him in the flesh, and served His living truth in tears and blood; martyrs who bled and died, with a smile upon their pain-drawn lips, and rapture in the tortured hearts, because they die for Him; confessors who bore His blessed image in their hearts and in their lives; virgins who gave to Him their fresh young hearts before the breath of earthly love had dimmed the luster of their purity; they come before us to-day – patriarch, prophet, apostle, martyr, confessor, virgin; and, at their head, uniting all their several merits in her single self, Mary the Queen of angels and of saints.
Let us honor them to-day, and beg the powerful intercession of those friends of God. But, let us not forget, that the Church, in proposing this festival to her people, has it in purpose not only to honor the saints, but also to stimulate her children upon earth to follow their example. She expects from those who celebrate this festival worthily, not merely the fruit of a barren admiration for the heroic virtues of the saints, but also the fruit of an earnest following in the narrow way, that ended for them in a throne in heaven, and a crown of glory.
We are then to imitate the saints whose festival we are keeping.
The saints were not so much men who did extraordinary things, as men who did extraordinarily well, the ordinary duties that fall to the lot even of such ordinary Christians as ourselves. when II tell you to imitate the saints, you will perhaps say to me - we are not apostles, we are not called to preach Christ to the nations, and carry the standard of the cross to the ends of the earth. I answer, still you can be, you are bund to be apostles, in another way. You are not apostles: but are you not Catholics, are you not professing to be members of the Church that sends the saints to heaven? Well, are your lives giving testimony to the world around you, of the holiness of your religion? Are you by your word, by your influence, by your example, making the Holy Church to which you belong, honored among men?? If you are doing this, you re doing simply your duty, and you are acting, in your own measure, as apostles. But if, on the other hand, your lives are a disgrace to the religion you profess; if you are, as it were, doing your evil best to prove that a Catholic may be as wicked as any one else, that he may be an indifferent Catholic, a bad Catholic; if your words are blasphemous and impure, your influence pernicious, your example deadly to the little ones of Jesus Christ, then you are not apostles of Christ; rather, such men are apostles of the devil, aiding him to build upon earth the kingdom of iniquity, which one day the wrath of God shall crush, and fire of God shall burn.
Again, you may say – We are not called upon to be martyrs, to lay down our lives for the faith. But, I say to you, you are bound to do, in your own measure, what the martyrs did. You are bound to make any sacrifice that God demands of you, rather than violate His law. You re bound to mortify yourselves, to deny yourselves, not only in things that are unlawful, but in things that are dangerous. It was not to the martyrs alone, it was to you, to me, to every human being that our blessed Lord has said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” You must be confessors, bearing testimony by your lives to the truth of your Holy Religion; you must be virgins by practicing holy purity according to your state.
In this way shall you celebrate worthily, not only for to-day, but for all the days of your life, the memory of the saints; and you will be employing the means that shall one day, in the mercy of God, infallibly result in your admission to that kingdom of glory, where the saints shall sit for ever at the feet of God.