‘We are all called to be saints’:
“‘Come, follow Me’ is the Lord’s invitation today,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades preached to hundreds of Catholic school students at the South Bend-area All-Schools Mass at the University of Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion Wednesday, Oct. 24. “Everyone, no matter their state in life, including children and young people, is called to be holy. Right now!”
His words of truth, spoken with joy, resonated with the children present. This was a special Mass, a beloved tradition, in which the students’ pastors concelebrated and the “saints” were in attendance: In the front of the crowds of faithful were fourth-graders dressed in costume and representing different saints of their choosing. From St. Gianna Berretta Molla, doctor, wife and mother, to Padre Pio, priest and stigmatist, and Brother Andre Bessette, CSC, a doorkeeper, a visual of the spiritual reality of the communion of saints was present at the liturgy.
After blessing the students with the Book of the Gospels, Bishop Rhoades began his homily by visiting and speaking with the saintly students. He tried to guess which saints the various students chose.
One saint, however, a princess, was tricky. Bishop Rhoades turned to his fellow priests and asked for their help.
“Does anyone know a French princess who was also a saint?” He asked. “Shaking their heads, he said to the young student, “You’ve stumped a Bishop! Who is she?” St. Adelaide, was the gracious reply.
Returning to the homily, the bishop asked, “What made them great saints? They followed Jesus and opened their hearts to His grace. In doing so, they spread the faith in words and actions. Imagine how we too can transform the world!”
“Some saints were priests, some lay people, women, men of every age …” he told the young people present. “The invitation of Jesus to the first apostles, “I will make you fishers of men,” is also addressed to us. It means that we are called to bring people to Jesus. What a great vocation!
“Isn’t it interesting that the first four apostles were fishermen?” he asked. “Two pairs of brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and James and John, left their boat, nets, even their father, right away to follow Jesus. A ‘disciple’ is a follower of Jesus. ‘Disciple’ is a Greek word, meaning ‘student.’
“Our main teacher is Jesus. In school, you study about the life of Jesus. That’s why we have Catholic schools: to study about and learn from Jesus, to learn how to pray and communicate with Jesus, how to be a friend of Jesus. In fact, He is your best friend.” The bishop’s words, which unfolded the daily Gospel reading of Mark 1:14-20, seemed to connect with the children, who learn in school how to grow in friendship with others.
“The saints heard Jesus’ call to follow and they answered Him. We are all called to be saints. We don’t keep our faith to ourselves: We share His message of salvation with others. Priest, sister, religious brother, layperson, married or single, whatever your vocation, you are called to be a missionary to others, a missionary disciple, sharing the love of Jesus, who died for us, with others.”
Bishop Rhoades emphasized the universal call to holiness. “There is no way to become holy if we don’t pray. … In school you pray together, at Mass, in class, and also I want to recommend to speak with Jesus one-on-one. First thing in the morning, say, ‘Good Morning, Jesus! Thank you for my family! Help me today to grow in Your love.’ Talk to Him and listen to Jesus speak to you in your heart. The saints also pray for us here on earth,” he told them. “They remind us that we are called to be saints, to live with God forever in heaven.”
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