Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, known and unknown. We have special days for a great number of the known saints; so, I will talk about one who is not known by anyone here and almost anywhere else: Saint Jeanette LaFond, who died in the attack on the World Trade Center 20 years ago this past September 11th. Her sister Anita wrote in the current Smithsonian Magazine about her sister's death and how God revealed Jeanette's sainthood to her. On that terrible day, Anita began her workday as usual by calling Jeanette who worked on the 94th floor of the WTC North. Jeanette did not pick up. One of Anita's co-workers told her to look on her computer at what was happening—she saw that Jeanette's floor had taken the direct hit from the airplane. Anita writes, “It didn't take long before we saw the building collapse. And that was it... I knew in my heart that I would never see my sister again. At four o'clock that afternoon, I was sitting in my living room in New Jersey, looking out the window...My only thought was, 'Where is she?' As a Catholic, I'd always had faith in God, but I don't know that I expected an answer. It wasn't like a burning bush or anything, but I suddenly had a feeling—not even necessarily in words—of God telling me, 'Don't worry. She was so close to heaven, up on the 94th floor, that I just reached down and took her by the hand. She is safe now.'” “From that moment, I knew that I would miss her terribly, but I was able to move on with my life.”
As I read this testimony of love and faith, for one nano-second I was tempted by the Evil One to say, “wishful thinking,” but then the better side of my mind and heart took over to see in Anita's experience the same trust in God to make us saints as we can read in the writings and sayings of Saint Paul, St. Therese and so many of the other doctors of the Church. Every saint we celebrate today was on a kind of perilous 94th floor with dark forces hurtling toward them, and every one of them would tell us and will tell us as we encounter them in prayer that YES that's how I was sanctified: God reached out his hand to me through our incarnate, crucified and risen Lord Jesus and I let him take my hand. Praise the Lord, I let him take my hand!” Each and every saint would tell us, “In the power of his Holy Spirit and the gracious gifts of grace in his sacraments celebrated in his body the Church, especially the Eucharist, I was led to a life of holiness that was beyond anything I could achieve—far more than I could ask or imagine.” As that Saint of Saints, Our Blessed Mother proclaims in her Magnificat, “He that is mighty has done great things for me; and holy is his name.”
In our desire to respond to what is termed the “universal call to holiness” we can become discouraged by our frequent failures. When I was a neurotic novice, my abbot, Dom Thomas, recommended I read Benson's book The Triumph of Failure. I got the point—at least I started to get it. Our failures teach us to adopt the attitude of those blessed ones called the poor in spirit, the attitude of our Blessed Mother and of all the saints—to so realize our personal poverty of spirit that we rely on the Lord for all that we need. All. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: that the charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God; that grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and all people: that the saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace. The Catechism then asks St. Therese to back this up with an excerpt from her beautiful prayer, The Act of Offering: “Lord God, after earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone...In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” Yet, we know that at least one of Therese's hands was not empty when she appeared before her Heavenly Father, because, like the hand of Saint Jeanette LaFond, it was grasped by the hand of the Man from Galilee, her beloved Lord Jesus.
Jesus will soon place himself—body, soul, and divinity—in our hands in the Communion rite that we may receive the pledge that we will ever be in his hands, the pledge of eternal life, the pledge of being a saint among all the saints, known and unknown. “Now to him who is able to accomplish far more that all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”