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The Feast of All Saints: God's Glorious Nobodies View Comments
By Kathy Coffey

“THEY SET FORTH no decisions or judgments, nor are they found among the rulers” (Sirach 38:33).

Snow shovelers, flight attendants, phlebotomists, kindergarten aides, car mechanics, postal workers, gardeners, cooks, farmers, computer technicians, produce managers, librarians, garbage collectors: They make a lovely litany for the Feast of All Saints!

Sometimes when I get depressed about the folks at the top—the greed-driven executives, the hypocritical leaders, the unethical actions of the supposedly “best and brightest”—I like to think of Tim.

Tim’s job wasn’t prestigious. He worked as an aide at a retirement center where my 84-year-old friend Cathey lives. Sometimes I pick her up for a lecture or a concert, because she craves stimulation and loves to get out.

One cold morning when I arrived, Tim greeted me at the door. “Cathey’s got only a light jacket. Do you think she’ll be warm enough?” he asked with concern. “She’s so excited about going. I styled her hair!”

Cathey emerged several minutes later, glowing. I complimented her on her hairstyle while Tim retrieved a heavier coat. As he waved us off, I thought no parent had sent a child to prom with more tenderness or pride.

Do we think of Tim as a saint? Probably not. Aren’t saints the folks with lush capes and sculpted halos, glowing through stained glass? Even in martyrdom, their hair is perfectly blow-dried, not one brocade thread of one sleeve askew. They are never overweight, late, anxious or irritable. But such an image does a great disservice to reality. When we put the saints on a pedestal too distant, we’re off the hook. If they were perfect, we don’t need to imitate them!

The reading for the Feast of All Saints, the Beatitudes, certainly contradicts the idea of distance. In Luke’s version (6:17-23), Jesus stands “on a stretch of level ground” in a posture of equality with people who were probably sweaty, disease
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Kathy Coffey, author of the book The Art of Faith (Twenty-Third Publications), gives retreats and workshops nationally and internationally. The Denver, Colorado, resident can be contacted at cafekathy@aol.com.


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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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