ALL SAINTS OF IRELAND
Every school, club, and voluntary organisation has its hall of fame. Go into any hall or sports complex and there is a wall with pictures taken of past heroes and triumphs, called the ‘Hall of Fame’. Honorary members are given pride of place, while trophies and plaques and medals are not hidden away in a corner but placed in a place of honour, in the hallway where passers-by can stop and pause at the greatness and pride of the organization in past accomplishments. Wistfully some senior members might think ‘we will never see their like again’. They are the stuff of legends, of the golden age, of the good old days, when times were tough and simpler, where sports equipment was rustic and crude, where diet and exercise regimes were not heard of. Photographs, usually black and white, or more recent pics of faded colour whilst showing geeky and dorky dress codes and hairstyles, cannot take away their success and achievements.
Every grouping of people with a tradition will recall founding members, who had a vision for their area geographically, a vision of building up the community, of harnessing the ingenuity and talents of the young as well as the experienced, to manage and support a budding idea and organisation. Risks and sacrifices were taken, and the dream and vision grew brighter, until the idea caught on and its attainability realised over time and with grit and determination in the face of naysayers, critics and persecutors. This applies not only to sport, but to democracies, to clubs, to theatres, to universities and schools, to building projects, to concert halls, to civilisation itself. The same is true of the Church. The vision of the founder, Our Lord Jesus Christ, His teaching, His vision, ethics, moral teaching.
Back to the club or society. But while the older generation look back and shake their heads at the loss and passing of such great ones, a younger eager generation of coaches and selectors see the potential in newer and younger athletes. Who knows, perhaps another Olympic medallist, all-Ireland player or some new household name will give honour to the club. Memorabilia – sports equipment used by the famous, are held in honour and looked on in awe as secular relics.
And what is going in the minds of the younger and fresher athletes – is their ambition to be remembered, not just to play their best and get on the team but to be remembered in stories in times to come, to be famous, to go down in history as one of the greats?
There is something appealing in that thought. Young people are more positive, and ask themselves ‘why not me?’ in their energy and enthusiasm and spirit, they are open to the possibility of greatness. This is their youthfulness. And what happens? Sometimes early Disappointment, and failure and the realisation that not everybody will be that household name, as after all, how many after all can fit on a winners’ podium?
But the great ones are not daunted by failure, seeing it only as postponed success. But even if not successful they can reach a certain level of attainment and potential and do not give into disillusionment. It may be temporary but they can look back later and honestly say, with hand on heart, that they gave it their best shot. It is worth the sacrifice, fuelled by belief.
Coaches, having been around for a while, can be candid, discouraging, and selective. They weed out the untalented, who at best will always stay on the subs bench. Coaches do not make too much of a fuss if they drop out from the panel. In later years perhaps their younger siblings or children will perform instead and be everything theirparents weren’t.
Maybe too parents will pressure them to be what they were not capable of, and project their own expectations on them instead.Success can be a cross. It brings its own demands. You are under more scrutiny from friend and foe alike. Not that you have upped the ante, there are those who will want you to fail as much as there are those who want you to succeed. There are those who, never having been made a success will taunt you and want to knock you from their pedestal and would be only too happy to drag you to their level. But confidence and encouragement is also there, from family and friends and supporters - urging you on, despite hardships and setbacks.
So it is with the pursuit of holiness. It is a marathon, and not a sprint.
We celebrate the honours list that we call the communion of saints. Not only those who are in the Hall of Fame of the thousands of recognised canonised and beatified men and women and children – but all those gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Those who participated and those too who the crown, the alumni of the Church, all the saints.
We are called to join them and to seriously consider becoming members of the heavenly hall of fame. As St Paul says we must go into 'strict training’ and not depart from the path we have begun. We are striving for ‘a wreath that does not wither.’
As saints we can expect the ‘hardships, worries, insults and persecutions’ that St Paul endured.
All you holy men and women OF IRELAND pray for us, that we may one day join you.