Today is the feast day of St. Chrysogonus. You may think you know nothing about him, but if you go to Mass regularly, chances are you’ve at least heard his name: “With Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and all the saints.” Thus runs one part of the Roman Canon, one of the Eucharistic prayers of the Roman liturgy. Today is also the feast day of St. Colman of Cloyne, St. Andrew Dung Lac, St. Columbanus, St. Alexander, and St. Anthony Nam-Quynh. In fact, according to one calendar, it is the feast day of over thirty saints and blesseds, and one would find similar numbers for practically every day of the year.
Most of these saints are unfamiliar to us. So why does the Church recognize and celebrate so many saints? Isn’t it a bit much? I suggest three reasons that the Church puts these men and women forward for our veneration: their numbers inspire hope, they manifest the infinite variety of God’s goodness, and they remind us that holiness is ultimately ordered to the glory of God.
Considering the vast number of saints recognized by the Church gives us hope, because the saints remind us of how effective God’s grace is. Not a single one of the saints became holy purely by his own efforts. The grace of God transformed them, fixing their broken nature so that they might become the images of God he created them to be (Gen 1:26-28), conformed to Christ, the perfect “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). If God has worked such a transformation in so many men and women throughout history – men and women who were just as broken as we are – then we can be confident that he can do the same for you and me.
The saints also manifest the inexhaustible richness of God’s goodness. God calls people from all cultures, times, and places, and from all walks of life. The same God who knocked a first-century Jewish tentmaker to the ground, irrevocably changing the course of his life, also invited a small Albanian Sister of Loreto to found a new order and set the world on fire. Doctors, priests, monks, scholars, virgins, mothers, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Asians – no state in life, no culture is beyond the transformative power of God’s holiness. The Church gives us saints from every age and from every region of the world to teach us that no situation is outside the immeasurable grace and mercy of God.
Finally, the saints remind us that all our striving after holiness is ultimately for the glory of God. With so many saints on the Church’s calendar, some of them are bound to be forgotten or at least neglected – and they’re okay with that! Holiness is not about attracting the praise of others to yourself, but about drawing others to praise God, who is wonderful in his saints. With the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints sing, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” In imitation of their Lord, who humbled himself to the point of death, death on a cross, they, too, humble themselves for the glory of God. Through the intercession of St. Chrysogonus – and of St. Colman of Cloyne, St. Andrew Dung Lac, St. Columbanus, St. Alexander, and St. Anthony Nam-Quynh, indeed of all the saints – may we be strengthened to do the same.
Image: Michele Giambono, San Crisógono a Caballo