The Feast of All Saints celebrates those who show us what we may or may not become by showing what we can be.


The wife of a most distinguished oil painter who taught at the Art Students League for many decades, having started there as a boy with a scholarship given by Mayor LaGuardia, told me that he had “perfect pitch” when it came to mixing his palette. She also confided that he never painted autumnal scenes of leaves at full peak because the colors are so brilliant that on canvas they would seem artificial. In my brief tutelage under him, I found his happiness in his work contagious. But the most important thing I learned was that lesson about the natural outdoing artifice. And this can be taken a step further with reference to God’s grace which, as Aquinas said, does not destroy nature but perfects it, despite our limitations. 

   In other words, if the best human talent cannot replicate the highest beauties of nature, we cannot expect to be more than heroic on our own. Saints are not superhuman. Sanctity is simply the state of the virtues lived to an intensity beyond unaided human effort. This gift is available to all who allow God to infuse their lives with the love that made them. “I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul of Tarsus was not less who he was, but more than he had been, when that change happened. It is rather like Yehudi Menuhin’s violin; for when a lady said that his violin “made such a beautiful sound” he placed his ear to it and said that he heard nothing. Divine grace is to the human being what human talent is to the instrument of wood and strings. 

   This explains why saints experience such transporting joy commingled with suffering: Living a life of grace makes the gracelessness of a fallen world more painful for them than it does for others who have passively adjusted to it. To continue the theme of aesthetics, I am reminded of how William F. Buckley, who could do many but not all things well, showed Chagall a picture he had painted, only to hear that master groan, “The poor paint!” 

   Perhaps that gives a sense of the divine wrath caused by God’s contemplation of lives that have neglected to let him be in them. Think of what Attila the Hun or Mao Tse-tung might have accomplished had they accepted the Gospel. Conversely, one dreads to think what evil Aquinas might have caused if he had used his brilliance to tell lies, or what desolation Teresa of Calcutta might have spread by twisting her fame to propagate eugenics. 

   The Feast of All Saints celebrates those who show us what we may or may not become by showing what we can be. 

 Faithfully yours in Christ, 

Father George W. Rutler  



YOUR VOTE MATTERS This week’s election will be one of the most important in the history of our country, and it could be argued that it will be the very most important in terms of the moral issues at stake. 

   The bishops of the United States have stated that if a candidate’s position promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion or euthanasia or redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, it would morally disqualify that candidate from receiving the support of a Catholic. The Church’s teaching is clear: “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” 

   As Saint John Paul II taught in the apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici: “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” 

   The Catholic voter must bear in mind that there are candidates for office who would threaten religious freedom to the extent of imposing civil penalties on religious institutions. Thus, the way you vote now is more than a political statement. It is a decision for the integrity of the Faith, which is the foundation of Christian culture.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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