There we see the prophets of God, who were faithful to His word; the Apostles who fearlessly preached the word of God all over the world; the holy martyrs who shed their blood and gave their lives for the truth; the confessors who not only in word but in deed practiced virtue; the beautiful virgins who preserved their purity. There we will see saints in every condition of life, from every calling: the young, the old, the rich, the poor, and so great is their number that they cannot be counted. They are clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and standing around the throne of God they sing celestial hymns. What a great happiness to celebrate this day in heaven! Will it not be a great joy for us one day to be in paradise, there with the angels and saints to sing the praises of God!
St. Francis heard an angel play on a harp, and he was so enchanted by it that he lost all knowledge of time and forgot where he was. On this earth there are continual trials, but in heaven with the angels and saints we have nothing more to suffer; we shall have the same riches as God, and be glad with His gladness.
"And thus we shall always be with the Lord." consoling thought! Shall we all who are on this earth be in heaven? will no one be excluded? Is it possible that any of my young friends will be excluded from heaven?
Perhaps not a few will meet with that fate; for those only shall possess the kingdom of God who have imitated the lives of the saints: those who have faithfully served God, who have lived a good life, who have not sullied their souls by great sins, or if they have committed any, have repented of them.
Those will go to heaven who have observed the law of God exactly and have done much good. Raise your eyes to heaven. My dear young people, and see those who are there and what they have done. The Apostles who consecrated themselves to the service of religion, and labored incessantly to spread the Gospel over all the world; the martyrs, who were real soldiers in resisting the tyrants in their attempts to make them give up the faith; repentant sinners, who punished their bodies for their sensuality; old men who were faithful to the end of a long life; young men and women who early in life opened their ears to the voice of God, and followed the teaching of Christ; boys and girls, who merited heaven for having pleased the Master of heaven and earth by their beautiful lives and deaths. My dear young friends, how ashamed we ought to be when we read of so many great examples of holy lives while we do so very little, and still expect to get to heaven! These saints avoided sins and even imperfections; and rather than do anything to offend God, they preferred to suffer the most horrible torments. On the occasion of sin, did you say, "I will not commit it?" When you were with a companion who used bad language, did you say to him, "Be silent," or go away from him?
The saints prayed day and night; they did not content themselves with such short prayers as we say. We do not love prayer, we omit it on any excuse. Some of the saints were sinners at one time, but by the grace of God they rose from their fall, and performed the most severe penances until the hour of their death. Once a great sinner went to confession to St. Vincent de Paul. After hearing him the saint gave him a penance for seven years. As the man was really penitent, this did not dismay him; he thought it rather a
small punishment for such grievous faults. "Father," said he, "do you think I can save my soul by doing so small a penance?" "Yes," said the saint. "Fast on bread and water three times a week for these years." The sinner wept bitterly, and thanked God he had obtained pardon so easily. Seeing the sincerity and depth of the man's sorrow the saint remitted the penance and told him to recite three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys. The penitent had scarcely finished his penance when he fell dead at the saint's feet. Afterwards he appeared to St. Vincent and told him that his penance had been accepted by God as sufficient, and that he even did not have to pass through purgatory, because God had taken his real sorrow as full atonement for his sins. We frequently have great difficulty in disclosing our sins; shame, not sorrow, often closes our mouths. The saints did not shrink from suffering as we do; with us the least trouble is a great trial we prefer, come what may, a pleasant life.
The saints looked upon this life as a pilgrimage to their fatherland; they yearned for heaven. Everything in this world disgusted them, while we are attached to the world and its vanities. "We have no longing for heaven, we would live here forever if it were possible. Heaven requires violence and exertion; cowards and lazy people will not get there; if you continue to live in this manner, you will never be saints in heaven. St. Augustine says if you do not do all in your power to imitate the lives of the saints you shall not have a share in their happiness. On this day, then, let us make a firm resolution to imitate the saints, to detest sin, to practice virtue and to do all the good we can. Pray to the saints, and especially to your patrons, that they may intercede for you before Our Lord until you shall have arrived safely in heaven.
Pray also to the Queen of all saints, the most holy Mary, that she, too, may interest herself in your spiritual welfare that you may begin now to work out your salvation and persevere in this work until the end.
"Queen of all saints, pray for us."
Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900