Fr. Bryan Howard
All Saints Day – 4 November 2018
A lot of non-religious people get religion and superstition mixed up. Because they have limited experience of religion, they think that religion is basically just another form of superstition. A superstition is something we do that we think has some sort of mysterious power over the universe. We can’t really explain why, but we do it anyway. However, when we look at the lives of the saints, we see that religion is really about relationships: our relationship with our self, our relationship with the world around us, our relationships with other people, and, most importantly, our relationship with God.
We probably all do some superstitious things. Maybe when you say that you hope something doesn’t happen you knock on wood, or maybe you won’t pick up a coin unless it’s face up, or maybe you won’t walk under a ladder, or maybe you wear the same pair of socks for every Saints game. Logically, we know that knocking on wood doesn’t prevent anything bad from happening, but we do it anyway, because, why not? That’s how many non-religious people look at religion. They see us doing a bunch of things, like pray rosaries, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and wearing scapulars, that don’t make any sense to them. Most of the time they don’t see any harm in religion, but they also don’t see any good, either.
Sometimes even people of faith can start to treat religion like a superstition as well. We can start to see religion as a check list: if I do all of these things, then I’ll go to heaven, or be blessed by God, or some other reward. Christianity is about having a relationship with God by becoming part of His family, which we call the Church, and which is made up of the Church militant, those of us still here on earth, the Church Suffering, those in purgatory, and the Church triumphant, the angels and saints in heaven. What kind of relationship do we want to have with God? Listen to St. Paul, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” We are the children of God the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, God the Son, and we are united by the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. We don’t do good things so that God will love us, we strive to do good because God loves us and we love Him.
Praying isn’t superstition, it’s talking with God and listening to Him; it’s a conversation. Fasting isn’t superstition either. Fasting is making a sacrifice for God and saying that we love God more than we love the thing we’re giving up. Devotions aren’t superstition; they’re ways of trying to become more like God, just like children try to imitate their parents. That’s what the beatitudes are, too. They’re ways of imitating God and becoming more God-like. When we become more humble, sorrowful for sin, meek, merciful, pure of heart, and hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are imitating Jesus Christ.
On this All Saints Day imitate the saints in trying to grow in love for God and for one another, imitate Christ in the way you live, and think about the reasons behind the religious things that you do. You may not know the reasons for all of them, like why we sit, stand, and kneel so much in Mass, but I bet, if you look into it, it’s all about growing in faith, respect, and love for God.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.