This morning as I read today’s first reading from the lectionary (Hebrews 12: 1-4), I began to think of the “great cloud of witnesses” that challenge and sustain me. I began to list them and came up with nineteen. I am sure that I could add many more – including some witnesses who are family members and some who are still alive. But here are those who have passed on to the Lord who help me be who I am called to be. (I have linked each witness to a meditation I wrote on this blog.)
Mary in her canticle, the Magnificat, challenges me to live God’s Reign among and with the least of God’s people, for “God lifts up the lowly.”
Identifying with the poor crucified Christ, Francis calls me to love God and the poor.
A living sign of God’s love and God’s call for peace, Dorothy Day calls me to open my heart to all the poor.
The hermit of the desert, Charles de Foucauld, challenges me to be a person of contemplation in the midst of the poor, willing to give my life for them.
The Trappist monk, Father Louis [aka Thomas Merton], challenges me to uproot the roots of war and violence in my heart, reminding me that the “root of war is fear.”
The martyred archbishop, Monseñor Romero, calls me to be willing to be the seed that falls to the ground and dies.
The Austrian peasant martyr, Franz, reminds me to say “No” to all that opposes God, as he refused to serve in Hitler’s army.
The Polish priest martyr, Father Jerzy, reminds me that the call to Solidarity is central to our lives, even if it means suffering and death.
Killed by Islamicist extremists in Algerian, Father Christian challenges me to love even those who wish me ill and to open my hearts to all people of faith.
This poor beggar, a street person in Rome, St. Benedict challenges me to accept all persons, even those who smell terrible.
This humble African-Italian Franciscan, St. Benedict the Black (sometimes called St. Benedict the Moor), has challenged me to recognize and defend all persons, no matter their race or economic condition.
This early bishop, Saint Martin, challenges me to share with the poor and to refuse to kill.
This lawyer martyr, St. Thomas More, a “Man for All Seasons,” challenges me to be faithful to my conscience, even as he tried to make reasonable compromises.
This Jesuit priest, Father Delp, challenges me with his writings from a Nazi prison to be a voice in the wilderness.
This Irish nun, Saint Brigid, inspires me to see Heaven as a “Lake of Beer,” with a special place for the poor.
This woman, Mary of Magdala, the first to witness the risen Lord, challenges me to listen to the Good News from the mouths of women.
This Reformed Church pacifist pastor, Pastor André Trocmé, challenges me to open my heart and my life to the stranger and the persecuted, as he help the village of Le Chambon, France, rescue hundreds of Jews.
This Chilean Jesuit, Padre Hurtado, challenges me to be a person of faith seeking justice.
The precursor of Jesus, Saint John, challenges me, so that I may decrease and the Lord may increase.
There are hundreds more surrounding me, but these are those whom I most cherish on this day.
I would also like to refer you to my meditation on prostrating before the altar during the Litany of the Saints on the day of my ordination as a permanent deacon.