Tag Archives: cloud of witnesses

My cloud of witnesses

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.)

  1. Mary, the Mother of God

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.”

  1. St. Francis of Assisi

Identifying with the poor crucified Christ, Francis calls me to love God and the poor.

  1. Dorothy Day

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.

  1. Blessed Charles de Foucauld

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.

  1. Thomas Merton

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.”

  1. Blessed Oscar Romero 

The martyred archbishop, Monseñor Romero, calls me to be willing to be the seed that falls to the ground and dies.

  1. Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

The Austrian peasant martyr, Franz, reminds me to say “No” to all that opposes God, as he refused to serve in Hitler’s army.

  1. Blessed Jerzy Popielusko

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.

  1. Trappist Father Christian de Chergé

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.

  1. St. Benedict Joseph Labré

This poor beggar, a street person in Rome, St. Benedict challenges me to accept all persons, even those who smell terrible.

  1. St. Benedict the Black 

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.

  1. St. Martin of Tours

This early bishop, Saint Martin, challenges me to share with the poor and to refuse to kill.

  1. St. Thomas More

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.

  1. Father Alfred Delp, S.J.

This Jesuit priest, Father Delp, challenges me with his writings from a Nazi prison to be a voice in the wilderness.

  1. St. Brigid of Kildaire

This Irish nun, Saint Brigid, inspires me to see Heaven as a “Lake of Beer,” with a special place for the poor.

  1. St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

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.

  1. Pastor André Trocmé

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.

  1. St. Alberto Hurtado, S.J.

This Chilean Jesuit, Padre Hurtado, challenges me to be a person of faith seeking justice.

  1. St. John the Baptist

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.


Recalling the cloud of witnesses

Let us now praise famous persons…
But of others there is no memory…
Yet these also are godly people
whose virtues have not been forgotten….
For all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out.
Sirach 44 

 This morning’s first reading come from a chapter that begins Sirach’s listing of the “cloud of witnesses” that enveloped him.

Then I opened Susan Stabile’s blog and came across a reference to a blog post of María de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda on “What Saints Mean to Me.”

As I read her post I recalled my experience last Saturday at the beatification of Monseñor Oscar Romero.

During the homily, the pope’s representative, Cardinal Ángelo Amato, read out a list of holy women and men of the Americas, a list that, I believe, came from a talk Pope Francis gave at the North American College:

Dear brothers and sisters, Romero – Blessed Romero – is another shining star that burns in the American spiritual firmament. He belongs to the holiness of the American Church. [Applause.] Thankfully, there are many saints of this wonderful continent. Pope Francis recently recalled some. In addition to Friar Junípero Serra, who will be canonized on September 23 in Washington, D.C., the Holy Father enumerated so many other Saints who have distinguished themselves with various charisms. Contemplatives such as Rosa of Lima. Pastors that emanated the perfume of Christ and the smell of sheep as Toribio de Mogrovejo, François de Laval, Rafael Guizar Valencia. Humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord such as Juan Diego and Kateri Tekakwitha. Servants of the needy such as Pedro Clavel, Martín de Porres, Damian Molokai, Alberto Hurtado. Founders of communities devoted to the service of God and the poor such as Francisca Cabrini, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katerina Drexel. Tireless missionaries such as Fray Francisco Solano, José de Ancheta, Alonso de Barzana, María Antonia de Paz Figueroa, Jose Gabriel de Rosario Brochero. And finally martyrs such as Roque González, Miguel Pro and Óscar Arnulfo Romero. [Applause.] And the Holy Father, Pope Francis, said “there has been holiness in America, so much sown holiness”.

I was standing surrounded by a cloud of witnesses – four women religious. One, a Sister of Charity, has spent more than 28 years in El Salvador; it was a joy to hear Mother Seton mentioned. Two others, Dubuque Franciscans, had spent years in Chile and are now in Honduras; it was a treasure to hear the name of the Jesuit Alberto Hurtado; one of them also spent years in El Salvador. An Italian sister with us had also spent years in El Salvador.


It was a blessing to feel accompanied by the cloud of witnesses of those who had gone before us as well as by the mist of those who are current witnesses.

Saints are for me witnesses of the presence of God in the midst of our broken world.

Some are “famous” – beatified and canonized by the Church – or by the sense of the faithful.

There are others – the witnesses among us which included those around me that morning in San Salvador.

There are even others whom I now remember – two friends who died last week while I was in El Salvador.

Mary Sawyer, a colleague at Iowa State University last Wednesday. A friend wrote a beautiful tribute to her that I put on my blog.

Father Pat Geary, a gentle man, died on Saturday. He was the priest who hired me to work in ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa. I told him several times when I visited the US in the past few years that he was responsible for me being here in Honduras.

And so we are surrounded.

What is importance is to pass on their memories, to pray to and with them, and to let them and their lives accompany us as we walk the way in the Reign of God.