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Bishop Daniel Felton: Do we count ourselves ‘in that number’ of the saints marching in?

I played the baritone in the school pep band. One of my favorite songs to play was “When the Saints Go Marching In.” This rousing song calls us to “be in that number, when the saints go marching in.” 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

A saint is defined as a “holy one” who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. At every Sunday Mass we acknowledge the communion of saints as we profess the Nicene Creed. Often during the celebration of the sacraments, we pray a litany of saints. Likewise, in the liturgical calendar of our Church, we celebrate those men and women that have been formally recognized in the canon of saints as “holy ones” who led a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and received the reward of eternal life. 

When you think of a saint, who comes into your mind and heart? Perhaps it is one of the holy ones acknowledged in the litany of saints. We are fortunate to live in a time when we remember not only the saints of old but also those who have been proclaimed saints in our own time, like St. John Paul II, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Henry Newman. 

Perhaps when we think of a saint, we may find ourselves remembering a grandpa or grandma or teacher or religious whose witness to what it means to be a holy one leading a life in union with God through the grace of Jesus Christ has inspired us or given us a great example of how we want to live our lives. 

When you think of someone who is a saint, how many of you named yourself? Interesting, how rarely we think of ourselves as a holy one — that is, as a saint. Why is that? Perhaps you are thinking I am the last person in the world that should be thought of as a saint. I have so many limitations, imperfections, and sins that I think disqualify me from sainthood. So did St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta and every other saint known to the Church. 

Remember, a saint is a holy one in union with God through the grace of Christ. Left on our own we all fall to the ground as sinners. The difference between a sinner and a saint is that the sinner remains on the ground helplessly groveling, while the saint gets up and surrenders to the grace of Jesus Christ for the strength to grow in holiness. It is only in the grace of Jesus Christ that we can be a holy one leading a life in union with God. 

As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints on the first day of November, I have the honor of dedicating All Saints Church in Baxter. On that solemn occasion, we will gather as “holy ones” who are seeking to lead a life in union with God through the grace of Christ so that we may receive the reward of eternal life. We will pray the litany of saints as our intercessors and spiritual guides in the journey of life to everlasting life. As we proclaim the Nicene Creed, we will announce to the secular community of Baxter and Brainerd that we believe in the communion of saints, the resurrection of our bodies and life everlasting. Finally, we will recommit ourselves to the mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to All Saints parish and to every parish community in our diocese, that is to make sure that every person in our parish boundaries is in that number, when the saints go marching in — beginning with ourselves! 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth.