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Saints are people too

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, November 3, 2005

We have just celebrated the feast of All Saints. Because this great festival is celebrated in conjunction with All Souls Day, there is a temptation to consign All Saints Day only to those men and women who have been recognized in a special way by the Church through their beatification or canonization. After all, this is the way the Church acknowledges the holiness of life of a man or woman or adds their name to the canon or list of those declared to be in heaven with God.

But we all know saints who have come into our lives and whose holiness and closeness to God are easily recognizable. And since the call to holiness is part and parcel of what it means to be a follower of Christ, each one of us is also called to be holy.

On Nov. 1, 1982, a Holy Cross priest who was consecrated as the first bishop of Fort Portal, Uganda, died. He was buried in the Holy Cross Community Cemetery on Nov. 4.

Father Vincent McCauley joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in order to serve some of the poorest people on earth in Bangladesh. Shortly after he arrived at his mission station, he was told by doctors that he had little time to live, and was told by his superiors that he had to return to the United States. McCauley spent some time at Lourdes on his way home, not to pray for a cure but rather to promise Mary that he would serve the Church as a Holy Cross priest in whatever way he could as long as he was alive.

McCauley did not die, but spent several years raising money for the missions in Bangladesh. Rather late in life, he was appointed the superior of the then-new Holy Cross mission in Fort Portal, Uganda, and several years later, was consecrated as bishop of that new diocese. His simple cathedral was at Virika, which roughly translated to Our Lady of the Snow – a curious title for a place in equatorial East Africa. I asked him about this, and he showed me the permanent ice cap on the far distant Ruwenzori Mountains, and told me that for many rural East African farmers, precipitation was a sign of God’s pleasure and blessing. This was true, he said, even if it rained on a couple’s wedding day.

During the remainder of his life, McCauley served the East African Church and especially the poor constantly. He received victims of the brutal Amin regime and assisted them with money and in every other way he could. He knew that some of these people were taking advantage of a man known to be generous, but explained that he would rather be duped by a person taking advantage of his generosity than to deny help to someone who truly needed the money.

And, for years, he suffered from a face cancer which caused serious disfiguration as a result of more than 40 operations. But he accepted his fate, happy to be able to fulfill the promise to Mary made at Lourdes as a young man.

McCauley was buried on Nov. 4, which was a chilly but sunny fall day. As the final prayers were said before his body was lowered into the ground, a small black cloud passed over the campus, and there were 15 or 20 seconds of very light snow flurries. I knew it was a clear sign of Our Lady of the Snows welcoming her faithful son into her Son’s home.

This Sunday is Mission Sunday on campus when money collected at the Basilica is given in its entirety to support Holy Cross missions in Africa and Asia, including some of those place where McCauley served God’s people.

And while the power of All Saints Day still lingers, it is important for us to realize that we know people who are holy, and we could describe the signs of grace that are part of their lives – accepting hardships or illness with a contagiously upbeat spirit, living out commitments with faithfulness when it was not easy to do so, showing special concern for students or for the poor, incorporating service into their lives or becoming people of prayer.

We, too, are called to be holy people.

Father Richard Warner is the director of Campus Ministry. He can be contacted at Warner.2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.