The Importance of Being Important

O when the saints go marching in
When the saints go marching in
O Lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in. – Author unknown, but song made famous by Louis Armstrong

There comes a point in everyone’s life – at least everyone over the age of 55 or 60 – when you start asking yourself, how did I get to be this age and just what have I accomplished in my life. For me, it hit quite early – somewhere in the neighborhood of 30. There were probably a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which was that I was going through profound marriage difficulties that ultimately resulted in divorce. Nothing makes you feel like a great success more than a divorce. I’m being sarcastic.

For others, it may be when you turn 40, or maybe 50. Here I am, you might say, 50 years old and I’m still not a millionaire. Or I still haven’t gotten my MBA. Or there is no Corvette in my garage. Or I don’t have a garage.

When you think about it, however, it’s all about how you measure success.


The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, a painting by Fra Angelico, 15th century.

Yesterday was November 1, and Catholics (and probably some other religions) celebrated All Saints Day. For Catholics, it’s a holy day of obligation, meaning we are supposed to attend Mass, no matter on what day of the week it falls. In a most unsaintly way, I am always glad when it falls on a Sunday, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Shame on me.  It’s probably likely there will never be the word “saint” before my name.

I don’t know if it was because it was All Saints Day or if it was in the regular church reading cycle, but yesterday’s gospel was from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as told by St. Matthew.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus went on to say, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

Jesus’ testimony to the crowd, and therefore to us, isn’t anything new. A few weeks ago he told his disciples that in order to get to heaven, we have to have the faith of children. This time he reminds us that people with simple faith and simple needs will be first in line to greet St. Peter.

Gospel readings such as this one remind me how complicated Christian people sometimes make our faith. We get caught up in political righteousness when it seems to me really all God expects of us is to have a simple and pure faith in him and kindness to others. Love God and love one another. I found our priest’s homily meaningful. He said that while we all measure success by how much money we have or how successful we are in our professional lives, or even how successful our children are, in reality the Beatitudes are Jesus’ blueprint for success. Boom.

It’s not complicated. And it wasn’t complicated for most of the saints. They modeled their lives after Jesus, and now we should model our lives after them.

I’ll try, as long as I don’t have to live off locusts and honey like St. John the Baptist.

ReinieBy the way, When the Saints Come Marching In was played at my father’s funeral, partially because he was a fan of Louis Armstrong, but mostly because he was one of those saints that marched right in!

5 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Important

  1. I think of those that are being murdered and executed today – they are dying for their faith- hopefully they are praying for us!

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