The Padua Franciscan High School community welcomed Bishop Edward Malesic to the school for his first visit on All Saints Day, Nov. 1. He celebrated Mass, greeted students, enjoyed lunch and conversation with a group of students and chatted with administrators and teachers during the visit.
After thanking the Padua community for the invitation, the bishop noted Mass was being celebrated in the gym, where many of the Bruins sports teams compete.
“I doubt any of you come here to see your team lose. No. You come to cheer them on,” he said.
“Well, today God is cheering us on to victory because he’s got the power and the might. St. Paul tell us that the pilgrimage to heaven is like a race – and God want us to win that race. He wants us to make the goal and cross the finish line. God wants us to be saints because that is the goal,” the bishop said. “And, along the way to heaven, he wants us to bring a bit of the kingdom down to this earth. He wants us to leave this place better than we found it.”
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God has a plan for each person in this life to make the earth a bit better, the bishop said. “Perhaps along the way, God has given you the necessary skills and the desire to become doctors or nurses, heads of companies or laborers in a factory. Perhaps there is an artist or poet among us today,” he said, adding, “God wants you to be happy in whatever he calls you to do in this world. But remember that God has an ultimate plan for you – to be saints.”
He encouraged the group not to put off the decision and desire to be saints for too long, noting, “Life is always too short.”
Saints remind us that there is a better place than this world, the bishop said. “They cheer us on to win the race with their prayers on our behalf.”
He noted there have been some magnificent saints along the way including St. Peter and the apostles; St. Augustine and St. Monica; St. Francis and St. Clare. In more recent times, there were Blessed Carlo Acutis, the teenager who used the internet to promote devotion to the Eucharist, and 24-year-old Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, an athlete and advocate for the poor.
Catholic schools stand apart from other educational institutions because they call us to a higher pitch of learning – to live as God created us to live. “If we don’t teach you at Padua Franciscan that God want you to be with him forever then we have failed you. But I see there is much success here. You call yourself to a better way of life in your own motto, not just to learning, but to holiness,” he said, referring to the school’s motto: In Sanctitate et Doctrina.
Nov. 1 is the feast of All Saints – those known to the entire Church, those known by a few and those known only to God.
“I think of my dad, my mother, my sister and my brother, my aunts and uncles, some of my friends and others who have gone before me marked with the sign of faith. These are also those that the Holy Father Pope Francis calls ‘the saints next door,’” the bishop said.
“I hope all of us have encountered holy people in our loves,” he said, noting some might have been priests, neighbors, friends, parents, grandparents or teachers. “Today is their day. They call us to be our better selves.”
For those wondering how we become saints, the bishop said, “Jesus tells us that if we have faith in him, we will live forever. If we follow him, he will take us even to our own resurrection … and if we eat his body and drink his blood, we will have his eternal life within us.”
Pope Francis said the Lord calls us to be holy in small steps – by avoiding things in daily life like gossiping or speaking badly of someone; by listening to others with patience and love; by offering a kind word. “Mother Teresa called us to be saints on earth by doing small things with great love,” Bishop Malesic said.
This can be done by learning to live in the spirit of St. Francis, he said. “We are children of God. You focus on serving your neighbor and helping others. Thanks for helping the poor among us, like St. Francis and St. Clare want you to do … We hope you take the Franciscan spirit of joy, simplicity, wonder, faith, love of God, care for the environment and commitment to others wherever you go in your future.”
The bishop also reminded those gathered that saints are needed greatly today. “Strive to be the saints among us. Strive to be holy,” he added.
“Be men and women who proclaim Jesus without fear. Men and women who profess the Christian faith without shame … If you do that with faith and love, you will be blessed and you will inherit eternal life,” he said.
After Mass, the bishop greeted students, faculty and staff as they left the gym. He also admired the schools Dia de los Muertos altar, set up just inside the front entrance. Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – is observed on Nov. 2, All Souls Day. It is a Mexican holiday that commemorates loved ones who have died.
The bishop and representatives of the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes enjoyed lunch and conversation in the school library. The students learned about his vocation story, shared information about themselves and had a chance to ask him questions.
Before leaving, he met briefly with faculty, staff and administrators in President David Stec’s office. He offered them some advice: “Leaders must be authentic.” He said young people know who is authentic. He also encouraged them to tell their own story, noting there is much good to share.
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