I want to tell you about 2 shrines: St Peter's Basilica in Rome and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Coopertown, NY.
I'm a lifelong Cardinals fan. A few years ago, I was thrilled to visit Cooperstown, NY. At the Hall of Fame, I loved seeing the bronze plaques so many of my boyhood heroes-Ozzie Smith, Stan Musial, Lou Brock, and more. These men excelled on the field-breaking hitting records, exciting fans and winning championships. Looking closer, I noticed that some men excelled on the field-but not off the field. While Babe Ruth set homerun record-few parents would want their boys to emulate his drinking and carousing in the bars of New York City. The Detroit Tiger's Ty Cobb was known as one of the meanest, cruelest players both on the field and off. Others, like Stan Musial and Roberto Clemente were known for their lifelong generosity, hard work, and faith . Looking at the collection of plaques, overall it's a mixed bag. In general, these men are enshrined because they were successful at a sport, but not necessarily at life.
In October, I visited St Peter's Basilica. Walking around, there were certainly tourists with maps and cameras. There were also people praying and lighting candles. A procession of African bishops chanted as they walked down the center aisle toward the altar for Mass. This church is not a museum. It is a school, a gym, a place where you DO something. You don't watch highlights of people praying-you pray, you process, you grow in faith. The bronze and marble statues crowd around you. These are saints who are alive in Christ. They want me to join them in Heaven. They do not point at their records, but point to Jesus. St Ignatius prayed here himself, while the Basilica was still under construction. His statue now points upward, while he dramatically steps on a demon's head!
I will never hit like Babe Ruth nor be as fast as Lou Brock. But I can love like Ignatius. I can follow Christ in faith like St Paul and St Louis. I receive the same Christ in the same Eucharist, just like St Therese, St Peter, and millions more. They want to help me and will help me if I ask.
In the first reading on Sunday, we hear, "the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead many to justice shall be like the stars forever."
Yes, the Stars of our Faith lead us to shine like them-in this life and the next.