Several years ago, a journalist coined an expression. It occurred to him, he said, that there are two kinds of virtues: résumé virtues and eulogy virtues.
Résumé virtues are the skills that qualify you for a job. Eulogy virtues are those qualities that you hope you will be remembered for at your funeral — things like honesty, faithfulness, courage, love.
This was a clever way to describe a real tension that many of us feel in our daily lives. We all know that eulogy virtues are more important than résumé virtues. But because of the pressures of life, often we spend more time and energy building our career than we do in forming our character.
November for Catholics is the month of all saints and all souls. This month is given for us to reflect on our mortality, the meaning of our lives. November is the time for us to think about the “eulogy virtues.”
The Scriptures teach that our lives are brief, like grass or a breath of wind. We are here for a time and then gone. This is not cause for sadness. It’s a reminder of the joyful hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
A few months back, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster, Vin Scully, passed away. He had a great résumé. But he also was known to be a fine Catholic gentleman who lived with virtue and integrity.
I was interested to read in Angelus that he kept a prayer from St. John Henry Newman on his desk: “God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission … a part in this great work.”
This prayer tells the truth. We are born for greater things. We are born in time, but we are made to dwell with God for eternity. Our lives matter, we are made to make a difference.
We are called to be holy as Jesus is holy, called to be saints.
Saints are not born, they are made. Saints are formed in the duties and details of daily life. Holiness consists in all the habits of virtue that we develop out of all the decisions that we make every day to do what is right, to seek what is true, good, and beautiful.
Jesus teaches us that there are only two ways to live. We can live for the love of God and the love of others, or we can live selfishly, out of love for ourselves.
The saints teach us that in the evening of our lives, everything else will fall away, and we are judged by our love.
I quoted those words in a short eulogy I delivered last week at the funeral Mass for John Shea, who I was privileged to know as a friend and mentor.
John had all the résumé virtues. He was remarkably successful in business, a leader in the community, one of the nation’s great philanthropists. He and his wife, Dorothy, built Catholic schools throughout Los Angeles and in other parts of the country, and they changed tens of thousands of lives.
But in the end, what defined him was love. “For the love of Christ impels us,” St. Paul said. That same love impelled John to serve and to try to make life better for others.
Love is the legacy that all of us want to leave behind. Love in our families, love in our friendships, love in our relationship with God.
No matter what our position in life is, we are called to be saints and heroes among the people that God entrusts to our care and the people that God puts in our lives. In our homes and families, in school, at work, in our neighborhoods and communities.
In the lives of the saints, there is this story: One day a saint came to a large Catholic university. He was talking to one of the deans, who was complaining about things at the school.
The saint said to him, “Why are you here?” He replied, “I came here to help build this university.”
The saint said, “No, my son, you have come here to become a saint. If you succeed in doing that, you will have accomplished everything.”
The most important thing in our lives is not our résumé. Love is the most important thing. Because love is what makes us saints. If we seek holiness and bring love, we will have accomplished everything, as the saint said.
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
In this month of all souls and all saints, let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother, to help us to become the saints we are made to be.