All Saints Day
All Saints Day
November 1, 2018
Some of them get all the bells and whistles, like the Blessed Mother on January 1 and St. Joseph on March 19 and John the Baptist on June 24; we call those days Solemnities. Others get Feast Days, like St. Peter and Paul, and St. Matthias and St. Bartholomew. Most are remembered on what the church calls Memorials: the likes of St. Dominic, St. Terese of the Child Jesus and St. Josephat. Still others, not to be forgotten, have Optional Memorials (so we can celebrate them if we want to be we don’t have to) like St. Sixtus II and St. Rose of Lima and St. Augustine and St. Albert the Great and (much to the chagrin of the Irish, St. Patrick, too, has an optional memorial.
There are some commemorations that are remembered more regionally or by certain ethnic groups, like St. Elizabeth of Portugal and St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton and St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Sanchez del Rio. Others don’t have official days but more traditional days that they are remembered, like St. Philomena. And then you have those like St. Christopher that used to have a day and now don’t, and those recently added to the calendar: St. John Paul II on October 22 and St. Oscar Romero on March 24 and St. Paul VI on September 26.
And then there is November 1. Today. Today we remember ALL the saints, those recognized with canonization by the church whose names and history that are well documented and well known, those lifted to sainthood in the early days of the church by popular acclaim before documentation was on their radar, and all those who the world may not know but are known and revered by their family and friends and communities generations after they have died, confident that they have joined that great communion of Saints in heaven. And, least we think we hold the strings to all of this, we also honor all those men and women, boys and girls whose saintliness is known only to God.
Why do we remember them in such ways? Why celebrate the life and after-life of people we have never met? Because they are our people, our brothers and sisters, and we are theirs. We are bound up with them, united with them in a mystical and unbroken chain of life.
They were not, by any stretch of the imagination, perfect in this life. They, like us, walked this same earth with the same challenges and the same temptations, they were poor in spirit and mourned and were meek, just like us. They hungered and thirsted for what was right. They were women and men of mercy and makers of peace. They were insulted and persecuted for what they believed, even to the point of death. But they have been made perfect in the sight of God, having “washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”
They deserve our recognition and we need their intercession. In all of our weakness and in our fears, in those times when we are lost and confused, when we are broken and empty, remember - they are pulling for us. They give us strength. They have paved the path home so that we, too, someday might “rejoice and be glad in heaven” with them.