|The Relevance of the Feast of All Saints|
The month of November begins with a glorious feast day – that of all the Saints not mentioned in the calendar of the Liturgical year. As the Church has canonized thousands of Saints it would be difficult to commemorate all the Saints during the Liturgical cycle. The Feast of All Saints was instituted first in the city of Rome, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the holy martyrs, by Pope Boniface IV. The Pantheon was a pagan temple erected by Agrippa in 273 BC in honor of all the pagan gods of Rome. In 610 Pope Boniface IV had it transformed into a Christian church. He transferred to it a great number of relics from the catacombs, and then consecrated it as a Christian basilica. It still stands today. In 835 Pope Gregory IV changed its feast of dedication to November 1st, fixed it as a permanent date on which to honor all the Saints and extended the feast to the entire Church.
According to the mind of the Church, the Feast of All Saints is preeminently a day of thanksgiving, especially to God the Holy Ghost, for the innumerable graces He has given to so many million souls. All Saints Day celebrates the triumph of Christ over pagan gods; it is the triumph of grace over human nature. Above all, it bears witness to the efficacy of the Church’s work for souls. It illustrates in a concrete way the results of her teaching and her sanctifying powers. Especially does it show that sinners have become saints and an uncounted multitude has gained strength to walk the way of the Ten Commandments and eight beatitudes.
This feast day should be one of joy for us. By its position at the end of the Liturgical year it is intended to arouse in us a longing for heaven, which is our goal, and confidence in the helping grace of the Holy Ghost and the intercession of our brothers and sisters who are already there. The lessons of Matins during the octave express these thoughts again and again. All classes, of every age and sex, are represented. They were people like you, dear readers, but they took the Ten Commandments seriously and faithfully performed the duties of their state of life for the love of God. In the saints can be found great fidelity to the order of God. Many of them had been great sinners; but once they had allowed the illuminating grace of the Holy Ghost to shine in their souls, they renounced their sinful ways and were conscientious in the pursuit of sanctity. They allowed nothing – not earthly goods, nor money, nor honors, nor temptations – to divert them from their upward climb. They gave up even life itself rather than take the risk of losing sanctifying grace, and with it the sonship and friendship of God. These weak and erring men, by their cooperation with divine grace, became champions of the love of God and neighbor, and even faithful counterparts of Christ Himself.
All the Saints in heaven make up part of Christ’s glorious Kingdom, the elect, who are the noblest purchase of the Blood of Jesus and the most beautiful fruit of the Church’s union with her Divine Spouse. The Saints form Christ’s cortege throughout the Liturgical Cycle, and when we praise their virtues and chant their merits, we exalt and celebrate the One Who, being their Head, is now likewise their Crown.
Among the Saints can be found a great variety – each according to his or her vocation – and the measure of the giving of Christ’s grace reproduces one of the aspects of the plentitude of the Man-God’s perfections. The same Spirit has given to each a special grace which makes each one of the elect shine with a particular glory. Whatever their particular glory, one common character can be found in them all. This character is stability in seeking after God and in love of Him – fidelity to the order of God. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. And this is a great virtue – for inconstancy is one of the most redoubtable perils that menace mankind today. The Saints sought God indefatigably. Whatever the circumstances wherein they were placed, the Saints all remained steadfast and faithful. On the day of their entrance into the Eternal Kingdom, God crowned them with glory and inebriated them with joy. Because, in seeking after the unique Good, they did not allow themselves to be turned back, the Saints have attained the glorious goal.
And what is the intimate reason of this stability in good? What is the secret of the Saints? This secret is the life of Prayer. The soul that leads a life of prayer, remains united to God; it lays hold upon God, it shares in the Divine immutability and eternity, and therefore it is not moved, whatever the circumstances.
The firm adherence of the soul to God is the fruit of prayer. The Saints in Heaven cannot but remain united to God and to His will because they contemplate God and see in Him the fullness of all perfection and the fountainhead of all sovereignty. To live a life of prayer is to abide habitually in contact with God in faith, and, in this union, the soul finds the necessary light and strength to do the Divine good pleasure in all things. And as God is for it the principle of all holiness, the soul that lives by prayer finds in this habitual union with God Who created prayer the fruitfulness of its supernatural life. Each and every one of you, dear readers, whatever your state of life, can lead a life of prayer and fidelity to the order of God and thus gain Eternal Bliss.
By their powerful intercession and by their noble example, the Saints in their blessed possession of God minister to our sanctification and help us to progress in the practice of the Christian virtues. Hence, we should venerate, invoke and imitate them.
We should venerate the Saints
All the good they possess is the work of God and His Divine Son. As mere natural beings they are so many reflections of the Divine Perfections. Their supernatural qualities are the work of that divine grace which Jesus merited for them. Their meritorious acts are the precious gift of the Divine Goodness Who is ever their first and efficacious cause. When we pay homage to the Saints it is God and His Son, Jesus, Whom we really honor and revere.
We venerate these Holy Saints as living sanctuaries of the Triune God Who has deigned to dwell in them, to adorn their souls with virtues and with gifts, to prompt their faculties to action and cause them to elicit meritorious acts, and to grant them at last the final grace of perseverance to the end. We honor them as the adopted and the well-beloved children of the Father. The Saints being surrounded by His paternal care knew how to respond to His love and to grow more like Him in holiness and perfection. We hail them as the brethren of Christ, the faithful members of His Mystical Body, who drew from Him their spiritual life and cultivated it in abiding love. We revere them as temples of the Holy Ghost, as His docile servants, who allowed His inspirations to be their guide rather than blindly follow the bent of a corrupted nature.
We should invoke the Saints
In order to obtain their powerful intercession for the graces we need we must invoke their aid. True, the mediation of Jesus Christ alone is necessary and all-sufficient in itself; however, because of the very fact that the Saints are members of the risen Christ, their prayers are united to His. Thus, the whole Mystical Body of the Savior prays and with its entreaties does sweet violence to the heart of God. When, therefore, we pray in union with the Saints we join our petitions to those of Christ’s Mystical Body and thereby insure their efficacy. Moreover, the Saints are glad to intercede in our behalf. Their goodness and their power must inspire us with full confidence in them.
We should imitate the virtues of the Saints
Each one of them strove to reproduce the divine model. The Saints cultivated special virtues which is their characteristic trait. Some cultivated the spirit of faith, hope or charity; others the spirit of sacrifice, humility or poverty; others exercised prudence, fortitude or chastity. We can beg of the Saints their distinctive virtues with the assurance that they have a special power to obtain them for us.
St. Augustine tells us what our mental attitude must be if we would become Saints. “If these were able to accomplish it, why should I not be able to become a saint also?” To honor the Saints, he says, means primarily to imitate them;
St. John Chrysostom says – “You Christian, are a poor and effeminate soldier if you imagine that you can be victorious without a battle or triumph over the devil without a struggle. Therefore, develop your strength, fight bravely, and struggle perseveringly in this war.”
In one of his sermons the venerable Bede said, “This day we keep with one great cry of joy, a feast in memory of all God’s holy children; His children, whose presence is a gladness to heaven; His children, whose prayers are a blessing to earth; His children, whose victories are the crown of the Holy Church; His chosen, whose testifying is the more glorious in honor, as the agony in which it was given the sterner in intensity, for as the dreader grew the battle, so the grander grew the fighters, and the triumph of martyrdom waxed the more incisive by the multiplicity of suffering, and the heavier the torment the heavier the prize. And, it is our Mother, the Catholic Church, spread far and wide throughout all this earth, it is she that hath learnt, in Christ Jesus her Head, not to fear shame, nor cross, nor death, but hath waxed lealer and lealer, and not by fighting, but by enduring, hath breathed into all that noble band who have come up to the bitter starting–post the hope of conquest and glory which hath warmed them manfully to accept the race.”
Finally, dearly beloved in Christ, bear the Cross with patience and imitate the Saints. A little reading, daily, of the lives of the Saints, and prayer and meditation will be very efficacious to the soul. Follow St. Louis De Montfort’s steps to the Cross!