Solemnity of all saints

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Nov 2018 09:24:57


 

By Fr Lijo Mampothara,

The Church celebrates holy men and women throughout the year on various saint days, but the Solemnity of All Saints is when the Church honours every saint: those officially known and honoured on the Church calendar, and saints known only to God. While we have information about many saints, and we honour them on specific days, there are many unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been honoured specifically. On All Saints Day, we celebrate these holy individuals, and ask for their prayers and intercessions.


All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. The holy day was eventually established on November 1 by Pope Gregory III in the mid-eighth century as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics.


The concept of All Saints Day is connected to the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. This is Catholic teaching that all of God’s people, on heaven, earth, and in the state of purification (Purgatory), are spiritually connected and united. In other words, Catholic and Orthodox Christians (and some Protestants) believe that the saints of God are just as alive as those on earth, and are constantly interceding on our behalf. Our connection with the saints in heaven is grounded in a tight-knit communion. The saints are neither divine, nor omnipresent or omniscient like God is. However, because of our common communion with and through Jesus Christ, our prayers are joined with the heavenly community of Christians.


The Catholic Catechism concisely describes this communion among believers, by which we are connected to Christ and thus, to one another:


“Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness...They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us...So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”


“...as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself: We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples (CCC 956, 957)


There are thousands of canonized saints, who are those individuals officially recognized by the Church as holy men and women worthy of our imitation. Because miracles have been associated with them, and their lives have been fully examined and found holy by the Church, we have assurance they are prime examples of holiness, and powerful intercessors before God on our behalf.

All Souls Day (November 2)
The Bible tells us that, “it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins,” (2 Maccabees 12:46). All Souls Day is a solemn celebration in the Roman Catholic Church commemorating all of those who have died and are now in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins and the temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had confessed, and being made pure before entering into the presence of God in Heaven.


The importance of All Souls Day was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22)? when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one for the faithful departed; one for the priest’s intentions; and one for the intentions of the Holy Father.


While All Souls Day is now paired with All Saints Day (November 1), which celebrates all of the faithful who are in Heaven, it originally was celebrated in the Easter season, around Pentecost Sunday (and still is in the Eastern Catholic Churches). By the tenth century, the celebration had been moved to October; and sometime between 998 and 1030, St. Odilo of Cluny decreed that it should be celebrated on November 2 in all of the monasteries of his Benedictine congregation. Over the next two centuries, other Benedictines and the Carthusians began to celebrate it in their monasteries as well, and soon the commemoration of all the Holy Souls in Purgatory spread to the entire Church.


On this day a visit to a cemetery encourages us to spend even the briefest of moments in prayer for the dead in a location that reminds us that we, too, will someday need the prayers of the other members of the Communion of Saints- both those still living and those who have entered into eternal glory.

(The author is PRO of Archdiocese of Nagpur)