Nov 1 – Solemnity of All Saints
All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.
The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.
The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.
1 Jn 3:1-3
“How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
On this feast of All Saints Day, we Catholics would often think of our many favourite saints. St Joseph, St Peter, St Paul, St John, St Theresa of Avila, St Pio, St Francis, St John Paul II…the list goes on. For most Catholics, their confirmation name often reflects their favourite patron saint. For me, St Anthony was the most well-known and ‘useful’ saint because I would turn to him whenever I lose something and 98 percent of the time, the lost object would be found! How not to believe? Personally, I have not been actively seeking out any particular saint that I could identify with until more recently. When I chose Cynthia as my baptism name, I didn’t even know about Saint Cynthia. She was an Egyptian girl who was martyred for not worshipping idols. Her feet were tied to a horse and she was dragged through the streets. I can relate to the not worshipping idols part but not the death by horse part. Most saints die of horribly painful deaths. And so, I thought that that was the only way to become a saint. Will I die for Jesus’ sake? When I think of my faith, I sometimes wonder how far I will go? I don’t think I qualify to be called a ‘saint-in-the-making’ simply because I don’t even have the guts to want to become a martyr.
Over the years, as I read and learn about other more recent saints like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I realised that their virtues — such as humility and true love of neighbour — were what really made them saint-like. For some reason, I was specially drawn to Mother Teresa of Calcutta – her humility and her love for the poor and the sick really touched me. It was no longer just about dying for Christ, but who we become because of him. This is why in the gospel reading, Jesus gave us the beatitudes to help and remind us to live out our lives as his disciples. In order to become more saint-like, we have to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to mourn, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, to remain pure in heart, to be peacemakers, to be persecuted for righteousness sake. Not easy, but not impossible either. That’s not all. Last week in Ephesians 4:32-5:8, St Paul also reminds us to “Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.” We must also not commit “fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: [as] this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes – all this is wrong for you”.
There are many ways for us to try to be more saintly or holy. I believe there are already many saints in the making. All those who have gone to heaven have also become saints. They know what it took for them to get to the kingdom of God so who better to ask for help and prayer intercession?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)
Prayer: Dear Abba Father, we want to walk in the path of righteousness. Give us the graces we need to become more like the saints who are now one with you in heaven, so that we too can one day join them and your son Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for all the saints who have been inspiring us to follow and emulate their ways. Please help us to devote ourselves and to persevere in following their saintly footsteps.