All Saints Day

Nov 1st, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts, Catholic Life and Devotion

Today, November 1st, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of all Saints. The roots of this feast are found as far back as the time of the Emperor Constantine when the Catholic faith first became legal in the Roman Empire. The legalization of the faith ended the threat of Roman persecution and allowed for the public recognition of those who had given their lives for Jesus Christ. From the 4th to the 7th century various towns held different feasts in honor of various saints that took on local importance. Then, on May 13th, 1609 Pope Boniface the IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs. In the 8th century Pope Gregory III moved the date to November 1st to commemorate the dedication of an oratory in the original St. Peter’s Basilica to the relics of the apostles, saints, martyrs, and confessors.

Candles-burn-on-graves
(Candles burning on a grave in Hungary to mark All Saints Day)

Celebration of the Feast is a powerful reminder of the real spiritual connection believers share with the faithfully departed. The Church triumphant (those in heaven) remains deeply and prayerfully concerned about the faithfulness of the Church militant (those living on earth). The book of Revelation offers some vivid images of this dynamic.

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might [a]add it to the prayers of all the [b]saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.  (Revelation 8:3-4)

As a relatively new Catholic I find this Feast Day a powerful and even chilling reminder of God’s faithfulness. It reminds me of Gamaliel’s wisdom in Acts 5 where he argues to the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin that if the mission of the Apostles is the work of God then it cannot be stopped. All Saints Day draws to mind that truly God’s work cannot be stopped. The faithfulness of the martyrs, the blood they shed, and their prayers for us even now, bid us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

St_Casimir_Altar
(St. Casimir’s Church in Baltimore, Maryland)

As a Reformed Christian, my favorite hymn was always “For All the Saints” written by the Anglican Bishop William Walsham How. I still listen to it often and find deep comfort in the lyrics. Indelible Grace has a great rendition of the hymn. The power of this hymn came alive to me in a new way four years ago when I attended one of my first Catholic Mass’s at St. Casimir’s in Baltimore, Maryland for the confirmation of my best friend on the Easter Vigil. On that night I heard the Litany of the Saints for the first time. Words fail to describe the experience.  I can only say I believe it was a small taste of heaven. I would ask you to take a few minutes to listen to it now and consider the true connectedness we have with those who have come before us, those who, at this very moment are face to face with our Savior.

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  1. Here’s a video of the same litany, with the Latin words transcripted:

  2. Celebration of the Feast is a powerful reminder of the real spiritual connection believers share with the faithfully departed. The Church triumphant (those in heaven) remains deeply and prayerfully concerned about the faithfulness of the Church militant (those living on earth)

    That “real spiritual connection” between the faithfully departed who have completed the race and are now perfected, and those who remain here on earth, still hobbling along toward the finish line, is illustrated well in the following video:

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