Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. It is a holy day of obligation, meaning that we should all gather at Church for Mass today. It is a solemnity and a holy day of obligation because of the important role that saints have in our Catholic theology.
We probably all know the names of at least a few saints. Some of the most common include St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. John, St. Mary, and St. Francis. Today at our school Mass I asked the children the names of the some of the saints. One, much to my surprise, answered St. Louis. Now there is a St. Louis but he isn’t one that I would expect children to know. After Mass, his teacher said he knew the name “St. Louis” because the St. Louis’ Cardinals won the world series last week. I guess we can hear the name of a saint almost anyplace.
Each saint that we know by name has their own feast or memorial. To be a saint is to live in the fullness of God’s presence in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, for every saint we might know by name, there can be countless others who have left this life to be with God in the heavenly kingdom that we don’t know the names of. Today’s Solemnity of All Saints honors all the saints whether we know their names or not.
Our Catholic theology of saints is misunderstood by many people (both Catholics and non-Catholics). We do not worship the saints. That would be idolatry and break the First Commandment to worship only one God. So, we venerate the saints. Now, I have to admit the first time I heard the term “venerate” I had to go look it up in a dictionary. For those who don’t know what it means, it is to have a great respect for the saints.
Another misunderstanding of saints is some people think we pray to the saints, asking the saints to do the miracles. God, not the saints, is the one who performs miracles. So we do not pray to the saints. Instead, we, recognizing their divine place in Heaven, ask them to intercede for us to the Father.
How does one get to be a saint? By following the model that Jesus gives in today’s gospel (The Beatitudes). We must be poor in spirit, humble, and meek. To put it as it appears in the Children’s Lectionary, “Blessed are they who know they need God.”
We need God. There should be no doubt about that. We are capable of doing great things but only because God gives us the gifts we need to do them. We accept these gifts when we realize that we can’t do it all by ourselves. The saints know that and that is why they followed Jesus. So, the saints are a role model of good Christian living to us.
Lastly, we should not forget what we Catholics call the Communion of Saints. In baptism, we all become one family, sharing in the faith Jesus has given us. There are three groups of people in the Communion of Saints. First are those who we call saints and live in the heavenly kingdom now. The second group of people are those in Purgatory (Yes, purgatory still exists). Lastly, the third category are those of us who are baptized children of God but still living here on other. We are linked together through baptism. So, we pray for the souls in Purgatory who are being cleansed of their sins while those in Heaven pray for us.
It is holding all of this in our hearts and souls that we seek the intercession of all the saints.
P.S. For more on purgatory read my previous blog, “Is Purgatory Gone?”.