All Saints Day is an annual Solemnity on which we pause to recognize, honor and venerate the Saints. Throughout the Church Year we celebrate specific days for saints. Men and women were widely recognized for their heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s grace, and their causes went through the process of canonization, and they are listed on the Roman Calendar. On All Saints Day we commemorate all who have died and are sharing in the crown of Glory in Heaven.
The early Christians began to commemorate the members of their communities who died as witnesses to the faith. By the fourth century various Christian Communities set aside a day to remember and honor the martyrs of their area: this observance was soon expanded to include other saintly people. In the Ninth century these observances became so widespread that Pope Gregory IV set November 1st as All Saints Day.
Usually when we begin describing the qualities of a saintly person, they are at such a high level of holiness that few people could achieve it, and certainly not any ordinary Catholic. Who would claim to have the holiness that many of us witnessed in Saint Theresa of Calcutta and Saint John Paul II? Our standards might include things like, spending the entire day in prayer, being without sin (only Jesus and the Blessed Mother would qualify), always joyful, never losing patience or temper, long suffering, and the list could go on.
By our Baptism each one of us is called to sainthood. In the First Letter of John we are reminded “what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”
As God’s children, we are heirs to his kingdom. Our Father in Heaven has big plans for us, and a magnificent inheritance awaits us. In order to receive the inheritance, we are called to live lives of heroic virtue and fidelity to God’s grace. Whatever our state of life and in the various situations we find ourselves in each day, it is important to be mindful that we are children of God and of the inheritance that awaits us.
In the Gospel Jesus teaches us how to become a saint. The beatitudes list the qualities and virtues that lead to a holy life. I have heard some people refer to the beatitudes as the “be-attitudes”, the attitudes that make us a better Christian. The list Jesus gives us covers a range of situations that we could face and indicates how to approach them. The Blessed people are: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for righteousness, those insulted and persecuted for being a follower of Jesus.
These will be blessed in many ways, and ultimately receive a great reward in heaven.
Most likely we all have known people who epitomized these qualities, and we can easily imagine them in heaven. In addition to looking around us for those who are in those situations or states that Jesus calls Blessed. Acknowledge how blessed they are and pray that they might persevere. Look also within ourselves. How can we imitate those who we see are Blessed? How can we take on and/or accept the situations and qualities, Jesus tells us make one truly Blessed? This is the path to Sainthood, which is ultimately the path to Heaven. As we honor the saints who have gone before us, may we also recognize those living saintly lives in our midst and support, pray for, and imitate them.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.