All Saints and All Souls
These last few days have been something else. The celebration of Halloween is behind us, but not before a great day of festivities throughout the day last Friday, culminating in the annual powder puff football game and the Boo Bash Bon Fire.
Halloween is now behind us. There is no longer a need for a mask. At mass yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints’ Day. We gathered like the crowd in Sunday’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount, sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeking direction through his Word and spiritual nourishment through the Eucharist. The lesson delivered became known today as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) – Jesus’ reassurance that the reward for those who live their lives accordingly will be great in heaven and that we are all called to be saints.
As saints on earth, what we as Catholics hold in common with those elevated to Sainthood is a deep love of God and God’s people and creation, and despite our earthly shortcomings, and because of that love, our lives have meaning.
The second thing we hold in common with heavenly saints is that they were not perfect. They, like us, were children of God, uniquely graced and gifted, and each of them was flawed. Pope John XXIII gave a description of “saintliness” which resonates with me: “Saintliness results from learning the art of self-giving love. It flows from dying to self, from laughing at one’s own foibles and humbly enduring the foibles of others. Saints aren’t so much superstars of holiness as humble sinners, ready to allow God to love them just as they are.”
We all have that experience of someone who hasn’t been publicly been recognized as a saint, but we experienced that person as a humble sinner, someone who allowed God to love him/her just as they were, and then shared that love so generously with others.
This brings us back to the Beatitudes and the expression of Christ’s love as a “BE”-attitude. Consider be-ing gentle or merciful or willing to mourn with those who suffer; be-ing a peacemaker, or one who hungers for justice; be-ing God’s love for others.
We celebrate today the solemnity of All Saints.
This invites us to turn our gaze to the immense multitude of those who have already reached the blessed land,
and points us on the path that will lead us to that destination.
Pope St. John Paul II, All Saints’ Day 2003
Today is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed in All Souls’ Day, a holy day set aside for honoring the dead. Today we pray for those who have gone before us and acknowledge our own mortality, our own weakness, and our own need for our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In today’s readings we see God wills us to be saved through Jesus, who offers us eternal life through his life, death, and resurrection. In the first reading (Wisdom 3:1-9) we read that the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and that those who know and trust the Lord shall abide with him in love. In the second reading (Romans 5:5-11), St. Paul writes that we have the Holy Spirit in us, and that while we were still sinners, Jesus came and, in love, conquered sin and death. In today’s Gospel (John 6:37-40), Jesus explains that the Father will be the salvation of all and has sent him so that all might believe.
All Souls’ Day is celebrated throughout much of the western world on November 2. In North America, we say extra prayers or light candles for the departed. In parts of Latin America, families visit the graves of their ancestors and sometimes leave food offerings for the deceased members of their families. In some other languages the celebration, not necessarily on the same date, is known as Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos or de los Difuntos in Spanish-speaking countries; halottak napja in Hungary; Yom el Maouta in Lebanon, Israel and Syria).
Throughout Italy, different regions celebrate in different ways, but all celebrate with prayers, flowers, and food. In Sicily, children look for treats left behind by loving relatives and friends. In Siena (in northern Tuscany), where St. Catherine lived, Italians will leave their homes empty in case the dead want to visit. All over the country, an empty place is set at the table for those who no longer sit there. You can read more about the customs of All Souls’ Day in “The Local”, Italy’s news in English.
For the souls in purgatory, waiting for eternal happiness
and for meeting the Beloved is a source of suffering,
because of the punishment due to sin which separates them from God.
But there is also the certitude that once the time of purification is over,
the souls will go to meet the One it desires.
Letter of Pope St. John Paul II for Millennium of All Souls’ Day
All Souls’ Day Prayer for the Dead
hear our prayer and console us.
As we renew our faith in Your Son,
whom You raised from the dead,
strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters
will share in His resurrection,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
- IMAGE quote referenced from https://www.dominicancenter.org/feast-of-all-saints-reflection/