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Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day - November 1

All Saints Day
November 1
Holy Day of Obligation

"Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us,
above all else, a longing to enjoy their company,
so desirable in itself.  We long to share
in the citizenship of heaven..."
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The first day of November, the Catholic Church celebrates All Saints Day; a day set aside by Pope Gregory IV in the 9th century to commemorate all who have died and gone to heaven. This feast is similar to Veterans Day or Presidents Day where many people are honored on one day. All who died in the grace of God and are in heaven are saints. Those that the Church has canonized have their own feast day. But the Church recognizes that there are countless others in heaven whose names we do not know. So it is for this purpose we celebrate All Saints Day: to recognize all who have died and gone to heaven, known and unknown, for they, acting in the communion of saints, intercede for us daily.

The saints are the people who have gone before us and persevered to the end, crossed the finish line, and now are before God having attained the beatific vision. They are the Church Triumphant. A goal we all should long for, which none of us deserve, and can only be gained by the grace of God. We would do well to study the lives of the saints, attempt to imitate their virtues and strive to emulate their perseverance in holiness, hoping that we too might attain their reward.

The Catholic Church consists of one big family, called the communion of saints. It includes the Church Triumphant (those saints and angels in heaven for which we celebrate the solemnity of All Saints Day, November 1), the Church Suffering (the holy souls in purgatory for which All Souls Day, November 2, is celebrated), and the Church Militant (the baptized faithful on earth). The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this family as “all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayer.” CCC # 962

In the Catechism we read of the intercession of God’s saints who “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness….They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” CCC#956

The saints in heaven continue to intercede for both the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. Some challenge the Catholic practice of asking saints and angels to pray on our behalf but it is in fact biblical. In Revelation 5:8 we read that the apostle John saw “twenty-four elders (leaders of the people of God in heaven) fall down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.” Here it is clear that the holy ones, or saints in heaven are offering to God the prayers of the faithful on earth. What a blessing that is for the Church Militant and the Church Sorrowful. No wonder we honor these holy ones on All Saints Day.

Jesus is the only mediator between man and God as stated in 1 Timothy 2:5, but reading this text in context with vs. 1-4 we are told we should ask fellow Christians to pray for us. These intercessory prayers offered by Christians on behalf of others is something pleasing to God, and does not infringe on Jesus’ roll as sole mediator stated in vs 5.

The saints in heaven are fellow Christians. They are alive and holy in heaven. They can hear us or they would not be offering our prayers to the Lamb in Revelation 5:8.
In James 5:16 we read that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Who could be more righteous than the saints in heaven? Clearly scripture invites us to ask the saints in heaven to intercede for us and our dearly departed, through the one mediator Jesus, to His Father in heaven.

In the Apostles’ Creed after we profess belief in the holy Catholic Church, we profess belief in the communion of saints. “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints? The communion of saints is the Church." CCC#946 What a magnificent Church Jesus gave us.

On November 1, we celebrate All Saints Day, those saints who are alive in heaven in the presence of the beatific vision, interceding for us, as we are all one family in Christ’s Church. Take time to pray the The Litany of the Saints. Then meditate on the life of your favorite canonized saint, or the saint name you have taken and ask for their intercession. These men and women are worthy of honor and imitation.
For items related to the Catholic Saints
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Saint Pio
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