Thursday, July 23, 2020 –
And for our last Holy Day Throwdown…November 1st: Solemnity of All Saints! I covered the Holy Days of Obligation in order according to the liturgical calendar. However, it is also fitting that this particular Holy Day comes last because it is basically the “catch-all” day for the multitude of unknown saints.
The Catechism does not say much about the Solemnity of All Saints—other than there is one—but it does say a quite a bit about the saints themselves and our veneration of them. Spoiler alert: the saints are our examples of good and holy lives:
1173 When the Church keeps the memorials of martyrs and other saints during the annual cycle, she proclaims the Paschal mystery in those “who have suffered and have been glorified with Christ. She proposes them to the faithful as examples who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she begs for God’s favors.”
1195 By keeping the memorials of the saints – first of all the holy Mother of God, then the apostles, the martyrs, and other saints – on fixed days of the liturgical year, the Church on earth shows that she is united with the liturgy of heaven. She gives glory to Christ for having accomplished his salvation in his glorified members; their example encourages her on her way to the Father.
Right, but what about all the Saints who do not have fixed feast days?
Well, that is exactly what All Saints is all about! It is literally a day set aside for vast multitude of saints only known to God.
You see, over time the liturgical calendar has changed. Some saints were more popular in the early Church, but not today. Some saints are new to the calendar (Saint André of Montreal, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, etc.). Some fall into the vast number of martyrs from the early Church and throughout history. Some saints are so old they only pop up in the Old Testament:
61 The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions.
Canonization, while an important process and designation for giving us mere mortals a glimmer of hope and view of truly holy lives, does not cover everyone who ever entered into God’s heavenly kingdom. We simply do not have a full accounting of that.
Crazy, I know, but the Church does not “make” saints. Rather, they simply designate who has passed the Catholic “sniff test” (AKA canonization process). That is not to say that if Great Aunt Erma does not go through the canonization process that she is not a saint. She may be. She may not be. Not everyone who dies is automatically a saint in Heaven. Some are waiting in Purgatory, some sadly are in Hell. Again, there is just so much we do not know. The only thing we DO know about Great Aunt Erma is that she is NOT an angel.
Here I need to make a small side note: when we die, we do NOT become angels, nor do we sprout wings or any other nonsense. I will cover the four last things in another post. In the meantime, know that it is total bunk when someone says, “Oh! Great Aunt Erma is an angel now! She has gotten her wings!”
NO! Sorry, but Great Aunt Erma has NO wings and she is NOT AN ANGEL!!!
All right, back to the matter at hand: All Saints. The truth is that we do not know the untold numbers of saints in heaven. Thus, the Church formally started observing a day for all those saints who are known only to God.
“After this I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands: And they cried with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7: 9-10, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
Generally speaking, here is the history of the Solemnity of All Saints. The early Church was incredibly bloody, and many Christians were martyred for their beliefs. In the late 300s AD, Saint Basil the Great sent a letter to some of the Bishops inviting them to celebrate a feast honoring the martyrs. Saint John Chrysostom, around 407 AD, mentions in a homily a feast honoring all Christian martyrs.
Around 609 or 610 AD, Emperor Phocas gifts the Pantheon to the Church. Saint Boniface IV consecrates it as a Christian Church and dedicates to Saint Mary and the Martyrs.
Fast forward to Pope Gregory III, who dedicated a chapel in Saint Peter’s Basilica to all saints. The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis I (also known Louis the Pious or Louis the Fair) made the celebration obligatory in the Frankish Empire in 835 AM. Finally, Pope Gregory IV officially declared that the Feast of All Saints Day was to be on November 1, 837 by the whole Church.
It also might surprise people that that actually is an octave of All Saints, which was added during the reign of Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484). It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of the Octave of Easter, but it does have some pretty dope opportunities for indulgences:
For the Souls in Purgatory: Plenary Indulgence
A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted each and every day from Nov 1 to Nov 8, who devoutly visit a cemetery and there pray, if only mentally, for the departed.
So there you have it. We have officially covered all of the Holy Days of Obligation.
All you Holy Men and Women, pray for us!