The Way of Beauty Days of Special Remembrance

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As October makes way for November, the feasts of All Saints and All Souls bring home in a special way our belief that nothing and no one is ever finally lost.  These are days designed to remember in prayer our deceased and sainted loved ones.   

Feast of All Saints

In the early Church when it was a crime to be a Christian, a crime punishable by death, the word saint and martyr were synonymous.  Such a person had been persecuted, tortured, and put to death for the faith. The bodies of these martyr-saints were buried in places where the Eucharist could be celebrated with the Christian community to inspire those who would come after them.  This is why the main altar where the Eucharist is celebrated has a saint's relic imbedded in it.

In the eighth century, the feast day of martyr-saints was changed to November 1st. Eventually Christians who had led lives of heroic virtue were often acclaimed and canonized after their death by the local church.  Today canonizations take place because every age calls men and women to new struggles that require heroic virtue.

The feast of All Saints recognizes all holy men and women of God whose names remain largely unknown. It must be quite an arabesque of color.

The saints in heaven intercede not only for those in purgatory but also the faithful on earth who have honored the saints in heaven and sought their intercession.

Honoring the saints means imitating the virtues these saints represent.  This is the reason for naming a child after a saint at the time of christening.  Biblical names remain popular.   

On the feast of All Saints, the gospel reading is that of the Beatitudes, each, beginning with "Blessed."  The gospel verse reads:  "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord" (Mt 11:28).

Feast of All Souls

Praying for the dead is an ancient custom that dates back to the Hebrew Scriptures:  "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins" (2 Maccabees 12:43-46).  St. Augustine (d 430) is one of the earliest saints to mention the practice of offering the Eucharist for the Dead.  The feast has been officially celebrated since the eleventh century.

The Entrance Antiphon for this feast reads as follows:  "Just as Jesus died and has risen again, so through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep; and as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be brought to life" (1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 15:22).

The theology and the celebration of the two feasts emphasize the bond between those Christians already with God, those saints-in-waiting, and the faith on earth.  The feasts point to our ultimate goal-to be with God.

The Daily Remembrance of the Communion of Saints

It is not as though the Church sets aside two days each year to remember our deceased loved ones.  This remembrance happens at every Eucharistic liturgy.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Communion of Saints brings us all together as one body, the body of the faithful on earth, the faithful in purgatory, and the faithful in heaven.  This arabesque intertwines in a spectrum of color to make up the Communion of Saints.

In the Canon of the Mass, several commemorations are made.  First, the intentions of the living are remembered.  This is followed by recalling the memory of Mary and Joseph, and the apostles.  The Lord's Paschal Mystery is recalled followed by the commemoration of the Dead in these words:  "Remember also, Lord, your servants [N.] and [N.] who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace.  Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace." 

Finally. . . 

On November 1st and 2nd, memories of our deceased loved ones fill our hearts in a special way. So many encounters recalled, laughter, tears, hopes and fears, good wishes, disappointments, expressions of love-all fixed in our memories and brought to life, if for a few moments.  Praying to our loved ones and for them manifests the common life we all share together in this beautiful mystery, the Communion of Saints. 

More in The Way of Beauty

In every Eucharistic liturgy, heaven and earth are joined together calling us to live fully in the present age in anticipation of the next. As God's pilgrim people, we are daily united with those who have preceded us: our loved ones, sainted women and men, known and unknown, who pray with us in the heavenly court.

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