November 1 is the Feast of All Saints, when we celebrate that glorious communion of women and men who have gone before us. The Catholic Church has an official Calendar of Saints for those whose sanctity has been verified and acknowledged through an arduous process and examination of their lives. In the early years of the Church, saints were recognized by simple acclamation of the people. Today, we know that there are many women and men who fill these hallowed halls that were known only to their nearest and dearest, but are no less saints that the greats who fill our liturgical calendar.
Contrary to the belief of some, Catholics don’t worship saints. We venerate them. They hold a special place in our hearts as models for inspiration. We have physical reminders of these special friends; statues, pictures and icons, and medals around our necks. We give their names to our children, our churches and our towns, seeking their heavenly patronage and prayerful protection. We get a thrill when we have the opportunity to visit the special sites of their life, or spend time at their grave site. If anyone thinks this is weird, check out any sports fan who zealously wears their hero’s jersey to every game. Or how about a visit to a Hard Rock Café or any Hall of Fame filled with memorabilia of well-known stars and legends?
Belief in the communion of saints often unites “religious” and “spiritual but not religious” folks. Belief in the after-life and our spiritual union with those who have gone before us not only answers a deep need and hunger in our human existence, it is often experienced in tangible ways. We feel the presence of loved ones who have gone before us, sometimes in big moments and other times in the small whispers of daily life. Reminders of them are often unexpected, but always welcomed. It’s as if they are giving you a wee tap on your shoulder to let you know they are still there.
The Feast of All Saints is a wonderful opportunity to raise a glass in gratitude and praise to all the good and holy women and men who have gone before us. Their lives inspire us. Their ongoing prayers and love sustain us. May we look forward with hope to one day taking our place in their glorious ranks!