Today is the feast day of all of the saints who have no feast days!
Today is the feast day of those countless millions of martyrs who shed their blood for Christ the King rather than make even one compromise and/or offer even one grain of incense to false idols for the sake of their own comfort, career success or survival.
Today is the feast day of those who labored anonymously for the greater honor and glory of God with the help of the graces He has sent to them through the loving hands of Our Lady, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces, as members of His true Church, the Catholic Church to fulfill the duties of their appointed state-in-life while keeping on eye always on their Last End, namely, the possession of His Glorious Beatific Vision in Heaven.
Today is the feast of those who were faithful to their prayers throughout their lives or who, much like Saint Dismas, "stole Heaven" by cooperating with the graces sent to them to develop true contrition for their sins, a contrition that sought them to make a perfect Act of Contrition in preparation fora good, integral Confession of their sins to a true priest.
Today is the feast day of those the lowly who had very little in the way of the riches of this earth but who were content to seek first and foremost the Kingdom of God.
Today is the feast day of those who had the riches of this earth but who were generous in their distribution in the service of the true Church, being detached from their riches as they sought to store up for themselves riches in Heaven.
Today is the feast day of those who suffered much in their lives and were thought to be afflicted, if not cursed, by God, but who offered up their sufferings to the Throne of the Most Blessed Trinity as the consecrated slaves of Christ the King through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Today is the feast day of those who had great physical strength even until the time of their deaths but who nevertheless labored hard and long for the good of souls, starting with their own and those of their family members.
Today is the feast day of those true popes, true bishops, true priests and true consecrated men and women religious whose labor for the glory of Christ the King and the honor of His Most Blessed Mother was met with so much ingratitude and callousness even from those who profited from their genuine care for their spiritual and temporal welfare.
Today is the feast day of those who spent time silently in prayer before Our Lord's Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament while being castigated, perhaps even by family members, as being "too religious," "too zealous," if not fanatical in their fervor.
Today is the feast day of those who prayed their Rosaries day in and day out while meditating fervently upon the mysteries of our salvation contained therein.
Today is the feast day of those who dug deep into the treasures of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and reflected Its infinite mercy, love, compassion and generosity to those God's Holy Providence put into their paths.
Today is the feast day of those who kept the Nine First Fridays and the Five Five Saturdays over and over again in their lives.
Today is the feast day of those who made a point, whether in good health or bad, to assist at the Immemorial Mass of Tradition on a daily basis no matter what the sacrifices involved.
Today is the feast day of those who were devoted to their Guardian Angels and their Patron Saints, of those who conversed with the saints and begged them for the help that they needed to save their souls in order to join them in the glory of an unending Easter Sunday in Paradise.
Today is the fest day of those who rememered the Poor Souls in Purgatory, that is, the members of the Church Suffering, every day of their lives as they begged those who could not help themselves to help them make reparation for their own sins in this life and to apsire to the highest place next to the Blessed Mother in Heaven as possible.
Today is the feast day of those who were rejected by their family members for their love of the Holy Faith, of those who saw in this rejection a pointed reminder of how their own sins rejected Our Lord Himself when Pontius Pilate asked the crowd to choose between Him, the Divine Redeemer, and Barabbas.
Today is the feast day of the simple and the learned, of the skilled and unskilled, of the clumsy and the graceful, of those who had a high state in worldly affairs and those who counted for nothing in the world.
Today is the feast day of All the Saints in Heaven, the men, women and children of all the ages who kept the precepts of the Beatitudes as found in Saint Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount:
At that time, Jesus seeing the crowds, went up the mountain. And when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. And opening His mouth He taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor is spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men reproach you, and persecute you, and, speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you, for My sake. Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5: 1-12.)
There is only one path to become a member of the Church Triumphant in Heaven: the Cross, which must be kept to observe the Beatitudes and everything that flows forth from them for the honor and glory of God and the sanctification and salvation of souls.
There is no other way for any soul to enter Heaven than by bearing his share of suffering which the Gospel entails.
That is, there is no way for any of us to rejoice in Heaven in an eternal All Saints Day unless we are willing to pray for crosses so that we can pay back here in this life the debt we owe as a result of our forgiven mortal sins, our unforgiven venial sins and our general attachment to our sins and to our own disordered, narcissistic self-love. Saint John the Evangelist reminded us in The Book of the Apocalypse that God will vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth.
Strong words, though, that are meant to remind us that the pursuit of sanctity must be followed assiduously with every single beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must be the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Which was formed out of that Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
Death is going to come to each one of us. Apart from some mystics over the course of the centuries (and death-row inmates whose executions have been fixed for a date and time certain), no one knows the exact moment of his death. Not even a person with a terminal illness knows exactly when he is going to die. Rather than being fixated on when the world is going to end we must realize that our worlds can end at any moment. An accident. A stroke. A heart attack. A violent assault upon our bodies. We do not know the day or the hour. Thus, we must be ever ready, ever vigilant, if you will, to make an accounting of our lives at the moment of our Particular Judgments. Do we aspire to go to Heaven with every beat of our hearts. Do we think of Heavenly things? Do we want to participate in the glory of an eternal All Saints Day?
Today's feast, All Saints Day, celebrates the triumph of the souls who are participating for all eternity in the unending Easter Sunday of glory that was won for them by the Paschal Lamb's immolation on the wood of the Holy Cross. The souls in the Church Triumphant in Heaven are rejoicing before the glory and the radiance of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost because they were willing to pay the price of admission through the Gates that had been reopened when Our Lord had breathed His last breath atop the heights of Golgotha on Good Friday.
Whether they suffered so perfectly in this life that they were purified perfectly by the moment of their deaths or had died in a state of sanctifying grace and then repaid what they owed in the Church Suffering in Purgatory, the souls in Heaven suffered to get there. Nothing impure, that is, nothing defiled by the slightest stain of a seemingly minor Venial Sin, can enter into Heaven. Every soul in Heaven got there because they we were willing to accept the Cross of the Divine Redeemer in their own lives, embracing it as the instrument of the redemption of all men and the particular means by which they could climb to such a stage of personal sanctity that they might have as close a place in Heaven to that of the Blessed Mother as possible.
Sanctity is the universal vocation of all men. Every single person on the face of this earth is meant to be a Catholic. Every single person on the face of this earth is meant to follow Our Lord through His true Church and thus to be fed with His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Every person on the face of this earth is meant to make frequent use of the hospital of Divine healing that is the confessional. Every person on the face of this earth is meant to rely upon the maternal love and Heavenly support provided by Our Lady, who made possible our salvation by her perfect fiat to the Father's Will at the Annunciation. Every person on the face of this earth is meant to be in constant conversation with the members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven and the Church Suffering in Purgatory.
One of the things that we are supposed to learn over the years is that nothing we endure in this passing vale of tears that is the Church Militant on earth is the equal of what one of our leas Venial Sins caused Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to suffer in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. The more we complain about the crosses we are asked to bear you see, the less merit we earn. The more we refuse to give to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart our patient endurance of the crosses that God Himself has fashioned for each of us from all eternity, therefore, will be the more that we are likely to lose chances for eternal merit, if not seek to anesthetize it altogether. An embrace of the Cross of the Divine Redeemer is thus meant to fortify us, especially as the Sacrifice of the Cross is re-presented in an unbloody manner clearly and unambiguously in the Immemorial Mass of Tradition. An embrace of the Cross is meant to have us forget--and I mean absolutely forget--the travails of this life in order to focus on the crown of glory that awaits us if we persevere until our dying breaths in states of Sanctifying Grace.
An irony of fallen human nature is that it is sometimes easier to endure larger crosses than smaller ones. It is sometimes easier to deal with a terminal disease or a chronic, debilitating illness than it is to suffer the barbs of calumny and misunderstanding directed at us by friends or associates, no less than by absolute strangers who have never met us but think that they are qualified to speak about our own lives. It is, though, in the patient endurance of these lesser, although certainly painful, crosses, that we can find a special union with Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who was calumniated and misunderstood throughout His life, yes, even in His home town of Nazareth itself. Climbing the ladder of sanctity, which involves a lot of backsliding for those of us still stuck in the Purgative Stage of the spiritual life, involves coming to this important realization: the intentions of all hearts and the circumstances of all lives will be made manifest only on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead. We must be content to wait until then for an "understanding" of our lives. It will be at that time and that time alone that all of the souls of the just will be reconciled one unto the other. The disputes and contentions and envies of the past will be wiped away. Growing in the spiritual life requires us to want to be misunderstood and calumniated, to be patient in the face of false accusations and humiliations, to pray fervently for those who misunderstand us and to forgive right readily just as we are forgiven by Our Lord in the Sacrament of Penance through the words and actions of an alter Christus, acting in persona Christi.
There is, of course, a much simpler way to put all of this: Our Lord loved us so much that He was willing to endure the scandal of the Holy Cross, heedless of Its shame, as Saint Paul teaches us, in order to pay back in His Sacred Humanity the debt of our own sins that was owed to Him in His Infinity as God. We must show our love for God by enduring the just suffering that He sends to us as a means to purify us and as a means of uniting us more fully with His own Holy Cross, giving more and more and more by means of His ineffable graces to His Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. If we say we love God, you see, we must prove it by our willingness to accept with absolute serenity and equanimity each and every cross, whether great or small, we encounter in our daily lives.
The path to sanctity that a soul travels as a member of the Church Militant on the face of this earth is fraught with perils. The devil prowls around the world like a roaring lion seeking the ruin of souls. He attempts to lay countless traps to ensnare us into the pit of lukewarmness and sloth. We must rely upon the intercession of the Queen of All Saints, Our Lady, and all of the angels and saints to help us to resist the wiles of the ancient adversary and his minions, especially by fleeing from all occasions of sin, withdrawing as far as is possible from a culture that is diabolically disoriented, and by remaining steadfast in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and to the Mother of God as the twin pillars of our interior lives. We need to study the lives of the saints and to imitate their virtues. We need to rely upon their assistance from Heaven in the Church Triumphant so that we might join with them one day in an unceasing chorus of praise before the Throne of God Himself.
Unlike the sin of Presumption upon which Protestantism is founded, the true Faith, that is, the Catholic Faith, teaches us that none of us is assured of his salvation. It is possible for a person on the path to high sanctity to lose his soul. We must, therefore, work out our salvation in fear and in trembling, never taking anything for granted, understanding that to die in a state of Sanctifying Grace is itself a grace from God that we must pray to receive and then to cooperate with to the point of shedding blood. We must for this every single day of our lives without fail. No soul is saved until he perseveres to the end in a state of sanctifying grace. We must pray for grace of perseverance until the end.
Conversely, a person caught up in a lifetime of sin has no reason to commit the sin of Despair. It is possible for a great sinner to be converted and to scale the heights of sanctity, to become a great lover of God as He has revealed Himself to us exclusively through His true Church. The graces won for us by Our Lord and that come to us through Our Lady, the Mediatrix of all graces, are so powerful as to make the Sauls of our own day into new Saint Pauls, the Magdalenes of our own day into new Saint Mary Magadelenes, the hedonists and Manicheans of our own day into the new Saint Augustines, the cavalier seekers of adventure and luxury into the new Saint Francis of Assisis. No soul is lost until he or she dies in a state of final impenitence. We must for the conversion of sinners every day.
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., wrote on the glories of this day by providing us a reflection on the historical context in which those of the Church Triumphant in Heaven worked out their salvation and of the veneration that has been paid to them on this glorious day, All Saints Day, by those in the Church Militant on earth:
When Rome had completed the conquest of the world, she dedicated to all the gods, in token of her gratitude, the Pantheon, the most durable monument of her power. But when she herself had been conquered by Christ, and invested by Him with the empire over souls, she withdrew her homage from vain idols and offered it to the Martyrs; for they, praying for her as she slew them, had rendered her truly eternal. To the Martyrs, then, and to Mary their Queen, she consecrated for ever, on the morrow of her merciful chastisement, the now purified Pantheon.
‘Come forth from your dwellings, ye Saints of God, hasten to the place prepared for you.’ [Pontificate Rom. Ant. in Eccl. Dedicatione] For three centuries the catacombs were the resting-place of our Lord’s athletes, when they were borne from the arena. These valiant warriors deserved the honors of a triumph far better than did the great victors of old. In 312, however, Rome, disarmed but not yet changed in heart, was not at all disposed to applaud the men who had conquered the gods of Olympus and of the Capitol. While the Cross surmounted her ramparts, the white-robed army still lay entrenched in the subterranean crypts that surrounded the city like so many outworks. Three centuries more were granted to Rome, that she might make satisfaction to God’s justice, and take full cognizance of the salvation reserved for her by His mercy. In 609 the patient work of grace was completed; the Sovereign Pontiff Boniface IV uttered the word for the sacred crypts to yield up their treasures. It was a solemn moment, a forerunner of that wherein the Angel’s trumpet-call shall sound over the sepulchres of the world. [Sequence Dies irae] The successor of St. Peter, in all his apostolic majesty and surrounded by an immense crowd, presented himself at the entrance of the catacombs. He was attended by eighteen chariots magnificently adorned for the conveyance of the Martyrs. The ancient triumphal way opened before the Saints; the sons of the Quirites sang in their honor: ‘ You shall come with joy and proceed with gladness; for behold, the mountains and the hills exult, awaiting you with joy. Arise, ye Saints of God, come forth from your hiding-places; enter into Rome, which is now the holy city; bless the Roman people following you to the temple of the false gods, which is now dedicated as your own church, there to adore together with you the majesty of the Lord.’ [Cf. Pontifical. Rom. Ant. in Eccl. Dedicat.]
Thus, after six centuries of persecution and destruction, the Martyrs had the last word; and it was a word of blessing, a signal of grace for the great city hitherto drunk with the blood of Christians. More than rehabilitated by the reception she was giving to the witnesses of Christ, she was now not merely Rome, but the new Sion, the privileged city of the Lord. She now burned before the saints the incense they had refused to offer to her idols; their blood had flowed before the very altar on which she now invited them to rest, since the usurpers had been hurled back into the abyss. It was a happy inspiration that induced her, when she dedicated to the holy Martyrs the temple built by Marcus Agrippa and restored by Severus Augustus, to leave upon its pediment the names of its original constructors and the title they had given it; for then only did the famous monument truly merit its name, when Christian Rome could apply to the new inhabitants of the Pantheon those words of the psalm: ‘I have said, you are gods.’ [Ps. lxxxi. 6] May 13 was the day of their triumphant installation.
Every dedication on earth reminds the Church, as she herself tells us, of the assembly of the Saints, the living stones of the eternal dwelling which God is building for Himself in Heaven. [Collecta in die Dedicationis Altaris; Postcomm. Anniv. Dedic. Eccl.] It is not astonishing, then, that the dedication of Agrippa’s Pantheon, under the above-mentioned circumstances, should have originated the Feast of today. [Martyrolog. ad hanc diem] Its anniversary, recalling the memory of the Martyrs collectively, satisfied the Church’s desire of honoring year by year all her blessed sons who had died for the Lord; for, at an early date it became impossible to celebrate each of them on the day of his glorious death. In the age of peace there was added to the cultus of the Martyrs that of the other just, who daily sanctified themselves in all the paths of heroism opened out to Christian courage. The thought of uniting these with the former in one common solemnity, which would supply for the unavoidable omission of many of them, followed naturally upon the initiative given by Boniface IV.
In 732, in the first half of that eighth century which was such a grand age for the Church, Gregory III dedicated, at St. Peter’s on the Vatican, an oratory in honor ‘of the Savior, of His blessed Mother, of the holy Apostles, of all the holy Martyrs, confessors, and perfect just, who repose throughout the world.’ [Lib. Pontific. in Gregorio III] A dedication under so extensive a title did not, it is true, imply the establishment of our feast of All Saints by the illustrious pontiff; yet from this period it began to be celebrated by divers churches, and that, too, on November 1, as is attested, with regard to England, by Venerable Bede’s Martyrology and the pontifical of Egbert of York. It was far, however, from being universal, when in the year 835 Louis le Debonnaire, at the request of Gregory IV, and with the consent of all the bishops of his realm, made its celebration obligatory by law. This decree was welcomed by the whole Church and adopted as her own, says Ado, with reverence and love. [ADO, Martyrol.]
The councils of Spain and Gaul, as early as the sixth century, [Concil. Gerund. an. 517. can. 3; Lugdun. II. an. 567. can I] mention a custom then existing, of sanctifying the commencement of November by three days of penance and litanies, like the Rogation days which precede the Feast of our Lord’s Ascension. The fast on the Vigil of All Saints is the only remaining vestige of this custom of our forefathers, who, after the institution of the Feast, advanced the triduum of penance, so as to make it a preparation for the solemnity itself. ‘Let our devotion be complete,’ is the recommendation of a contemporaneous author; ‘let us prepare ourselves for this most holy solemnity by three days of fasting, prayer, and almsdeeds.’ [Inter opera ALCUINI, Epist. xci. ad calcem.]
When extended to the entire world, the Feast became complete; it was made equal to the greatest solemnities, and widened its horizon till it reached the infinite, embracing uncreated as well as created sanctity. Its object was now, not only Mary and the Martyrs; not only all the just children of Adam; but, moreover, the nine choirs of Angels, and above all the Holy Trinity itself, God Who is all in all, the King of kings—–that is, of the Saints, the God of gods in Sion. Hear how the Church awakes her children on this day: ‘Come let us adore the Lord, the King of kings, for He is the crown of all the Saints.’ [Invitatory or the Feast] Such was the invitation addressed by our Lord Himself to St. Mechtilde, the chantress of Helfta, the privileged one of His Divine Heart: ‘Praise Me, for that I am the crown of all the Saints.’ The virgin then beheld all the beauty of the elect and their glory drawing increase from the Blood of Christ, and resplendent with the virtues practiced by Him; and, responding to our Lord’s appeal, she praised with all her might the blissful and ever-adorable Trinity, for deigning to be to the Saints their diadem and their admirable dignity. [Liber Specialis Gratiae, p. i. cap. xxxi]… (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
The Divine Office for today, All Saints Day, includes the following reading from a sermon that had by deliverd by Saint Bede the Venerable in the early Eighth Century:
Dearly beloved brethren: This day we keep, with one great cry of joy, a Feast in memory of all God's holy children; His children, whose presence is a gladness to heaven; His children, whose prayers are a blessing to earth; His children, whose victories are the crown of the Holy Church; His chosen, whose testifying is the more glorious in honour, as the agony in which it was given was the sterner in intensity, for as the dreader grew the battle, so the grander grew the fighters, and the triumph of martyrdom waxed the more incisive by the multiplicity of suffering, and the heavier the torment the heavier the prize. And it is our Mother, the Catholic Church, spread far and wide throughout all this planet, it is she that hath learnt, in Christ Jesus her Head, not to fear shame, nor cross, nor death, but hath waxed lealer and lealer, and, not by fighting, but by enduring, hath breathed into all that noble band who have come up to the bitter starting-post the hope of conquest and glory which hath warmed them manfully to accept the race.
If a verity thou art blessed, O my Mother the Church! The blaze of God's mercy beateth full upon thee; thine adornment is the glorious blood of victorious Martyrs, and thy raiment the virgin whiteness of untarnished orthodoxy. thy garlands lack neither roses nor lilies. And now, dearly beloved brethren, let each one of us strive to gain the goodly crown of one sort or the other, either the glistening whiteness of purity, or the red dye of suffering. In the army in heaven peace and war have both chaplets of their own, to crown Christ's soldiers withal.
Moreover, to this also hath the unutterable and boundless goodness of God seen, that He spreadeth not the time of working and wrestling, neither maketh it long, nor everlasting, and, as it were, but for a moment, so that in this short and scanty life there is wrestling and working, but the crown and the prize is in a life which is eternal. So the work is soon over, but the wage is paid for ever. And when the night of this world is over, the Saints are to see the clearness of the essential light, and to receive a blessedness outweighing the pangs of any torment, as testifieth the Apostle Paul, where he saith: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (From Matins, All Saints Day, the Divine Office.)
No one who gains Heaven is a failure despite the ill-regard others may have had of him while he was alive.
No one who loses Heaven is a success despite anything he may have accomplished in this life.
Keeping ever close to Our Lady, Queen of All Saints, especially through her Most Holy Rosary, and Saint Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church and the Protector of the Faithful, and our own Guardian Angels and Patron Saints, may we keep this day with joy and gratitude for the fact that the Lamb Who was slain for us had made it possible for us to have eternal life with Him in Heaven, the possession of which must be the only defining goal of our lives.
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary and of All Saints, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
All the Saints, pray for us.