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The Celebration of All Saints Day


Nothing could be more incongruous than to place the mindless antics of Jason in Halloween IV next to the stunning life of Teresa of Avila, but we do this every year. Some are surprised to hear that the day after Halloween has a name: "The feast of All Hallows (Saints)." Maybe they find this feast an anachronism, or perhaps some still think it distracts from our proper worship of God. In any case Halloween gets all the headlines. What is this feast all about, anyway?
For centuries, November first had been the Celtic New Year, but now it honors billions of ordinary folk like ourselves who have known, loved and served God and now "are like Him since they see Him face to face" as St. John tells us. Because of their singular triumph in this life they deserve this homage. Moreover, since they are so much like us they serve as exemplars, inspiring and motivating us who are still making our way to God and eternal beatitude.

The triumphant celebration of the saints throughout the world by the artist,
Brother Andrea Pozzo, S.J. on the ceiling of St. Ignatius Church in Rome


We find a paradigm of every conceivable virtue in some saint whose life has made that virtue appear not only attractive but within our reach as well. Besides, there is no occupation that does not have a patron saint assigned to it. The fact that these heroes are not very different from us encourages us to emulate them, and with so many to choose from, it is easy to find one or more whose lives mirror our own. Far from living perfect lives, saints have faults and foibles like us so that we can identify with them. They are different because they excel in responding to God's grace. As in other ordinary human relations we unaccountably prefer certain saints to others.
Since these ordinary human folks are so close to God they are in a position to do something very human, something close to the heart of every politician - to use their influence in our behalf. This concept is very deep in Christian tradition and we profess it in the ninth item of our Apostles' Creed which outlines the beautiful doctrine of "the communion of saints." Members of the church triumphant, from their vantage point close to God, help us who are still struggling. We in turn pray for members of the church suffering, the recently deceased (which we attend to on the following day, All Souls Day). It is no accident that one of the most popular modern saints is St. Therese of Lisieux (d. 1897) who was canonized only 28 years after her death because of the prodigious number of astonishing favors, cures and conversions showered on those who sought her intercession. But during her lifetime she had done so little that her Carmelite community could find nothing of interest to put in her obituary. Now there is movement to make her a Doctor of the Church.
No saint is omitted during this feast. We celebrate all these merry inhabitants of heaven whether or not they are on the Church's canonical list. This coming year, incidentally, marks the thousandth year of the Church's practice of declaring saints "canonized". Previously, lists of saints were quite tenuous. The formal canonization process started in the year 993 when Pope John XV declared Saint Ulrich of Augsburg a "Saint of the Universal Church."
The fact that throughout history saints have inspired men and women to face life with courage, hope and equanimity was not lost on Shakespeare as he composed that moving speech of Henry V on St. Crispin's day (Crispin was the patron of shoemakers). Reading lives of saints inspired St Ignatius Loyola to set out on his spiritual journey which resulted in the Jesuit Order. By the way, some think that the term "Jesuit saint" is an oxymoron, but actually there are 41 Jesuit saints and some 285 more on the way to sainthood. A cursory study of a map of the United States illustrates how compelling devotion to saints was to the early explorers. Most settlements and cities were named after some patron saint during the pioneer days of the Franciscan missions, and especially of the less affluent Jesuit missions.
As for saints being a distraction, God gives no indication that he feels threatened by our devotion to saints. On the contrary He uses them to show us the Way. For many who do not feel comfortable approaching an ineffable God, our saints demonstrate that reaching God is neither impossible nor even very difficult. Far from being an anachronism they might be called the user friendly way to reach God.





Jesuit history, tradition and spirituality




Jesuit history . . . an abbreviated summary
Jesuit Education . . . its history, directions and purpose
Jesuit Emblems . . . research of G. Richard Dimler, S.J.
Spiritual Exercises . . . which has changed millions of lives
Retreat in Daily Life . . . what is involved in an Ignatian retreat?
FU Ignatian Tradition . . . that elusive quality so much misquoted
PAUL MIKI'S 400th anniversary the first Japanese Jesuit martyr (TH #8)
All Saints . . . veneration of the saints . . . why?
Saint Thomas . . . forgiveness . . . Easter Sunday and Low Sunday
Computer/Teaching Notes . . . Humberto Eco and Murphy's laws
JESUIT GEOMETERS: 56 Jesuit geometers of the early Society
COMPANIONS OF JESUITS: A tradition of collaboration
GOSPEL ILLUSTRATIONSCompositions of place for the Exercises

Joan of Arc: Insignis* {*outstandingfollower of Christ}


Also visit the Jesuit Resource Page for even more links to things Jesuit.


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