STOP! We know today is a Holy Day of Obligation, yes? Do not pass go, do not collect $200, get thee to Mass! Okay, moving on.
Happy happy All Saints, from all of us to you! We hope that you become a saint so you can party, too! (Who else did you think would be writing today?)
I am thrilled to be writing on this day because, as you know, I love me some Communion of Saints. So, I am ecstatic to give a synopsis of the life of every saint the Church recognizes! I hope you have a few hours to spare! Haha! I kid.
At first blush, All Saints Day may seem like a pretty random day to pick as a Holy Day of Obligation (hereafter HDO). Almost like they were trying to meet a quota of HDOs for the year and this happened: “Okay guys, it’s either All Saints or Michaelmas. Heads: Michaelmas, tails: All Saints.”
It is, in fact, a most appropriate HDO, and not at all random.
For one, in the Apostle’s Creed, we confess: “… I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”
So important is this belief that it is professed immediately after our belief in the holy catholic Church and immediately before our belief in the forgiveness of sins. Appropriately so! Our belief in the holy catholic Church includes the Church Triumphant. And, the very fact that there is a Church Triumphant means that there is forgiveness of sins, and it works.
The Communion of Saints is so important because it is the full expression of our hope. In other words- there are saints in Heaven, they are connected to us because we are part of the same Church- the Body of Christ- that they are (though we are in the Church Militant), and they have obtained life everlasting through Jesus Christ, our Lord- and so can we.
When we celebrate All Saints, what we’re really celebrating is the hope of Calvary that has reached its fruition, a hope that we, too, “run the race with endurance” to realize ourselves. What we’re saying every November 1st isn’t, “Remember those cool dead people?” but, “Hallelujah! These cool people are alive!”
It’s why the early Church, though persecuted, could joyfully worship in catacombs. It’s why the catacombs are filled with pictures and names of saints. It’s why the stories of martyrs were preserved for future generations. It’s why we have relics.
We don’t believe in cubicle Catholics. We’re not isolated, all by our lonesome. We know that as the Body of Christ, we suffer with each other and, especially today, rejoice with those who rejoice. We look to Heaven and rejoice with the saints who completed their race well and enjoy the beatific vision of God because we are commanded to love one another, and because we know better than anyone that the grace of God is not without effect- the Church Triumphant being, as I’ve said, Exhibit A.
Like all Catholic doctrines that seem peculiar from the outside looking in (until you understand it), we celebrate the saints because we’re wild about Jesus. He died so we could have life, and the saints in Heaven have that in abundance! We know He loves us and His Church, so we love them, too.
The saints were a powerful tool in my own conversion. Before I decided to take the plunge, as I was becoming more convinced- I was totally dragging my feet. I was miserable, whining at God that I did not want to be Catholic. I did not want it in a train. I did not want it in a plane. Not in a boat or in a tree, I did not want to convert, you see.
So, I started to pull a Gideon, and put out various fleeces for God. A sign! I needed a sign, because I felt like I was going crazy. Who becomes Catholic, after all? (This guy.) One such fleece came in the form of the Saint Name Generator, run by Jen from Conversion Diary. It instructs you to pray while your saint is being chosen, and so I did:
“God, if you really want me to be Catholic, then spell it out for me. If it’s okay for me to pray to saints, then give me one in this generator that You want me to have.” And I waited. And then, my saint popped up! St. Mary Magdalen, patron of: Converts. I almost fell off of my couch.
(Lest you think this was mere coincidence, it was not the only fleece that God in His mercy deigned to give me. One night as I lay in bed, I told Him matter-of-factly, “You know, I am not the spiritual head of my household. My husband is supposed to be. I can’t go gallavanting off to be Catholic and drag him and my son with me. So, You’re gonna have to let him know if this is what you want.” I went to sleep thinking, “Problem solved!” Hehe, painted You into a corner now, God! Literally, the next day my husband was walking by me and out of the blue he turned to me and said, “I think we should be Catholic.” and kept right on a-walkin’ as I stood there frozen in pure shock. Game, set, match. God: eleventy billion. Andrea: zero.)
Things got even more hilarious when I started to actually try to pray to saints. If you’ve always been Catholic, you probably won’t appreciate this, but it was literally painful. I was just waiting for the lightning strikes to rain down from heaven. Throwing out a “Pray for us!” didn’t seem so bad, because I figured that was pretty obvious- if they couldn’t hear me, then no harm, no foul. But actually praying personal petitions, especially to the Blessed Mother, took me awhile because I always started my prayers with a long, rambling preamble:
“Ok, Jesus. I’m going to talk to your Mom now. If this isn’t kosher, then please just totally ignore what I’m about to throw out there, and please, mericiful God, forgive me. Also! Please don’t in any way, shape, or form answer my prayer if this is wrong. That will only confuse me because I’ll take it as confirmation that Your Mom was, in fact, praying for me. So, I’m gonna go ahead and start now, just so You know…”
I just imagine Jesus sitting at His heavenly desk, leaning on His elbows and rubbing His temples while Mary peeks her head in the door saying, “Is she ready for me yet or is she still talking?” “She’s still talking. We gave her St. Mary in the Saint Name Generator, what more does she want?!”
Clearly, I finally got the message.
So, who are your favorite saints and why?
St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us!
St. Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us!
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, pray for us!
All the angels and the saints, pray for us!
This topic is so big, and so near to my heart that there is much I’d love to say, but time and space constrain me. So! If you’re looking for a little catechesis on the Communion of Saints (particularly of apologetic value), then please feel free to visit a previous post I wrote outlining Scriptural support for this doctrine. Catholic Answers is another invaluable resource to Scriptural support for this doctrine, as well as fleshing it out in the early Church.