Feast of All Saints.
Throughout the year the Roman Calendar and various local, national calendars set aside days on which certain saints are venerated. We are all well aware of the big names among the saints, so to speak. There are the feasts of Ss Peter and Paul, St. Joseph, St. Catherine, St. Francis, St. Augustine, St. Teresa, the Evangelists and of course our own St. Patrick and many others, and there are several days set aside on which we venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Today we celebrate and venerate all God’s saints, those who are acknowledged in the various calendars and those who have been recognized as saints by a formal process culminating in canonization, but we also celebrate those good and holy people whose holiness and sanctity is known only to God. They are the quiet saints, so to speak; the very many kind, generous, selfless people, who loved their God and their neighbour and lived whatever role or vocation God gave them exceptionally well. Today is their day especially.
We celebrate saints for a few reasons. First, we venerate them to give glory to God by whose grace they were enabled to live holy and heroic and virtuous lives. Without his grace that would not have been possible. The honour we bestow on them redounds to God’s glory.
We celebrate saints to seek their intercession for us. We know them to be our brothers and sisters who are in God’s presence. Put simply, we ask them to pray for us.
We celebrate saints to learn from their example. They are our role models. We know that they are human beings like ourselves who once lived on this earth. We can investigate their lives, learn about their heroic deeds and their profound goodness and holiness, and try, by God’s grace, to imitate them. They are a source of encouragement to us in our lives; in our struggles which are very like their own.
It is fitting that we read chapter five of St. Matthew’s Gospel today, referred to as the Beatitudes. It is an account of the blessedness bestowed by God’s grace. Blessedness is a gift of God available to all of us and to which we are all called and out of which grows sanctity.
The translation we have is a little unfortunate. It speaks of people being happy. Happiness is a subjective state and varies greatly from person to person and I think it not unreasonable to suggest that people who mourn and people who are persecuted are not happy. Another, perhaps better translation, uses the word blessed.
Blessedness is an objective reality bestowed by God. Jesus declared that those who are poor in spirit; those who are gentle; those who mourn; those who hunger and thirst for what is right; those who are merciful; those who are pure in heart; those who are peacemakers and those persecuted in the cause of right are blessed and their reward will be great in heaven. This is a description of the saints, and we are called to be like them. We are called to holiness, called to be saints also.