All Saints Day: A Celebration of God’s Family

Each year on November 1st, Catholics around the globe celebrate a major feast day on the liturgical calendar known as All Saints Day, which is a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics attend Mass and participate in celebration and recognition of the spiritual union of God’s family, the Communion of Saints.

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Catholics believe that the one Mystical Church and Body of Christ exists on three levels: the Church Militant on earth, the Church Triumphant in Heaven, and the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and that communication can take place between all three … We honor the saints in Heaven, who have more perfectly attained God’s likeness (2 Cor 3:18), we strive to imitate them, and we ask them for their efficacious prayers on our behalf and that of others.  All honor ultimately goes back to God, whose graces are the source of all that is worthy of veneration in the saints ….

Devotion to saints no more interferes with or corrupts the unique adoration due to God than does our love for friends and relatives.  A robust devotion may give rise to the language of hyperbole, just as human lovers wax eloquent in their rapturous romantic praises of each other, never intending literally to worship the object of love and affection  …

The saints are not only still alive, but much more vibrantly and intensely alive than we are, thoroughly able to influence and assist us, as the book of Revelation clearly testifies.

– Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

A common misunderstanding of this Catholic practice, especially among Protestants, our separated brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, is the notion that Catholics worship saints and Mary.  They, rightly, say worship is due to God alone.  But what may come as a surprise to some Protestants, there is no Catholic who will argue that.  No Catholic will contest that God – and God alone – is the rightly ordered object of Christian worship.  So, it’s a misconception and, flatly, untrue to say Catholics worship Mary and the saints.  Therefore, to understand the relationship for how Catholics view the Communion of Saints, is to know this:  Catholics honor Mary and the saints; Catholics venerate them, meaning, Catholics hold these holy men and women in the highest regard and with the utmost respect.

Holiness – sainthood – is simply the common Christian vocation.  But, in that short passage from Colossians, Paul also distinguished between the saints on earth (Col 1:2) and the “saints in the light” (Col 1:12) – what Catholic devotion would later call, respectively, the “Church militant” and the “Church triumphant.”  The Epistle to the Hebrews (12:1) tells us that the latter are “a cloud of witnesses” around the former.

To the saints on earth who share our calling, we give our love.  To the saints in light, we give a special honor called veneration.  It’s not the same kind of honor we give to God alone.  It is more like the profound respect we owe our parents and grandparents.  We love them so much that we frame their photos and give them a prominent place in our home.  We shouldn’t hesitate to ask our parents for prayer; nor should we hesitate to ask our ancestors in the faith.

– Dr. Scott Hahn, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and their Biblical Roots

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To my fellow Cradle Catholics, I entreat your understanding of the richness, depth, and beauty of Catholicism that is waiting to be discovered for anyone courageous enough to start on the expedition.  If you’re like me, maybe you’ve spent much of your life lukewarm in your Catholic faith.  If so, recognize, sadly, there’s much you’ve missed and are missing; yet, do not despair!  Be open to the knowledge that there’s room for you to grow in your understanding of the truth, goodness and beauty of your baptismal faith.  To grasp this idea is to begin to understand there is a way of life that calls you to live out Christianity to the fullest – the way its meant to be.  Returning to the Catholic Church is the beginning of this discovery.  It is here, among your brothers and sisters in the faith – the Communion of Saints – where you’ll rediscover, again, maybe for the first time, that the Catholic Church is as much a home for saints as it is a hospital for sinners.

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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