Today is the Catholic observance of the Solemnity of All Saints. The Catholic faithful remember today in a special way the countless people who have lived lives pleasing to God and are now enjoying their eternal life in the company of the almighty God in heaven. Although the Catholic Church keeps a canon of saints, this day is especially dedicated to those who are in heaven but are not recognized in the list of the saints by the Church.
All Saints’ Day was officially started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon, the temple of Agrippa in Rome, to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in the year 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints Day. The day of all saints is also observed by members of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as some Protestant churches, such as Anglican, Lutheran, and Anglican churches.
Saints are no extraordinary individuals. They are simple persons like us who endeavored to live a life of holiness in the ordinary situations of life. They too experienced hardships and pain; they endured suffering and disappointments. Yet in the midst of all these events, they remained faithful to their Christian calling and followed Jesus until the last breath of their lives. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount speaks about how they responded to God’s call to blessedness. They are blessed for being pure of heart, for being agents of mercy, and instruments of peace. They are blessed for enduring persecution for the sake of the kingdom. Blessed are they who have kept the Word of God in their lives and lived it.
Today’s celebration should inspire us with wonderful hope. All saints in heaven lived on earth lives like our own. They were baptized, marked with the sign of faith, and partook of the banquet of Christ’s love. They were faithful to Christ’s teaching and they have gone before us to the heavenly home. The Beatitudes in today’s gospel reading, while showing the happiness that they are now enjoying, shows, too, the road that they followed. The Church, through the Second Vatican Council encourages us to walk in their footsteps: “We must follow in His footsteps and conform ourselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. We must devote ourselves with all our being to the glory of God and the service of our neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.” (Lumen Gentium, 40)
Our celebration today must inspire all men and women who follow Jesus to be ardent in faith and zealous in our love for God and neighbor. The lives of the countless holy men and women throughout the more than two millennium of the existence of Christianity must serve as guide and motivation for Christians in the here and now to faithfully heed the call of Christ and respond to his invitation to blessedness.
The path to holiness and blessedness is not an easy path but it is not an impassable route. The Saints in heaven have proven that it is possible to be holy no matter what the circumstances are. May the saints in heaven always intercede for us as we continue our earthly journey!
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