St John's Q&A

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Feasts of All Saints and All Souls

Yesterday (Nov. 1) we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, and today (Nov. 2) we celebrate the memorial of All Souls. As the Catholic encyclopedia (to view this site, click on the title of this post) states, All Saints Day "is instituted to honor all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts' during the year". Nov.1 honors all the saints in Heaven

Today (and throughout the month of November), we pray for all the souls in Purgatory. Offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead is inspired by 2 Maccabees, in which sacrifices are offered for the dead "so that they might be released for their sins" (12:46). Our prayers are for those who have died in a state of Grace, but not yet perfectly cleansed from venial sins. As the encyclopedia says, "the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass". If you know someone who has died, especially in the past year, the best thing you can do for him or her is go to Mass on this day.

Here is a clip of a Q & A about saints from

Why does the Catholic Church emphasize saints' relics if Jesus says that the only way to heaven is through him?

Relics do not save people, and the Catholic Church does not teach that they do. Jesus saves people.

Relics can, however, remind us of flesh-and-blood people who generously cooperated with God’s grace. Those saints, in turn, can encourage us to cooperate just as generously with God’s grace.

Many Christians can agree that Jesus Christ has saved us through his passion, death and resurrection. They will likely also agree that a person could choose not to accept salvation. How? By that person’s choices.

Saints remind us to make good and generous choices. Relics can remind us of saints (including Mary). All walked this earth and eventually gave God an accounting for their stewardship of resources, time and talent.

The Son of God became a human being, in the person of Jesus Christ, within a specific time and in a designated place. In a sense, relics remind us of Jesus’ Incarnation and of our need—right here, right now—to make choices which reflect and reinforce our identity as followers of Jesus.

Adapted from "Ask A Franciscan,"a feature in St. Anthony Messenger.

When did we begin to venerate saints?

The various Church communities cherished the early Christian martyrs and commemorated the anniversaries of their deaths (their birth into eternal life) by keeping all-night vigil at their graves and celebrating a Eucharist in the early morning.

By the time Christianity became an accepted religion in the Roman Empire, the cult of martyrs was well established and they were being invoked as intercessors. Particular saints could plead before God on behalf of certain communities or individuals.

Members of the community still living on earth could intercede on behalf of those in purgatory. Praying for the dead is based on the scriptural passage in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46: "It is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins."

There was much emphasis placed on this idea of a saintly community in the early Church. All the saints—those on earth, those in heaven and those in purgatory—were seen as belonging to the one body of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom, who died in 407, called for a "feast of martyrs of the whole world." At his behest the feast of All Saints (All Hallows), those known and unknown, has been observed since his time.

The fourth-century Nicene Creed leaves us in no doubt of the importance of this early Church teaching. As Christians we profess a belief in the communion of saints.


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