By Fr. Paul August Gros
As hopefully many of you have learned, the Church is made up of three parts: (1) the Church Triumphant, (2) the Church Suffering, and (3) the Church Militant. This coming Wednesday (November 1) is the Solemnity of All Saints in which we honor the “Church Triumphant” – those who have gone before us in Christ and have received their eternal reward in Heaven. This Solemnity is followed by the Feast of All Souls’ Day (November 2), in which we remember and pray for those in purgatory. These souls are part of what is called the Church Suffering and will receive their eternal reward after a time of purification (which can be expiated with our prayers!). Finally, there is the Church Militant, which is all of us, who battle daily with Christ against sin and the devil in order that we may be numbered among the Church Triumphant one day.
The celebration of All Saints’ Day honors those saints who are known and unknown to us. Those who are known have been canonized by the Church. These include all those men and women of whom we are certain by the authority of the Church that they are in Heaven. They are what we call the canonized saints. Canonization is acquired through lengthy testimony of the heroic virtue these men and women achieved on earth and later through miracles attributed to their intercession after death. We call upon these saints for their intercession and prayers to seek to model our own lives after theirs. Most of you can name many of the popular, well-known saints: St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, the Apostles, St. Padre Pio, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Mother Teresa, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Margaret… and the list goes on!
But on this day, we also honor those who may not be known to us but known only to God. The Church teaches that in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) there are only saints and angels. One’s soul must be completely purified to enter the Beatific Vision (the presence of God), and thus be a saint! This does not mean that they are canonized saints as we know, but what I like to call “quiet saints” – ordinary people who lived simple lives for God and for others (who have possibly been purified through purgatory) and are now spending their eternity in Heaven. This certainly includes grandparents, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and parishioners who did just that, but also many many more of whom we never met. The Book of Revelation speaks of men and women of every nation and tongues clothed in white garments surrounding the throne of God and worshipping Him.
St. John writes: “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.’” (Rev. 7:9-10).
If I can’t be among the canonized saints, I hope to be among these “quiet saints”, as I hope you do, too! Please note that Wednesday’s All Saints’ Solemnity is a holy day of obligation for Catholics. We will celebrate a candlelight Vigil Mass on Tuesday, October 31, at 6:00 PM, and on Wednesday, November 1, at 6:00 PM. Both will be at St. Margaret Church. In addition to these masses, the 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday, October 29, will be at the St. Margaret Cemetery (weather permitting). Please bring your lawn chairs if you plan to join us!
Have a wonderful week!