Solemnity of All Saints

Millions is a 2004 British comedy-drama film, which tells the story of 9-year-old Damian, a Catholic school boy, who has a strong passion for the lives of saints. Damien startles his teacher and classmates with lengthy descriptions about the lives of saints when Damien’s teacher assigns an exercise to name people the students admire.  The other children name sports figures.  One day, St. Claire of Assisi shows up for a brief chat at Damien’s playhouse down by the railroad tracks. St. Francis of Assisi is the next saint to rendezvous with Damien. Later Ugandan martyrs meet with Damien and convinces him that the greatest gift of all is the gift of water to a desert community that needs a well. The entire movie rests on the attempts to come to terms with grief, the role of saints in history, the meaning of miracles, and the confusions and complexities of the human obsession with money. Damien is indeed “weird,” as his brother calls him, but he also is a well-realized soul whose love for saints makes him very special.

Today is the solemnity of All Saints Day. We probably all understand that the solemnity of all saints is dedicated to the Roman Catholic Church officially canonized saints. Indeed, there are over 10,000 people officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as saints. Pope John Paul II, during his long reign of Papacy, declared over a thousand people Blessed and almost 500 Saints. In the four-plus years of his papacy, Francis has frequently honored Christians who have suffered or died for their faith in current times as saints. Recently, Pope Francis canonized 35 new saints, almost all of them martyrs from centuries past, 30 of them are martyrs persecuted by Dutch Calvinists in Brazil in 1645.

St Bernard, in his famous homily for All Saints’ Day begins with this question, “why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this Solemnity, mean anything to the Saints?” “The Saints”, he says, “have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs…. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning” (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff.). In echoing St. Bernard, Pope Benedict XVI said, ”looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention” (Homily on the Solemnity of All Saints, 1 November 2006).

Throughout the year, our Church gives us the calendar of saints to celebrate. If we follow the Church’s saintly calendar day by day, we might come to know the stories of those saints whose feast days we observe. This practice can inspire us in our own faith journey. The saints enable us to become what we are, the saints, the plebs sancta Dei, the holy ordinary people of God.

November 1st, 2017