All Saints Day: November 1st.
The Feast of All Saints is a wonderful antidote to the pessimism about human nature we can so easily fall into as we hear of the hideous wars and conflicts in the world today. The term ‘human being’ is very wide indeed – it covers such a wide spectrum of saints and sinners: St Francis of Assisi, Jimmy Savile, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Vlad the Impaler – all human beings sharing a common humanity.
Celebrating the lives of the saints of God, saves us from a debilitating cynicism about human nature. We are all creatures created by our Creator – the church reminds us that we are made in the image of God. The beautiful and beautifying lives of the blessed saints remind us that we all have the capacity to let the very light of heaven shine through the darkness of the world.
The saints are holy, not despite their humanity, but because of and through their humanity. They remind us that we all have the potential to embody a unique glimpse of the beauty of God in our own way.
The Christ of God used his strong hands in the carpenter’s shop of Nazareth to fashion blocks of wood into something of beauty and blessing. When we put ourselves into those same hands, we too can become a blessing to the world – a living, breathing icon of the beauty of God.
All Souls Day: November 2nd
We pray a blessing on the souls of the dead at every Mass. On this holy day, we especially remember with prayer those who have gone before, asking God that our prayers may be a blessing on their souls flight to the Heavenly Father land.
Priests, by the nature of their vocation, attend many death beds. I never cease to be moved by the awesome mystery of that final act that all of us must perform – to die. In the moments after the last breath is taken, I invariably sense that the soul isn’t going from but rather going to.
You and I often fail in our vocation to be what love would have us to be. Yes, we bear the image of Him who created us, but that Holy image gets rather worn as we go through life’s pilgrimage. Coins in pockets and purses bear the image of the monarch. Through much use the image may well be worn or tarnished – but the image is still discernible. Prayer for the dead is the loving means by which we can pray that the holy image of the King of Kings may be restored and shine in the beautifying light of heaven. Prayer for our dead turns grief into a holy blessing for those who have walked through the gate of death.
In the words of John Henry Newman:
‘So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile’
With love and prayers, Father Richard