Each year the kids delight in celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints. As soon as the October air begins to chill and the leaves turn color, the house begins to buzz with plans for this sacred feast. The kids research their favorite saints, and begin to scour the house for requisite costume pieces. Old lace curtains are transformed into veils, and brocade table clothes become mantles. The energy is palpable- everyone from toddler to teen finds joy in celebrating the essence of the solemnity. This year’s heavenly court included: Our Lady of Kibeho, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. James the Greater, St. Joseph Cupertino, Blessed Jacinta Marto, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Catherine Laboure, and St. Patrick- even the young lady who helps us homeschool joined in as St. Bernadette Soubirous.
At Holy Mass this morning, Fr. Jude reminded us that this is our Feast- the saints of the Church Triumphant- the saints of the Church Suffering, and even those of the Church Militant. We are ALL called to be saints- canonized or not- it is our eternal destiny, our call, our heart’s deepest longing. All Saints’ Day offers a unique opportunity to reflect upon the progress we have achieved. Our role models, the saints, provide a tangible goal. We see in the sanctity of their lives what our lives could, and should be. They fought the good fight, ran the ultimate race, and- with God’s Grace -persevered. Now as Church Triumphant, these real men and women- whose eternal souls have been forever “washed clean in the blood of the Lamb,” stand ready to assist us in our struggle to achieve the same beatitude that they now forever enjoy.
The doctrine of the Communion of Saints is such a comfort and a blessing! In truth we form but one eternal ring- glorifying God beyond the limits of space and time. Today, as we celebrated the lives of the saints, and sought to emulate their virtues, we also focused on our beloved suffering souls in Purgatory. On the way home from Holy Mass at Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary, the kids and I stopped at the cemetery to pay a visit to my parents, and pray for their eternal happiness. I know Grandpa George and Grandma Lorraine were in turn praying for their beloved grandkids as we knelt and said an Ave by their grave.
In Her Wisdom, the Holy Mother Church has granted a special blessing – a plenary indulgence applicable only to the souls in purgatory for each of the eight days of the Solemnity of All Saints’ Day. The usual conditions are binding, and include: attending Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion on the day the work is performed, sacramental confession within eight days prior or afterward, freedom from attachment to sin, prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father (an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be suffice, but other chosen prayer is also acceptable). For this particular indulgence, a visit to a cemetery and prayer for the faithful deceased is also required. In our house we call this “The November Novena,” never mind that it is Solemnity, and only eight days- we usually begin on All Hallows Eve for a total of nine days and a partial indulgence on the extra day. Each year the kids and I look forward to it- knowing our little prayers and cemetery visits are of real assistance to suffering souls- perhaps for Grandma and Grandpa, Poppie, my nephew Dan, and other loved ones, or perhaps for forgotten souls whose graves are left unmarked and whose lives are long forgotten here on earth. The grace that this “November Novena” brings is immense.
As this beautiful All Saints’ Day Solemnity draws to a close, and the costumes are stashed away for another year; we begin our evening office, and a deep sense of abiding joy remains.