1 November – All Saints Day
Instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown. It owes its origin in the Western Church to the dedication of the Roman Pantheon in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs by Pope Saint Boniface IV in 609, the anniversary of which was celebrated at Rome on 13 May. Pope Saint Gregory III consecrated a chapel in the Vatican basilica in honour of All Saints, designating 1 November as their feast. Pope Gregory IV extended its observance to the whole Church. It has a vigil and octave, and is a holy day of obligation; the eve is popularly celebrated as Halloween.
– Patron Saints Index
I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.
After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’
One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’
1 John 3:1-3
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
Surely everyone who entertains this hope
must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.
Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
When we think about God’s plan in our lives and as we live according to His will, we are led to think about Mother Mary, who submitted entirely to God’s will. And while this may be a good starting point, we could end up quite disillusioned to think that God’s plan entails only suffering and pain, without realising that His plan for us is to be happy and satisfied. In the Beatitudes, we are reminded that God calls us to be ‘blessed’, for which another term is ‘happy.’
Should it surprise us then that the lover of our souls gives priority to our happiness? It is no wonder then He reveals to the disciples ‘the secret to happiness’ in the form of the Beatitudes. If we were to be merciful or clean of heart, it should be no different when we are mourning or being gentle or poor in the spirit. In understanding the Beatitudes, we ask for His wisdom to see as He does and not as we or the world does, just as He has reminded us that His thoughts and His ways are not as ours are (Isa 55).
The Beatitudes – the attitude of Jesus, can bring true and total happiness. In the days leading up to the launch of the Year of Mercy, I am most aware of a particular beatitude, ‘blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.’ This is also the theme for the upcoming World Youth Day in Poland. We had T-shirts on that theme and wore them for some of our activities and will be wearing them during World Youth Day. Most times, I am at the crossroads figuring out how to embrace mercy as a personal preparation for our pilgrimage to Poland.
I find myself being reminded constantly of the unending, unfathomable mercy of our Lord, that He would love a sinner like me. That He who is above all, has called me His child and He cherishes me; and how, as a Father, He is truly proud of me and as a lover that He truly desires me. This resonated well with a recent homily at mass when the priest said that mercy is something that is undeserved.
And when it comes to relationships with others, what is the role of mercy? Lately, even though I am a grown woman, living alone and making my own decisions in life, I found myself imitating the things my dad does. It comes from a place of true admiration and looking up to a man of virtue. In the same vein, I am aware that God is more of my father than my daddy, Stephen. He is the Divine Mercy and, at times, I feel like I am in touch with the pain within myself when I choose not to imitate Him and His mercy, by not extending it towards others and also to myself.
The times when I am not inclusive in my love and friendships, the times when I hold on to what I consider my right and my ‘place’ and treat mercy as if it was a privilege to a few, I put a barrier between my Father and myself.
How do we imitate this saintly habit of being merciful is a question we all should ponder. Are we at a place in our lives when we are trying to be more worthy of His mercy? Do we realise that just as we are called to love ourselves, we also need to be merciful to ourselves? Are we able to accept and forgive our failings and shortcomings without beating ourselves too much over them? We need to strive to become like St Peter who, despite denying our Lord three times, went on to build His church which stands tall till this very day. St Peter was merciful towards himself maybe because He saw it first in our Lord. Today, let us remember that Jesus is merciful to everyone, even to Judas who betrayed Him, and that His mercy is greater than any sin of ours or of others.
Today, on this blessed feast of All Saints, let us ask our patron saint to pray for us and with us. Let us be inspired by the saints we hold dear. Let us remind ourselves that we are all called to be saints and that this is not a privilege of only a few.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord of Mercy, show us your mercy that we become One with you by imitating your Mercy and love. Help us to be living saints and to live a life of happiness as you had intended for us. St Stephen, St Paul, St Anthony, St Pio, St Faustina, St John Paul, St Raphael and all Holy angels and saints of God, pray for us.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we are the people who want to see your face. Thank you for the gift of the holy saints.