Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Today is the feast of all the Saints. Today is a holy day of obligation, but tomorrow is not. But I urge you to try to find some time tomorrow to attend Mass for the souls in Purgatory, who are currently in great need of our prayers, and who will someday, themselves, be saints with God in heaven.
I am sure that all of your are aware that Christians do not worship the saints, for worship is something that is proper to God alone, and not to any of His created beings—not even to His most sinless Mother, the greatest of all Saints. In English, it is, instead, appropriate to say that we venerate the Saints. And there are three major reasons why Christians venerate the Saints.
Firstly, we venerate the saints to give honor to God. They are among His most favored in all creation, and to show due regard for them and their obedience to the will of God, is to honor their Creator, God Himself.
Secondly, we venerate the Saints in order to ask their intercession on our behalf before the throne of God. In the strict sense, there is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ. As Saint Paul tells us, “God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.” If we think of a “mediator” as one who arranges a settlement between two parties (God and mankind in this case)—the “intercessors” (the saints) can be thought of as character witnesses and friends of the court, who argue the reasonableness of our case on our behalf. Apart from the angels, all of the saints are human beings, and they understand the needs and the wants, and the joys and frustrations that we experience here on earth.
Thirdly, we venerate the Saints as role models. By definition, the saints are those souls who have earned their eternal happiness with God in heaven—if we too want to achieve that happiness (and that is why we were created), we will do well to learn the good qualities of the saints and make them our own by way of emulation. In most things that men and women do, greatness is achieved by studying the masters of earlier years, and doing as they did.
Most missals have a brief biographical sketch, and their are many more elaborate lives of the saints available. If every day we read about the saint of the day, we will notice that all of them have an important similarity. They are all people who sought God; who wanted to know Him and to know about Him. They are all people who tried to make His will their will. They are all people who loved God and loved their neighbors for the love of God. These are common traits—all necessary for sanctity; shared by all who are saints and by all who will become saints.
The other thing we will notice about the saints is that there are enormous differences among them—men and women have worked out their sanctity in an untold number of different ways. At Vespers, every evening, we recite the Magnificat, the Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which she spoke on learning that she was to become the Mother of God. The Magnificat never changes, but from day to day a different little verse is recited before and after it—an “antiphon”—a few words which recall the nature of the feast day we happen to be celebrating. At the Vespers recited yesterday evening, to usher in this feast, the “antiphon” was a brief outline of the various kinds of people recognized on this feast of All Saints:
Angels, Archangels, Thrones and Dominations, Principalities and Powers, Virtues of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim, Patriarchs and Prophets, holy Doctors of the Law, Apostles, and all you Martyrs of Christ, holy Confessors, Virgins of the Lord, Anchorites, and all Saints, intercede for us.
The antiphon lists the angels, and the martyrs, and then the people who we might think of as the “professional clergy”; priests, and monks and nuns and so forth. Then it lists “all the Saints.” If we were to enlarge on just who are “all the Saints,” we would have an extremely long list. The “butcher, the baker, and the candle stick maker” would be there. There would be laborers and architects, mothers and fathers, musicians, physicians, nurses and teachers, perhaps a lawyer or two and even an occasional politician.
While I certainly don’t mean to slight what I have called the “professional clergy,” it should be obvious that such people make up a relatively small part of the Church, and that if, as Saint Paul says, “God our Saviour, [wants] ... all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” a larger number of the saints will have to come from the ranks of “the butcher and the baker” and all of the other ordinary people who seek God, who try to conform their wills to His, and who love Him and their neighbors for His sake.
By offering this yearly feast of All Saints, the Church honors God and all of His holy ones, from the most famous, down to the most obscure. But It also proposes to us the reality that all of us are called to be saints—that sanctity is not reserved for the few who seem to levitate a few inches above the floor, or for the few that are locked away in monasteries somewhere—sanctity is not reserved to the missionaries and the martyrs alone. Indeed, God calls out to all of us—no matter who or what we are; no matter what might be our station in life, or how we make our living. He calls out to all of us to “know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world” so that we may become the saints of heaven, sharing the happiness of the next world with Him.