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Ordinary of the Mass
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In the early Church it
was clearly obvious that the Blessed Virgin Mary, and those who had shed
their blood for Christ were among the saints—the holy souls eternally in
heaven. It took a while to recognize and identify other saints—other than
Mary and the Martyrs—as those who glorify God in eternity
The Pantheon in
Rome was a pagan temple that began to be built right around the time of
Christ by Cæsar Augustus. The name is Greek, and identifies it as a temple
dedicated to all the false “gods” of pagan Rome. In 610, Pope Boniface IV
consecrated the Pantheon “to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs,”
ordering the anniversary of the dedication to be observed every year
thereafter on May 13th. The date seems to have been chosen to displace a
pagan feast of the dead. For about a hundred years this day was the closest
thing to “All Saints” day that the Church observed.
Pope Gregory III
(731–741) dedicated an oratory within Saint Peter's Basilica for the relics
“of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the
just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.” Pope Gregory
recognized that everyone who persevered in grace during their lifetime would
become a saint in death—not just “Mary and the Martyrs.” This oratory was
dedicated on November 1st, which replaced the May 13th observance as “All
Saints Day”—truly honoring all the saints.
Centuries later the
saintly Pope Leo XIII would call upon Saint Michael the Archangel to “Come
to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in His own image and
likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil.”
Pope Leo did not name a specific “man”—nor did he exclude any women—for we
were all “created immortal” in God’s “own image and likeness, and redeemed
at a great price.” That “great price” is the blood of Jesus Christ poured
out for us on the Cross. The gates of Heaven have been reopened to the sons
and daughters of Adam and Eve.
But, note very
carefully, that “great price” does not, of itself, make us saints! It makes
it possible for us to become saints, but it forces nothing upon us. It is
necessary that we obtain sanctifying grace, said metaphorically, to flow
from the wound in the side of Christ. Less metaphorically, we obtain this
grace through prayer and the reception of the Sacraments—primarily Baptism,
but the other Sacraments enhance it and repair it if it is lost.
No one expects to pass
through a gate—the gate of Heaven or even gates here on Earth—if we don’t
travel toward them! Here on Earth the path to the Heavenly gate is found in
the keeping of God’s Commandments—any other path will lead to a fence at
best, and probably to the gate to Hell itself.
of Hell should be an ever-conscious warning that it is possible to take the
wrong path—to put one’s self on the path to eternal damnation and eternal
suffering. God has created us with the intellect to find the right path,
and the free will to embrace it—the will must be free if it is to glorify
God—but sometimes the will draws the intellect away from God, and on towards
the gate of Hell.
All Saints Day reminds
us that we have seen saints from every walk of life. Some are martyrs,
monks, priests and nuns—but many are ordinary people—faithful husbands and
wives, obedient children, noble soldiers, and even a few honest politicians.
Far more importantly,
it reminds that we can be one of them. The sanctifying grace (from the
wounded side of Christ) enables us to be one with them—indeed, to be one
with Him! We can! And we should!
And we must be one with Jesus Christ! If we choose to
reject Him, everything is lost—we will not be saints—and we will be lost.
Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God,
Who hast given us in one feast to venerate
the merits of all Thy saints;
we beseech Thee through the multitude of intercessors to grant us the
desired abundance of Thy mercy.