2002-10-27 The reason for being a Christian is to be a saint

October 27, 2002

The reason for being a Christian is to be a saint, for a saint is a human who is fully human according to the intention of Christ. November 1, the Feast of All Saints, is both the proof that Christianity works (for there are countless saints) and the inspiration for us to keep trying. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, but “obligation” is a weak and begrudging term for any holy day. These holy days are immense gifts to us from heaven, reminding us of why we are alive. In 834 Pope Gregory IV moved the feast of all the martyrs (eventually to include all the saints) from May 13 to November 1, as if by some unconscious prophecy May 13 would be reserved to celebrate the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima nearly 1100 years later.

As Christmas sanctified the pagan Roman feast of Saturnalia, so All Saints Day would sanctify the pagan Druid feast of Samhain (“Sow-en”), the Lord of the Dead, on which the Celtic people from Ireland to Brittany had marked their new year and the beginning of winter. Some explanations for customs we have inherited may or may not be fanciful. It does seem that the Romans added to the Celtic customs their own drinking of cider and apple-bobbing for the goddess of orchards, Pomona (later to spread her name to California). But these were not jolly feasts. Paganism suffered the melancholy of knowing about death but not knowing of the resurrection of the dead. Pagan feasts easily turned into macabre grotesqueries and orgiastic debauches out of despair. Our neo-pagan has reverted to that, but you cannot go back to sturdy old paganism; you can only update its remnant sadness. Halloween, properly the vigil of “All Hallow’s Day,” has become more popular than All Saints’ itself. Even some denominations advertise Halloween festivals in their churches, with spooky music and haunting images, in a deluded attempt to attract people they cannot attract to celebrate holiness. There is nothing wrong with innocent fun, but it can be a sign that people who once were Christian are haunted by their loss of faith.

All Saints Day is followed by All Souls Day when the Church prays for the blessed ones who have been judged by God as worthy to join the saints in glory in God’s good time. The Catechism says ( #1475) “…a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.”

Fr. George W. Rutler

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