Saints of the Day – Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints, from the Landauer Altar, by Albrecht Durer, 1511; Kunsthistorisches Museum; swiped off WikipediaArticle

“‘Be holy as I am holy,’ says the Lord. As Christians we are all called to holiness because we are His children. Every Christian should be a saint. Indeed, for a Christian to live in a state of sin is a monstrous contradiction.” – Curé d’Ars.

It has recently been claimed that the decline in the cult of saints and in pilgrimages to holy places is spiritually beneficial for Christians, so that their attention will be turned exclusively towards Jesus. There is, however, a danger to the faith in attempting to become too intellectual and sophisticated, and thereby becoming too cold, methodical, and rational. In the face of the divine mysteries and matters that are beyond human comprehension our minds should be kept open.

“The saints are like so many little mirrors in which Jesus Christ sees Himself. In His apostles He sees His zeal and love for the salvation of souls; in the martyrs He sees His constancy, suffering, and painful death; in the hermits He sees His obscure and hidden life; in the virgins He sees His spotless purity; and in all the saints He sees His unbounded charity. And when we honor the virtues of the saints, we are but worshipping the virtues of Jesus Christ. . . .” – Curé d’Ars

We render God a worship of adoration and dependence with faith, hope, love, and a profound humbling of our souls before His supreme Majesty. We honor the saints with a feeling of respect and veneration for the favors God granted them, for the virtues they practiced, and for the glory with which God has crowned them in heaven. We commend ourselves to their prayers.

“It is a most precious grace that God should have destined the saints to be our protectors and our friends. Saint Bernard said that the honor we give them is less a glory for them than a help to us, and that we may call upon them with full confidence because they know how greatly we are exposed to dangers on earth, for they remember the perils that they themselves had to face during their lifetimes.” – Curé d’Ars.

The friendship that binds us to all the saints, and which is encouraged and commemorated by the feast-days of the Church, is not the invention of a handful of bigots or a commercial stunt manufactured by merchants of religious medallions. The communion of saints answers a definite need, and insofar as we neglect any one of the forms of spiritual life we are cutting ourselves off from a source of divine grace and making ourselves just a little blinder than we are already.

We too can be saints and we must all strive to become so.

“The saints were mortals like us, weak and subject to the passions, as we are. We have the same help, the same means of grace, the same sacraments, but we must be like them and renounce the pleasures of the world, shunning the evils of the world as much as we can and remaining faithful to grace. We must take the saints as our models or be damned, that we must live either for heaven or for hell. There is no middle way.” – the Curé d’Ars.

The Church has celebrated some feast in honor of the saints from the period of primitive Christianity. There is tentative evidence of the celebration to honor all the martyrs in the writings of Tertullian (died 223) and Gregory of Nyssa (died 395). It was definitely observed at the time of Saint Ephraem (died 373), who in the Nisibene Hymnus mentions a feast kept in honor of “the martyrs of all the earth” on May 13. It should be noted that on May 13, c.609, Pope Saint Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon of Rome in honor of our Lady and all martyrs – another instance of something pagan baptized by Christianity for a new purpose dedicated to God. The Venerable Bede says that the pope designed that “the memory of all the saints might in future be honored in the place which had formerly been devoted to the worship, not of gods, but of demons.”

By 411 as indicated in the Syriac Short Martyrology, throughout the Syrian Church the Friday in the Octave of Easter was celebrated as the feast of “all the martyrs.” Chaldean Catholics still maintain Easter Friday in honor of the martyrs.

Since at least the time of Saint John Chrysostom (died 407), the Byzantine churches have kept a feast of all the martyrs on the Sunday after Pentecost (Chrysostom, A panegyric of all the martyrs that have suffered throughout the world).

We are not quite sure how November 1 came to be commemorated in honor of all the saints in the West. We do know that by AD 800, Blessed Alcuin was in the habit of keeping the solemnitas sanctissima of All Saints on November 1, preceded by a three-day fast. His friend Bishop Arno of Salzburg had presided over a synod in Bavaria (Germany) which included that day in its list of holy days (Walsh).

Why has the Church included such a day in its calendar? To honor all the saints – known and unknown to us – reigning together in glory; to give thanks to God for the graces with which He crowns all the elect; to excite ourselves to humble imitation of their virtues; to implore the Divine Mercy through the help of these intercessors; and to repair any failures in not having properly honored God in His saints on their individual feast days.

Saint Bernard wrote: “It is our interest to honor the memory of the saints, not theirs. Would you know how it is our interest? from the remembrance of them I feel, I confess, a triple vehement desire kindled in my breast – of their company, of their bliss, and of their intercession.

“First, of their company. To think of the saints is in some measure to see them. Thus we are in part, and this the better part of ourselves, in the land of the living, provided our affection goes along with our thoughts or remembrance: yet not as they are. The saints are there present, and in their persons; we are there only in affection and desires. Ah! when shall we join our fathers? when shall we be made the fellow-citizens of the blessed spirits, of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and virgins? when shall we be mixed in the choir of the saints?

“The remembrance of each one among the saints is, as it were, a new spark, or rather torch, which sets our souls more vehemently on fire, and makes us ardently sigh to behold and embrace them, so that we seem to ourselves even now to be amongst them. And from this distant place of banishment we dart our affections sometimes towards the whole assembly, sometimes towards this, and sometimes that happy spirit. What sloth is it that we do not launch our souls into the midst of those happy troops, and burst hence by continual sighs! The church of the first-born waits for us; yet we loiter. The saints earnestly long for our arrival; yet we despise them. Let us with all the ardor of our souls prevent those who are expecting us; let us hasten to those who are waiting for us.”

Secondly, he mentions the desire of their bliss; and, lastly, the succor of their intercession, and adds: “Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you, my friends. You know our danger, our frail mould, our ignorance, and the snares of our enemies; you know our weakness, and the fury of their assaults. For I speak to you who have been under the like temptation; who have overcome the like assaults; have escaped the like snares; and have learned compassion from what you yourselves have suffered. – We are members of the same Head. – Your glory is not to be consummated without us. . . .” (Bernard of Clairvaux, Serm. 5 de fest. omnium sanct., n. 5, 6).

In his sermon on the Vigil of Saints Peter and Paul, Bernard also writes: “He who was powerful on earth is more powerful in heaven, where he stands before the face of his Lord. And if he had compassion on sinners, and prayed for them while he lived on earth, he now prays to the Father for us so much the more earnestly as he more truly knows our extreme necessities and miseries; his blessed country has not changed, but increased his charity. Though now impassible, he is not a stranger to compassion: by standing before the throne of mercy, he has put on the tender bowels of mercy. . . .”

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 August 2020. Web. 6 December 2020. <>