So, what do we celebrate today? There's some easy answers. In the early Church, there was a tradition of honoring the martyrs on the day of their martyrdom. Of course, that number started to grow, and so common celebrations for groups started to become more practical. Also, in the early seventh century, Pope Boniface IV rededicated the Pantheon in Rome (originally dedicated to all the Roman gods) to "Santa Maria ad Martyres" - St. Mary and the Martyrs - as a way to honor all the martyrs in one church. Over time, the date got fixed to November 1. Here in Rome, it is also a civic holiday.
|The Pantheon - Now the Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs|
|Relics of the 20th Century Martyrs in the Church of St. Bartolomeo in Trastevere|
Sure, the history is nice, but maybe there's something more to all this. For me, it celebrates all the saints, those known but especially those unknown or those special saints close to us. Now don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of the St. Francis-es and the St. Therese-es of the world. And as you probably know, I like going on relic-hunts of the famous saints around the city of Rome.
|The body of St. Catherine of Siena in Rome (her head is in Siena)|
|St. Ali and friends|
|The dome of the Baptistry in Padua.|