Saturday, November 1, 2014

I have always liked All Saints Day.  I'm not really sure why, but it's one of my favorites.  Maybe it's because by November 1, autumn (my favorite season) is in full swing.  Or here in Rome, when the celebration is not on a Saturday, we don't have school (boo for this year.)  Or maybe I just like the Saints (which isn't a bad thing in itself!)  But, I always look forward to the day.

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)
But, today we get to pause and think about the lesser-known saints, those that don't get their own special day.  And especially, I think of those many saints in my own life - the ones that will never be formally recognized by the Church but that taught me what it means to grow in holiness, what it means to love, what it means to be an everyday saint.  I think of my dad, my Aunt Helen, my Uncle Jim, my friend Ali, many holy Marianists, the lists goes on and on.  We read Matthew's account of the Beatitudes today at mass.  We remember the many paths of blessedness - poor in spirit, meekness, hungering for justice, peacefulness, persecution.  Maybe we could also add those from our own special saints - quietness, patience, cheerfulness, stability, laughter, (and from Aunt Helen) always having a dessert to offer! 

St. Dad

St. Ali and friends
Today, we celebrate and remember these saints who continue to be with us, watch over us and prayer for us.  They are our special could of witnesses who surround us and love us in a very special way.  I encourage you to stop and think about those special saints who were and continue to be a part of your life, singing your own litany of thanksgiving for their presence in our lives.
The dome of the Baptistry in Padua.