Roman Catholics just celebrated the feast of All Saints. The feast is held on November 1st and the reason for “All Hallow’s Eve” which has become Halloween. (That’s another story for another time.) For (us) Catholics, it is a Holy Day of Obligation which means we need to go to Mass. (These are special occasions that require Mass attendance above and beyond the weekly, Sunday obligation.) November 2nd is “All Souls Day” (not a Holy Day of Obligation) but another feast day none-the-less. Saints are the dead that now live in the presence of God, Souls are the dead that are still working on getting up there. (Purgatory.) That’s the ultimate goal for all Christians. To become Saints and to live in the presence of God for all of eternity.
There is a beautiful image of the Heavenly Banquet at each and every Mass we attend. (All Saints Day or any other Mass.) When we get to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we cannot not see it all, but the faithful (us) are on one side of the altar and the Saints are on the other side. We “feast” with the Saints on the Eucharist at every, single mass. They are present just as much as we are. (I imagine it as being a very crowded area on that side.)
When I think of the Saints, I imagine my favorites: St. Francis (Patron Saint of Animals,) St. Jude (Patron Saint of Lost Causes,) or even St. Anthony (Patron Saint of Lost Things.) There are many more, but these are the guys I call upon (for intercession) on a regular basis. Their faces are easy to imagine on the other side of the altar. But while I was sitting at Mass this week, I felt the Holy Spirit gently remind me that some of the Saints standing across from me are some of my friends and family that have passed on too. Yeah! Everyone that lives in Heaven, in the continuous presence of God is a Saint. So of course, some of those I have loved and have died share in that experience with me each time I go to Mass. Even the ones who I would have not have thought would have made it to sainthood (judgement.) The God I worship is not bound by my limits and expectations. There is nothing (and no one) He cannot redeem. I knew this of course, but I needed the reminder on Thursday.
We don’t know who is where (Heaven or Purgatory) and it’s actually none of our business. Our job is pray for the souls in Purgatory (as we hope others will pray for us when we have died) but we don’t actually know who’s there. And we ask for the intercession of the Saints (even the ones we knew and loved in this life.) We don’t pray to the Saints, we ask them to pray for us and to intercede on our behalf. (Why not? They’ve got nothing better to do.)
So my image of the group of Saints at Mass has become much more crowded. I imagine faces that I’ve missed at Thanksgiving Dinner or birthday parties. I picture the people who once shared pizza with me or hot fudge sundaes. Some of the more well known Saints are there too, but my family and friends are all around me as well and that brings me hope.