Thursday, 1 November 2012
All Saint, All Souls & The Month Of November...
And yet, in reality, the month of November, properly considered, should be a beacon of hope and light for us all. It shows us to what we aspire, and it shows us how we will, most probably, attain it.
We start with the great Feast of All Saints. A glimpse of heaven, it is the Church Triumphant, and we are given a chance to honour all our favourite patron saints, but also, more importantly, we are given the opportunity to celebrate the many saints who are unrecognised...
There are two categories, I like to think, of unrecognised saints. The first one is that of the really saintly individuals who just don't attract a cultus after their death. They will never be canonised because the Church needs a couple of miracles (at least) before that happens, and it is rare that miracles are granted unless we ask for them. Without groups of people actively praying to the deceased for those miracles, and campaigning for the Church to recognise them as saints, the individuals just never make it "onto the books." We may be fortunate in our lives to meet such individuals and to recognise their saintly qualities, but they are the hidden saints.
The second category is, for me, the more interesting one, because it is where most of us hope (and expect) to end up. We all want to be saints (well, anyone who believes in an afterlife, that is.) We just might not describe it that way. Think about it - when was the last time you heard anyone actually declare that they want to go to hell for all eternity? By definition, everyone who is in heaven is a saint. Today is the day to celebrate the mercy and love of God that allows us to hope that we might one day scrape in. All Saints' Day also celebrates all those who have ended up in heaven after their time of purification in Purgatory, and, as such, is a celebration of "the hope which is in us".
Our sins mean that we deserve to go to hell, because all sin is an affront to God. But through the mercy of God, those of us who have not separated ourselves from him by unrepented mortal sin can still hope for heaven. Purgatory is where we are made fit to be in God's presence - it is a gift to us, as we would be unable to bear being in his presence if there was the least stain of sin on our souls. This is the Church Suffering - though every soul in Purgatory rejoices in that suffering which allows them to get to heaven. And so, tomorrow, we celebrate the fact that Purgatory exists - All Souls' Day is even more dear to me than All Saints' Day, and the two are inseparable.
November, with the extra emphasis placed by Holy Mother Church on prayers for the Souls in Purgatory, is a month of great rejoicing.