All Saints’ Day
All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.
Generally, All Saints’ Day is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation. Other countries have different rules according to their national bishop’s conferences. The bishops of each conference have the authority to amend the rules surrounding the obligation of the day.
All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints.
Following the Protestant Reformation, many Protestants retained the holy day, although they dismissed the need to pray for the dead. Instead, the day has been used to commemorate those who have recently died, usually in the past year, and to remember the examples of those who lived holy lives.
The Catholic practice however, celebrates all those who have entered heaven, including saints who are recognized by the Church and those who are not.
Holy day customs vary around the world. In the United States, the day before is Halloween and is usually celebrated by dressing in costumes with themes of death commonly associated. Although nearly everyone celebrates Halloween for the fun of the secular holiday, the following religious solemnity, is not widely practiced or acknowledged by most Americans unless they are Catholic.
It is important to remember these basic facts:
–Halloween is a secular holiday that comes the night before All Saints’ Day.
–All Saints’ Day is on November 1, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation.
–All Souls’ Day in on November 2, and it is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation.
All Souls Day
According to Catholic belief, the soul of a person who dies can go to one of three places. The first is heaven, where a person who dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God goes. The second is hell, where those who die in a state of mortal sin are naturally condemned by their choice. The intermediate option is purgatory, which is thought to be where most people, free of mortal sin, but still in a state of lesser (venial) sin, must go.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls’ Day, specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven (the ‘church penitent’ and the ‘church triumphant’, respectively), and the ‘church militant’ who are the living.
Purgatory is necessary so that souls can be cleansed and perfected before they enter into heaven. There is scriptural basis for this belief. The primary reference is in 2 Maccabees, 12:26 and 12:32. “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out… Thus made atonement for the dead that they might be free from sin.”
Consistent with these teachings and traditions, Catholics believe that through the prayers of the faithful on Earth, the dead are cleansed of their sins so they may enter into heaven.
Additional references are found in Zechariah, Sirach, and the Gospel of Matthew.
POPE ST. LEO THE GREAT
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2017
Nov. 10 is the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgical memorial of the fifth-century Pope Saint Leo I, known as “St. Leo the Great,” whose involvement in the fourth ecumenical council helped prevent the spread of error on Christ’s divine and human natures.
St. Leo intervened for the safety of the Church in the West as well, persuading Attila the Hun to turn back from Rome.
Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also maintain a devotion to the memory of Pope St. Leo the Great. Churches of the Byzantine tradition celebrate his feast day on Feb. 18.
“As the nickname soon attributed to him by tradition suggests,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2008 general audience on the saint, “he was truly one of the greatest pontiffs to have honored the Roman See and made a very important contribution to strengthening its authority and prestige.”
Leo’s origins are obscure and his date of birth unknown. His ancestors are said to have come from Tuscany, though the future pope may have been born in that region or in Rome itself. He became a deacon in Rome in approximately 430, during the pontificate of Pope Celestine I.
During this time, central authority was beginning to decline in the Western portion of the Roman Empire. At some point between 432 and 440, during the reign of Pope St. Celestine’s successor Pope Sixtus III, the Roman Emperor Valentinian III commissioned Leo to travel to the region of Gaul and settle a dispute between military and civil officials.
Pope Sixtus III died in 440 and, like his predecessor Celestine, was canonized as a saint. Leo, away on his diplomatic mission at the time of the Pope’s death, was chosen to be the next Bishop of Rome. Reigning for over two decades, he sought to preserve the unity of the Church in its profession of faith, and to ensure the safety of his people against frequent barbarian invasions.
Leo used his authority, in both doctrinal and disciplinary matters, against a number of heresies troubling the Western church – including Pelagianism (involving the denial of Original Sin) and Manichaeanism (a gnostic system that saw matter as evil). In this same period, many Eastern Christians had begun arguing about the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and divinity.
As early as 445, Leo had intervened in this dispute in the East, which threatened to split the churches of Alexandria and Constantinople. Its eventual resolution was, in fact, rejected in some quarters – leading to the present-day split between Eastern Orthodoxy and the so-called “non-Chalcedonian churches” which accept only three ecumenical councils.
As the fifth-century Christological controversy continued, the Pope urged the gathering of an ecumenical council to resolve the matter. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Pope’s teaching was received as authoritative by the Eastern bishops, who proclaimed: “Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo.”
Leo’s teaching confirmed that Christ’s eternal divine personhood and nature did not absorb or negate the human nature that he assumed in time through the Incarnation. Instead, “the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person.”
“So without leaving his Father’s glory behind, the Son of God comes down from his heavenly throne and enters the depths of our world,” the Pope taught. “Whilst remaining pre-existent, he begins to exist in time. The Lord of the universe veiled his measureless majesty and took on a servant’s form. The God who knew no suffering did not despise becoming a suffering man, and, deathless as he is, to be subject to the laws of death.”
In 452, one year after the Council of Chalcedon, Pope Leo led a delegation which successfully negotiated with the barbarian king Attila to prevent an invasion of Rome. When the Vandal leader Genseric occupied Rome in 455, the Pope confronted him, unarmed, and obtained a guarantee of safety for many of the city’s inhabitants and the churches to which they had fled.
Pope St. Leo the Great died on Nov. 10, 461. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1754. A large collection of his writings and sermons survives, and can be read in translation today.
Saint Martin of Tours
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2017
On Nov. 11, the Catholic Church honors St. Martin of Tours, who left his post in the Roman army to become a “soldier of Christ” as a monk and later bishop.
Martin was born around the year 316 in modern-day Hungary. His family left that region for Italy when his father, a military official of the Roman Empire, had to transfer there. Martin’s parents were pagans, but he felt an attraction to the Catholic faith which had become legal throughout the empire in 313. He received religious instruction at age 10, and even considered becoming a hermit in the desert.
Circumstances, however, forced him to join the Roman army at age 15, when he had not even received baptism. Martin strove to live a humble and upright life in the military, giving away much of his pay to the poor. His generosity led to a life-changing incident, when he encountered a man freezing without warm clothing near a gate at the city of Amiens in Gaul.
As his fellow soldiers passed by the man, Martin stopped and cut his own cloak into two halves with his sword, giving one half to the freezing beggar. That night, the unbaptized soldier saw Christ in a dream, wearing the half-cloak he had given to the poor man. Jesus declared: “Martin, a catechumen, has clothed me with this garment.”
Martin knew that the time for him to join the Church had arrived. He remained in the army for two years after his baptism, but desired to give his life to God more fully than the profession would allow. But when he finally asked for permission to leave the Roman army, during an invasion by the Germans, Martin was accused of cowardice.
He responded by offering to stand before the enemy forces unarmed. “In the name of the Lord Jesus, and protected not by a helmet and buckler, but by the sign of the cross, I will thrust myself into the thickest squadrons of the enemy without fear.” But this display of faith became unnecessary when the Germans sought peace instead, and Martin received his discharge.
After living as a Catholic for some time, Martin traveled to meet Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, a skilled theologian and later canonized saint. Martin’s dedication to the faith impressed the bishop, who asked the former soldier to return to his diocese after he had undertaken a journey back to Hungary to visit his parents. While there, Martin persuaded his mother, though not his father, to join the Church.
In the meantime, however, Hilary had provoked the anger of the Arians, a group that denied Jesus was God. This resulted in the bishop’s banishment, so that Martin could not return to his diocese as intended. Instead Martin spent some time living a life of severe asceticism, which almost resulted in his death. The two met up again in 360, when Hilary’s banishment from Poitiers ended.
After their reunion Hilary granted Martin a piece of land to build what may have been the first monastery in the region of Gaul. During the resulting decade as a monk, Martin became renowned for raising two people from the dead through his prayers. This evidence of his holiness led to his appointment as the third Bishop of Tours in the middle of present-day France.
Martin had not wanted to become a bishop, and had actually been tricked into leaving his monastery in the first place by those who wanted him to lead the local church. Once appointed, he continued to live as a monk, dressing plainly and owning no personal possessions. In this same spirit of sacrifice, he traveled throughout his diocese, from which he is said to have driven out pagan practices.
Both the Church and the Roman Empire passed through a time of upheaval during Martin’s time as bishop. Priscillianism, a heresy involving salvation through a system of secret knowledge, caused such serious problems in Spain and Gaul that civil authorities sentenced the heretics to death. But Martin, along with the Pope and St. Ambrose of Milan, opposed this death sentence for the Priscillianists.
Even in old age, Martin continued to live an austere life focused on the care of souls. His disciple and biographer, St. Sulpicius Severus, noted that the bishop helped all people with their moral, intellectual and spiritual problems. He also helped many laypersons discover their calling to the consecrated life of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Martin foresaw his own death and told his disciples of it. But when his last illness came upon him during a pastoral journey, the bishop felt uncertain about leaving his people.
“Lord, if I am still necessary to thy people, I refuse no labour. Thy holy will be done,” he prayed. He developed a fever, but did not sleep, passing his last several nights in the presence of God in prayer.
“Allow me, my brethren, to look rather towards heaven than upon the earth, that my soul may be directed to take its flight to the Lord to whom it is going,” he told his followers, shortly before he died in November of 397.
St. Martin of Tours has historically been among the most beloved saints in the history of Europe. In a 2007 Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope “that all Christians may be like St Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of love and tireless builders of jointly responsible sharing.”
St. Margaret of Scotland
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2017
On November 16, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Her feast day was originally June 10, but was moved to November 16, the day of her death, upon the renewal of the Church’s Lirutgical calendar. Some continue to celebrate her feast on June 10, but many, including all of Scotland, celebrate her feast today.
Margaret was born into royalty in Hungary around 1045. Her father was Edward Atheling, heir to the English throne, and her mother was Princess Agatha of Hungary. Her family returned to England when she was 10 years old, but the Norman Conquest forced them into exile. By this time, her father had died, and her mother fled with the children. They boarded a ship which crashed onto the coast of Scotland, where they remained.
In 1070, at the age of 25, Margaret married the king of Scotland, Malcolm Canmore. As queen, Margaret’s faith had a strong influence on her husband’s reign. She softened his temper and led him to practice virtue. She dignified the court, providing an example of purity and reverence that led others to follow in her path. She and the king prayed together and fed the hungry, offering a powerful witness of faith to the people they served.
In addition to being a model wife and mother, Margaret worked tirelessly to bring justice and relief to the poor of Scotland. She also built churches and encouraged practices of religious devotion. In her private life, she exhibited great prayerfulness and piety. Her influence was seen not only in her husband’s life, but throughout all of Scotland.
Margaret died in 1093, just four days after her husband and one of her sons were killed in battle. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV and named patron of Scotland in 1673.
Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory by St. Gertrude the Great
November 10, 2016
St. Gertrude the Great was a 13th century German nun, writer, and mystic who was graced with many heavenly visions, including being one of the earliest mystics to whom Jesus encouraged a devotion to his Sacred Heart. It is recounted that Jesus showed her a vast number of souls entering heaven from purgatory as a result of her faithful and frequent recitation of this prayer.
This prayer is contained in the book Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for Holy Souls in Purgatory by Susan Tassone. However, it should be noted that this is not an officially indulgence prayer, and the Vatican has declared that promises to obtain the release of a specific number of souls from purgatory with the recitation of a specific prayer should be rejected.
That should not weaken our resolve, however, from praying fervently for the Holy Souls in purgatory. The Church dedicates the entire month of November to praying in a special way for the Holy Souls (their feast day is November 2nd). You can easily memorize this popular prayer and include it after each decade of your rosary during November, or any time you wish to remember the faithful departed among your family and friends.
Written By: Evan Macklin