At a recent visit to my physiotherapist, Dr. Raborn, one of his young assistants asked me some questions about saints. She asked, what’s the difference between a saint and a really good person?
I explained to her that saints exhibited in their lives what we call “heroic virtue,” that made them stand out. For example, St. Teresa of Calcutta lived a life of simplicity and total dedication to the poor. It was also revealed after her death, as her private correspondence to her spiritual director was made public, that she had spent almost her entire life as a consecrated sister in spiritual darkness, in other words, without any spiritual or emotional consolations, yet, she gave herself totally to Christ’s work with a smile on her face and love for others.
In the early Church the martyrs were so revered, that their graves and dates of death were sanctified by the candles, prayers, and votive offerings of the faithful grateful for their witness. The Church in Rome celebrated the Mass over their tombs.
The Church defines a saint as a soul enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven. So, besides the canonized saints found on the church’s universal calendar and the lesser-known saints not, all those who have died in a state of grace, although not officially recognized, are in fact saints. They are our family members and friends, priests and religious who faithfully lived their lives for the Lord and now are enjoying their eternal reward. And it is these “saints” we celebrate in a particular way today.
In the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author tells us that the saints form a cloud of witnesses, praying and interceding for the church on earth. Without their prayers the church would collapse. They pray without ceasing, interceding for the Church Militant and so God’s graces pour out through their intercession to help families, marriages, parishes, our bishops, priests and religious who lead the church, and all those in need of their help. For Catholics, it is never just a me and Jesus thing. We are the Communion of Saints. We were meant to help each other. We were meant to journey to heaven together. They received the Body of Christ and lived His teachings in an exemplary manner in season and out of season and God called them back to Himself.
A good example of how the Communion of Saints operates, is our doctrine of Purgatory. On the Feast of All Souls, November 2nd we pray for all the souls in Purgatory, all those who are their final journey to heaven, purified of the temporal affects of their sins. Purgatory is a doctrine of hope.
I have asked Glenn Pung to share his testimony of what All Souls Day means to him:
All Souls Day means so much to me as it gives me an opportunity to reflect on what great memories that Dad and Mom have left me with. Losing Dad this past year was very tough and All Souls Day is during a time of year that was cherished by Dad. He always loved this time of the year with the harvest of crops, leaves changing colors and spending time with family and friends. All Souls day also reminds me that it is always tough to lose a loved one and tears will be shed but that it is a time to celebrate the great life that Dad had and the memories that I will be able to carry on forever. I am looking forward to celebrating the life of my Dad and Mom next Tuesday.
The Month of November - Month of the Holy Souls
The month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. The Church commemorates all her faithful children who have departed from this life, but have not yet attained the joys of heaven. St. Paul warns us that we must not be ignorant concerning the dead, nor sorrowful, "even as others who have no hope ... For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven ... and the dead who are in Christ shall rise.”
The Church has always taught us to pray for those who have gone into eternity. Even in the Old Testament prayers and alms were offered for the souls of the dead by those who thought "well and religiously concerning the resurrection." It was believed that "they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them" and that "it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."
Saint Joseph is honored by the Church because he lived a life of innocence and purity; a life of the most genuine virtue; a life of untold merit in the service of Jesus, of Mary, of the Church, and of the whole of mankind; a life of labor, fatigue, and suffering, borne in the spirit of patience, of faith, and with the noblest love.
Tradition tells us that Joseph died in the arms of Jesus, his Son and God, and in the arms of Mary; both, especially at that moment, compensated all his endeavors for them with unheard of graces.
There was something extraordinarily grand and majestic in his departure from life. There exists no more precious masterpiece of grace, no incense more fragrant before the Lord, than the death of a saint (Ps. 115:15). During this month of November we are invited to invoke, in a special way, the intercession of St. Joseph, so that we might be ready when the Lord calls us into the next life.
Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death
Glorious Saint Joseph Behold I choose you today For my special patron in life and at the hours of my death. Preserve and increase in me the spirit of prayer and fervor in the service of God. Remove from me every kind of sin. Lord, obtain for me the divine grace that I may die in a state of grace, and that even now I might have a sincere contrition for my sins and a desire never to offend You. May I breathe forth my soul into the hands of Jesus and Mary. Amen.
Visit and Decorate the Graves of your Family Members
The Church encourages us to visit the graves of our family members and pray for them. We decorate the tombs of our friends and family members as a sign of respect and love for our brothers and sisters who have died and whom we hope to see again.
Pray and Offer Mass for the Souls in Purgatory
During the month of November, the Church highly encourages us to go to Mass and pray for the souls in Purgatory and all those who have died. The Church encourages us as well to make sacrifices and offer prayers for the souls in Purgatory and for all who will die.