One Family in the Communion of Saints
Halloween is traditionally a day in our country for children and others who are young at heart to dress up in costumes and have a bit of frivolous fun. Of course, in the Church, the day points to something far greater: The origin of the word “Halloween” is from the old English “All Hallows Eve,” that is, it is the Vigil of All Saints Day.
On this day tomorrow, November 1, we celebrate the saints, those holy and heroic women and men who have gone before us virtuous and undaunted. They have given us examples of what it means to follow Christ, and this solemnity reminds us how through perseverance, faith, love and grace, they have now arrived at full communion with God in heaven. They have achieved the goal to which we all are called.
Though we on earth may still be far from heaven, we can feel a closeness to the saints because we are all members of the same family. This is why we feel comfortable invoking their names – Saints Thérèse, Francis, Augustine, Bernadette, Padre Pio and many more – and asking their intercession. While we can call on any of the holy ones now in heaven, there are some who have a special connection to us here in America and, in recognition of the role they have played in the life of the Church, their images now adorn the Trinity Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to our Blessed Mother Mary, Patroness of the United States, they include Saints Juan Diego, Junípero Serra, Kateri Tekakwitha, Elizabeth Ann Seton, John Neumann, Katharine Drexel, Rose Philippine Duchesne, Frances Cabrini, Damien de Veuster, Marianne Cope, Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, Lorenzo Ruiz, Josephine Bakhita, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as well as Blessed Pope Paul VI.
There are countless more saints who may not be officially canonized, but their names are known to God and they also intercede for us. Residing now in the communion of the One who is the fullness of Love, all the saints bid us all to follow them, to be holy ourselves here and now, not merely at the end of our earthly sojourn.
All Saints Day teaches us that the communion of saints is not limited to those in heaven. Each member of the Church is called to be a saint during his or her own pilgrim journey on this earth. No one says it is easy. But through faith, perseverance, prayer and love, by the grace of God, we can grow in holiness in our lives until that day we arrive at full communion with him, able to stand before his throne of justice, interceding for others like the saints in heaven now do.