Giving glory to God, honoring holy men and women
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The natural glories of these late summer days now fade into autumn’s chill. I hope that, by God’s grace, we anticipate not only the joys of Thanksgiving and the Advent and Christmas seasons, but also the great feasts of this week, All Saints and All Souls.
The Solemnity of All Saints on November 1 gives glory to God and honor to all the holy men and women who have lived in union with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Some of these saints we know by name, and give them individual feasts throughout the year. Just recently, for example, we’ve celebrated St. Teresa of Avila (Oct. 15), St. Luke the Evangelist (Oct. 18), and the first North American martyrs, the Jesuit priests St. Isaac Jogues and St. Jean de Brebeuf, and their companions (Oct. 19). In the weeks to come we will celebrate, among others, St. Charles Borromeo (Nov. 4), St. Martin of Tours (Nov. 11), and St. Cecilia (Nov. 22). Such saints give us hope and the example of living in union with Christ. By their example and intercession, they can help us every day.
But the vast number of God’s saints we do not know by name. Their lives of piety, holiness and charity were lived without fanfare. The great good these men and women did for their neighbors and for society has not been memorialized. This is, indeed, the kind of holy life we strive to live. If we, by God’s grace, persevere in faith all our life, and win through to Heaven, no doubt we too will be this kind of saint. History will not know us by name; but God, who made us and loves us, calls each of us by name.
In the Church’s great wisdom, all these unknown saints are given their own solemn day. By celebrating this solemnity, we praise and thank God for His grace, by which alone we too can become saints. We remind ourselves of the depth of commitment and perseverance necessary for holiness, and renew our love for Christ our Savior. We beg the intercession of all the saints in Heaven, to help us to full conversion, so that we may fully accept His grace, reject the glamour of evil, and grow in faith, hope, and love.
On the following day, the Feast of All Souls, we pray for the salvation of all the dead. Again, most of them we cannot know by name. But as we remember and pray for our own deceased friends and family, and as we hope that we too will receive the prayers of the Church after we die in this life, so also we include all the dead in our prayers. On this day, we use purple or black vestments to symbolize our contrition and the sorrow of our sins. We remind ourselves that God does not save us and make us saints because we are worthy and deserve such glory. We are not; we are sinners. God saves us because He loves us; but if, persisting in our sins, we refuse to love Him, how can we remain in union with Him? For all the dead, then, we beg the forgiveness of sins in this live, and the gift of final penitence at the moment of death.
May the celebration of these two great feasts help us to long for union with God; and to give faithful obedience to Christ and to His Church, and charity for all God’s children. Please continue to pray for me, that I may serve you well as your bishop and guide you, by God’s grace, to salvation. Pray for our clergy and for all families. May God avert from us every evil, especially the scourge of abortion, and increase His saving grace in our midst.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend Walker Nickless
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