Todos Los Santos

All Saints Fra Angelico

Halloween. Dia de los Santos. Dia de los Muertos. Estos días se tratan de…la muerte. Y de nuestra relación con personas que se han muerto.

Nosotros Cristianos no tememos la muerte. Nuestro Señor Jesucristo ha conquistado la oscuridad de la noche. Ha conquistado la obscuridad de la tumba. El Nombre Sagrado de Jesús hace que tiemblan los demonios.

Y los nombres de Sus Santos también hacen los demonios temblar. Porque los santos también han conquistado la muerte. Reinan en el esplendor eterno de Dios.

Los santos conquistaron la muerte siendo pobres en espíritu, igual que Jesús. Siendo mansos y misericordiosos. Tal como Jesus. Los santos tuvieron hambre y sed de justicia. Lamentaron el pecado del mundo. Aguantaron perseguicion. Buscaron siempre hacer paz. Como Jesús.

Unidos con Jesús en Su santidad divino, los santos comparten en el conquisto de Jesús de la muerte humana. Y nosotros tenemos una relación íntima con esos héroes. Sabemos que nos pueden ayudar. Como buenos amigos con recursos sobrenaturales.

memento-moriEntre los muertos, muchos son santos. Sabemos sin duda que algunos lo son: Es decir, los canonizados. Como los santos Apóstoles, San Jose, San Francisco de Asís, San Teresa. Dicho eso, muchos de los difuntos no son santos todavía porque…están en el purgatorio. Dios los está purificando de sus pecados.

En el Dia de los Santos, nos alegramos con deleite que tantos de nuestros hermanos en fe han llegado al cielo. No rezamos por los santos; rezamos a ellos. Ellos no necesitan nuestras oraciones. Nosotros necesitamos las suyas.

A cambio, por el mes de noviembre, tomamos una oportunidad para rezar por todos nuestros queridos muertos y comendarlos a Dios. Nuestros parientes y amigos que han muerto; nuestros antepasados. Y rezamos por todas las almas en el purgatorio que no tienen a ningún pariente vivo que pueda rezar por ellas.

Las noches se hacen más largas, y eso nos hace recordar que esa peregrinación de la vida terminara. Pero no tenemos nada que temer. Guardamos esto día sagrado, quedándonos cercas a Jesús en el altar, como los santos han hecho.

Days of Death

jackolanternWe have three holidays to deal with, October 31-November 2. Halloween. All Saints. The Day of the Dead. All these days have to do with… Death. And with our relationship with people who have died. [Spanish]

Celebrating Halloween as a pagan involves dark and evil things. But celebrating Halloween as a Christian means costumes, candy, and fun. Because we Christians do not fear death. Our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered the darkness of winter. He has conquered the darkness of night. He has conquered the darkness of the grave. The Holy Name of Jesus makes the demons tremble.

And the names of His saints make the demons tremble, too. Because the saints also have conquered death. They reign in the eternal splendor of God.

So on Halloween and on November 1: we rejoice at the altar. Because the saints conquered death by being poor in spirit, like Jesus. By being meek and merciful. Like Jesus. The saints hungered and thirsted for righteousness. They mourned the sin of the world. They endured persecution. They sought always to make peace. Like Jesus.

United with Jesus in His divine holiness, the saints share in Jesus’ conquest of human death. And we ourselves have an intimate relationship with these heroes who have gone before us. We know that they can help us. Like good friends with supernatural resources.

Among all the dead people, many are saints. We know for a fact that some of them are: namely, the canonized ones. Like the holy Apostles, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese. That said, most of the dead people aren’t saints yet, because… They’re in purgatory. God is purifying them of their sins.

That’s the difference between All Saints Day and All Souls Day. On All Saints Day, we rejoice with delight over the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters in faith have made it to heaven. We do not pray for the saints; we pray to them. They don’t need our prayers. We need theirs.

On All Souls Day, on the other hand, we celebrate an extra, annual funeral for all our beloved dead. We take an extra chance to pray for them and commend them to God. Our relatives and friends who have died; our ancestors. And we pray out of the kindness of our hearts for all the souls in purgatory who don’t have any living relatives left to pray for them.

The nights get longer, and that makes us remember that this pilgrim life will end. But we have nothing to fear. Rather, we keep these holy days, staying close to Jesus at the altar.

Just Thoughts, Righteous Feelings, Good Works

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
upon those boughs which shake against the cold.
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

(Wm. Shakespeare, sonnet 73)

Soon Mother Earth will edge into chill, even with global warming. The waning days of fall remind us that our pilgrim life flies fast. Here in the northern hemisphere, we approach the season of the Last Things.

The Word of God teaches us: the Son of Man will come in glory. At an hour we do not expect. The Judge Who sets all to rights will suddenly arrive from heaven.

st nikolaj velimirovic

St. Nikolaj Velimirovic wrote a little catechism to explain the Christian religion. He poses the question:

How should we prepare ourselves for that tremendous day, Judgment Day?

The saint’s answer:

With just thoughts, with righteous feelings, and with good works, according to the teachings of Christ and the Church, and the example of the saints.

Just thoughts, righteous feelings, good works.

Now, how do we know what thoughts are truly just, what feelings truly righteous, and what works are truly good? By studying the teachings of Christ and His Church, and the example of the saints.

Next week we keep the Solemnity of…?

All Saints day falls on its proper date because, back in Roman times, the pope consecrated a chapel in honor of all the martyrs on November 1. But it’s no co-incidence that we keep the Solemnity of all the saints at the very time of year when the trees and the air remind us that we will all die.

Because the legions of saints show us how to be ready. They teach us that everyone has his or her own individual way of readying him- or herself, by growing ever closer to Christ in the specific little life He has laid out for each of us.

Jesus Christ and His Church—that’s what all the saints have in common. The saints had just thoughts and righteous feelings, and they did good works. We can, too, just like they did—when we stay close to Christ, in His Church.

The Elect

All Saints Fra Angelico

Apparently, there’s a state election coming up. We Virginia voters will choose a new governor, lieutenant governor, and other officials. May all of us who vote do so wisely, thinking first of the poor and the vulnerable.

In church, though, we focus on a different group of elected people. Elected by God, as His beloved children, His friends forever, the heirs of undying holiness.

God chooses His saints, the heavenly company. God starts the whole process, by His choice, His election. Then the saint co-operates. That’s the definition of a saint, I guess: Someone who blithely, lovingly, humbly co-operates with God. “Thy will be done.”

Pope St Gregory IIIWhen people with beautiful souls die, oftentimes those of us still on earth believe that the deceased person must be in heaven. The Church has an extensive process for verifying this. When the Pope canonizes a saint, he gives us the assurance that this particular holy person did certainly co-operate with God. The canonized saint can serve as our role model, and we can count on his or her heavenly assistance.

The Church has canonized thousands of saints through the centuries. We have this particular solemnity of All Saints on our calendar because the ancient persecutions produced so many martyrs that we couldn’t have a feast day for all of them. The Roman emperors who persecuted the Church and threw Christians to the lions gave us way more than 365 martyrs to venerate. The Pope declared this particular feast day, November 1, for all of them. And countless thousands more martyrs and saints have reached heaven since then.

So heaven brims with saints. God knows them all. We know who some of them are for sure, because the Church has certified it. Today we rejoice in the holiness with which all of them co-operated with the plan of God.

Pray for us, all you holy saints of God above, that we might have the grace to co-operate with God and become saints, too.

Getting to Heaven and other news

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Graft, a.k.a. the White Tree

Down on the Mall, they keep putting up sculptures that make you think of The Lord of the Rings.

They don’t mean to do it. In the spring, they unintentionally put up a sculpture of Shelob, the giant spider, in front of the Hirschhorn Museum.

Now they have accidentally installed a sculpture of the White Tree of Gondor.

“Graft” is what they call a Roxy Paine “Dendroid.” Very trendoid in the art world, apparently. Little do these modern sculptors know that they are setting the stage for the success of the quest…

tommy_sheppard…Painful loss for the Wizards this evening. (Maybe Shaq isn’t a liability, after all.)

But congratulations to Wizards V.P. Tommy Sheppard for winning the 2009 NBA Splaver/McHugh “Tribute to Excellence” Award!

…Here is a homily which some poor people had to endure on Sunday, All Saints Day:

Your reward will be great in heaven…You will be comforted…You will inherit the land…You will be satisfied…Mercy will be shown you…You will see God. (see Matthew 5:1-8)

These are Christ’s promises to us. Countless Christians have gone before us, and they have already seen these promises fulfilled. Today we salute the saints. They can attest that the Lord is faithful to His promises.

Up in heaven, the saints rejoice in the faithful goodness of God. Here are a few lines of their hymn:

Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever…Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb. (Revelation 7:10, 12)

The saints see the promises fulfilled, and they sing out praise to God. May our hymns harmonize with the hymn of the saints in heaven. We sing because we believe in the One who made the promises.

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Fra_AngelicoBut before we get carried away, we have to pause. To whom did the Lord make His sweet promises?

Blessed are…

The poor in spirit. They who mourn. The meek. The hungry and thirsty. The merciful. The clean of heart. The peacemakers.

This is what the saints were like when they were on earth: poor, merciful, meek, mourning, hungry, thirsty, pure-hearted peacemakers–like Christ Himself. Christ is the Blessed One, the Man of Promise. To be blessed, to inherit the promises, we must be like Him. We must be united with Him.

Every man who has hope based on Christ makes himself pure as He is pure (I John 3:3).

The saints have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

To receive the promises, we must be purified. To be like Christ, united with Him, we must be washed clean of sin.

We may be humble and poor in spirit, but not humble enough. We may mourn the evils of the world, but we do not mourn them enough. We may be meek, but not meek enough. We may hunger and thirst for righteousness, but we are not hungry and thirsty enough. We may be merciful to our brothers and sisters in this world, but not merciful enough. Our hearts may clean, but they are not clean enough. We may make peace sometimes, but nowhere near often enough.

baptism-holy-card1At the moment after we were baptized, we were pure. For many of us, that was some time ago. Then it was God’s good pleasure to leave us on earth for a while. Our mission on earth is to do good and avoid evil, to be like Christ.

By God’s grace, we have done some good. We praise God for it. On the other hand, because we are weak and selfish, we have not always avoided evil. We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. The good is God’s, the evil is ours. The praise is God’s; the impurity is ours.

If only we could go back to the baptismal font, and get washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb again! If only we could meekly, mournfully approach the Prince of Peace—if only we could kneel before the Throne of Mercy, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and have our hearts cleaned and refreshed!

If only…if only? Would the all-merciful, all-loving Lord leave us high and dry, with no way back to His life-giving waters? Would He make promises that could never be fulfilled, because there was no way to purify ourselves so we could inherit them?

Of course He would not do that. What did He say to the first priests? He said: “Whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven them…Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

confessionalAll Saints Day. Let’s consider the one thing that all the saints have in common. When they trod the earth, they were very different people. They became holy in different ways.

But they all confessed their sins. They were all humble enough to confess. They were not too proud. They were holy, but they knew they were not holy enough.

And they were not too proud to confess their sins to a priest. They were not too Protestantized to admit that the way God’s mercy works is by confessing to a priest.

So, let’s keep All Saints Day holy by singing our hymns of praise to God. Let’s echo the hymns of the saints as best we can. Let’s give the Lord all the praise and glory that are His. Let us salute the saints with joy. And let’s remember that the saints are the people who spent their lives confessing their sins.

Giving the Holy Ones Their Props

Props for the Holy Ones?  None to be seen.
Props for the Holy Ones? None to be seen.
According to the Pope, one of the reasons why we have a Solemnity of All Saints is to make up for all the times we have failed to honor the saints during the rest of the year.

This raises the question: What do we owe the saints?

They of course do not need anything from us. That is the whole point of it: The saints are done with needing things. They are in the state of enjoying–enjoying eternal life with God.

For our sakes, we owe the saints praise, admiration, reverence, and imitation. Their memory is fully alive in heaven; we owe it to ourselves to keep their memory alive here on earth.

Today’s feast provides a good occasion for friendly ecumenical reflection. Protestants have charged the Catholic Church with neglecting God by worshiping the saints.

NOW we're talking.
NOW we're talking.
Now, in truth, to revere a saint is to worship God, since God alone makes a saint a saint. To admire a saint is to admire the work of God’s grace.

Let us Catholics freely express regret, though, for any instances of ignoring God for the sake of saints. Shouldn’t happen. God is God. God alone deserves our highest praise, adoration, and submission. There is no doubt that our dear Protestant brothers and sisters are right to insist on this point.

On the other hand, we Catholics have something to say to our Protestant friends, too. Face it, people: We owe the saints. We owe them some serious props. For our sakes, we owe them liturgical acknowledgement (i.e., prayers).

How, dear Protestant brethren, can you so shamelessly neglect to keep the saints’ feast days? They are up in heaven praying for all of us and winning graces for all of us–and you ignore them? Not nice.

Let us, then, keep All Saints Day by loving the saints all the more and praising them all the more. We need to make up for all our good Christian brothers and sisters who neglect to keep the saints’ feast days.