Special Reflection – All Saints Day

ALL SAINTS DAY – THE HISTORY

TO THE SAINTS KNOWN AND NOT KNOWN

9 “What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

According to the Roman Catholic Church, we are all saints, like we are all teachers. However, there are some who have demonstrated a special ability to impact others in such a way that it leads to the conversion of many.  So it is these people who we uphold and celebrate their life lived for our Christ Jesus,  a life lived unselfishly, and perhaps a life lived with purpose and grace which shines like a beacon throughout the world in every culture, country, race, and creed; for there is a Saint for every one of us. So the question I think which is most important for those who are not Catholic or Orthodox; “How can we, people of many beliefs, and many religions connect our faith to Saints?”

To start with if truth be told, Saints are ordinary people who lived and died and were venerated long before the Catholic Church was formed, and the tradition of veneration was one that came about because of the Roman persecution of the Christians. Those who died at the hands of the Romans were called Martyrs with which after their death were celebrated as being Holy, One with Christ because they died for Christ. As written in the The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) to answer the question, “When did the custom of canonizing saints start, and is it true that canonizations are infallible?”, this being a question that many Catholics were asking at the time, and was answered by two unnamed experts who wrote, “The faithful of the primitive Church believed that martyrs were perfect Christians and saints since they had shown the supreme proof of love by giving their lives for Christ; by their sufferings, they had attained eternal life and were indefensibly united to Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body.”  Therefore, to celebrate the life a person who died for Christ is in a way celebrating the life of Jesus because Christ Himself died for us. On the other hand I have heard it said that it is wrong to venerate a person who was sinful in their life and who “Yes”, was a believer, and “Yes”, was a Christian who did wonderful things for others, and who was loving, caring, merciful, and gracious during their life, but “Yes”, was a sinner none the less. To this charge I must advocate the following after much contemplation, that we are all sinners, we are all in need of God’s divine mercy and forgiveness. But the idea that a person can be so stead fast in their love and faith for Christ, exhibiting the same love Christ showed for us, then “Yes”, they indeed should be remembered and their name written down for all time. The example we celebrate has to do with the exhibition of love and faith in Christ, and less to do with the sins that is common among all of us because Christ forgives us our sins, because Christ died to cleans us of our sins. In this way we are all connected to those who are officially and unofficially canonized as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church, by the Pope. Because if we look past the religion, the man made traditions, and look at the humanity within the celebration of a life lived for Christ, then in this special and most basic way are we all connected in the celebration. In this way we are all sitting at the same table in observance of a feast for Christ.

Mary – Mother of Jesus a Saint?

26 “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’” ~ Luke 1:26-28

In the history of Saints there are many who died and martyred on behalf of their faith and belief in the sanctity of Christ. However, the Roman Catholic Church maintains that Mary – Mother of Jesus is the first Saint. To many who are not Catholic the veneration of Mary is troubling because many religions acknowledge that though Mary was Holy, being chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, she served her purpose and after the events of the Nativity became a mother and a wife rearing other children of Joseph’s and in a large degree lived an ordinary life doing nothing more than the rest of us. So when the Catholics hold the May Crowning, a veneration of the Holy, Blessed Mary, and call her the Queen of Angels this upsets people from other religions who do not see or celebrate what the Catholics do on behalf of Mary. I know all this because I was one of them. However, it is my policy to be open-minded and to study the facts and try to see the viewpoint of other people as they see them. I urge this of everyone, especially those who follow Listening Faithfully.

So as written by J.C. Tierney and modified by Michael Duricy, on behalf of the The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio, who declared, “Following Christ means doing as he does, and as much as possible being as he is. Early Christians believed that martyrs were perfect followers of Christ and saints because they had shown the supreme proof of love by giving their lives for Christ. Later on this was extended to people who defended the faith and excelled in Christian faith (doctrine, charity, virtue, austere life, etc.). In all of this the likeness, proximity, intimacy with and the following of Christ remains of paramount importance. Here is the real reason why Mary is a Saint.  Mary has been the first and faithful disciple of her son as his mother, educator, follower to the foot of the cross, and steward of his legacy and mission among the first Christians. Mary’s cooperation for the sake of the world at the side of her son continues even now and until the end of times. All of this was and is possible because of God’s special love and help, promised to her by the angel at the Annunciation and reiterated by Elizabeth during Mary’s visit. To be blessed or full of grace means to have the Spirit of God, which is also the Spirit of Christ. We all receive this Spirit that Mary had received in a special way. It helps us to make our lives ever more like that of Christ, in other words, to become Saints. It is in this sense that the Church recognizes in Mary the greatest of all Saints.” (2008)  Therefore, it is these things which enabled Jesus to be born, lived and was able to die on our behalf, thus if it was not for Mary, His mother we would not be saved. Again by celebrating these facts in a sense do we also celebrate all mothers who give life to the world by being present in their child’s life, teaching them, loving them, and by raising them up in the ammunition of the Lord. In this model we see the humanity, we see the non-religious reasons why we love, if it was not for God who first loved us, allowing us to receive the Holy Spirit we would not be able to celebrate Mary our mother through Christ, which is an idea we all can rally around regardless of religious affiliation.

How Should We Revere a Saint?

43 “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”  ~ Luke 23:43

The argument many non-Catholics have against the Saints as the Catholic tradition celebrates them is for many non-Catholics a stretch. Why? The best answer for this question comes from the website, Got Questions.org, Where the question, How does the Roman Catholic understanding of “saints” compare with the biblical teaching?  Answer: “Not very well. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth. In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop. In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint. In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshipped. In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.”  These statements, in general make the common man/women argument against Saints in general. Still another argument which is also popular among non-catholics goes something like this, “Who gave the right to the Catholic Church to make Saints?” Again, these issues come form a lack of understanding about the subject matter in general and the lack of knowledge of Christian history. In addition, before the Roman Catholic Church was created by the Roman Emperor Constantine who also established himself as the head of the church in 313 A.D by issuing the Edict of Milan that decriminalized Christian worship, and which made this new “Christianity” the official religion of the Roman Empire. Secondly, in AD 325. This first ecumenical council was held to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom. The major outcomes of the First Council of Nicaea was to settle two issues of the early church, that being first the nature of the Son of God and his relationship to God the Father and then second the construction of the first part of the Creed of Nicaea which established the uniform observance of the date of Easter and the creation of early canon law.

The New Definition

27 “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” ~ Romans 8:27-29

In short, the Romans created the Catholic Church as we know it today. However, more importantly the root of all Christendom does not being in 313 – 325 with Constantine, rather it begins with the acceptance of  Mary to be the Mother of Christ Jesus as written in Luke 1:26-38, it begins with the our Lords birth into this world of sin, and His message that was delivered to the world through His ministry which lasted three years and is validated through His death and resurrection and ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. To believe in the life of Jesus, in his message to mankind, to understand the significance of the work of which He accomplished here on earth is the foundations of which every human being is too aspire and is the true justification of how we should revere people who bring others to God. In this every one of us is a Saint, every one of us receives the same message from God through the Holy Spirit, and this message spans beyond any time frame of man. So, we as Christians with this new definition can look at any religion and see past the man-made laws and traditions to reveal the Godly message to which we aspire too exhibiting them in our own lives. “Yes”, Saints are here on earth, for this is the proving grounds, and “Yes”, Saints are in heaven because this is the promise of Jesus as he died on the cross as written in Luke 23:43, and “Yes”, Saints are also sinners because they are human beings just like everyone else born here on earth with the important exception of Jesus the Son of God. To say someone is a Saint – to revere them – to honor them – to celebrate their actions as mortals is just and is right. But, to set aside legal means to declare someone a saint isn’t necessarily a biblical edict but it does satisfy mans need to assign categories over his surroundings that which gives him power and sets his mind at ease. In this regard we should dismiss legality and celebrate the attempt our earthly Saints have made, the sacrifices they were willing to endure, and the message they send as it connects all of us to our creator. This is how we should properly revere Saints, and so in doing this observance of All Saints Day we are truly celebrating the known and the unknown men and women who gave their life for Christ as he gave his life for us so that we could have the hope of salvation. One does not need to be a martyr, or hear special messages from God, or be a Catholic, but rather believe in God, believe in Jesus, believe that Our Holy Father works His divine will through us and for us and in that even Gandhi – a man who lead the peaceful Indian independence movement in British-ruled India, Pope Francis – a man who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and devout Catholic and who was named the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and the first Pope from the Americas, and even the 14th Dalai Lama – a man who is the longest-lived head monk of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and who’s message is of peace, and finally even Mother Mary – a women, ( a Jew), who was given the choice to be the mother of God and in doing so became the mother of the world; thus all can be called Saints for Saints are universal. For there is room for everyone from every  walk of life in the eyes of God to be saintly and to be revered as a Saint.

Amen,

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