origin of the festival of All Saints
began with a desire to celebrate the
countless martyrs of the early church. The practice of honoring the martyrs started in multiple places, all during the
fourth century. It was celebrated on
many different dates until May 11, 609, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the
Pantheon in Rome as a Christian Church in honor of the Virgin Mary and all the
martyrs. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III built a chapel in St. Peter’s
in honor of all the saints,, not just the martyrs. And by the middle of the
eighth century, November 1st became the universal date.
The festival was so
important that the Church gave the celebration it’s own special vigil and by
the 15th century gave All Saints an eight day celebration (an octave). Time moves on, however, and we lose touch
with an event’s meaning. All Saints being no exception. In the reform of the
Church calendar in 1955, the Vigil and the Octave was dropped.
we need the depth of meaning of the festival back in our lives. As bad as the conflicts are in today's
Jerusalem, with the conflict between
Israel and Hamas, a conflict which has been no worse for Christians with
persecutions continuing to this day.
With the downfall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of Islamic extremists
and terrorists, especially with what we have witnessed with the group “Islamic
State” in Iraq, the number of Christians has dwindled to only about
250,000. The ancient Chaldean Church has
been all but wiped out. Christians have
been killed by the thousands. Soldiers
with the Islamic State have been known to give an ultimatum convert or
die. Hundreds if not more have chosen to
die rather than surrender their Christian faith. Maybe All Saints should return
to All Martyrs, because we now have thousands more.
the Saints is fun, and in many of our schools children will dress up as saints
as part of a procession at Mass. This year we might look past the fun.We should
let All Saints be a challenge. Some have a chance to convert or die and they
choose death. We often can’t muster up enough seriousness about our faith to
get to Church on Sunday let alone a holy day.
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