Happy All Saints Day, Reader. May they help you more than they’re helping me at the moment.
If you didn’t grow up around Catholicism and My Size Crucified Jesus like I did, you may not know about All Saints and All Souls and All Hallows and all the all that all can all. Halloween (never one of my favorite holidays, as I had an uncle who worked for Spencers and would send my older brother boxes of things to make my life hell) is descended from All Hallows Eve, one of the several usurped pagan holidays built into the Christian calendar for “higher” purposes (thanks, Greg!). It, like most everything else, had to do with the changing of the year (because north of the equator, you notice winter in a hurry), but also with the realization of all cultures that dead people should probably stay dead and happily so. Appease the dead, therefore, and keep them from taking the living down with them.
And, since we do like our esteemed ancestors, the Church added some days to venerate the dead who had so graciously not become evil zombies. All Saints Day (November 1) is a Catholic feast day celebrating the Big Saints, the ones who make it into dictionaries and papal titles and such like Mary and Mary and Mary and James. All Souls Day (November 2) is for celebrating your own personal dead, like your grandfather or your brother-in-law or your favorite chemistry partner in college.
While I’m no longer Catholic, I still appreciate this idea. There’s an honor aspect to it, sure, but there’s also this concept that The Next Life is connected to this one, that we haven’t totally lost the people who’ve died but they’re still hanging out, checking in. I don’t take this as far as many; one of the things Catholics get ragged on for is “worship” of the saints because they’ve assigned them to everything. It’s not worship, though—it’s more like calling the secretary so you don’t have to bring that order for new staples to the CEO. Again, being a good little Protestant, I have no qualms taking my order for staples to God Himself, but I see where that could be a comfort. And it’s true, God doesn’t have nearly as cool a rhyme as St. Anthony for when you’ve lost your keys.
So today we honor the VIPs of faith, the ones who rocked the world because they followed this Guy Who told them that the status quo was not enough, because they decided that faith was more important than fitting in. These are the ones that we look to as inspiration, as help, as hope that God doesn’t ask us to do huge things without any assistance at all. Plus, the biggie saints are awesome because a lot of them are scoundrels. They were so very human and yet God could use them, could love them, could change the world with them. That is some good news, right there! On a day where I’m writing so as to avoid setting fire to my desk covered in vouchers and receipts and half-finished paperwork from all of the professors that hand me things and hope for the best while I get buried under the holes they’ve left in information I need, I could totally use the encouragement that God uses the everyday people to do extraordinary things. I appreciate the reminder that the VIPs are VI because they were Ps; it was their willingness to trust because of and despite their utter humanity that made them important to us as we follow. Their example also points us to the original Example, who took His humanity and made it perfect, like it was meant to be. Who wouldn’t want to be a signpost for that?
So find a favored saint today, Reader, perhaps of headaches or fishermen or painting or the country of Denmark. Connect to the past that you may celebrate the present, and then rejoice in the gift of those you’ve known tomorrow, honoring the live they’ve lived. As for me, I’m going back to my desk with St. Matthew to see if we can’t calm me down enough to make sure the travel voucher and the generic voucher don’t cross receipts before they get sent to the dean.
Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, WEB)