In November 1887, the founder of the Paullist Fathers, Servant of God Isaac Hecker, wrote in the Paulist magazine, The Catholic World: “When, in 1843, I first read in the Catechism of the Council of Trent the doctrine of the communion of saints, it went right home.” The doctrine of the communion of saints had a decisive impact upon young Isaac Hecker’s spiritual search, leading him into the Catholic Church a year later.
The communion of saints unites past and present, permeates the Church’s worship, and punctuates the Church’s calendar with so many feasts and memorials of saints, culminating today in this great annual celebration in honor of all the saints. All Saints Day celebrates in particular that part of the communion of saints known as the “Church Triumphant” – not just the thousands of saints officially recognized as such by the Church, but all the holy men and women, known and unknown, who have attained the goal for which we all aim. Living now for ever with God and praising him for ever in heaven, the saints – that great multitude from every nation, race, people, and tongue of whom we heard in today’s 1st reading [Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14] – helps us by interceding on our behalf, uniting their prayers with ours.
The regular reference to and invocation of the angels and the saints, not just today but in every Mass everyday, signifies our union, as the still struggling Church on earth, with the triumphant Church in heaven, and reminds us that the Church’s mission in this world is to mirror that heavenly community of angels and saints – and so transform the world according to the hope that is Jesus Christ’s great gift to his Church and the Church’s gift to the world.
Deliberately celebrated on the day after Halloween, All Saints Day celebrates the hope that replaces fear, exemplified in the lives of the saints and experienced by us in our continued relationship with them – a communion which challenges that great opponent of human hope, death, by connecting us not only with the saints already in heaven but with all who have gone before us with the sign of faith.
Homily for All Saints Day, Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville, TN, October 31-November 1, 2011.