Friday, November 2, 2012

Saints and Souls

As I've written before, we are Catholics. Both of us are "cradle-to-grave" Catholics, although we are not as devout as our grandparents probably would have liked us to be. I mention this because we have celebrated All Saints Day (yesterday Nov. 1) and All Souls Day today. While All Saints Day is, I think, pretty well known and understood, All Souls Day is, as far as I know, pretty much a Catholic thing. What's the difference you ask? Well, Wikipedia gives this explanation:
All Saints' Day
All Saints Day (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. In the Western calendar it is the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls' Day. In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day commemorates the departed faithful who have not been purified and reached heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in purgatory (the 'Church Suffering'), those in heaven (the 'Church triumphant') and the living (the 'Church Militant'). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church, the word "saints" refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints' Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered."

At any rate, on the drive home from All Souls mass this evening, I was thinking about the difference in the two celebrations for me personally. You probably won't be surprised to learn that I personally know far more sinners than saints, probably because "it takes one to know one." So, while I know something about a few of the "beatified" Saints, (thank you 8 years of Catholic school), I really focus on the good people who have preceded me in death who, I believe are Saints themselves.

On my drive home tonight, however, I realized that of the two days, All Souls Day is the more personal for me. During our mass, the names of those in our parish who have died during the 12 months since the preceding All Soul's day are read and a friend/family member is invited to come forward and light a candle in memory. Tonight, I helped with the lighting and as family/friends came forward, I couldn't help but think about those friends and family that I had lost. While a big part of me still aches at the loss of some of them, I've had sort of gotten to that place where I truly believe they are in heaven. Mostly that belief gives me comfort.



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