The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls
November marks a special month of remembrance in the Catholic year, where we give thanks to God for all who have been guiding lights in our lives. November 1 is the Feast of All Saints, where we remember all of the Saints in Heaven – those declared and undeclared – who inspire and challenge us to grow into better people. November 2 is the Feast of All Souls, where we lovingly remember all who have died, and pray for those who we have lost in the last year.
Sometimes people think that Saints are perfect people, flawless superhumans who transcend the chaos and ordinariness of daily life to live perfect lives. This could not be further from the truth. Saints are heroes because they are ordinary; because they, like us, struggle, suffer, bleed and hurt. And while the Church names thousands of official Saints, there are many more who are unnamed, the people who, while not famous and known to many, are inspiring because of their love, generosity, courage and faith.
Our founding sisters travelled from Ireland to establish a community in Australia nearly two centuries ago, and they brought with them a uniquely Celtic spirituality which remains with us today. The Celts believed in Thin Places: that there are places where one can walk in two worlds simultaneously – this world and the next. Our world and the eternal world are fused together, and in some times and places that fusion is so strong that the two worlds become one. On the evening before the Feast of All Souls, villagers in Ireland traditionally believed that their loved ones would return to visit with the living. Each year, the villagers would lovingly prepare their homes, sweeping their floors, lighting a good fire in the hearth, placing a bowl of water on the kitchen table, and setting a place at the table for each relative who had died. They would light candles in the window, and before going to bed, would unlock their front doors to allow their loved ones to enter. The care that was shown in preparing their homes reflected the deep love that they felt for their precious friends and relatives. This love stretched beyond this world and touched Heaven. For the villagers, this was an important way to demonstrate that those we love would always have a place in their homes and in their hearts.
We pray for all Saints, whether they be known to many or a few, and call upon them to guide us on our journeys.
We are surrounded by a cloud of faithful witnesses who have gone before us:
Those who have healed where we might have hurt,
Those who have spoken out where we might have remained silent,
Those who have loved when we might have looked away.
Help us to walk in their footsteps,
Learning courage from their sacrifice,
Gaining strength from their faithfulness,
Treading paths of loving obedience,
Leaving footprints for others to walk in.
In faith and love, we pray