All Saints’ Day is approaching. What does the church teach about the Nov. 1 holy day?
From what we can tell historically, All Saints’ Day was first observed in the early 4th century as a way of honoring all the martyrs of the early church. In the 7th century, the celebration of All Saints was expanded to honor all those who were canonized saints. Even though each saint has a feast day – usually tied to the date of his or her death – the church saw this as an opportunity to honor all saints. On that day, we not only remember those who have been officially canonized by the church – such as Peter, Mary Magdalene, Rita and Vincent de Paul, but all those who have been called into the kingdom of heaven. So, it’s not only those who are officially canonized, but anyone who has gone before us and is now in heaven. Some of them would be family members, friends and coworkers who have gone to the Lord and are in his kingdom. Many of us have lived or worked with a saint.
What is the focus of the day’s prayer?
All Saints’ Day is an opportunity to thank God for the devout lives of the saints and to ask them to pray for us as we continue the pilgrimage of life. It’s also a reminder that each of us is called to a life of holiness – we are called to be saints. Saints are not people who walk around with their hands folded in prayer all day long. They, too, are sinners. They are people who live their ordinary lives, as St. Teresa of Calcutta would say, with extraordinary love for God and for others. On All Saints’ Day, we ask the saints to pray for us that we can live a life of holiness and one day join them in the kingdom of heaven.
What will your schedule be for All Saints’ Day?
I will celebrate Mass at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 outside the mausoleum at 10 a.m., and then I will bless the mausoleum and the graves. At 3 p.m., I will celebrate Mass outside the All Saints Mausoleum at Lake Lawn Metairie.
For those who would like some catechetical information, what is All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2?
All Souls’ Day is when we remember all those who have gone before us in death – the church calls them the “faithful departed.” This celebration also goes back to the 7th century. We pray for all relatives and friends and those who are in the process of being invited into the kingdom of heaven and are in the process of purification so that they will inherit the fullness of the kingdom of God in heaven. We can assist them with our prayers and our love.
The archdiocese operates 13 Catholic cemeteries. What can you tell us about that ministry?
I truly appreciate the very dedicated efforts of Sherri Peppo, our cemeteries’ director, and her staff. What Sherri has done is to make people more aware that we do, in fact, have Catholic cemeteries with space available for loved ones. Of course, in our cemeteries, a person of any faith is welcomed to be buried. We believe that Catholic cemeteries are holy ground. As Catholics, we reverence the human body because it is the place within us where God dwells. We treat the body in death with reverence, either through burial or cremation.
Is a Funeral Mass an occasion for evangelization?
Yes, I think funerals, as well as the celebration of All Saints’ Day, are opportunities for us to ask several questions: If God were to call me home tomorrow, am I ready? How have I lived my life, and would I inherit the kingdom of heaven? Do I have any unfinished “business” I need to attend to? Very often, when relatives and friends die, we look at the example they have given us and at how their example can help us live a Christian life.
Everyone grieves in different ways. What do you try to emphasize at a Funeral Mass?
I always say that God is the only one who can truly offer compassion. We try as best we can within our human abilities to offer condolence and compassion, but only God is able to fully provide that compassion. Jesus reaches with outstretched arms to those who are grieving and draws them close to his heart. May the love of the Risen Christ console those who are in grief.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org