The Church sets aside November in particular to reflect upon the unity of the Church here, in heaven and in purgatory. For the Church is not only on this earth, but spans from heaven to earth, and includes the souls who are being brought to perfection after death. And so, on November 1, the Church celebrates All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation, during which we recognize all the saints together, what the letter to the Hebrews calls a “great cloud of witnesses” urging us onto victory. And then, November 2 is All Souls Day, a remembrance of all the souls that have gone before us in the grace of God, but still needing purification. While the Church certainly venerates the saints and prays for the dead during the entire year, November is a consecrated time of reflection upon this communion that joins the people of God throughout time and space, and beyond time and space. And this communion spurs us onto a life worthy to join in the great company of the elect.
For, the veneration of saints, not only gives them rightful honor, but also gives us inspiration from their example. The Church teaches that the saints are not simply the rare few from some distant era or faraway place. They are people who became what we can also become, heroes and heroines of the faith. It is a central theme of Catholic moral theology that all people are called to a life of holiness, a life of heroic joy. That is why St. Paul began most of his letters by describing the recipients of his letters as holy, or those called to be holy.
In addition, the saints are not only examples, but also our friends who encourage us and pray for us here and now. All struggles are easier when borne with friends. And our friends in the greater kingdom assist us greatly in the contest of earthly life and the pilgrimage to the greater kingdom. Developing a sense of their presence thus helps us fulfill our different callings and become worthy of our share in those glorious realms. Of course, this training is difficult, and often must be completed after death. After discussing the connection between the universal call to holiness and democracy, next week this article will turn to our ability to help those people who are completing this training for their final glory.