"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." - Hebrews 12:1
Fall is perhaps the season where it is easiest to perceive the glory of God in His creation. Particularly fall in New Hampshire. Even as a native, having witnessed the glorious transformation of our environment year after year, I still stand in awe and wonder at the beauty that surrounds me. Watching the seasons unfold and living the familiar routines we associate with the seasons -- apple picking, carving pumpkins, celebrating Thanksgiving in the fall-- provides a structure for our year and a reassuring reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The routine and familiarity brings us comfort.
Just as the changing colors of the leaves on the trees marks a change in earthly seasons, so too does a change in liturgical seasons result in changing colors. Our altars have been draped in green for several months. We are now closing in on the final weeks of the liturgical, or church, year, and soon our altars (and priests!) will be sporting a new color for a new liturgical season. The comfort we find in the changing seasons of our calendar year is mirrored in the meaningful routines and rich traditions of the seasons in the liturgical year.
However, before we head off into the long-awaited season of Advent, the Church, in her wisdom, gives us a fantastic year-end send-off -- we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls' Day all in succession during the last month of the year. In these celebrations, we are reminded that we are not alone. “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses…” We know this great cloud as the Communion of Saints -- a point of faith that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all of the faithful, living and dead. The Church Militant -- the faithful here on Earth, who are “fighting the good fight,” the Church Suffering -- the souls in Purgatory, who are being purified in anticipation of their entry into Heaven, and the Church Triumphant -- the saints in Heaven. Living or dead, we are all connected; we can and should pray for one another.
While All Hallow’s Eve has morphed into a secular celebration of candy and creepy things, it was originally just known as the evening before the more important solemnity of All Saints’. On All Saints’ Day we remember all of the saints in heaven...not just those canonized by the Church. Every soul in Heaven is a saint. They can intercede for us in a powerful way due to their close proximity to God. Praying to a saint is akin to asking a friend or family member to pray for your intentions.
The saints are models of virtue for us and our children to imitate. When we realize that the saints were human beings like us with the same temptations, struggles, failures and triumphs, we have hope that we, too, can one day enjoy the Beatific Vision that is Heaven.
Are you worried about the pandemic? Invoke Catherine of Siena, who ministered to her townspeople suffering from the Black Plague.
Do you have a test coming up that you are worried about? Joseph of Cupertino is your guy! He was not known as a good student, and was able to pass an important test after his prayer was answered. Also, he could fly (look it up)!
Or is school itself difficult for you? St. Ignatius can help. He is known as an intellectual powerhouse, but when he went to university, he had poor study skills and struggled greatly. He knows your difficulties in an intimate way and can pray with deep understanding for you.
Are you sometimes selfish or whiny? St. Therese of Lisieux admits that she was over-sensitive and difficult as a small child. The good news is that she overcame these imperfections by developing her “Little Way” and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope St. John Paul II in 1997.
At Mount Royal Academy, All Saints’ Day is kind of a big deal. Students have been working on saint projects, researching, and planning their costume for the day. I can’t wait to see all the saints come marching into school on November 2nd!
On All Souls' Day, and throughout the month of November, we remember the deceased members of our families and community who may be in Purgatory. Our prayers for their release into heaven are efficacious and an essential act of charity on our part. Our loved ones remain connected to us even after they pass from this earthly life.
"We were made to live in the Communion of Saints. It’s our nature to live in relationships…or a life is not fully human. God made us that way…. It’s our sorrow that we must part from those we love. Yet it’s our faith that relationships need not end." - Scott Hahn, Angels and Saints
Just as I stand in awe at the beauty of the changing seasons, I am equally astounded by the eternal richness of the traditions of the Catholic faith which provide us comfort in knowing that we are never alone, that we remain connected to our loved ones, and have an inheritance with the saints. We are surrounded by that great crowd of witnesses, all journeying together to our true home.
- Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean