In this throwback episode of the Morning Blend, listen back to our friend Miriam Marston, Host of Blazing the Trail and Director of Faith Formation at St. Anthony’s in Tigard. Miriam explains the difference between All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Miriam and David discuss how these days are a profound reminder of our connection to the Body of Christ and our universal call to holiness.
Listen to or read the interview below!
As we enter the month of November, a couple of the first things we encounter in the Church are All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These two days are wonderful opportunities to pray for and thank those special people who have gone before us. Miriam, what do you think about the two days? What do they mean to you?
That’s a great question. You know, every day of the year, I should be grateful to be a member of the Church, which is like a huge family. But there’s something about these couple of days, where we’re connected in a particular way to the Communion of Saints, and to just the whole Body of Christ in a really special way.
The first thing that comes to mind are the profound bonds in relationships between the members of the Body of Christ: those Saints who have come before us, those holy men and women among us now, and of course our loved ones who have gone before us too.
“He really has paved a way to sanctity, to holiness. We see all the different personalities and temperaments and backstories and backgrounds of all the Saints. Frankly, there’s nothing that exempts or excuses me from this call.”
I’ll start with the Saints. They really show us that it’s possible to be a saint. We could come up with a whole list of reasons and excuses to say: “Hey, I’m going to kind of avoid this call to holiness, this call to be a saint.” We might say: “It’s not really for me; maybe it’s too late in life to get started, or I’m too busy.”
But then, we see how God has worked in so many people’s lives, and it’s hard to avoid the call because we see how He really has paved a way to sanctity, to holiness. We see all the different personalities and temperaments and backstories and backgrounds of all the saints. Frankly, there’s nothing that exempts or excuses me from this call.
So really it’s very simple. The Saints show us that it’s possible. We talk a lot about St. Therese of Lisieux in her Little Way, but so many other saints have also led very ordinary lives. We see that God really does the extraordinary in the midst of those ordinary lives. In some cases, maybe not really exemplary lives until they finally turned it around.
There is the possibility of profound conversion too. I think of St. Augustine, whose mother, St. Monica, was just literally in tears over the road that her son was taking. And he eventually found his way back home, his way to the church, his way to baptism, and became a towering figure in our Church history, and that came because God did something remarkable that disrupted the trajectory of His life.
It’s funny how you have these memories as a kid, but when I think about the Saints, one of the things that always comes to my mind is Eucharistic Prayer Number One, which has all the different names in that prayer. Of course, they’ve been shortened up with different forms over the course of time, but you know what I’m saying there?
I do, and I’m so glad you mentioned that, because personally, that’s a very special moment for me when I hear that because my patron saint is Saint Agnes, and my sister’s is Saint Cecilia. And in that Eucharistic Prayer, they’re right next to each other. I hear “Agnes, Cecilia…” and it’s just a small moment, but it sort of brings up that sisterly bond that I have here with my sister, but also seeing that reflected in the communion of saints too.
That’s wonderful. Miriam, as the Faith Formation Director, do you get a chance to talk with your RCIA folks about these two special days?
Absolutely. We have other topics assigned to the classes that we’re doing both with the RCIA and with our families, but I do find time to talk about what’s going on in the liturgical calendar as well. Because hat will be important especially for those in RCIA who are getting accustomed to living the Catholic life. For instance, All Saints is a holy day of obligation, so I would not be doing my job if I didn’t mention something about it!
Wonderful. So what about All Souls Day?
Yes, what a beautiful celebration. I was able to attend and also sing for the All Souls DayMass here at St. Anthony’s. There was a very moving moment where they read all the names of our parishioners who have died this year, and we sang a beautiful refrain. And it was difficult not to tear up, especially remembering how the families in our community have been touched by just a lot of tragedy too. We had some pretty sudden deaths.
“As Pope Francis says, we can’t look away from those who are mourning and who are grieving. We must enter into their space. We must really be present to them and not turn away.”
But, like I said at the beginning, this is a moment we remember that this is what the church is! And we come together and pray for those who have died in our community. They are not left alone. The souls in purgatory are not left forgotten. Nor are those who are left behind, who are mourning and grieving this loss – they are not left behind. And that beatitude, David, is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This is a time to kind of remember that as well. As Pope Francis says, we can’t look away from those who are mourning and who are grieving. We must enter into their space. We must really be present to them and not turn away.
So I find that this day is just a chance to do that, and to pray for those in purgatory. It’s hopeful though! They’re in purgatory. That means there’s only one option, right? They’re going to be a saint! And so it’s a hope filled moment as well!
It is a beautiful thought. And I love what you said about how we’re praying for those in purgatory. And what you said about being with those who have lost loved ones, who have lost family members, and how comforting it is to have our friends and family members in the church to be there for us.
Absolutely. And this is the responsibility really, I think, in the Christian life is to present to people. We know that we experience the real presence of Jesus Christ in Communion. Well, I think that bringing the presence of Christ to others in these difficult moments is a tremendous privilege of the Christian life.
Very much so. Miriam, thank you so much. Really enjoy and appreciate your thoughts on All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Oh, it’s my pleasure. Have a blessed day, David!