Thank you to Anna-Kathryn Kline for this reflection on All Saints’ Day. Anna-Kathryn is a military spouse who uses the liturgical year to provide stability and familiarity to her home. She is the privileged stay-at-home mother of three little girls and spends her days rediscovering her childhood by coming alongside her girls in the pursuit of wonder.
This is the first year my family will be celebrating All Saints’ Day and I’m really excited about it. And, quite frankly, I’m excited to be excited. For the past few years, October 31st (Reformation Day) and November 1st (All Saints’) have been strange days for me full of new feelings. Our new catholic (lower case) beliefs have given us a strong desire to see the unity of the Church and grief over the lack of brotherly love and unity we see before us:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” 1 Cor. 12:12
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Col. 3:13
I could, of course, go on, but I will move on to what my conundrum about Reformation has been the past couple years: How is it forgiving, how is it loving, how is it promoting unity among God’s true body on Earth to celebrate a day of schism? Regarding the Reformation, certainly reforms were needed. Regarding theological differences, certainly continued dialogue is needed. However, much, even the majority of what I see and hear from friends and on social media is a dismissal of ecclesial community in favor of a football game-style chant of “WE WON . . . .” You fill in the missing words with what you hear at football games or on Reformation day.
What happened to, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8).
A friend recently asked me if I would be okay with Reformation Day if it were more along the lines of St. Martin Luther Day. I laughed and thought what a great idea. It is good to recognize the bravery of the reformers. I continue to use “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” for all of October to daily sing with my littles. Yet I also pray, so that my children can hear me, for the unity of His body and the reconciliation of believers.
In his book Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, Hans Boersma says this about the current Christian climate:
“What we need is evangelicals and Catholics who discern the primary demand of our time: a celebration of our heavenly participation in the eternal Word of God. Only a heavenly minded Christian faith will do us any earthly good” (p. 99).
Though Boersma does not make any connection to All Saints’ Day, I did. What could be more purposeful in pursuing unity of the Body than to recognize the saints gone before us and to celebrate the communion of saints past and present? Now do you see why I’m excited this year? Instead of focusing on disunity, this year our house will focus on the heavenly participation of saints and their relationship to us now on Earth.
All Saints’ Day is a beautiful holy day where we celebrate all those who have entered Heaven, even those saints known only to God (in other words, not official saints of the Church). It is common practice to celebrate deceased family members who, without their testimony and guidance, we wouldn’t have the Christian heritage that we claim. In some cultures, this is a day to visit graves and repair them or simply leave flowers. Of course, we also celebrate recognized saints. One of the most common tradition for children is to dress up as saints. Two days of dress up?! My kids will be thrilled. I marvel at the fittingness of Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) with All Saints’ Day. On Halloween, children dress up to make fun of death (1Cor. 15:55). Then, we immediately dress up as those who have already attained Heaven in place of death.
Since this is my first year of celebrating All Saints’ Day, I have no traditions to share. All my activities will be from a Pinterest search for All Saints’ Day. My favorite ideas have come from CatholicIcing.com and CatholicCulture.org. Because I need to do things in baby steps, I will not be attempting to sew new costumes for my kiddos. However, I found beautiful coloring pages, paper bag puppet saint templates, recipes, and games to play. I particularly liked the idea of making our Armor of God and putting it on so that we become saints. We memorized Ephesians 6: 10-18 last year and I’m grateful for a fun way to sneak in review.
There will be prayer for the unity of the church, there will be “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” sung at the top of our lungs while we march in our armor, there will be saint stories read and family saint stories shared.
We will end the day with a flaming cupcake. I particularly liked this because it will give me a chance to tell one of my favorite stories (Forgive me, I have no reference):
There were two monks walking in a desert. One was sharing how he really admired his companion and wished he could be filled with the Holy Spirit as he was. His companion told him to look at him and tell him what he saw. The monk was filled with awe and gasped that he saw flames coming from his eyes. His companion said, “I, too, see flames coming from your eyes. No more complaining. You have the Holy Spirit.”
In fact, we all have the Holy Spirit and through prayer we can fan a little flame until it becomes a roaring fire, just like what we see in a saint’s eye.
Featured image: Detail from Fra Angelico: The Last Judgement