As the daylight hours diminish and the chill in the air announces that winter is not far away, the month of November begins with the celebration of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).
We read in the Book of Revelation: "There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands" (Rev. 7:9). Saints come in all shapes and sizes. Some are famous for their religious piety, religious fervor or outstanding witness to the Gospel; others came to public notice for theiir heroic fortitude in martyrdom; some might be aptly described as cantankerous, ambitious and worldly. And since the tradition of honoring special people after their deaths h as its roots in the very earliest Christian times, the lives of the saints also embrace many hundreds of years of world history and all the varieties of human activity that can be imagined. The Feast of All Saints remembers not only the "official" saints, that is, those officially pronounced as saints by ecclesiastical authority, but also the countless number of holy, saintly people who lived lives worthy or praise. Included in this group are those people we personally knew; people who had an impact on us because of their religious fervor and witness to Gospel living and values. Some saints are remembered by name, but most are unknown to us. Known or unknown, honored or forgotten, they have one great thing in common; during their lives, all helped to announce the reign and kingdom of God. The idea of holding one feast to celebrate all holy women and men seems to have been born in the early centuries of Christianity. All Saints Day is a celebration perfectly suited to autumn. As we draw towards the end of the agricultural year, we celebrate God's great harvest of all people throughout history who have shown love, joy and service to others. That is why All Saints and its holy eve, Halloween, are made bright with autumn fruits, vegetable and flowers. That is why it is customary to celebrate with apple-bobbing and pumpkin carving and other harvest games. And that is why All Saints's Day is begun with a night of trick-or-treating. People give and receive hospitality, the hallmark virtue of the saints.
The number of canonized saints is relatively small. All Saints day is more than a remembrance of the good, saintly people who lived on earth. This feast celebrates our hope to one day join the saints in heaven. It inspires us to imitate the example of Christian living remembered in the lives of saintly people.