Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reclaiming All Saints Day

Today the global Church calendar claims two distinct points of remembrance. The first is Reformation Day, remembering and celebrating those who lead in the reformation movement designed to empower the people of God. The second is All Saints Day, a tradition that has been lost in many protestant traditions. While we acknowledge the gift of the Reformation, this morning we claim the imagery of All Saints Day to call us to remember and celebrate the witness of those who have walked before us.

We begin with a simple question, “What Makes A Saint?”

The Catholic Church has a rather long and complex process for granting sainthood. It works like this; The Steps of Canonization

Here are the steps that must be followed in the process of canonization:
1. A local bishop investigates the candidate's life and writings for evidence of heroic virtue. The information uncovered by the bishop is sent to the Vatican.
2. A panel of theologians and the cardinals of the Congregation for Cause of Saints evaluate the candidate's life.
3. If the panel approves, the pope proclaims that the candidate is venerable, which means that the person is a role model of Catholic virtues.
4. The next step toward sainthood is beatification, which allows a person to be honored by a particular group or region. In order to beatify a candidate, it must be shown that the person is responsible for a posthumous miracle. Martyrs -- those who died for their religious cause -- can be beatified without evidence of a miracle. On Oct. 20, 2003, Mother Teresa was beatified. She is now known as Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata.
5. In order for the candidate to be considered a saint, there must be proof of a second posthumous miracle. If there is, the person is canonized.

These alleged miracles must be submitted to the Vatican for verification. Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross was canonized in 1997 after the Vatican verified that a young girl who ate seven times the lethal dose of Tylenol was suddenly cured. The girl's family was said to have prayed to the spirit of Sister Teresia for help.(1)

After the Reformation, many of the emerging protestant church movements set the celebration of All Saints Day aside with other Catholic elements they thought were beyond the bounds of scripture. While I understand their reasoning, today I want to pick it back up for the morning because there is a part of the celebration that is worthy of remembering. It seems that in casting aside a Catholic tradition, we also cast aside remembering those that have walked before us and left us a spiritual legacy. We also lose the Biblical teaching regarding the saints. Biblically, the word is first heard in the Old Testament where it refers to those who are pious or godly – those who love God and do God’s will. In the New Testament the Greek term refers to those who are set apart to God and thus holy. For the most part the term “saint” is used to refer to the church. It is clear that all who are a part of the body of Christ are saints. (2)

This morning we read a list of names of those who have passed from our midst as a church family in the past two year. When I listened to the names I could not help but think of the roles they played in the life of this church family and the lives they touched with their ministry amongst us. They were ordinary people like you and me, who were embraced and shaped by an extraordinary God who loves us and chooses to work in us and through us. Their witness among us calls to be faithful in our walk with God. It is good to remember and to let the season of grief that we experienced at their passing become a celebration of memory that strengthens and encourages us.
I invite you now to look at the list and see the names that are most meaningful to you. Take a moment to remember and then we will join together in a prayer of thanksgiving and celebration. 10/31/10

(1) Posted at and verified with other internet site references including
(2) Mitchell G. Reddish, “Saints,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, (Mercer Press: Macon, GA, 1990, 5th prnt 1997), pp. 785-6.

1 comment:

Ron Cava said...

Tom, thank you for this post. This is the first time in about six years we have not observed "All Saints Day" in our church. We had adapted it as a way of connecting with the historicity of our faith and as an opportunity to help those who had experienced the death of loved ones in the past year. But the response sadly dwindled. I am left to wonder if that is due to mistrust of all things Catholic by Baptists or that we are not ready to integrate classical spirituality into the art of grieving.