All SaintsThe earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of “all the martyrs.” Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their conscience, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity. In the early centuries the only criterion was popular acclaim, even when the bishop’s approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took form in the last 500 years. Today’s feast honors the obscure as well as the famous—“a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”
All SoulsThe Church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times. “If we had no care for the dead,” Augustine noted, “we would not be in the habit of praying for them.” Yet a liturgical commemoration was not observed until the early Middle Ages, when monastic communities began to mark an annual day of prayer for the departed members. In the middle of the eleventh century, St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny (France), decreed that all Cluniac monasteries sing the Office for the Dead on November 2, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread and was finally adopted throughout the Roman Church. The theological underpinning of the feast is the acknowledgment of human frailty. Since few people achieve perfection in this life but rather go to the grave still scarred with traces of sinfulness, some period of purification seems necessary before a soul comes face to face with God. The Council of Trent affirmed this purgatory state and insisted that the prayers of the living can speed the process of purification.
St. Martin de PorresSt. Martin de Porres was born at Lima in Peru of a Spanish father and a Negro mother in 1579. As a boy he studied medicine which later, as a member of the Dominican Order, he put to good use in helping the poor. He led a humble and disciplined life and was devoted to the holy eucharist. He died in 1639.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dedication of the Lateran BasilicaThe anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which was erected by the Emperor Constantin, has been observed on this day since the twelfth century. This feast was first observed only in Rome but later in honor of the basilica, which is called the mother church of Christendom, the celebration was extended to the whole Latin Church. This action was taken as a sign of devotion to and unity with the Chair of Peter which, as Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.”
St. Leo the GreatSaint Leo was probably born in Rome and was raised to the See of Peter in 440. He was a true pastor and father of souls. He labored strenuously to safeguard the integrity of the faith and vigorously defended the unity of the Church. He pushed back or at least softened the onrush of the barbarians. He has then dservedly won the title “the Great.” He died in 461.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. JosaphatSaint Josaphat was born in the Ukraine of Orthodox parents about the year 1580. Embracing the Catholic faith, he became a Basilian monk. Ordained to the priesthood and chosen bishop of Polock, he worked faithfully for the unity of the Church. Enemies plotted his death, and he was martyred in 1623.
St. Frances Xavier CabriniSaint Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in Lombardy, Italy, in 1850. At Codogno, Italy, in the diocese of Lodi, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1880. In 1887 she established many schools, hospitals and orphanages. With the encouragement of Pope Leo XIII, she set out for the United States in 1889, where, for the next twenty-eight years, she established many schools, hospitals and orphanages. Her missionary zeal also led her to South America where she founded schools in Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua. Mother Cabrini died in Chicago on December 22, 1917, and on July 7, 1946 she became the first United States citizen to be canonized.
St. Albert the GreatSaint Albert was born at Lauingen along the Danube about the year 1206. Having studied at Padua and Paris, he entered the Order of Preachers and excelled as a teacher. Ordained bishop of Ratisbon, he strove earnestly to establish peace among peoples and between cities. He wrote brilliantly on many subjects to the advantage of sacred and secular sciences alike. He died at Cologne in 1280.
St. Margaret of ScotlandSaint Margaret was born around the year 1046 in Hungary where her father was exiled. She was married to King Malcolm III of Scotland and gave birth to eight children. The ideal mother and queen, she died at Edinburgh in 1093.
St. GertrudeSaint Gertrude was born at Eisleben in Thuringia in 1256. As a young girl she was received into the Cistercian nuns at Helfta and applied herself to her studies, concentrating on literature and philosophy. Devoting her life to God, she dedicated herself to the pursuit of perfection, and gave herself over to prayer and contemplation. She died November 17, 1301.
St. Elizabeth of HungarySaint Elizabeth, born in 1207, was the daughter of Andrew, king of Hungary. While still a young girl she was married to Louis the Landgrave of Thuringia, and gave birth to three children. She devoted herself to prayer and meditation. After her husband’s death, she embraced a life of poverty, erecting a hospital in which she herself served the sick. She died at Marburg in 1231.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin MaryThis feast commemorates the dedication of the church of Saint Mary which was built in Jerusalem near the site of the Temple. With Christians of the East, the Latin Church also recalls on this day the tradition according to which Mary as a small child was presented to the Lord by her parents in the Temple.
St. CeciliaIn the fifth century a basilica dedicated to Saint Cecilia was erected at Rome. From that time devotion to her spread, largely owing to accounts of her sufferings. She is praised as the most perfect model of the Christian woman because of her virginity and the martyrdom which she suffered for love of Christ.
St. Clement ISaint Clement, the third pope to rule the Roman Church after Saint Peter, reigned toward the end of the first century. He wrote the famous epistle to the Corinthians to strengthen and encourage peace and unity among them.
St. ColumbanSaint Columban was born in Ireland before the middle of the sixth century. He was well trained in the classics and theology. After entering the monastic life, he went to France and founded many monasteries which he ruled with strict discipline. After being forced into exile, he went to Italy and founded the monastery of Bobbio. He died in 615.
Bl. Miguel Agustin ProBorn into a prosperous, devout family in Mexico, Miguel Agustin Pro entered the Jesuits in 1911 but three years later fled to Granada, Spain, because of religious persecution in Mexico. He was ordained in Belgium in 1925. He immediately returned to Mexico, where he served a Church forced to go underground. He celebrated the Eucharist clandestinely and ministered the other sacraments to small groups of Catholics. Finally he was arrested and sentenced to face a firing squad on November 23, 1927. “Long live Christ the King” were the last words Father Pro uttered before he was executed for being a Catholic priest and serving his flock. He was beatified in 1988.
St. Andrew Dung-Lac and CompanionsSt. Andrew was one of 117 people who were martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862.
Christ the KingThis feast, occurring on the last Sunday of the church year, celebrates the belief that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the universe, ruler of all on earth and in heaven. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in his 1925 encyclical letter Quas Primas in response to growing nationalism and secularism. Pope Paul VI moved it to the Sunday preceding the season of Advent to emphasize its eschatological nature: The Son of God will return as judge of the living and the dead.
St. AndrewSaint Andrew, born at Bethsaida, was a disciple of John the Baptist before he became a follower of Christ, to whom he also brought his brother Peter. With Philip he presented the Gentiles to Christ and, before the miracle in the desert, he pointed out to Christ the boy carrying the loaves and fishes. After Pentecost he preached the Gospel in many lands and was put to death by crucifixion at Achaia.