Christians worldwide are observing All Saints Day on November 1, a day that brings heaven closer to Earth, according to a Catholic priest.
Also known as “All Hallows’ Day” or the “Solemnity of All Saints,” this celebration honors saints, both known and unknown. It has been observed on November 1 since the 8th century.
“All Saints Day calls us out of the mire of our earthly struggles, reminding Christians that our true destiny is heaven,” said Fr. Patrick Briscoe, a Dominican friar from Washington, D.C. In Christianity, saints are individuals in heaven, and canonized saints are those officially recognized as being in heaven. The term “canonized” comes from the Greek word “kanṓn,” meaning “measuring rod” or “standard,” signifying virtuous individuals Christians can aspire to emulate.
Fr. Briscoe emphasizes that every Christian is called to holiness, but All Saints Day specifically honors those whose virtuous lives are exemplary. He described it as a day celebrating the multitude of saints in heaven as one united choir around God’s throne, as described in the Book of Revelation.
The saints we honor on this day are known for their unwavering faithfulness to Jesus and the Gospels, according to Briscoe. Catholic masses worldwide feature a Gospel passage from the Book of Matthew, which outlines the path to holiness that all Christians are called to follow. These teachings, known as the Beatitudes, form the core of Christian morality and are essential for leading a holy and happy life.
Fr. Briscoe emphasizes that holiness and happiness go hand in hand. “We don’t have to be sad to be saints! Holiness brings happiness and allows us to be our true selves,” he said.
All Saints Day also highlights the diversity of the saints during their earthly lives. Fr. Briscoe points out that evil is repetitive and uncreative, driven by anger and brokenness, while holiness is creative and dynamic. The unique qualities of the saints bring joy and hope to those still on Earth.
In the Catholic Church in the United States and many other countries, All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation, requiring Catholics to attend Mass. This practice is in line with the teachings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Some Protestant denominations, including Lutherans, also observe All Saints Day. Rev. Hans Fiene, a pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Crestwood, Missouri, explains that the Lutheran Reformation was never meant to discard traditional liturgical practices. Instead, Lutherans retained certain practices, including All Saints Day, while developing their understanding of sainthood.
For Lutherans, All Saints Day is not just a celebration of canonized saints but a day to honor all believers in Christ who have been made holy through His purifying blood. It is a day to thank God for the faithful witness of figures like St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as loved ones who have passed away, joining the eternal song of praise from paradise.
All Saints Day is a significant Christian observance that unites believers across different denominations in celebrating the saints, known and unknown, whose virtuous lives serve as models of faithfulness and holiness.
This day is a reminder that, despite the challenges and sorrows of life on Earth, Christians look forward to their eternal destiny in heaven. It also highlights the diversity of the saints and the joy and hope they bring to those still on this side of eternity.
While some differences exist in how various Christian traditions observe this day, the central message remains a celebration of holiness and the pursuit of happiness in the Christian faith.