In the Catholic church, it is common to celebrate particular Feast days for saints. Christmas, or the birth of Jesus, is the most popular of all Feast days, both for Catholics and Christians everywhere. Even people of no faith often times celebrate Christmas. Other recognized feast days include those that celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary, like the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th or the Nativity of Mary on September 8th. We also celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24th. It’s the only other birthday the Church honors on its calendar! Other popular saints like St. Teresa of Avila (October 15), St. John Paul II (October 22) or St. Maria Gorretti (July 6) have their own celebrations as well.
But what about all those saints that we don’t recognize with a special Mass throughout the year? That is what the Feast of All Saints is for, observed every year on November 1st.
Every person who has passed on and is now in Heaven is recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. The saints who have their own special days in the Church calendar, like those mentioned above, are the most popular and universally celebrated by people everywhere. They were formally recognized by the Church as being a person who lived a life of heroic virtue and then after their death, they continued to work on earth from Heaven by performing certified miracles. There is a whole process called canonization in which the Church studies the life and death of a person to determine if they are actually in Heaven. If they are, they can eventually be canonized as a Saint.
The Church admits however, that there exists a vast number of saints not universally acclaimed because we honestly do not know who they are. Perhaps one day we will see Aunt Matilda or Uncle Jack when we get to Heaven. These two could be saints as well, but unless the Church undertakes the formal process for recognizing them, we will not know until we get there and see them ourselves. And the formal process does not begin unless the person had a following during their lifetime. One of the most recent and clear examples of this is St. John Paul II.
During his life, Saint Pope John Paul II made such an impression on people throughout the world by his holy demeanor and obvious piety that when he died, pilgrims stood in St. Peter’s square and chanted the words “Santo Subito” meaning – make him a saint now!
The Aunt Matilda’s and Uncle Jacks of the world, usually live a life of quiet piety and holiness which may be recognized by family and friends but not in the universal way it happened with Saint Pope John Paul II. And it is for all of these unknown and unheard of saints that the Church prays in thanksgiving and celebrates on the Feast of All Saints.
All you holy men and women of God, pray for us!