This is more than a fight song we would associate with our beloved New Orleans Saints, who's birthday by the way is indeed All Saints Day. This song was made famous by our very own Louis Armstrong and it is a recognition of all those who have gone before us and are indeed in Heaven.
On this Feast Day of All Saints, and as people of faith, we are called to be in that number!
So important this holy day that All Saints is celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation. Why do we, as the Body of Christ celebrate a Feast Day in honor of Saints? And who indeed is a Saint? Can anybody be a Saint?
Indeed, all of us are called to be a Saint. In fact, the Church declares that all who have died and gone to Heaven are indeed Saints! The vast majority of these Saints then would be people unknown to most of us. Often, the Church, after an exhaustive and prayerful process, declares what is already so, that certain men and women are indeed in Heaven and have been declared Saints. We can know these Saints by name and devotion by studying the lives of the Saints and following the Church's liturgical calendar which affixes various days of the year to celebrating the lives of the Saints. But be assured, all who have died in a state of grace and friendship with God and have arrived at eternal happiness in Heaven are Saints. This is a source of great hope for you and me as we too, following in their example, can indeed be Saints!
The Church therefore declares and emphasizes on this Feast Day the Church in Heaven and the Church here on earth are one. The Church extends to the Communion of Saints. This Communion of Saints is a source of unity and strength for the Church. In paragraph 957 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: "our communion with the Saints joins us to Christ." There it is brothers and sisters, we are more closely joined to our Lord and Savior with the help of the Saints. You see it is always to God that we offer worship and to Christ who is our one true mediator between the Father and man. But these friends of Christ and friends of ours, the Saints in Heaven, both those formally named by the Church and those we yet do not know, can help us with their prayers and support. Think of it this way, in praying to the Saints it's not so much the word "to" it properly would be through; we pray to Jesus through the Saints. Said another way, we pray with the Saints!
The practice of naming our children for a Saint is a holy and wonderful thing. Sadly, I notice, through some of the Baptisms I have presided at over these past 8 years, this practice falling into some disuse. This is sad. The help of a particular patron Saint can be a great source of help and hope in the lives of our children. We all receive a Saint name at our Confirmation. For us here in this local parish church we attend Mass under the watchful eye of our patron, St. Jane Francis de Chantal. At our mission Church in Bush, it is St. Michael we count as our patron. Many of us have special and personal devotions to any number of Saints. As an example, as a Permanent Deacon I am especially drawn to the witness of St. Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church as detailed in the Acts of the Apostles. He went on to become the first post-resurrection Christian martyr, so full was his faith in Jesus!
All Saints Day is followed tomorrow by All Souls Day so this is a particular time of year to remember our beloved dead. Many unique traditions in the Church of New Orleans are followed at this time with special blessings of graves and family traditions at our historic burial grounds. We are called as faithful Catholics to pray for our beloved dead, to remember them and to call upon them for assistance if they too be a Saint in Heaven!
So we all want to be in that number, when the Saints go marching in. Since we all know this song, how many of us know how it really starts. Take a listen to the opening lyric of When the Saints Go Marching In:
We are traveling in the footsteps of those who've gone before
But we all will be reunited on a new and sunlit shore
That new and sunlit shore is Heaven and Heaven we pray will be our eternal home. May we, like those Saints, go