A Brief Reflection on the ‘All’ of All Saints and All Souls

Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Print

By Sister Susan Severin

My favorite feasts of the liturgical year are the twin feasts of All Saints and All Souls, which actually seem to be one two-day feast. I think that is explained by the first word of both: “All.” Everyone is there—we the living, all who have gone before us and all who will come after, variously described as “a great multitude,” “a cloud of witnesses” and “every race, nation, people and tongue.”

How comforting this is! All my family, friends, all our sisters. Catherine McAuley certainly looked forward to the celebration when she said, “Will we all meet in Heaven? O what a joy even to think of it!” 

Is there a distinction between “saints” and “souls”? There is if we consider only the canonized as the first. But I think of us all as the Communion of Saints, all of us joining together with one voice. As we experience so painfully at this time, the more divided, insulated and exclusive we are, the more our vision and openness narrow. “We” no longer includes “all” and separates us from “them.”

I don’t believe we have to wait until we get to Heaven to experience what these feasts celebrate.  A previous translation in the liturgy proclaimed, “Life is changed, not taken away.” People live not only in our memories, but also in our presence. Is not prayer a communication, not only with God, but with the saints and souls?

These feasts invite us to do more than remember. They invite us to see and join that great multitude, that cloud of witnesses here and now. They give us a glimpse of what we might mean by “All.”

All you holy saints of God, pray for and with us now.