Similar to the well-known Halls of Fame that exist for professional football, basketball, hockey, baseball and even rock and roll music, the Catholic Church has a Hall of Fame too: All Saints Day.
“There is no one special museum or place for our Hall of Fame, at least not here on earth,” said Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop's All Saints Day Mass in St. Michael Church, West End
PHOTO GALLERY: Parishes, schools celebrate All Saints Day
PHOTO GALLERY: Feast of All Souls Mass in Diocesan Chancery
“Those inducted or, as we Catholics say, ‘canonized,’ are identified by the highest authorities in the Church and ultimately, the Pope, as worthy of special recognition, admiration, veneration and imitation,” Bishop O’Connell said, noting these people are usually first called to the Church’s attention by people who knew and loved them and who witnessed their extraordinary holiness.
“We believe that the saints are with God in heaven and that they continue to pray for us here on earth so that we, like they, would follow the Lord Jesus Christ as we live our lives,” he said.
Parish and school communities from throughout the Diocese joined the universal Church in commemorating the Solemnity of All Saints Nov. 1, a Holy Day of Obligation that honors all of the saints, known and unknown, within the Catholic Church. The following day, Catholics marked All Souls’ Day, known as Día de los Muertos in many Latino communities.
Bishop O’Connell observed the Solemnity at St. Michael Church, West End, where he was principal celebrant and homilist for two Vigil Masses Oct. 31. A number of other parishes and schools added to their observances by inviting their young people to dress as their favorite saint and give short presentations on why that saint is meaningful to him or her.
Father Jean Felicien celebrates Mass for the Feast of All Souls Nov. 2 in the Diocesan Chancery chapel. Rose O'Connor photo
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell said of the saints, “We see their images represented in statues and great works of art in churches, but it is always important for us to remember that they were flesh and blood, human beings like us who lived ordinary lives but in extraordinary ways.
“Their example communicates something to us, long after they lived and died: that closeness to God, that true holiness and goodness, are possible here and now,” said Bishop O’Connell.
Claire D’Antonio was doubly pleased to attend the 4 p.m. Mass. Along with attending Mass for the first time with the Bishop, she said the feast day also brought to mind the saints to which she has a special devotion — John Paul II, Peter, Paul, Francis and Clare, Joseph and the Blessed Mother.
In her prayer, D’Antonio said she finds Mary to be someone who is “easy to talk with and, in our conversation, I find answers.”
Altar server Alexcia Sainvilus, who was happy to serve her first Mass with the Bishop, described All Saints’ Day as a “very special day where we can thank all the saints” for their examples of holiness.
One saint Sainvilus enjoys praying to is St. Lucy Filippini, the founder of the Religious Teachers Filippini community. The Filippini sisters staff St. Jerome School, West Long Branch, where Sainvilus is in sixth grade.
The following day, Nov. 2, the prayer intentions of the Church turned to remembering the faithfully departed.
In the Diocesan Chancery in Lawrenceville, Father Jean Felicien, secretary and master of ceremonies to Bishop O’Connell, celebrated a Mass for the Feast of All Souls with the staff.
“In a special way today, the Church commemorates the souls of all the faithful departed who are not yet in the heavenly jubilation like the saints,” Father Felicien said, explaining that “the faithful departed are in the stage of purification (purgatory) before they will eventually meet their heavenly father.”
While praying for the dead is part of Catholic Tradition, Father Felicien admitted that it can be a struggle to understand the meaning of praying on behalf of the dead.
Denise Contino, director of the diocesan department of catechesis, left, and Terry Ginther, chancellor and executive director of pastoral life and mission, look at the display of photos of deceased loved ones of Chancery staff. Rose O'Connor photo
“As Catholics, we are obliged to pray for the dead because these poor souls cannot pray for themselves,” he said. “In praying for the dead, we express our affection for them and, while praying for the dead, we fulfill an act of mercy.”
Pointing to the altar, where a stack of prayer cards contained the names deceased loved ones of the staff, Father Felicien said, “We are in communion with them, since they form a part of the suffering Church while we are the pilgrim Church on earth.
“Today, as we remember those faithful departed, we are grateful for all that they did for us,” Father Felicien said. “It is now our turn to do for them whatever they cannot do for us. With the prayers we offer today on behalf of the dead, let us express our love for them.”
After Mass, the staff enjoyed sharing conversation over a potluck lunch of homemade dishes that were favorites of their departed loved ones.
EmmaLee Italia, a contributing editor to The Monitor Magazine and TrentonMonitor.com, said she appreciates how All Souls’ Day offers the opportunity for her “to reflect on the lives of my loved ones who have passed on, especially because the busyness of life sometimes gets in the way of that time to contemplate.
“It’s important to have that reminder and to be united with other faithful Catholics in our collective remembrance,” Italia said.
Italia added that it was a privilege to join the chancery staff both for the celebration of Mass — the Eucharistic feast — and for the feast of a shared meal afterward.
“I loved seeing the family photos on the remembrance altar and the dishes that were special to them,” she said, adding that she also enjoyed learning about the Day of the Dead traditions such as the altar, or “ofrenda,” and the symbolism behind each of them.
“Because All Saints’ Day is a holy day of obligation and prominent in our minds, I think it's easy to forget the Feast of All Souls follows immediately after,” Italia continued, “but I think it's important that we have a separate celebration, because those who have died need our prayers on their journey to Heaven.”
Divine Word Father Guilherme Andrino, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lakewood, dressed as St. Patrick, poses for photos with parishioners who dressed as saints as part of the parish's All Saints Day observance. Facebook photo