We are heading into the time of year where the Church takes a closer look at the saints. So far, our lessons have focused on the Domestic Church and the Church around the world, but what about the Church in Heaven? In order to commemorate those who have gone before us, the Church celebrates All Saints day on November 1st and All Souls day on November 2nd. This lesson will focus on what these holidays mean and teach you everything you could ever want to know about the saints.
Introduction Video and Opening Prayer
What is a Saint?
What is a saint and why do we celebrate them? The simplest definition of a saint is “a person in Heaven.” This means there are many saints whose names we do not even know, and are presently known only to God. But what about the saints whose names we do know, saints like St. Monica, St. Faustina, and St. Junipero Serra? What makes them special? These men and women are people the Church has canonized, which means they have been officially declared to be in Heaven.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us more about what it means to be a saint. The Catechism is a book that contains the official teachings of the Catholic Church. If you want really deepen your understanding of the faith, it is a must-have resource! There are even versions for children and teenagers.
Here is the the Catechism’s answer to the question, “Why does the Church formally declare some men and women to be saints?”
“By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e. by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.” (CCC 828)
This is a fancy way of saying that in order to show people it is possible to be holy, the Church points to holy men and women who have gone before us as examples for us to follow. The saints were faithful to God and served Him in very special ways.
How Do I Become a Saint?
Remember, everyone in Heaven is a saint. Therefore, we become saints when we get to Heaven.
Do you remember the video from the tutorial lesson? In it, you heard “Our destiny is really a destination – Heaven.” We are all called to become saints because God wants all of us to be with Him in Heaven. The whole Destined program is meant to help us learn how to live out our saintly destiny. The Church calls this shared destiny the “universal call to holiness.”1
We are all destined for Heaven, but we have to follow God’s plan for our lives to get there. Sometimes we do a good job following God’s plan and sometimes we need to ask for forgiveness when we fall short. Lucky for us, as we learned in our second lesson, God loves to show us mercy and help us get back on track!
God has a plan for every moment of our lives; there is something God has destined us for everyday. The saints are people who followed God’s plan for them in a special way. They were faithful to His plan for them everyday, and always asked for forgiveness any time they weren’t faithful. Over the course of their lives, people recognized the extraordinary ways the saints followed God’s plan.
This recognition of a person’s holiness is the beginning of the canonization process. There is something very attractive about holiness. When we see it in other people, we naturally want to be more like them. When a very holy person dies, people who knew them often hold them up as an example for others. If enough people find out about them, the Church may open their cause for sainthood. See the timeline below for a brief introduction to how the canonization process works.
Stage One: Examining the Candidate’s Life
Normally, five years must pass from the time of a persons death before their cause can be opened. During this stage, the candidate’s diocese examines their life to try and find evidence of the person’s holiness.
Stage 2: The Evidence is sent to Rome. The candidate receives the title, “Servant of God.”
If the diocesan investigation shows that there is strong evidence the person lived a very holy life, the evidence they collected is sent to the “Congregation for the Causes of the Saints” in Rome. Once there, a group of nine theologians (people who study God) will review the evidence and vote on whether they believe the candidate showed “heroic virtue” during their lifetime.
Servant of God Dorothy Day was a controversial figure in her own day and age and has remained so to the present. She spoke boldly in defense of the poor and marginalized and criticized what she saw as the moral decay of mid-century America. She was born in New York City in 1897 and died in 1980. Her cause for sainthood was opened in 2000. Pope Francis praised her during an address he gave to the U.S. Congress in 2015.
Stage 3: The candidate is declared “Venerable”
If the Congregation for the Causes of Saints votes in favor of the candidate’s life of heroic virtue, the case is sent to the Pope for approval. He then authorizes an official declaration stating the candidate lived a heroically virtuous life. The candidate then receives the title “Venerable.”
Venerable Fulton Sheen is an American whose cause for sainthood is currently under investigation. He was a famous Bishop and author, and the host of the T.V. show, “Life is Worth Living.”
Stage 4: Beatification
This is the stage where the Church begins looking for miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession. The miracle must occur after their death and be approved by the Church, following an investigation. Once it is approved, the Pope issues a decree and the candidate is beatified at a special Mass. At this point they are given the title “Blessed.”
Blessed Solanus Casey was beatified on November 18th, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. He spent most of his ministry in the city of Detroit! Many of our St. Mary Magdalen parishoners attended this historic event.
Final Stage: Canonization
A person may be canonized after the verification of a second miracle. At this point, the Pope declares them a saint and holds them up as an example for the whole world!
What do you think of when you think of Halloween? Probably trick or treating, scary costumes, and all manner of ghosts, goblins and ghouls. However, did you know this spooky holiday is closely linked to a celebration of Catholic saints?
To understand the story of Halloween and how it relates to the saints, we have to go all the way back to the ancient Celtic people. They lived in what is now England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and northwest France. Before they converted to Catholicism, they celebrated the New Year on November 1st. They believed that around this time, the souls of people who had died were allowed to come back to Earth. This is where the spooky side of Halloween began.
Eventually these Celtic peoples began converting to Catholicism. It just so happened the Catholic celebration of All Saints and All Souls days fell at the same time as the ancient Celtic new year. The church wanted to correct some issues with the older celebration and encouraged it to be moved to the night before, placing greater emphasis on the celebration of All Souls day. This night-before celebration came to be known as All Hallows Eve and then Halloween.
All Saints Day (November 1st) is the day the Church honors all of the saints in Heaven, both known and unknown. We celebrate many individual saints throughout the year with special memorial masses and feast days. However, on All Saints Day, the Church calls to mind all of the saints and celebrates them together. All Saints Day is a solemnity, one of the most important days of the year!
Have each member of the family complete the following All Saints Day worksheet and glue it into your Destined journal.
All Souls Day (November 2nd) is the day the Church prays for all those who have died. We pray that they may join the ranks of the saints in Heaven. Praying for those who have died is one of the oldest traditions of the Church.
On this day, we pray in a special way for all the souls in Purgatory. Purgatory is where those who “die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified…undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030). Purgatory is not a final destination; rather, it is a place souls go to be prepared for Heaven. While they are there, the prayers of those of us on Earth can help them! All Souls Day gives us a very special opportunity to do so.
There are thousands of canonized saints and countless saints known only to God. One could be forgiven for asking, “out of all of these saints, who is the greatest?” While we honor all of the saints, there is one saint who separated herself from all the others. Can you guess who it is? She is the only saint who can say she is also the mother of God. We are talking of course, about Mary, the Queen of Heaven and all the saints!
This painting by Diego Velazquez shows Mary being crowned as Queen of Heaven. In the Old Testament, the queen wasn’t the king’s wife, it was his mother. Because Jesus is the king, that makes Mary the queen.
Below is a fun activity for anyone with a sweet tooth. We traditionally celebrate Mary’s crowning in May, but I never miss a chance to enjoy a delicious cake!
Let Us Pray!
Prayer can be hard, and it is nice to have help from time to time. When you walk into a Catholic church, you see many things that are meant to help you pray. There are often statues, beautiful stained glass windows, paintings, and much more. Being surrounded by beautiful things helps us better focus on the beauty of God.
God made us with bodies and souls, and prayer involves both working together. All of our senses can be involved in our prayer. Icons like the ones you have made in the lessons so far, can help us to pray. That is why we keep them at our prayer space.
The catechism describes praying with icons beautifully:
“All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united , above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man ‘in the image of God,’ finally transfigured ‘into his likeness,’ who is revealed to our faith.” (CCC 1161)
You can explain this catechism quote to young children in this way: “Icons of Mary and the saints remind us of people who were so much like Jesus, other people thought of Jesus when they saw them. When we look at their icons, we should be inspired to be more like Jesus ourselves. Icons of Mary and the saints remind us they are in Heaven praying for us and helping us become more like Jesus.”
Your prayer challenge this week is to try praying with icons. Follow the instructions in the activity below to find icons that are meaningful to you, and write personal prayers to the saints depicted in them.
Live It Out Activities
These activities are meant to help you celebrate Halloween, All Saints day, and All Souls day, in creative new and fun ways. If the pandemic has you stuck at home and feeling blue, turn to some of these ideas to brighten your day!