All Saint's Day

Candles in a cemetery on All Saints' Day in Finland.

This year, All Saints Day falls on Friday, Nov. 1. Thank goodness. Most definitions of All Saints Day mention these words: the holiday honors “all saints, known and unknown.” Many Saints, those among us, are working the whole week long and — like everyone I know — even the Saints can use a Friday. Especially now.

So All Saints Day is a working class holiday? Not really. You could call it a class holiday. There are many — even Saints — who will never participate in it.

“In a world like ours, I’m nobody’s child,” sings Maria McKee in a song called “Nobody’s Child.” We begin by entering a world in which the first community depends on the arms that welcome us. If we are to receive joy, we are told the opportunity is boundless. Tell that to the migrants waiting in internment camps.

Did you know there were Saints who were Holocaust prisoners? Prisoner #16770 was (Max Kolbe) and so was Edith Stein.

As holidays go, this is a solemn one. The Catholic Church will tell you, or at least their spokespeople will. It happens to coincide with Day of the Dead, and on All Saints Day celebrants historically pray for the dead. Some church sources online say that “billions” of people may already be Saints.

Not only Catholics invoke All Saints Day. In this way, our respect for the departed may be universal. “All departed,” you may ask? While the day tends to focus on known saintly souls departed, the canon is — potentially speaking — open to everyone we’ve ever known who, for one good reason or another, qualify as a Saint.

Pope Boniface IV gets the credit for starting All Saints Day. It’s tempting to call him Pope Pretty Face, not only for organizing such an aim’s worthy pantheon of ordinary people. According to Catholic.org (Catholic Online) Bishops all over the globe may amend the rules for how All Saints Day receives attention in their communities.

All of this got me thinking. If All Saints Day recognizes the best of the best dead among us, and if it isn’t only Catholics or Catholic Bishops who raise the day to our individual or collective attention, why don’t we each name Saints among us?

Take St. Anthony, commonly referred to as patron of “the lost.” We are told he came from nobility and yet he rescinded his privilege and called for peace among warring states. Like Bishop Desmond Tutu, St. Anthony facilitated reconciliation rather than alienation.

When we scroll the pages that tell us something more about All Saints Day, we are engaging with history — the world’s awful past and the better deeds also —and we are naming survivors, giving credence to many ordinary people who could transcend the brutality of a nation and bully and according to themselves or ordained people become light in a dark time.

It’s the 1410th anniversary of All Saints Day. I wonder who would be the Saints in the canon now.

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Peter Money is the author of “Oh When the Saints,” a novel about students set in Ireland. His family spent several generations in St. Helena and Napa. He lives in Vermont.