by Sister Spero
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15)
All Saints Day is a celebration of the communion of saints—all those who have died in Christ, known and unknown. Like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, this feast honors everyone who has served.
The commemoration of saints began with the early Christian martyrs. Wanting to remember their slain brothers and sisters, churches began to celebrate a yearly remembrance of a martyr’s death. As Roman persecutions continued, and the numbers of martyrs increased, it became impossible to grant a feast day for each of them. So, as early as the fourth century, the church celebrated one day for all the martyrs, to ensure that all were properly honored. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel “to all the martyrs” in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on November 1st. Since that day, November 1st has been the day that the western church celebrates “All Saints Day”—a celebratory and inclusive memorial, in thanksgiving for all the Christians who have gone before us.