Catholics across Clark County attended Mass on Wednesday to celebrate the solemnity of such saints as Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II for All Saints’ Day.
Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish in east Vancouver held three services to accommodate local Roman Catholics gathering for the holy day of obligation. In the United States, All Saints’ Day is one of six days, besides every Sunday, where Catholics are required to go to church.
Wednesday’s Mass at the church, which is part of the Archdiocese of Seattle, followed the same structure as any other except that the readings were more geared toward saints. Catholics believe that saints (there are about 10,000 canonized saints) have all made it to heaven.
All Saints’ Day celebrations start the evening before on Halloween or Allhallows Eve; hallow means to honor as holy.
“That’s where that comes from,” said Mark MacKenzie, the church’s faith formation director.
While there are feast days for individual saints, All Saints’ Day is not dedicated to any one saint in particular. Rather, it celebrates all known and unknown saints.
“Our tradition says we don’t know who’s in heaven and who’s not,” MacKenzie said.
During his homily at Wednesday morning’s Mass, the Rev. Thomas Nathe said people have asked him since he became a priest whether he’s happy in his vocation, whether that was his motivation for seeking priesthood.
“That was such a strange question: Are you happy?” he said. “Happiness is in the kingdom to come.”
Nathe said Jesus did not come to Earth to be happy; rather, he had a mission that he was trying to accomplish out of love and fulfilling that mission was arduous. People do a lot of difficult, unhappy things — like taking care of a sick or dying spouse — because of love, Nathe said.
All Saints’ Day is meant to thank God for the saints and to be encouraged and inspired by their heroically holy lives. Every person has the potential to become a saint, Nathe said.
“For now, (God) wants us to work on it,” he said.
In the church’s alcoves are statues of saints, both modern-day and ones that reach further back into Catholicism’s history. Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, and Mother Teresa, called St. Teresa of Calcutta by the church, are in one alcove. Teresa was a nun known for caring for the poor and dying, and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; she died in 1997.
There’s also St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals. Both gave up their worldly possessions to serve others. Another statue depicts Mary the blessed virgin holding baby Jesus, and Joseph is in another alcove.
More and more, the church is canonizing everyday people who aren’t priests or religious figures but who live out their lives devoted to God and their neighbors, MacKenzie said. The process of becoming a saint is rigorous, requiring several miracles, he said.
Today, on All Souls’ Day, Catholics pray for those in Purgatory, that they may someday make it to Heaven. Although it’s not a holy day of obligation, it’s still considered a holy day.
On Friday, students in a home-schooling group that meets at the church will dress up as saints and celebrate them by perhaps doing a skit or performance. MacKenzie said it’s an alternative to the at-times darkness and scariness of Halloween, which isn’t how the holiday was originally intended.
“This is really the church celebrating its members on Earth and in heaven,” MacKenzie said. “It’s a beautiful celebration of hope and our eternal destination.”