During the year the Church celebrates one by one the feasts of the saints. Today she joins them all in one festival. In addition to those whose names she knows, she recalls in a magnificent vision all the others “of all nations and tribes standing before the throne and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, proclaiming Him who redeemed them in His Blood.”
The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs Fra Angelico (circa 1395 –1455)
The feast of All Saints should inspire us with tremendous hope. Among the saints in heaven are some whom we have known. All lived on earth lives like our own. They were baptized, marked with the sign of faith, they were faithful to Christ’s teaching and they have gone before us to the heavenly home whence they call on us to follow them. The Gospel of the Beatitudes, read today, while it shows their happiness, shows, too, the road that they followed; there is no other that will lead us whither they have gone.
“The Commemoration of All Saints” was first celebrated in the East. The feast is found in the West on different dates in the eighth century. The Roman Martyrology mentions that this date is a claim of fame for Gregory IV (827-844) and that he extended this observance to the whole of Christendom; it seems certain, however, that Gregory III (731-741) preceded him in this. At Rome, on the other hand, on May 13, there was the annual commemoration of the consecration of the basilica of St. Maria ad Martyres (or St. Mary and All Martyrs). This was the former Pantheon, the temple of Agrippa, dedicated to all the gods of paganism, to which Boniface IV had translated many relics from the catacombs. Gregory VII transferred the anniversary of this dedication to November 1.