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On the first and second days of November every year, the Church celebrates what appears to be two opposing “feasts” – namely, All Saints on the first, immediately followed by All Souls on the second. Yet despite their apparent opposition of solemnity (especially within the traditional celebrations where all the stops are pulled out for the first, with all the extra white candles, all the fancy vestments, the colors of white and gold and silver abounding, compared to the very somber darker unbleached candles, the vestments of black or violet, the more somber and sobering music, etc., for the second), they are actually quite similar in nature – two sides of the same coin, one might say.

Being raised in the Lutheran Church when I was a child, we didn’t know anything about “All Souls” day. We did recognize All Saints (and usually did something peppy for the service on the Sunday closest to it), though not to the extent of the Catholic church. At least the Lutheran church I grew up in (which was quite protestant), “Saints” pretty much only referred to the early ones – like the Apostles and not much more after them. After all, doing something like that in a Lutheran church of that age smacked too much like Roman Catholicism, and those Lutherans didn’t want anything like that.

But the historical meaning of the term “Saints” wasn’t limited to those who died for the faith and were later canonized by the Pope. Indeed, the “Saints” were all those living who believed the faith and lived the faith they were taught. Saints referred to those who were willing to die rather than give up or deny their faith. It was much later that the Church defined the term as those who had “fallen asleep in the Lord” (and worked a minimum of three miracles which could not be disproved by a committee appointed by a bishop).

So where does that leave us today? Well, that’s easy!

Starting mid-August, we begin to see the stores decorated with pumpkins, witches, and skeletons, and special holiday candies. By mid-September those decorations are all side-by-side with Christmas trees and lights. Then by mid-October we see all the extra horror/ghost/monster-themed movies coming out. By the eve of All Saints Day, hordes of adults and children alike roam the streets in costumes of their favorite characters or zombies (or both) begging for candy and going to parties. By the time we actually get to 1st November (The Feast of All Saints), religion isn’t even on most people’s minds, let alone attending a church service. It makes me wonder if one could say “saints no longer exist.”

When we start placing so much attention on the Hallmark holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, etc., (Hallmark holidays meaning those holidays that were turned into purely commercial holidays and wrenched from the church) is it really any wonder why we can’t be bothered with remembering All Saints and All Souls?

So for this year – and for every year following – let’s mark our calendars as an experiment, and on 1st November let us at least take a moment (if we can’t get to a religious service) and remember all those holy people who went before us and who live among us. This spiritual exercise can even go beyond the walls of Christianity – there are holy people everywhere. Then, on 2nd November, let’s mark the calendar and remember all those we know who have died in the past year and say a prayer for them. Again, there are no walls to this type of spirituality.

All it takes is a prayer.

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