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What the Holy Fathers Tell Us About All Saints Day

All Saints Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on what awaits us beyond our days here on earth. As the faithful, we look to those who have gone before us as an example in holiness, and joyfully anticipate the hope that we have in eternity thanks to Christ’s sacrifice. With the celebration of All Saints Day, we invite you to reflect on the words of the Holy Fathers about the meaning of this Solemnity.

Celebrating Both Recognized and Unrecognized Saints

The faithful gather in prayer at the National Shrine

When we think of All Saints Day, we often think of the saints that the Church has canonized and recognized as holy — the saints with the memorable stories or who made a profound impact on the world. However, this holy day is not just about the well-known saints, but also the saints who lived simple, unrecognized lives of faith. Pope Francis reminds us:

“We are united with all the saints: not only the most well-known, from the calendar, but also those ‘next door,’ our family members and acquaintances who are now part of that great multitude. Therefore, today is a family celebration. The saints are close to us, indeed they are our truest brothers and sisters. They understand us, love us, know what is truly good for us, help us and await us. They are happy and want us to be happy with them in paradise.”

A Joyful Celebration

All Saints Day is not meant to be a day of mourning, but rather a joyous day. It helps us recognize the faithful service of the saints and share in their joy of serving Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI has said:

Pope Benedict visits the Basilica
Pope Benedict visits the Basilica

“The liturgy invites us to share in the heavenly jubilation of the Saints, to taste their joy. The Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly. We are unacquainted with the faces and even the names of many of them, but with the eyes of faith we see them shine in God’s firmament like glorious stars.


They are all brought together by the common desire to incarnate the Gospel in their lives under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the life-giving spirit of the People of God…This, then, is the meaning of today’s Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends.”

Serving the Lord is Counter-Cultural

Though most of us in the developed world may never be martyred for our faith, like many of the faithful who have gone before us, we will often suffer discrimination because of our dedication to the Lord. Pope Francis exhorts us to look to the saints as we resolve to honor God in our lives and keep ourselves unstained from the world:

“Dear brothers and sisters, choosing purity, meekness and mercy; choosing to entrust oneself to the Lord in poverty of spirit and in affliction; dedicating oneself to justice and peace — all this means going against the current in respect to this world’s mindset, in respect to the culture of possession, of meaningless fun, of arrogance against the weakest…  


Today’s solemnity that honours All Saints reminds us of the personal and universal vocation to holiness, and proposes sure models for this journey that each person walks in a unique way, an unrepeatable way. It is enough to think of the inexhaustible variety of gifts and real-life stories there are among the saints: they are not all the same, each one has their own personality, and developed their own life of holiness according to their own personality. Each one of us can do it, take this path: meekness, meekness, please, and we will head toward holiness.”

Saint John Paul II depicted in the Trinity Dome
Saint John Paul II depicted in the Trinity Dome

Being Thankful on All Saints Day

This Holy Day gives us the opportunity to be thankful to God for His great work of salvation and for surrounding us with the fellowship of the faithful in His Church, as Pope John Paul II has said: 

“In a spirit of profound adoration of the Most Holy Trinity, we join all the saints who eternally celebrate the heavenly liturgy, to offer thanks again with them to our God for the wonders he has accomplished in the history of salvation. 


Praise and thanksgiving to God for having raised up in the Church a great multitude of saints, whom no one could count. A great multitude: not only the saints and blesseds we honor during the liturgical year, but also the anonymous saints known only to him. Mothers and fathers of families, who in their daily devotion to their children made an effective contribution to the Church’s growth and to the building of society; priests, sisters and lay people who, like candles lit before the altar of the Lord, were consumed in offering material and spiritual aid to their neighbor in need; men and women missionaries, who left everything to bring the Gospel message to every part of the world.


“Angelus on the Solemnity of All Saints,” Pope Francis, November 1, 2018. The Vatican.

“Angelus on the Solemnity of All Saints,” Pope Francis, November 1, 2020. The Vatican.

“Holy Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints,” Pope Benedict XVI, November 1, 2006. The Vatican.

“Homily on the Solemnity of All Saints,” Saint John Paul II, November 1, 2000. The Vatican.

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