All Saints 2015
I was surprised last week to be told by a Greek Orthodox friend living in this country that his church was organising a Halloween party for parishioners. “What’s the world coming to?” I said, “the Orthodox and all Byzantine Christians celebrate the feast of All Saints on the Sunday after Pentecost as laid down by St John Chrysostom in 4th Century.” I wonder what he would make of people dressed up as witches and ghosts, the fireworks and the millions of pumpkins wasted throughout the world for last night’s partying. Rather like Christmas and Easter, yet another Christian feast, or in this case vigil, has been sacrificed on the altar of modern global consumerism. My Greek friend said, “But, Father, it’s all good clean fun.” What do you think? I can imagine St John Chrysostom upbraiding us today, as he did the wife of the Emperor Arcadius, for acquiescing in the comfort of total indifference as we allow the world to take over our feasts and celebrations.
In this morning’s second reading we heard St John the Evangelist say, “We are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.” That is what it means to be a saint: to be a child of God and to live in hope that one day, through no merit of our own but by God’s love, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. God has created us, his beloved children, to be holy as he is holy. He made us to be saints: through his grace to come to be like him and to live in him for ever in that eternity which is his very life and being. Of course, we have sinned and disobeyed and continue to do so, but God is merciful and he has sent his Son to be our Saviour. Jesus Christ takes our sins away and leads us to salvation. Through his Death and Resurrection, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us, that Spirit of truth and love, who sanctifies us and makes us one with God. Today we find ourselves among the saints, if only in embryonic form, because God is love.
The origin of All Saints Day is alluded to by St Ephrem the Syrian, who speaks of a feast held to celebrate all Christian martyrs, many of whom were unknown by name. However, in the West the feast goes back to 13th May 609, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome for Christian worship. Some of you know it well. A pagan temple dedicated to the worship of the entire pantheon, all the Roman deities, was transformed into a Christian church in honour of all the saints. You could say that in antiquity we had the Christianization of pagan deities, feasts and customs, while today it’s the very opposite: they are reverting back to paganism. Then, on November 1st sometime in the middle of 8th Century, Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel in St Peter’s Basilica to “All the Saints” and so the date was changed. It was Pope Gregory IV who, in 835, ordered the Feast of All Saints to be kept throughout the Western Church. What about All Souls? In the Eastern Churches, Saturday is often dedicated to the Faithful Departed, especially during Lent, as it is the day when Jesus lay in the tomb. In the West, although various dates were used locally, it was Saint Odilo of Cluny, who in the 11th Century, chose 2nd November for all the monasteries dependent on the Abbey of Cluny. From these the custom spread to other Benedictine monasteries and thence to the Western Church in general.
Now the two feasts do have something in common. We pray to all the saints, known and unknown, loved or forgotten, famous or anonymous, popular and in fashion or simply passé and discarded. Think of all those Celtic saints, whose names we can barely pronounce and whose story is lost in the mists of time, or the most popular saints in medieval England, St Margaret of Antioch and St Catherine of Alexandria, whom few of us sadly would pray to now. Then we pray for all the dead, known and unknown, loved or hated, liked or disliked, famous or anonymous. Death is the great equalizer and, once dead, no one is more important than anyone else: all need our prayers in equal measure, hence the importance of the traditional devotion to the forgotten souls of Purgatory. How important it is to pray for them: one day you and I might well be one of them, longing for someone to pray for us. God, of course, will never forget us; even the hairs on our heads are counted.
God has allowed us to be called his children, says St John, “because of the love he has lavished upon us.” Let us thank the good Lord today for that love, lavish and unconditional, and let us pray that, like all the saints beginning with Our Lady, we might respond to that love by doing his will and loving him above all else and for all eternity. Amen.
CUSTOMS FOR ALL SOULS DAY
It is practically universal folk belief that the souls in Purgatory are allowed to return to earth on All Souls Day. In Austria, they are said to wander the forests, praying for release. In Poland, they are said to visit their parish churches at midnight, where a light can be seen because of their presence. Afterward, they visit their families, and to make them welcome, a door or window is left open. In many places, a place is set for the dead at supper, or food is otherwise left out for them. In any case, throughout the Octave of All Saints, our beloved dead Flores para los muertosshould be remembered, commemorated, and prayed for.
During our visits to their graves, we spruce up their resting sites, sprinkling them with holy water, leaving votive candles, and adorning them flowers (especially chrysanthemums and marigolds) to symbolize the Eden-like paradise that man was created to enjoy, and may, if saved, enjoy after death and any needed purgation.
Today is a good day to not only remember the dead spiritually, but to tell your children about their ancestors. Bring out those old photo albums and family trees! Write down your family's stories for your children and grandchildren! Impress upon them the importance of their ancestors! Bring to their minds these words from Ecclesiasticus:
Let us now praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation. The Lord hath wrought great glory through his magnificence from the beginning. Such as have borne rule in their dominions, men of great power, and endued with their wisdom, shewing forth in the prophets the dignity of prophets, And ruling over the present people, and by the strength of wisdom instructing the people in most holy words. Such as by their skill sought out musical tunes, and published canticles of the scriptures. Rich men in virtue, studying beautifulness: living at peace in their houses. All these have gained glory in their generations, and were praised in their days. They that were born of them have left a name behind them, that their praises might be related:
And there are some, of whom there is no memorial: who are perished, as if they had never been: and are become as if they had never been born, and their children with them. But these were men of mercy, whose godly deeds have not failed: Good things continue with their seed, Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain for ever: their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation. Let the people shew forth their wisdom, and the Church declare their praise.
As usual with big Catholic Feast days, food is involved with the day, with many Catholic families having picnics near their loved ones' graves. Traditional foods include "Soul Food" --- food made of lentils or peas.
Basic Split Pea Soup (serves 4)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil or bacon grease
1 pound dried split peas
1 pound ham bone
1 c. chopped ham
1 c. chopped carrots (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium pot, sauté onions in oil or bacon grease. (Optional: add garlic and sauté until just golden, then remove). Remove from heat and add split peas, ham bone and ham. Add enough water to cover ingredients, and season with salt and pepper.
Cover, and cook until there are no peas left, just a green liquid, 2 hours. (Optional: add carrots halfway through) While it is cooking, check to see if water has evaporated. You may need to add more water as the soup continues to cook.
Once the soup is a green liquid remove from heat, and let stand so it will thicken. Once thickened you may need to heat through to serve. Serve with either sherry or sour cream on top, and with a crusty bread.
In Italy, the sine qua non of All Souls' celebrations is a cookie called "Ossi di Morto," or "Bones of the Dead":
Ossi di Morto
1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten
Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely (you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to over-chop and liquefy).
Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour, and roll the dough out between your palms to make a "snake" about a half inch thick. Cut it into two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg, and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20 minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry, hard cookie, it is good to serve these with something to drink.
In Mexico "Dia de Los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) is celebrated very joyfully -- and colorfully. A special altar, called an ofrenda, is made just for these days of the dead (1 and 2 November). It has at least three tiers, and is covered with pictures of Saints, pictures of and personal items belonging to dead loved ones, skulls, pictures of cavorting skeletons (calaveras), marigolds, water, salt, bread, and a candle for each of their dead (plus one extra so no one is left out). Chicanos will make a special bread just for this day, Pan de Muerto, which is sometimes baked with a toy skeleton inside. The one who finds the skeleton will have "good luck." This bread is eaten during picnics at the graves along with tamales, cookies, and chocolate. They also make brightly-colored skulls out of sugar to place on the family altars and give to children. Below are recipes for those skulls and for Pan de Muerto:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 TBSP. corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 fine paintbrush
Sift powdered sugar. Mix the egg white, corn syrup, and vanilla in a very clean bowl, then add the powdered sugar with a wooden spoon. When almost incorporated, start kneading with the tip of your fingers until you can form a small ball. Dust with cornstarch on board. Keep on kneading until smooth, then form into skull shapes. Let dry completely, then paint with colored icing, including the names of the people you are giving them to.
Pan De Muerto (makes two loaves)
1 tablespoon active, dry yeast
1/4 cup of lukewarm water
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour and extra flour for dusting
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
6 extra large eggs at room temperature
zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
3 tablespoons Sambuca liqueur (optional)
1 egg for egg wash
2 tablespoons of water for egg wash
1/4 cup water for brushing bread
1/2 cup white sugar for dusting
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
In a small bowl combine the water, yeast, 1/3 cup of flour, mix well and let it stand until it doubles in volume. In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, nutmeg and set aside.
In a large bowl with a whisk mix the butter and sugar until creamy color.
In a medium bowl mix the eggs, orange blossom water, orange zest (and Sambuca, optional). Set aside.
With a whisk, incorporate the egg mixture 1/3 at the time to the butter mixture. Incorporate the yeast mixture to the butter/egg mixture. Add the flour mix 1/3 at the time and work it with a wooden spoon until it incorporates.
Dust the working counter and your hands with flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Start working the dough by folding it with a scraper. It should be sticky. Keep dusting dough with flour and folding in order to firm it up. Once it firms up, continue to dust with flour and start kneading. Knead the dough by pulling then folding it back and forth for 3 minutes. Then lightly dust the dough and continue working for another 3 minutes and dust again until the dough is smooth and a little sticky, but don't add large amounts of flour at once or your bread my have flour traps. As it firms up continue to knead for 15 minutes. Don't worry if the dough is slightly sticky - it will change after you let it rest.
When you're finished kneading form it into a loose ball and cinch it closed. Flip it over and transfer the dough into a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature until it doubles in volume.
Flour your knuckles and punch down the dough so it deflates and turn it onto a floured counter. Divide the dough into 3 portions. Punch down 2 portions of dough, fold and cinch dough then flip over and shape each one into a ball. Place the 2 balls of dough on a baking tray with parchment paper. Press both dough balls down to make them flat. Divide the last portion into three more portions. Make 2 of the 3 portions into little balls. Cut the last piece of dough in half and roll one portion of that piece into a long rope. Cut the rope in half and then cut one of the halves into smaller segments. Mould each segment to look like little bones by rolling and pinching them. Trim the edges with your pastry scraper and set them aside on baking tray. Form small tear-shaped pieces with the other segment of rope. Roll out the last piece of excess dough into 2 long ropes and another ball and set all pieces on baking sheet. You may not have enough dough for this, but if you do, simply make another small loaf. Cover with a dry cloth and let rest in a warm place for an hour or when it doubles in volume.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Let the dough rest until it almost doubles in size. Then very carefully brush the round loaves with egg wash. Immediately place and press the "bones" and "the tears" onto each loaf before the egg wash dries. And place the smaller dough balls on top of each. Glaze each loaf with egg wash. Decorate the extra remaining ball with the last 2 pieces of rope and finish off with small tears. Place the decorated loaves in the oven, turn down to 350º F and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the tray around and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until bread is brown. Pull bread out of the oven when it is ready and cool loaves on cooling wire racks for 10 minutes. Mix glaze ingredients, apply glaze all over the bread with a pastry brush, then immediately dust each loaf with sugar. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Tales from The Golden Legend's "The Commemoration of All Souls"
By Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, A.D. 1275
...It is read that some fishers of S. Thibault that fished on a time in harvest, and took a great piece of ice instead of a fish. And they were gladder thereof than of a fish, because the bishop had a great burning of heat in his leg, and they laid that ice thereto and it refreshed him much.
And on a time the bishop heard the voice of a man in the ice, and he conjured him to tell him what he was. And the voice said to him: I am a soul which for my sins am tormented in this ice, and may be delivered if thou say for me thirty Masses continually together in thirty days. And the bishop emprised to say them, and when he had said half of them he made him ready to continue forth and say the other.
And the devil made a dissension in the city, that the people of the city fought each against other, and then the bishop was called for to appease this discord, and did off his vestments and left to say the Mass.
And on the morn he began all new again. And when he had said the two parts, him seemed that a great host had besieged the city, so that he was constrained by dread, and left to say the office of the Mass. And after, yet he began again service, and when he had all accomplished except the last Mass, which he would have begun, all the town and the bishop's house were taken by fire. And when his servants came to him, and bade him leave his Mass, he said: Though all the city should be burnt, I shall not Ieave to say the Mass. And when the Mass was done the ice was molten, and the fire that they had supposed to have seen was but a phantom and did no harm.
There was a master which was chancellor at Paris named Silo, which had a scholar sick, and he prayed him that after his death he should come again to him and say to him of his estate. And he promised him so to do, and after died.
And a while after he appeared to him clad in a cope written full of arguments fallacious, and sophisms, and was of parchment, and withinforth all full of flame of fire. And the chancellor demanded him what he was. And he told to him: I am such one that am come again to thee. And the chancellor demanded him of his estate, and he said: This cope weigheth on me more than a mill-stone or a tower, and it is given me for to bear, for the glory that I had in my sophisms and sophistical arguments, that is to say, deceivable and fallacious. The skins be light, but the flame of fire withinforth tormenteth and all to-burneth me.
And when the master judged the pain to be light, the dead scholar said to him, that he should put forth his hand and feel the lightness of his pain. And he put forth his hand, and that other let fall a drop of his sweat on it, and the drop pierced through his hand sooner than an arrow could be shot through, whereby he felt a marvellous torment. And the dead man said: I am all in such pain. And then the chancellor was all afeard of the cruel and terrible pain that he had felt, and concluded to forsake the world, and entered into religion with great devotion.
As S. Augustine saith: Sometimes souls be punished in the places where they have sinned, as appeareth by an ensample that S. Gregory reciteth in the fourth book of his Dialogues, and saith that there was a priest which used gladly a bath, and when he came in to the bath he found a man whom he knew always ready for to serve him.
And it happed on a day, that for his diligent service and his reward, the priest gave to him a holy loaf. And he weeping, answered: Father, wherefore givest thou me this thing? I may not eat it for it is holy. I was sometime lord of this place, but after my death, I was deputed for to serve here for my sins, but I pray thee that thou wilt offer this bread unto Almighty God for my sins, and know thou for certain that thy prayer shall be heard, and when then thou shalt come to wash thee, thou shalt not find me. And then this priest offered a week entire sacrifice to God for him, and when he came again he found him not.
And Peter, abbot of Cluny, saith that there was a priest that sung every day Mass of requiem for all Christian souls, and hereof he was accused to the bishop, and was suspended therefor of his oflice.
And as the bishop went on a day of great solemnity in the churchyard, all the dead arose up against him, saying: This bishop giveth to us no Mass, and yet he hath taken away our priest from us, now he shall be certain but if he amend he shall die. And then the bishop assailed the priest, and sang himself gladly for them that were passed out of this world. And so it appeareth that the prayers of living people be profitable to them that be departed, by this that the chanter of Paris rehearseth.
There was a man that always as he passed through the churchyard he said De Profundis for all Christian souls. And on a time he was beset with his enemies, so that for succour he leapt into the churchyard. And they followed for to have slain him, and anon all the dead bodies arose, and each held such an instrument in his hand that they defended him that prayed for them, and chased away his enemies, putting them in great fear.
There was a knight that lay dead and his spirit taken from him, and a while after the soul returned to the body again. And what he had seen done he told, and said there was a bridge, and under that bridge was a flood, foul, horrible, and full of stench, and on that other side of the bridge was a meadow, sweet, odorous, and adorned full of all manner of flowers. And there on that side of the bridge were people assembled, clad all in white, that were filled with the sweet odour of the flowers. And the bridge was such that if any of the unjust would pass over the bridge, he should slide and fall into that stinking river, and the righteous people passed over lightly and surely into that delectable place.
And this knight saw there a man named Peter, which lay bound and great weight of iron upon him, which when he asked why he lay so there, it was said to him of another: He suffereth because if any man were delivered to him to do vengeance, he desired it more to do it by cruelty than by obedience.
Also he said he saw there a pilgrim that, when he came to the bridge, he passed over with great lightness and shortly, because he had well-lived here and purely in the world, and without sin.
And he saw there another named Stephen, which when he would have passed, his foot slid that he fell half over the bridge, and then there came some horrible black men and did all that they might to draw him down by the legs, and then came other right fair creatures and white, and took him by the arms and drew him up.
And as this strife endured, this knight that saw these things returned to his body and knew not which of them vanquished. But this way we understand that the wicked deeds that he had done strove against the works of alms, for by them that drew him by the arms upward it appeared that he loved alms, and by the other that he had not perfectly lived against the sins of the flesh.
Like as S. Gregory recounteth, in the fourth book of his Dialogues, that one of his monks named Justus when he came to his last end, he showed that he had hid three pieces of gold, and thereof sorrowed sore, and anon after he died. And then S. Gregory commanded his brethren that they should bury his body in a dunghill, and the three pieces of gold with him, saying: Thy money be to thee in perdition. Nevertheless, S. Gregory commanded one of his brethren to say for him every day mass, thirty days long, and so he did. And when he had accomplished his term, the monk that was dead appeared on the thirtieth day to one which demanded how it was with him, and he answered to him: I have been evil at ease unto this day, but now I am well. I have this day received Communion, and thie sacrifice of the altar profiteth not only to them that be dead, but also to them that be living in this world.
It happed there was a man which was with others, laboured in a rock for to dig for silver, and suddenly the rock fell on them and slew them all save this one man, which was saved in a crevice of the rock, but for all that he might not issue ne go out, and his wife supposed that he had been dead, and did do sing every day a Mass for him, and bare every day to the offering a loaf and a pot of wine and a candle. And the devil which had envy thereat appeared three days continually to this woman in form of a man, and demanded her whither she went, and when she had said to him, he said to her: Thou goest in vain, for the Mass is done. And thus she left the Mass three days that she did not sing for him.
And after this another man digged in the same rock for silver, and heard under this the voice of this man, which said to him: Smite softly and spare thine hand, for I have a great stone hanging over my head. And he was afeard, and called more men to him for to hear this voice, and began to dig again, and then they heard semblably that voice, and then they went more near and said: Who art thou? And he said: I pray you to spare your smiting, for a great stone hangeth over my head.
And then they went and digged on that one side till that they came to him and drew him out all whole. And they enquired of him in what manner he had so long lived there. And he said that every day was brought to him a loaf, a pot of wine, a candle, save these three days. And when his wife heard that, she had great joy, and knew well that he had been sustained of her offering, and that the devil had deceived her that she had do sing no Mass those three days.
And as Peter, the abbot of Cluny, witnesseth and saith that, in the town of Ferrara in the diocese of Grationopolitana, that a mariner was fallen into the sea by a tempest, and anon a priest sang Mass for him, and at the last he came out of the sea all safe. And when he was demanded how he escaped, he said that when he was in the sea and almost dead, there came to him a man which gave to him bread, and when he had eaten he was well comforted, and recovered his strength, and was taken up of a ship that passed by. And that was found that it was the same time that the priest offered to God the blessed sacrament for him.
...a solemn doctor which rehearseth that, there was a woman which had her husband dead, and she was in great despair for poverty. And the devil appeared to her, and said that he would make her rich if she would do as he would say to her, and she promised to do it. And he enjoined her that the men of the church that she should receive into her house, that she should make them do fornication. Secondly, that she should take into her house by daytime poor men, and in the night drive them out void, and having nothing. Thirdly, that she should in the church let prayers by her jangling, and that she should not confess her of none of all these things.
And at the last, as she approached towards her death, her son warned her to be confessed, and she discovered to him what she had promised, and said that she might not be shriven, and that her confession should avail her nothing. But her son hasted her, and said he would do penance for her. She repented her, and sent for to fetch the priest, but tofore ere the priest came, the devils ran to her and she died by the horribleness of them. Then the son confessed the sin of the mother and did for her seven years penance, and that accomplished he saw his mother, and she thanked him of her deliverance. And in likewise avail the indulgences of the Church.
It happed that a legate of the pope prayed a noble knight, that he would make war in the service of the church and ride to the Albigeois, and he would therefor give pardon to his father which was dead. And the knight rode forth, and abode there a whole Lent, and that done his father appeared to him more clear than the day, and thanked him for his deliverance.
Whereof is read that when a knight lay in his bed with his wife, and the moon shone right clear which entered in by the crevices, he marvelled much wherefore man which was reasonable obeyed not to his Maker, when the creatures not reasonable obeyed to him. And then began to say evil of a knight which was dead, and had been familiar with him; and then this knight, of whom they so talked, entered into the chamber and said to him: Friend, have none evil suspicion of any man, but pardon me if I have trespassed to thee.
And when he had demanded him of his state, he answered: I am tormented of divers torments and pains, and especially because I defouled the churchyard and hurt a man therein, and despoiled him of his mantle which he ware, which mantle I bear on me and is heavier than a mountain.
And then he prayed the knight that he would do pray for him. And then he demanded if he would that such a priest should pray for him, or such one, and the dead man wagged his head, and answered not, as he would not have him.
Then he asked of him if he would that such a hermit should pray for him, and then the dead man answered: Would God that he would pray for me. And the living knight promised that he should pray for him, and then the dead man said: And I say to thee that this day two years thou shalt die, and so vanished away. And this knight changed his life into better and at the day slept in our Lord.
As Turpin the archbishop of Rheims saith, that there was a noble knight that was in the battle with Charles the Great for to fight against the Moors, and prayed one that was his cousin that if he died in battle, that he should sell his horse and give the price thereof to poor people. And he died, and that other desired the horse and retained it for himself.
And a little while after, he that was dead appeared to that other knight, shining as the sun, and said to him: Cousin, thou hast made me to suffer pain eight days in purgatory, because thou gavest not the price of my horse to poor people, but thou shalt not escape away unpunished. This day devils shall bear thy soul into hell, and I being purged go into the kingdom of heaven.
And suddenly was a great cry heard in the air, as of bears, lions, and wolves, which bare him away. Then let every executor beware that he execute well the goods of them that they have charge of, and to beware by this ensample heretofore written, for he is blessed that can beware by other men's harms. And let us also pray diligently for all Christian souls, that by the moyen of our prayers, alms, and fastings, they may be eased and lessed of their pains.