All Saints Day, commemorated in the West on November 1, was initially instituted by Pope Gregory III and expanded by Pope Gregory IV. This Holy Day commemorates “all of the souls in heaven including those for whom salvation is known to God alone.” (Source) We are all called to be saints and the Church recognizes in a special way specific people who have participated in God’s grace in a unique way. However, all who achieve the gift of salvation are considered saints by the Church.
The lives of the officially recognized saints are truly inspirational. Consider the men Jesus called to be his Apostles and disciples. They were eminently human. They experienced sin, temptation, weakness and doubt. Peter denied Christ. Thomas doubted Christ. Mathew was a hoarder. Paul persecuted Christians. In the lives of the canonized Saints, we are motivated to continue our own journey to sainthood. If Augustine became a saint despite his struggles, so too can we achieve sainthood.
All Souls Day follows All Saints Day and this is altogether fitting. On All Souls day, we remember in a special way those who are being purified on their way to heaven. Like All Saints day, All Souls is a hopeful celebration. These men and women are on their way to sainthood! In the Communion of Saints, we have an extended family who are that much closer to God, available to pray for us and with us.