Today (6th November), we celebrate the Feast of All Irish Saints. We remember and honour our ancestors who, stretching back at least to the time of Saint Patrick, believed in Christ and His Catholic Church, and were found worthy to enter into Heaven at the end of their lives. These include the handful of canonised Irish saints and the far greater number of non-canonised, but venerated, Irish saints. However, they also include all those Irishmen and women down through the centuries who (perhaps after a time in Purgatory) are now enjoying the Beatific Vision in Heaven.
Today, we honour these saints whose blood flows in our veins and who, like us, were proud to call Ireland their home. They are the virgins, the martyrs, the bishops and priests, the nuns and the brothers, the missionaries, the fathers, the mothers, the Kings, the Princes, the soldiers and warriors, the farmers, the rich men and poor men. They are those who took the flame of Christ given to them by Saint Patrick and passed it on from generation to generation. If we have the Faith and all the privileges of Catholicism today, it is because (by the Grace of God) they handed them down to us.
While they were all proud of the country given to them by God and loved it as every Catholic should, they realised that “we have not here a lasting city”. And so, like Saint Patrick, they put Christ above all things. Many left all riches and things of this earth behind, spending their lives in the cloistered monasteries whose ruins still cover the Irish landscape to this day. Others left their country behind forever, following the call to bring the torch of Faith to the farthest-flung nations of the earth. Others still gave up their comfort and even their lives rather than betray Christ and His Church. Finally, others simply lived out lives which, to all appearances were as ordinary as our own, but which were lived completely for Christ.
They are an example for all of us to follow. They are our true heroes. They are, above all, our intercessors in Heaven, especially in these dark times for Ireland. As the Church prays in the Collect of the Mass of the Feast of All Irish Saints:
“Gratiam tuam, Dómine, multíplica super nos, solemnitatem celebrantes omnium insulae nostrae Sanctorum: ut quorum esse cives gratulamur in terris, cum his mancipatum habere mereamur in caelis.
Give abundant grace to us, Lord, as we keep the feast of all the saints of our island; and enable us, who are proud to be their fellow-countrymen on earth, to have citizenship with them in Heaven.”
Beannachtaí na féile na naomh uile na hÉireann oraibh go leir!
N.B. Text and translation of the Collect from the Feast of All Irish Saints is courtesy of The Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae Blog (http://omniumsanctorumhiberniae.blogspot.ie/p/mass-of-all-saints-of-ireland-1962.html).