By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
Once there was an old priest who lived out in the country. He was the shepherd of a poor parish. His people could hardly pay his salary. One year he decided to raise watermelons, and hopefully sell them to supplement his salary. His watermelon enterprise became quite successful. People came from great distances to buy watermelons. The priest was making a great profit. However, he was disturbed by some local kids who would sneak into his watermelon patch at night and eat his watermelons. He had to put a stop to this thievery. He finally came up with a novel idea.
He posted sign at the entrance of the field. The next day, when the kids showed up, they saw the sign which read, “Warning! One of the watermelons in this field has been injected with poisonous cyanide.” The kids didn’t dare pick a watermelon that night. The priest was delighted. He finally scared the rascals off. However, the next night the kids returned. They brought their own sign which they posted next to the priest’s sign. The next morning the priest checked the watermelon patch and noticed the new sign next to his. He stepped close to read what was written. To his dismay, the sign said: “Now there are two.”
Now we have two special days this week. Tuesday is All Saints Day and Wednesday is All Souls day.
In ancient times two men were arrested and convicted for stealing sheep. The magistrate sent both of them to prison for several years. To warn every one of the crimes they committed the magistrate decreed that the letter “S” be branded on their foreheads.
After the men served their prison terms one of them left the area, never to be heard of again. The other man was deeply sorrowful for the crime he committed. He remained in the community and dedicated his life to serve his God and the people. As the years passed, this man had touched everyone. He helped the poor. He visited the sick. He found work for the unemployed. The people grew to love this man. Soon, no one remembered his crime of stealing sheep.
Many years later two small boys were sitting on the front steps of their home when this man passed by. The boys never heard about the crime this man committed. But they noticed the ‘S’ on this forehead. One boy asked the other, “Why do you think he has an ‘S’ on his forehead?” The other boys replied, “I’m not sure but from what my mom says about him, I think it must mean ‘Saint’.”
In the early history of our Church many Christians were martyred for their faith. Rome was the site for Christians to be thrown to the lions. So, the Church set aside two special days to honor these people – All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
In the year 607 Emperor Phocas turned the beautiful Roman Pantheon temple over to the Pope. The Pope quickly removed the statues of Jupiter and the pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to all the saints who died from Roman persecutions during the first three centuries. The bones of the martyrs were exhumed from various graves and places in the Pantheon church.
In the 8th century Pope Gragory III decreed that November 1st would be ‘All Saints’ Day. In the 10th century Abbot Ordela of the Cluny monastery declared that November 2nd would be ‘All Souls Day’ to honor all Christians who have died.
The conversion of the soul is the miracle of the moment; the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime. – Alan Redpath
We are not saints because of what we do; we are ‘saints’ because we belong to God.
-Nathaniel Howe said, “The way the world is today, we praise dead saints and we persecute living ones.”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.