All Saints Day honors holy people known and unknown - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

All Saints Day honors holy people known and unknown

Reliquary of St. Peter's chains in Italy (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) Reliquary of St. Peter's chains in Italy (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Reliquary of St. Barnabas the Apostle (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) Reliquary of St. Barnabas the Apostle (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

Who inspires you? A devoted mother? An ordinary worker who shows up on time every day and works diligently every moment? A researcher who drives herself with Herculean effort to unlock the mystery of pediatric cancer or another disease?  

Christians across the world celebrated All Saints Day on November 1 with prayer, religious services, and shared memories of those who inspire their lives.

“We had Steven Getz,” said Rev. Michael O’Rourke, at the noontime All Saints Day Mass at St. Peter Catholic Church in Downtown Memphis, TN. The Dominican priest told the story of Getz, a seminarian who preceded him at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.

“Steven was not a super holy person but he modeled dedication to his studies and was devoted to community prayer,” O’Rourke said.

Getz died while studying for the priesthood.

“He went running one morning and didn’t come back; he collapsed from a heart attack in his mid-30s,” Father O’Rourke said.

But Getz’ legacy as a model student and caring community member had a powerful impact on his fellow seminarians at Berkeley, according to O’Rourke.

Getz’ example lives on as inspiration for an All Saints Day homily, for example. 

Father O’Rourke invited his congregation to reflect on the holy people in their lives, the living or deceased saints in our families, workplaces or the wider community.

“These are the saints among us,” O’Rourke said.

All Saints Day honors all holy people --- known and unknown --- who have lived throughout human history. The Roman Catholic Church has named thousands of individuals as saints, from those who the Gospels say walked with Jesus Christ, including the twelve Apostles, right up until the present day when luminaries such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta have been named saints.

Pope Francis canonized the new Saint Teresa of Calcutta on September 4. While it may seem strange or even macabre, Catholics often preserve the relics of those who have been sainted. The church sometimes preserves the bones, hair or certain objects connected to a saint to evangelize and share the holy person’s story. Especially in ancient times --- long before modern communications --- the church enshrined and displayed saintly relics to confirm the saint was a flesh and blood human being who walked among us and led an exemplary life.

“Holy Mother Church gives her stamp of approval and keeps these inspirations close,” said Rev. O’Rourke, when I queried him about saintly relics in a phone call after the noon service.

CLICK HERE: To view photos of relics of saints 

A slide show that accompanies this story displays some of the relics of saints that I photographed on a recent visit to Florence, Italy. I visited the museum connected to Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria you can learn more about here:

In one special room of the museum, one can see relics associated with some of the biggest names in Christendom.

The one that captured my fascination the most? The chains of St. Peter! Encased in a special container are the chains purported to have bound St. Peter in a Jerusalem prison surrounded by guards as reported in Acts 12: 6-7:

 “6: On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. 7) Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists.

Were the chains I saw and photographed the ones that fell from St. Peter’s wrists? Only God knows. But the relics observed in Florence did bring “the Communion of Saints” into a more intimate view and provide lasting inspiration for All Saints Day as do the devoted mothers, hard workers and dedicated ordinary people we find in our every day lives.

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