Saint Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland
Today is All Saints Day, which neatly occupies a space between Halloween and the Day of the Dead (All Souls, or the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico). It is one of the Catholic “Holy Days of Obligation,” when the observant believer was required to attend church services, even if they didn’t fall on the Sabbath.
It is said that there are more than 10,000 saints recognized by the Catholic Church. Just one grouping consists of St Maurice and the entire Roman legion he commanded, the garrison of Thebes in Egypt, consisting of over 6,000 souls, who had converted to Christianity and were martyred by decimation in AD 286 by order of the Emperor Maximian. I’m not even sure the Church knows the names of the members of that garrison.
When I was in grade school at St Henry (himself the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II who ruled from AD 1004 t0 1024), the Dominican nuns would reward us for good behavior with what we called holy cards, which are now called prayer cards. They’re still around:
Prayer Card for St Cecelia, Patron of Music
I remember once visiting San Cristobal de Las Casas (named after St Christopher, who is no longer officially venerated) during the Feast of St Cecelia held around the local church named after her. It was one of the best Mexican fiestas I ever attended.
When I visit Christian churches that are not richly decorated with statues, stained glass windows, and paintings depicting the saints, I feel that there is something missing. I often think the bare white walls could do with a few saints. After all, the Bible was written two or more thousand years ago: I see the saints as manifestations that the Christian God did not simply go on vacation after the Crucifixion to work on His tan.
In Lima, Peru, I visited the burial of three New World saints of the 16th century, one of whom, St Martin de Porres, was African-American. His feast day is celebrated on November 3, Election Day this year.
St Martin de Porres in the Chapel Dedicated to Him
If it seems strange to you that a non-practicing Catholic such as myself feels the way I do about the saints, I see it as part of the richness of the Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) religion that appeals to me. In their own way, the saints update Christianity.
I may not be a good Catholic, but I prayed to St Martin de Porres when I visited his chapel and saw where he was buried.