On the recent Solemnity of All Saints, our parishes. commissions and chaplaincies were encouraged by the teaching of Pope Francis to be inspired by the particular qualities of well-known saints and give thought as to what aspect of their lives motivated them towards seeking a closer relationship with Christ.
All Saints Procession at St Boniface in Tooting
'Saints are not unreachable or distant heroes, but people like us, our friends, whose starting point is the same gift we have received: Baptism.'
- Pope Francis, Message for the Solemnity of All Saints 2023
The Church is Everyone
On 28th October 2023, just before the Solemnity of All Saints, the Commission for Racial and Cultural Inclusion held a seminar in Amgio Hall, Amongst the many topics discussed was the importance of artwork in the church. In particular, it was noted that people of all ages, and from all cultural backgrounds, can be more deeply inspired by the saints through understanding their story and embracing a greater diversity of religious imagery, especially when it depicts saints with cultural and ethnic accuracy.
Fr Richard Nesbitt, author of 'Rooting out Racism in our Parish', spoke movingly about how embracing diversity in this way could promote the virtues of love, unity and inclusion, to which we should all aspire as Christians. He went on to explain to participants that God does not define people by their race, culture or ethnic background. but rather sees what is in the heart of each individual. However, he also called upon every Catholic to recognise the intrinsic dignity and value of each person, whatever their cultural background. just as Christ would do.
With the Solemnity of All Saints only days away, Fr Richard gave an example of a pictoral wall of saints that adorned the walls of his parish, which accurately reflected the diverse demographic of his church in White City, including Josphine Bakhita, the contemporary Patron Saint of human trafficking survivors.
Encouraging Young People
At St Boniface Roman Catholic Church in Tooting, as part of All Saints Sunday Mass, a special occasion was held, inviting children from the parish to engage with the lives of the saints in a meaningful way. Young parishioners were encouraged to come dressed as their favourite saints, fostering a deeper connection with these holy figures and the virtues they embody.
Monsignor Gerry Ewing, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, was the main celebrant of the Mass and his presence added a profound sense of solemnity and joy to the celebration. The Mass was particularly special, not only as a family service on a Holy Day of Obligation, but also as an inclusive event that embraces children of all ages. This joyous and educational experience formed a bridge between the rich traditions of the Catholic Faith and the youthful enthusiasm of the parish children and the initiative was warmly received by parishioners and young people alike. It is intended that this special Mass will become a regular annual occurrence on the Solemnity of All Saints.
Speaking of the invitation to participate to all young people, Fr James Raj said.:
'We believe that by involving young people in such activities, we nurture their spiritual growth and understanding of the Catholic faith. A highlight of the Mass was a special three-minute play performed by our Altar servers. They donned costumes to represent key biblical figures such as Jesus, Mary, John, Peter, James, and Mary Magdalene. This play was designed to contextualize the relevance of saints in Scripture and to bring the stories of these holy individuals to life in a way that resonates with our young audience.'
Holiness is a Journey
The joy of celebrating All Saints is, however, not limited to the very young, since, as Pope Francis reminded us recently, holiness is a journey. which 'if we let it grow, it can completely change our life'.
To this end, Bishop Philip Moger, Auxiliary Bishop for the South London Areas of the Diocese, took the opportunity to celebrate Mass at the Chapel in Guys Hospital on 1st November, which was attended by Kings College London students and Higher Education chaplains. Laurence Jasper, Chaplain at King's College explained:
The students and I enjoyed a beautiful celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints, made extra special by the visit of Bishop Philip who celebrated Holy Mass for us in the KCL: Guy's campus Chapel. We would like to thank him for encouraging us to grow in our discipleship of Christ, and, to use the words of St Pope John Paul II, to "not be afraid to be saints"!
We pray that Mary, Queen of all Saints, will help us find the path to holiness in this life and infinitely increase our desire to join with her Son in heaven.