Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
November 1, 2015
Solemnity of All Saints

“Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God.”   Revelation 7:2

When visiting the schools, I enjoy having the children ask me questions.   It shows me what is on their minds.   Sometimes it is surprising.  

As once when a student asked me, “What saints do you say goodnight to before going to bed?”   I had never given it a second thought, but I do have a small group of saints—and one angel—selected for various reasons, to whom I say “goodnight” and ask their prayers—St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Michael the Archangel.   The student seemed quite pleased to hear it.   She had her saints and angels too, which included St. Michael.   She and the bishop shared something in common.   For that matter, all of us share something in common.  

Here we are celebrating All Saints.  What is it all about?   Cynics and many looking at the Catholic Church from outside will say, “Look at those Catholics.   They worship the saints like gods and goddesses of the pagan world.”    I am amused when I hear this.   I no more worship saints than I do my parents whose photograph I keep in my office near the other photographs of deceased loved ones.  

The questions must be asked, are they alive or not?   Are the deceased, especially the holy ones, still a part of our lives?  Jesus answered that question to my satisfaction in the Gospel of St. Luke.   When asked about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus responded, “[H]e is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Luke 20:38).   Saints are alive.  There is eternal life.   There is also judgment, reward and punishment.  To deny this is to deny what Jesus taught.   Read the Gospels.   But let us return to the saints who live on.

Our first reading describes a heavenly liturgy.   St. John describes seeing an angel coming up from the East, “holding the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2).    It is like being in church.   We face East to see “a great multitude” standing “before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches” (Revelation 7:9).   Isn’t this why we have statues of saints in our Catholic churches?  It certainly is one reason.   We want to have a glimpse of the heavenly worship, the saints gathered around us, in our altars, above our heads, mounted on our walls.   They prostrate “themselves before the throne, [worship] God, and exclaim, ‘Amen.  Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 7:11-12).   It sounds like what we say or sing at every Mass we celebrate.   That’s because it is.

The earthly liturgy of the Catholic Church is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy as it will be but also as it is now.    We participate in it with the saints and angels.   We are all in it together, you and I.  The liturgy does not belong to you any more than it belongs to me.   As a matter of fact, no one owns the Divine Liturgy.   It belongs to the Church and is a gift to us from God.  Liturgy is what the saints do in heaven, and we have the privilege of being gifted with a glimpse of it here on earth, a place where time does not exist, where one is wrapped up in the love of God, where there should be no thought of anything else.

“What saints do you say goodnight to before going to bed?” That question is not just the expression of a curious and innocent child.    It is a reminder of the heavenly Jerusalem to which we are invited.