Sign In
Basket 0 Items


Sign In
Basket 0 Items


Tuesday 1 November 2022: All Saints’ Day

Who are ‘they’, the saints?

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6; 1 John 3:1-3; Luke 6:2--31

By R. R. Graviour Augustine

Roman Catholic Priest, Dean at Oriens Theological College, Northeast India’s Regional Inter-diocesan Seminary in Shillong

Context: Holy Mass meant for the undergraduate college students in the city of Shillong

Aim: to explain the article of our faith – the mystery of the communion of saints

There is a poem titled ‘We and They’, written by Rudyard Kipling, an English journalist, born in India, and a Nobel Laureate. Its first stanza reads:

‘Father and Mother, and Me,

Sister and Auntie say

All the people like us are We,

And everyone else is They.

And They live over the sea,

While We live over the way,

But – would you believe it? – They look upon We

As only a sort of They!’

The poem has nothing to do with Christian Faith. It is about ‘ethnocentrism’ and is centred on a sense of superiority which the West claims over the East. However, it provides us with a useful image to explain to us who the saints are and how they relate to ourselves, living here on the earth today; in other words, who ‘They’ are and who ‘We’ are.



While this poem makes claims for the superiority of ‘We’ over ‘They’ and, therefore, underlines the difference and distance between the two, the celebration of the liturgy today wants us to know the exact opposite of what the poem means by ‘We’ and ‘They’, understanding the two categories in terms of relationship, closeness, and communion. This is what we call in our profession of faith the ‘Mystery of the Communion of Saints.’

What is the ‘Mystery of the Communion of Saints?’ It is the communion experienced in the Church. It is the communion that should animate the assembly of all the faithful of Christ - those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven - so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ, bears fruit for all and benefits all (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church nn. 946, 961-962).

The readings of the day describe who these saints are in so many different ways. In the first reading we are taught that: the saints are servants of God; they are those sealed by God on their foreheads; they hail from every tribe, nation, people, and language; they are clothed in white robes; they have come out of great tribulation; and they have been washed in the blood of The Lamb. In other words, we see in them the blessed in heaven, those who have successfully and victoriously lived their Christian life.



The Responsorial Psalm makes us understand in a simple expression who the saints are: ‘They are the people who seek the face of the Lord.’ Whether they are the blessed in heaven or the dead being purified or the pilgrims on earth, they all seek the face of the Lord and this desire, lived out, make them saints.

The second reading takes us further still, teaching us that the saints are those who became God’s children in baptism and those who are made capable to see God as he is. That is our calling and destiny - to know the Lord directly, to look as trustingly at him with the eyes of faith as we look at the people and all the things around us with our natural eyes. We need to become aware of the extraordinary privilege that God has granted us at our baptism.

And in the Gospel passage we find our Lord teaching us the way to become saints. Being in the world as pilgrims we are shown the various possibilities which can carry us forward in our pilgrimage towards heaven and our own sainthood or which, by our own negligence, will keep us worldly, confined to earth.

Writing to the many communities he founded, Saint Paul often addresses them as saints. Thus, as members of God’s assembly, the Church, we all are saints helping one another in many ways, especially through intercession, example and our lives lived in communion.



To return to the poem ‘We and They’ again, Kipling portrayed ‘We’ as greater and superior to ‘They.’ But in the mystery of the ‘Communion of Saints,’ we discover that there is no place for ‘They’, but only ‘We.’ There is no superiority or inferiority of one over the other. Instead, all are ‘superior’ as God’s beloved children.

Therefore, as God’s beloved children and saints, we are called to help and be helped by one another. ‘We’ benefit from the intercession of those who see the Lord face to face; ‘We’ pray for those who have died so that they may be loosed from their sins to be able to see the Lord face to face; and on our pilgrimage ‘We’ live the Beatitudes taught by our Lord, so that we too will see him as He is one day.

Welcome to The College of Preachers

To explore the website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to three articles a month for free. (You will need to register.)

This is the last of your 1 free articles this month.
Subscribe today for the full range of resources from The College of Preachers, including Lectionary sermons for every Sunday, book reviews and more.