The Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1, is an opportunity to study, learn from, and celebrate the saints.
It was an opportunity to put the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis’ collection of relics of saints on display for private prayer and devotion, said Msgr. Henry Breier, rector of the cathedral basilica. “It’s great to be surrounded by your friends in heaven,” he said after the 8 a.m. Mass on the holy day in between answering questions from people.
Visitors arrived early in the morning before the first Mass of the day. After Mass, more than 60 people followed the celebrant, Father Joseph Jiang, praying the Litany of Saints and ending in the All Saints Chapel where the relics were displayed. They stood in line to observe the relics, with many then sliding into pews to pray.
The cathedral basilica has a collection of more than 140 relics. The three relics at the front of the display were of the patrons of the archdiocese, St. Louis (King of France), St. Vincent de Paul and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. Sixty-one of the relics are housed in two reliquaries shaped as churches. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet gave the relics to Archbishop Peter Kenrick, who led the diocese from 1841-96. The cathedral basilica also has relics of St. John Paul II from his visit to St. Louis in 1999.
John Jackson, a cathedral basilica parishioner from Belleville, Ill., said he appreciated the reminder that the saints “are there with us. We’re not alone.” His son, Thomas Jackson, said “it’s knowing there’s truth behind this, and that the Church has been here thousands of years.”
Saints “give testimony to the Church,” said Sister Maria Otilia Guerra Chinchilla, CCVI, a cathedral basilica parishioner. Saints are there for sanctification and as an example, she added.
Peggy Stewart, a parishioner of St. Anselm in Creve Coeur, said “we need to rely on saints for prayers as much as we rely on each other.”
Chera Dunn of St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville, Ill., called the display uplifting. She was praying a novena to St. Anthony, she said, and to do it with the relics on display was a bonus.
David Munoz said he has a rosary blessed by St. John Paul II during his pastoral visit to St. Louis, and now he has another rosary, originally from the Holy Land, that he was given the OK to place against the reliquaries of the patrons of the archdiocese. “So now I have another blessed rosary,” he said. “It’s part of my life journey as a Catholic.”
In the homily, Father Jiang said All Saints Day inspires people with the example of the saints and rekindles a desire to be holy. Holiness does not mean being a hero and doesn’t bring power, he said. “We try to convince ourselves we’re not good enough to be saints” and “we battle within ourselves,” he said, “but they faced more failures than successes in the process of being made saints.”
He advised people to simply focus on doing the work of God and desiring to imitate God.
The Saint John’s Bible also was displayed in the chapel. The hand-written and illuminated Bible gives the viewer an experience in which Scripture is encouraged to be seen and read aloud.