The Church inherited the idea of a festival/liturgical calendar from the Jews. What exactly is a Feast day? Why and how do we celebrate them?
A feast day can be defined simply as a day designated to celebrate the life of a certain saint or event in the life of the Church. Some of the more popular feast days include St. Patrick, St. Francis, Our Lady of the Rosary, and All Saints’ Day.
In the early days of the church, martyrs were remembered and celebrated by their communities on the day of their death or birth. The custom expanded gradually to include all the saints, whether martyrs or not.
The word ‘feast’ comes from the Latin word festes, which means making merry or celebrating something. What better word to use when celebrating the saints who have come before us as well as the other liturgical feasts of the Church?
On Feast days we pay special recognition and honor to our brothers and sisters who have been acknowledged by Mother Church to be in Heaven. Note that the Church acknowledges formally only certain individuals to have acted with “Heroic virtue”. These we know as the saints.
However, remember that being a saint is our destiny, as all who live in heaven with God are saints, whether they are formally recognized as such or not. It is especially important to keep our forefathers and mothers in the faith in mind on the day set aside to honor them and to attend Mass.
On a saint’s feast day, we can deepen our knowledge of their lives and extract precious information for our own sanctification. Someone once said, “It pays to hang out with holy people”. Thankfully we can interact with them whether they have gone ahead of us or are still on earth.
Hebrews 12:1- reminds us, “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin that clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”.
Reading the lives of the saints and going to particular shrines, like Lourdes or Fatima, also help us to focus us on what really matters. Keep in mind the effect that the simple act of reading the lives of the saints had on people like St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Melissa Trolio, Director of Mission at Santa Maria College, said it best when she said:
“By reminding us of the order, meaning and purpose of our lives, feasting is a way to experience and participate in the joy that God provides. It also gives us an incredible opportunity to extend Jesus’ hospitality and generosity to others and to invite them to experience the joy of Jesus and community as well.”
All Saints’ Day is coming up on November 1, and it is a particularly special feast day. It is the day when we as Catholics honor all saints, known or unknown. This day is also a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics should go to mass to celebrate and pray.
What will you do to remember the saints this All Saints’ Day? How will you use feast days to catch the fire of the saints and live more fully as a committed Christian?