BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: This week, the eve of All Saint’s Day, All Hallow’s Eve (October 31), also known as Halloween, as it was celebrated at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington. Each year the friars there choose four saints to honor out of the roughly 10,000 Catholics venerate, and the Dominicans’ vigil has become a big draw for priests, nuns—whom Catholics call “religious”—and especially college students. Our guide several years ago was Brother James Cuddy, now Father Cuddy, chaplain at Providence College in Rhode Island.
Brother JAMES CUDDY, O.P. (Dominican House of Studies): On the most basic level, I think you can view saints as being older brothers and sisters or those who have professed the same beliefs as you, these men and women who have lived these heroic lives of virtue and have, you know, given an example of how to live the Christian life. But more than that, it’s our faith that says that the church is all one body, whether it be those of us who are here on earth now, or those of us who have gone before. And so we believe that the saints are in heaven now praying for us and urging us on so that we might join them some day.
There are some saints who are more popular today than others. The Blessed Virgin Mary we actually call the Queen of the Saints. Certainly, we can point to Saint Francis as being extraordinarily popular; Saint Anthony of Padua for anyone who loses their car keys. There’s also devotion, great devotion to some more contemporary saints—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta or Saint Padre Pio.
Each year when planning this liturgy, brothers will get together, Dominican brothers will get together and try and identify certain saints that represent a good cross-section of the church.
UNIDENTIFIED DOMINICAN FRIAR #1: (reading prayer) To this glorious saint, I know by experience, to help us in all. And Our Lord would have us understand that…
Brother CUDDY: So you’ll have some men and some women, some who were priests and religious and some who were lay people, some who were martyrs, and some who just lived extraordinarily holy lives.
We have patron saints, you know, a saint who is particularly associated with a certain cause or a certain group of people.
You hear a reading from scripture…
UNIDENTIFIED DOMINICAN FRIAR #2: (reading from Scripture) Therefore you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.
…followed by a reflection given by one of the Dominican brothers, sort of like a homily. And after that there will be some more chant—a Slavonic chant and Gregorian chant.
Brother CUDDY: That’s followed by the Litany of the Saints, when all of the attendees are in procession walking towards our reliquary, our collection of relics from the saints, and all the while we’re chanting, asking for the intercession of all of the saints.
Pope John Paul II, who many consider to be a saint and might one day be a saint, said that they’re the source and origin of renewal during every difficult time in the history of the church. And so not only are we pointing to these different saints and celebrating all of the good things during their lives, but we’re hopefully encouraging one another to become the saints of this age.
ABERNETHY: Brother James’s reference to St. Anthony of Padua and car keys has to do with the 13th-century Franciscan’s reputation as a finder of lost things.