In the old Celtic calendar the year began on the 1st of November. This day was known as Samhain, marked by a joyful harvest festival to celebrate the new year. It was also the day that the dead were believed to return to the land of the living. Hence the 31st of October, being the last night of the year, was known as ‘old-year’s night’ when the spirits of the dead wandered around the earth. Accordingly this conjured up all kinds of eerie practices that are still bountiful to-day. However the Christian Church transformed this night into the Vigil for All Hallows followed by All Saints' Day and All Souls’ Day. Both days remind us of those who have gone before us, that is, the dead. On All Saints’Day we celebrate those who are part of the Church triumphant in heaven and on All Souls’ Day we pray for those who are member of the Church Expectant or in Purgatory according to what Christian tradition one belongs. For Christians Hallow e’en has long been a time of prayer in preparation for the next two days. One way of preparing is by praying a Litany of the Saint. Of course there has always been the standard litany of the Saints that is said at Baptism and the Easter Vigil. The Litany below follows this traditional one to a certain degree but is also reflects the associations I have had with various countries throughout my life.
A LITANY OF SAINTS
God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of all creation, Have mercy on us.
Holy and blessed Trinity, Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God:
Response: Pray for us.
Holy Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and all holy angels of God: R.
Holy Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and all patriarchs: R.
Holy Moses, Aaron and Miriam: R.
Holy Deborah and Gideon: R.
Holy Hannah and Samuel: R.
Holy Jonathan and David: R.
Holy Elijah and Elisha: R.
Holy Hosea, Amos, Michael, Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the prophets: R.
Holy Daniel, Esther, Judith and Suzanna: R.
Holy Maccabees: R.
Holy Anna and Simeon: R.
Holy Zachariah and Elizabeth: R.
Holy Joachim and Anna: R.
Holy Joseph: R.
St. John Baptist: R.,
SS Peter and Paul, Andrew and John and James, and Thomas and Matthew: R.
SS Philip and Bartholomew, Simon and Jude, Matthias and Stephen, Barnabas and Mark:
SS Mary Magdalene and Joanna: R.
SS Martha and Mary: R.
Saint Timothy and Luke: R.
Holy Lydia and Phoebe: R.
SS Clement and Polycarp and Ignatius: R.
SS Perpetua and Felicity and Blandina: R.
SS Agatha and Agnes: R.
SS Fabian, Sebastain and Vincent: R
SS Barbara and Ursula, Cecilia and Lucy: R.
SS Lawrence and Blaise: R.
SS Genevieve and Denys: R
SS Boniface, Stanislaus and Wencelas: R.
SS Margaret and Catherine of Antioch: R.
SS Basil, Gregory Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa: R.
SS Athanasius and John Chrysostom,
SS Ephrem, Anthony and all holy hermits:
SS. Hilary and Martin: R.
SS Ambrose and Augustine: R.
SS Monica and Macrina and Paula: R.
SS Leo and Gregory: R.
SS Benedict and Scholastica: R.
SS Francis and Claire: R.
SS Dominic and Bonadventure: R.
SS Aquinas and Albert: R.
SS Bruno and Bernard: R.
SS Nicholas and Sergius, Seraphim and Maximus the Confessor: R.
SS Cyril and Methodius: R.
SS Catherine of Siena, Teresa, Bridget: R.
SS Alban, Alphege, Edmund, Thomas Becket and Thomas More:
SS Aidan, Cuthbert, Columba and Oswald:
SS Augustine of Canterbury, Anselm and Dunstan:
SS Aelred and Hugh:
SS Hilda and Margaret of Scotland:
SS George, Patrick and David:
Holy Martyrs of Japan, Korea, Uganda and Americas:
Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe and all holy martyrs of the holocaust:
Oscar Romero and all holy people martyred under junta dictatorships.
SS Elizabeth Seaton, Francis Cabrini, Rosa of Lima: R.
SS Isadore and Peter Claver: R
SS Vincent de Paul and Francis de Sales: R.
Blessed Mother MacAuley, Caroline Chisholm and Christian pioneers of Australia: R.
Blessed Coleridge Pattinson and the Melanesian Martyrs: R.
New Guinea Martyrs: R.
All holy bishops, confessors and doctors: R.
All holy martyrs, priests and religious: R.
All holy virgins and widows: R
All holy men and women: R
For all Saints only know to God: R.
We who still belong to the Church Militant seek your mercy and protection from all kinds of evil.
From all evil:
Response: Deliver us Good Lord.
From every sin: R.
From the crafts and assaults of the devil: R.
From envy, hatred, and malice: R.
From avarice, ambition, and selfish pride: R.
From hardness of heart and from every lack of charity: R.
From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism: R.
From drought and from storm, earthquake, fire, and flood: R.
From epidemics of disease and from every affliction: R.
From hunger, homelessness, and desolation: R.,
From all oppression, from violence, robbery, murder, and war: R.
From weapons of total destruction: R.
From everlasting death: R.
By the mystery of your holy Incarnation: R.
By your baptism, fasting, and praying: R.
By your suffering, your holy Cross and passion: R.
By your precious death and burial: R.
By your rising to life again: R.
By your return in glory to the Father: R.
By your gift of the Holy Spirit: R.
By your coming again in glory: R.
We pray for the Church and the world.
That You would govern and preserve Your holy Church:
Response: Lord hear our prayer
That You would guide all church leaders and raise up prophetic voices to lead us: R.
That You would protect Your Church from all evil: R.
That You will bring peace and unity to all Christian people: R.
That You will lead back all those who have strayed from the Church: R.
Thou will convert the hearts of all unbelievers: R.
That You would guide all leaders with a sense of justice and truth: R.
That You will lead all Christians to a deeper commitment and love for Christ. R.
Thou You will save all souls from eternal damnation: R.
That You will give us a deep appreciation for the fruits of the earth: R.
+That You will give eternal rest to all the faithful departed R.
That with blessed Mary and all the saints we may praise you for ever: R.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, Grant us peace.
Our Father …
Almighty God, you have knot together your elect into one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son, Christ our Lord. Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which you have prepared for those who love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Your servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins, that, through devout prayers, they may obtain the pardon which they desire and the joy of everlasting life through Christ our Lord.. Amen.
+ May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. R. Amen
The Caroline Divine, Mark Frank, in the opening of an All Saints' sermon depicted the signifcance of this day.
So the text, so the day - a day dedicated to God in honour of ‘all his saints.’
‘Such honour’ has God allowed them, ‘such honour’ has the holy Church bestowed upon them. Because they are ‘his,’ and as his here they are had in honour; because his holy ones, sancti ejus, as his saints or holy ones, honoured with a holy day; or, if you will, God honoured in them on the day. For this honour also have all the saints, that all the honour done to them, all the honour done by them, by the saints in earth to the saints in heaven, all the virtues of the one, all the praises of the other, are to the honour, and praise, and glory of God, in all the ‘congregations of the saints’ whether in heaven or earth.
It is not fit, therefore, any of them should be forgotten, from whose memories God receives so much; not reasonable to deny them any honour that so redounds to God’s. The Psalm gives them it, and the day gives them it; God says they shall have this honour, and the Church this day pays it, and we must pay it, if no honour either him or her, God or the Church, or father or mother; pay it to them all - to all to whom it is due, all honour that is due. This is a day for us to meet all together to pay it in, for them all together to receive it in. We cannot do it to all severally, they are too many, we may do it to all together. We profess a great article of our faith, the Communion of saints, by doing it; are therefore, surely, not to blame for doing it, having so good authority, so good a ground, so good a profession for it.
God has his saints. ‘Saints’ in heaven; ‘Saints upon earth,’’ ‘Saints in glory,’ and saints of grace. Saints at rest in their beds of honour, and saints in the bustle of noise and trouble. The stranger men they that engross the title to themselves, strike all the saints out of the calendar, and will not call them so whom God has called so. Yet, if to be ‘Saints’ be to be holy, the title is their due that are in heaven, they are the holiest: if to be ‘saints’ be to be called effectually, they are called to purpose that are already there; if to be ‘saints’ be to be separate to God from the drossy multitude, they are of the highest separation; if to be ‘saints’ be to be established, if sancti be sanciti, there are none so sure, so established, as they who are in heavenly glory. And dare men be so bold to rob them of this honour so proper and peculiar to them, that it is but a kind of an impropriety to give it to any here below, which yet both Scripture and their own tongues give to some below, yet to none but such as are in communion with those above, and as far only as they are in it. God has a ‘chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,’ a separate or ‘peculiar people;’ a people to show forth his praise, called out of darkness into his marvellous light to do it, says S. Peter, S. Paul, and the rest of the holy epistlers, say as much, call believers SS ever and anon; and these have ‘fellow-citizens;’ saints in ‘an inheritance,’ worth the knowledge, says S. Paul, and now worthy honour too.
II. For ‘his saints have honour,’ are persons of honour; ‘kings and priests;’ ‘heirs of a kingdom;’ ‘sons of God;’ ‘children of the Most highest.’ So that if the sons of kings, or kings themselves; if men in highest office, or the nearest relation to the highest princes, be men of honour, the ‘saints’ are they who are so honourably related to and so highly employed by the ‘King of kings;’ who are (1) first honoured by him with such titles as his ‘friends,’ as his ‘anointed,’ as his ‘sons and daughters;’ who (2) are so his that he reckons what is done to them is done to him; receive them and receive him, despise them and despise him, the very least of them not excepted; who, lastly, are so entrusted by him that he admits them into his secrets, makes them of his privy council, an honour, without question, of the first and highest rank.