Published on November 5, 2019

In Ireland on the 6th of November, we celebrate the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland. Pope Benedict XV beatified Oliver Plunkett in 1920 and during his papacy also (1914-22) the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland was instituted. The same Pope also granted Ireland the honour of having a litany of its native saints approved for public recitation. Only four saints, St Malachy (1094-1148), St Lawrence O’Toole (1128-80) and St Oliver Plunkett (1625-81) and St Charles of Mount Argus (1821-93), have been officially canonised. All the other Irish saints, such as Saints Patrick, Brigid, and Colmcille, are saints, as it were, by acclamation of the local Church.

The scope of this feast, while it includes canonised saints, is wider. It also includes those who had a reputation for holiness and whose causes for canonisation have not yet been completed, such as Blessed Thaddeus MacCarthy (1455-92), the seventeen Irish martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries, Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762-1844), Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923) and the Servant of God Matt Talbot (1856-1925) and people like Legion of Mary envoys Edel Quinn and Alfie Lamb, whose causes have already been introduced. But it also includes those whose lives of sanctity were known only to their families, friends or members of their parish diocese or religious community.

All Saints of Britain and Ireland,
Russian Orthodox icon

Interestingly enough, we are not the only country to have a ‘second’ All Saint’s Day. In the Russian Orthodox Church, the third Sunday after Pentecost, is also the Feast of All Saints of Britain and Ireland. This feast was established by decree of the Russian Orthodox Church on August 21, 2007. This same Sunday is also the commemoration of All Saint of Novgorod, All Saints of Volgoda, All Saints of Belarus, All Saints of Pskov, and All Saints of St Petersburg.
The reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15 echoes the theme of “the island of saints and scholars” which was so strong in Ireland in the first half of the twentieth century.
“Let us praise illustrious men, our ancestors in their successive generations. The Lord has created an abundance of glory,and displayed his greatness from earliest times.”

On the Feast of All Saints, Pope Francis stressed that the saints are not “supermen” who are “born perfect,” but rather are ordinary people who followed God “with all their heart. They are like us, they are like each of us, they are people who before reaching the glory of heaven lived a normal life, with joys and griefs, struggles and hopes.Each saint changed his or her life “when they recognized the love of God, they followed him with all their heart, without conditions and hypocrisies.They spent their lives in the service of others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace,” he said.

Saints of Ireland, pray for us !

Prayer to the Saints of Ireland:
O God, who didst deign to people our land with innumerable saints, and to make it illustrious amongst all the nations of the world for the zeal of its apostles, the fortitude of its martyrs, the constancy of its confessors, and the shining purity of its holy women, give us the grace of devotion to all the Saints of Ireland that we may be inspired by their example to lead lives worthy of the noble traditions which they have handed down from generation unto generation.

Teach us humility in Thy service through our recognition of the sins we have committed and through the sense of our own unworthiness. Help us to realize how far short we fall of those saintly heroes and heroines of our land, who found their joy in patient suffering, who learned in the school of Christ the necessity of self-denial and the duty of reverence, and who sought in penance and mortification a safeguard against all temptation and all worldliness.

Thou hast endowed us, O God, with the priceless gift of faith and provided us in abundance with heavenly help to deepen our sanctity and intensify our love; but we have not responded to Thy generosity, as the Saints of Ireland did, and pride in our past glory has often blinded us to dangers and evils of our day. Fill us with the spirit of compunction for our sins and reverence for Thy Law. Vouchsafe to grant us, O merciful God, the grace to place our trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom our country is solemnly dedicated, that we may ever advance along that road which led St. Patrick, St. Columcille, St. Brigid, St. Laurence, St. Malachy, Blessed Oliver Plunkett and all the other saints of Ireland, amidst trials and afflictions, poverty and misery, executions and suffering, to the land of peace unending, and to the glory of life everlasting. Through the same Christ, Our Lord.