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On All Saints’ Day, Pope Francis says holiness is ‘a gift and a journey’

November 1, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus on the solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Nov 1, 2023 / 10:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that holiness is both a “gift” from God and a “journey” to which we must “commit” ourselves after we’ve received it. 

The Holy Father delivered the remarks from the Apostolic Palace prior to a special recitation of the Angelus for the Nov. 1 solemnity of All Saints. The pope asked attendees to consider holiness in light of the feast day.

Holiness is “a gift, you can’t buy it,” Francis said. “And at the same time, it’s a journey. A gift and a journey.”

“Holiness is a gift of God, which we’ve received at baptism. And if we let it grow, it can completely change our lives,” he said.

The saints, the pope noted, “are not heroes who are unreachable or distant. They’re people like us, our friends, whose starting point is the same gift that we’ve received: baptism.”

“Holiness is a gift offered to everyone for a happy life,” the pope said. “After all, when we receive a gift, what’s our first reaction? It’s precisely that we’re happy, because it means that someone loves us. A gift of holiness makes us happy. It shows us how God loves us.”

But “every gift must be accepted, welcomed,” the pope said. And a gift “carries with it the responsibility of a response.” Holiness is “an invitation to commit ourselves,” Francis said, so that we do not squander the gift from God. 

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus on the solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus on the solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

Holiness, the pope argued, is also “a journey. A journey to be made together, helping each other, united with those great companions, who are the saints.” 

“They’re our elder brothers and sisters on whom we can always count,” he said. “The saints support us, and when we take a wrong turn along the way, with their silent presence, they never fail to correct us.”

The pope urged visitors to ask themselves several questions regarding receiving the gift of holiness: “Do I remember having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, who calls me to holiness and helps me to arrive there? Do I thank the Holy Spirit for this gift? Do I feel that the saints are close to me? Do I turn to them? Do I know the history of some of them?”

“May Mary, Queen of All Saints, help us feel the joy of the gift received and increase in us the desire for our eternal destination,” he said. 

After the recitation of the Angelus, the pope noted that on Thursday he would be celebrating Mass at the nearby commonwealth war cemetery in Rome, in which are buried numerous soldiers who died in World War II.  

“Let’s continue to pray for all those suffering from the wars of today,” Francis said. “We remember suffering Ukraine, suffering Palestine, suffering Israel. Let’s remember all the other parts of the world where war is happening.”


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Here is what Pope Francis is doing for the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days

October 31, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis delivers his Sunday Angelus message to about 20,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Oct. 22, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Oct 31, 2023 / 08:50 am (CNA).

In the Catholic Church, the first days of November are an important time for remembering those who have come and gone before us — both the holy men and women who are canonized saints in heaven and our departed loved ones we hope and pray are also partaking in the beatific vision.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis will mark this holy and significant season with prayer and two liturgies.

On the solemnity of All Saints on Nov. 1, Pope Francis will give a short address and lead the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square at noon Rome time.

It is the pope’s custom to lead an Angelus on holy days of obligation. 

Since All Saints’ Day falls on a Wednesday this year, Francis will not hold his usual weekly general audience.

For All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, he will continue his recent custom of holding a Mass at a cemetery to pray for the dead.

Since 2016, Pope Francis has celebrated a Mass at five different cemeteries in or near Rome. For All Souls’ Day in 2019, he celebrated Mass at the Catacombs of Priscilla, while in 2022 he did not visit a cemetery but offered Mass for deceased bishops and cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica — another papal custom during the week of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

For 2023, Francis will again return to a cemetery to mark All Souls’ Day. He will preside over a Mass at 10 a.m. at the Rome War Cemetery, which contains 426 Commonwealth burials from the Second World War.

The small cemetery is near the Pyramid of Cestius, a Roman-era pyramid in the Ostiense neighborhood south of the historic center of Rome.

The following morning, on Nov. 3, Pope Francis will preside over a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the repose of the soul of Pope Benedict XVI and the bishops and cardinals who have died in the previous year. It is the pope’s practice to offer this Mass sometime during the first week of November.


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Pope Francis on All Saints’ Day: True happiness is found by following Jesus

November 1, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis led the Angelus for All Saints’ Day from a window above St. Peter’s Square. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2021 / 06:05 am (CNA).

On All Saints’ Day, Pope Francis said true happiness does not come from being young, rich, or successful, as the world thinks, but from the counter-cultural idea to follow Jesus Christ.

“The world says that in order to have happiness you must be rich, powerful, always young and strong, and enjoy fame and success. Jesus overturns these criteria and makes a prophetic proclamation – and this is the prophetic dimension of holiness – true fullness of life is achieved by following him, by putting his Word into practice,” the pope said Nov. 1.

Pope Francis gave a special Angelus address for the Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated by the Catholic Church on Nov. 1. This year, the holy day, which has the obligation to attend Mass, was transferred to Sunday in the United States.

In his message before the traditional Marian prayer on Monday, Pope Francis spoke about the road we should walk to become saints: The Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes, he said, “show us the path that leads to the Kingdom of God and to happiness: the path of humility, compassion, meekness, justice and peace.”

He also noted that the Beatitudes are addressed “to the poor, the afflicted, those who hunger for justice.”

“And this means being poor inside, hollowing oneself to make room for God,” he advised. “Those who believe themselves to be rich, successful and secure base everything on themselves and close themselves off from God and their brothers and sisters, while those who know that they are poor and not self-sufficient remain open to God and to their neighbor.”

The poor in spirit find joy, he said, explaining what Christian joy is and is not.

“The joy of the Christian,” Francis said, “is not a fleeting emotion or a simple human optimism, but the certainty of being able to face every situation under God’s loving gaze, with the courage and strength that come from him.”

He said this is the joy the saints give witness to, a joy experienced even in the midst of trials and suffering.

The pope also emphasized the importance of joy for the Church, because without it the faith becomes “a rigorous and oppressive exercise.”

“A desert Father said that sadness is ‘a worm that burrows into the heart,’ which corrodes life,” Pope Francis said, encouraging everyone to ask themselves if they are a joyful Christian or if they are “dull, sad people, with a funeral face?”

“Let us remember: there is no holiness without joy,” he underlined.

Francis also explained that holiness is not “a life plan” which people can create themselves based only on effort and renunciation, but that it consists “above all in the joyful discovery of being God’s beloved sons and daughters.”

“It is not a human achievement, it is a gift we receive: we are holy because God, who is the Holy One, comes to dwell in our lives,” he said. “For this we are blessed.”

After the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted the participants of Rome’s annual “Saints’ Run,” a 10km race which starts and ends on the road in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

He also noted that on Nov. 2 he will celebrate Mass for the Feast of All Souls’ Day at the French Military Cemetery in Rome.

“I wish you all a happy feast of the saints, in the spiritual company of all the saints,” he said.