In 1921, the Feast of all the Saints of Ireland was instituted by Pope Benedict XV. This feast, celebrated on November 6th, was a response to the innumerable number of saints in Ireland who were named such by popular acclaim, yet were not on the calendar or were not formally canonized. In fact, only four saints, Malachy, Lawrence O’Toole, Oliver Plunkett, and Charles of Mt. Argus, have been formally canonized by Rome, although many more have been beatified.
Like the Solemnity of All Saints, the feast has a much broader role than only commemorating those who have been honored with the title of saint, yet have not formally been beatified. According to the Association of Catholic Priest’s website:
The scope of this feast, while it includes canonized saints, is wider. It also includes those who had a reputation for holiness and whose causes for canonization 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.
The feast is mirrored with a similar feast, celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church, of the All Saints of Great Britain and Ireland. This feast, celebrated on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, commemorates the number of saints who lived in those islands prior to the Great Schism.
America is a land with similarly few canonized saints, yet a great many of unnamed and formally unrecognized saints. For over five centuries countless women and men have gave their lives in service to proclaiming Christ and his reign. I propose it is time that this vast crowd of witnesses be given their own feast. In fact, the Orthodox Church in America already celebrates the Feast of the Synaxis of the Saints of North America. The official website of their church notes that
On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.
Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us” and to “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians
Although it is a relatively young church, the Orthodox Church in America has produced saints [of nearly all sort].
Further resources for this Orthodox feast can be found here.
The precedent is set in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to commemorate the great number of holy men and holy women who have gone before us. Here in the United States with the Orthodox Church in America’s feast there is an additional precedent.
I write this to point out the fact that the number of witnesses who have gone before us should be recognized, especially those who, though living lives of great virtue and Christian charity have not begun the process for canonization and frankly will not do so. Below, I have reproduced the Irish texts as an example of how this can be done.
All holy men and women of the United States, pray for us!
All the Saints of Ireland
Entrance Antiphon (Cf. Sirach 44:1-2)
Let us sing the praises of our ancestors in their successive generations,
for the Lord has created an abundance of glory,
and displayed his greatness from earliest times.
as we celebrate the power of the Gospel
that you displayed in the Saints of our land,
work for us, we pray, new wonders of your grace:
that the faith may grow stronger among us,
and true charity bind us in peace.
Through our lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Hebrews 11:2, 12:1-4, 15, 13:1
From Psalm 125
Prayer over the Gifts
Accept at our hands, O Lord, we pray,
these gifts of the fruits of the earth
that we bring be for you
on the feast of all the Saints of Ireland;
and by this holy sacrifice make of us a pure offering
to the glory of your name.
Through Christ our Lord.
V/. The Lord be with you.
R/. And with your spirit.
V/. Lift up your hearts.
R/. We lift them up to the Lord.
V/. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/. It is right and just.
It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
For you are glorified in the Saints of this land
and in them you manifest the rich diversity of your gifts,
which come to us through the death and resurrection of Christ your Son.
In these faithful servants he has come close to us;
in the familiar pattern of their lives
he shows us the ways of his holiness;
in their intercession for us
he offers to you the pleading of our own.
And so in company with them
and with all the angels
we cry out with a single voice in praise of your glory:
Holy, holy, holy ….
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God;
blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God;
blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, says the Lord.
Prayer after Communion
By your never-failing gift,
O Lord, these sacraments have sustained your people
on their pilgrim way;
grant that in the strength of this same food
we too may walk to the holy mountain
where you dwell with all the Saints.
Through Christ our Lord.
May God, whose glory is revealed in all the Saints of this land,
keep you strong in faith.
By the victory of the Cross of Christ the Lord
may he bring you to the glory of the resurrection.
And by his grace may the noble company of Saints
be with you at life’s end and welcome you to paradise.
And may the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain forever.
All liturgical texts © Irish Episcopal Commission for Liturgy, 2009.