Bulletin – November 2016
“So the faith was planted: so must it be restored”
Eight Pond Place – Oyster Bay, NY 11771
A Great Multitude Which No Man Could Number
Taken from a sermon by The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
Copyright © 2001 The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
…..In 1921 an unidentified American soldier who died in World War I was buried at Arlington Cemetery in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Subsequently, other unknown soldiers have been buried there as well. When I was in the service, I was stationed in Washington, D.C., and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb itself is like a massive stone coffin that houses the mortal remains of American soldiers who died for our country.
…..It is said that many mothers are often found visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Mothers whose sons have no grave that they can visit might find consolation at this tomb. This is not hard to understand, for there lie soldiers whose identity is unknown and who thus symbolize all the unknown who laid down their lives.
…..Indeed, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is meant to honor all the unknown. Hundreds of thousands and even millions, including chiefs of state, kings, and presidents have visited that tomb to pay homage. They visit the majestic tomb of stone to honor the unknown and to pay their tribute to those now known only to Almighty God and the saints in Heaven.
…..Many centuries before there was a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and long before there was an Arlington Cemetery or the state of Virginia in which it is located, and even before there were thirteen colonies, let alone an American nation, the Catholic Church “set aside a day whereon to honor the heroes and heroines of God, men and women who had won Heaven by their holy lives, men and women [and children too] whose names were written nowhere but in the Book of Life.” [Arthur Tonne, O.F.M., Talks on the Creed, (Emporia, Kansas: Diddle Printing Co., 1946) p. 122.] “In the official directory of saints of the Catholic Church, over 40,000 are mentioned by name, 40,000 men and women of every race and color and clime, of every age and walk in life, of every tribe and people, 40,000 men and women who were special friends of God, heroic souls in every way. Their names are . . . known.” [Arthur Tonne, O.F.M., With Parables, (Emporia, Kansas: Diddle Printing Co., 1946) p. 119.] But the number of saints is much greater than that 40,000. Countless is the number of unknown saints. Thus, we celebrate the Feast of All Saints to honor in a special way all those unknown saints in Heaven. As with the tomb in Arlington we honor the unknown dead, so with the Feast of All Saints we honor the unknown saints of Heaven. We honor the countless millions of unknown saints who, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, triumphed over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
…..As we honor them, we hope to join them one day. For it is to the company of the saints that we are called by Christ. This is why God made us. This is why His Son died for us. It is why we were created. It is why we are here on earth. It is why we belong to the Catholic Church. Will we be saved? Will we one day enter Heaven instead of Hell? It all depends on us. Not that we save ourselves, for that we cannot do. But we can decide which master we serve: God or mammon. Thus, if we lead good Catholic lives, if we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, if we are devoted to Our Lady, if we avoid sin and the occasions of sin, if we work hard to fulfill all the duties of our state in life, and if we receive the sacraments regularly and faithfully, then we will be saved. If we ardently desire our salvation, we shall enthusiastically pursue it. Thus, on the Feast of All Saints, the Church would stir up in us a great desire for Heaven and would at the same time encourage us to believe that we can, with God’s help, make it there. It is true that the vast majority will be lost. But the minority that will be saved is, nevertheless, very great.
…..It is to remind us of this fact that the Church selected the Epistle of the Mass which is taken from the Apocalypse of St. John. The Epistle is a glorious picture of the Church Triumphant and the saints in glory. It takes note of the saints from the Old Testament and from the New. It pictures them all before the throne of the Lamb of God. Of the saints of the Old Testament, St. John speaks of 12,000 from each tribe of Israel that are signed and saved. The number twelve is a number that signifies fullness and completion. The number given – 144,000 – is 12,000 times twelve. From each of the twelve tribes of Israel 12,000 – this signifies the full number of the saints of the Old Testament and of converted Jews.
…..Then St. John says: “After this, I saw a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and they cried with a loud voice saying: Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and the ancients, and the four living creatures; and they fell down before the throne upon their faces, and adored God, saying: Amen. Benediction, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, honor, and power, and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.” This “great multitude” contains the number of those who are saved from among the gentiles. With the saints of the Old Testament, with the Apostles and the Evangelists, and with the nine choirs of Angels, they are seen glorifying God before the throne of the Lamb. They are seen adoring the Lamb of God and rejoicing in the knowledge that they are saved and shall be gloriously happy in the company of the saints for all eternity.
…..What a happiness it will be! For the essential happiness of Heaven consists in the Beatific Vision. In the Beatific Vision of God, the saints see God face to face. They love Him with a beatific love and rejoice in Him with a beatific happiness, and that happiness shall never diminish for all eternity. Whether it has lasted ten seconds, ten minutes, ten hours or ten days; ten weeks, ten months or ten years; ten centuries, ten millennia or ten million years, it will never decrease. The happiness of Heaven will never be less satisfying to man’s mind and heart. Indeed, after ten million or ten billion years the love of God will not grow cold, nor will the joy of loving Him be diminished in the least.
…..Then there is the joy that comes from the company of the Blessed Mother and the saints, to which is added the joy of the resurrected and glorified bodies of the saints at the end of the world. To this joy we are all called. The Feast of All Saints reminds us of this. It is what we can attain. To enable us to gain this great happiness, the Son of God became a Man and gave His life for us. Should we not – for Him and for ourselves – do all we can to save our souls? To save our souls, all we have to do is die in the state of grace. To insure that we do die in the state of grace, we must now live in the state of grace. It’s that simple.
…..Let us, then, strive to always live in such a way that when we are called out of this life, we may be found worthy to enter the company of the saints in Heaven. Thus we pray in the words of the Postcommunion prayer of the Mass: “Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy faithful people may always rejoice in paying reverence to all Thy saints, and may they be helped by their unceasing prayers.” Amen.
…..At times a special wreath of flowers is placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We place a special wreath of prayers, so to speak, at the gates of Heaven as we honor the unknown saints with the Feast of All Saints.