Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 3, 2008
Why was the feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus changed?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
As the numbers of saints multiplied, devotional abuses replaced imitation of their holy lives.
By the ninth century, apostles and evangelists were included and then martyred popes. In the 12th, later individuals were added, Thomas a Becket being the first.
As the numbers of saints multiplied, devotional abuses replaced imitation of their holy lives. People became obsessed with relics as a guarantee of miracles. Shrines for relics sometimes replaced churches.
In his 1570 reform of the calendar of saints, Pius V reduced the number of those universally accepted to 158. However, soon the number went up again to more than 300.
As these saints were commemorated at daily Masses, little time was left for the liturgical season emphasizing Christ’s redemptive work.
Vatican II, in its document on the liturgy, brought our focus back to where it belonged. It called for reform “lest the feasts of saints take precedence over the very mysteries of salvation” (no. 11).
It recommended that “only those feasts which commemorate saints who are truly of universal significance be extended to the universal Church” (no. 11) assuring that “the entire cycle of the mysteries of salvation be suitably recalled” (no. 108).
Therefore saints less significant for the whole Church were left off the universal calendar.
Others who were likely more legend than reality were dropped.
Does that put honouring the saints into jeopardy?
Not at all.
It simply begins to put things into proper perspective.
The “source and summit” of our faith is the Eucharist which celebrates the mystery of our salvation through and in Christ. Everything else, including our devotion to the saints, must stem from it.
We honour the saints because of God’s grace in their lives and their response to that gift. We believe they are close to God and can intercede for us somewhat as a parent can intercede for a wayward child.
More especially, their lives can be powerful role models for us especially today when we need healthy examples to follow.
That is why, in recent years, the canonization process has looked for individuals closer to our times and to the lives of ordinary individuals so they can be more meaningful to us.
Faith in the communion of saints, which we declare in every Creed, means that in and through Christ, we are united and sustained by the dynamic relationship with all members of the people of God, both living and dead.
We need to rekindle frequently that flame of faith and love.
What an inspiring opportunity each year to celebrate all those women and men who have gone before us in Christ and all those who still do so today as we celebrate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls!
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