Known and Unknown

A gravestone from a Commonwealth cemetery in France, engraved with "a soldier of the great war, a Canadian regiment, known unto God"

OK. Everyone knows I loves me the pantheon of RC Saints. Over the course of the year, I go to the Rolodex of Saints often to ask for help for my own worldly hurts, and to ask for their intercession with The Big Guy Upstairs. Need a saint to help you find a replacement of the china soup tureen you broke at your aunt’s house? St. Spyridon, patron of potters (or Justa and Rufina, if you’re Spanish). Need good weather for the giant family BBQ you’ve got planned? St. Lawrence, patron of grilling, and St. Medard of Picary, patron against bad weather. You gots needs, we gots saints.

There’s a giant misconception that St. Christopher (patron of travellers) got fired from his saintly duties sometime in the early aughts. How does that even work? I mean, you can’t re-structure like you’re shuffling your caucus assignments, right? Because if that was the case, surely St. Anthony the Overachiever (patron of lost things and about eleventy thousand other things) would have his portfolio downsized first, right? St. Christopher is still a saint, he’s just not a saint with a feast day anymore. As are 95 other saints who’ve been “downgraded” because they’re more like legends than saints. Was there actually a guy who carried an increasingly heavy child across a river – the increasing burden being the weight of God? Well, there’s not enough proof, so now there’s only the downgraded Tropical Storm Christopher. Poor Chris.

But here’s the thing – if you believe in something, you give it power. So if you believe that St. Christopher is real, and he can intercede on your behalf when there’s turbulence in the air, or black ice on the highway, then he can. And prayers are prayers.  Know who else was downgraded? St Nicholas (of Santa Claus fame) and St. George (patron of England and enemy of Dragons).

Wild, huh?

Gotta tell you, this hasn’t changed people’s devotion to these saints. And what does downgraded mean, even? They’ve been removed from a pretty busy liturgical calendar. And replaced with whom, again? Amongst others on May 9, there’s no St. Christopher, but are two separate St. Beatuses and a St. Gorfor. Of course. On December 6, St. Nicholas is still listed, amongst others. And on April 23, St. George still appears amongst folks like St. Adalbert of Prague and St. Ibar of Beggerin. So if you are in Prague, light a candle for St Adalbert. And if you’re in England, Fly your St. George’s Cross.  People who feel an affinity to a downgraded saint are still going to feel a devotion to them, and will continue to celebrate them.

Which brings us to All Saints day.

All Saints (All hallows) honours those who have not been made into saints proper, and don’t have a feast day. All Saints is one of my favourite days of the year, exactly because my thoughts go to saints unknown. This is all of us who go about our lives doing good things and working to make the world a better place than we found it. All Saints is about recognizing the good example of others, being grateful for their role in your life, and using their example to create changes in your own life.

A few years ago, Child got an award for Catholic leadership and a memorial award for being a good Catholic mentor in his community at his high school graduation. He wasn’t sure he deserved them because he didn’t attend mass regularly. We had a conversation about how being a good Catholic leader and mentor is about having a strong moral compass, about being brave enough to make the right choice instead of the easy choice.

Similarly, as Allhallowtide overlaps with the Remembrance Season, there is the opportunity to consider the traits of the members of all branches of the armed forces that we honour at this time of year. This year may the best qualities of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces provide the example we can all model.

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