All Saints: A Public Feast

On the Solemnity of All Saints, we stop to remember that salvation is not something that belongs primarily to me or to you. Salvation belongs to the Heavenly Jerusalem, to the City of God, and we are saved by joining that august community. Even though my friendship with Jesus is closer than any other, still my union with him is union in his body. Consequently, the Solemnity of All Saints resists being a merely private affair.

This is one reason why I love our yearly public procession. Students, faculty, and staff of Wyoming Catholic College gather downtown and parade through Main Street and up to the parish church with the Eucharist in the lead. We sing songs and walk, old and young, big and little.

I see it as a yearly cleansing and re-consecration of downtown Lander, a purification of whatever evils may have accumulated over the months.

The police know the drill. They block roads for us, and follow us up the highway to make sure everything is safe. Some people driving by take pictures. Probably, some of them think it’s neat; probably, some think it’s nutty religion; some probably wonder what the heck is going on. But for a little while, Jesus Christ walks the streets of Lander, Wyoming and claims them again for himself, publicly and without apology.

Back home, we did something I have meant to do for a long time: we “beat the bounds.” Back in the day, the only way to locate the village boundaries was to ask an old-timer who knew the boundaries well, so every year the villagers would walk the perimeter of their territory and reinforce their memory of where the boundaries were. Since they were walking the boundaries anyway, they would process with the Eucharist and pray that evil be kept out of the confines of their community. This was “beating the bounds.”

Piggy backing on the mood created by the All Saints procession downtown, we took whatever saints’ relics we had in the house and marched around the perimeter of our property. We started in the back yard, up the hill and down again, and then out front, and then around the side of the house and back, praying that God would sanctify these boundaries and keep evil outside them.

At the end we all sang the second verse of the “Nameday Song”. Then we gathered around a bonfire and roasted marshmallows, because–because marshmallows.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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