Over the years, I've enjoyed surveying media coverage of feasts and seasons of the liturgical calendar. And particularly when it comes to local news, the coverage can be quite good. But this year's mainstream media coverage of All Saints Day was particularly bad.
Make that nonexistent.
Please remember that this is a major feast, a high feast commemorates the faithful Christians who have died. As my daily devotion for the day said, "The saints are not a cadre of morally holy persons, who knew no struggle, sorrow, or suffering. The saints are us; human beings plagued by death, sorrow, and even the rising specter of hell itself. While the saints of the Bible did heroic things, still they are best remembered by us as people who reposed all their confidence in the word and promises of God."
While the Eastern churches -- Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic -- celebrate on a different date, this important holy day is observed to one degree or another throughout most of Christendom. Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and others mark the day. Most years we see at least some coverage of the day and of Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), which seems particularly media friendly.
So it's interesting to see a more substantive and detailed piece in the Huffington Post's new religion section. If you avoid the comments at this site, it can actually be quite good:
Their lives are far richer than tales of bloody deaths or overblown feats of prayer. They were human, after all, and had to face the same struggles we do. For example, they had difficulties with their families: St. Thomas Aquinas' family was so opposed to his entering the Dominican order in the 13th century that they locked him up in a jail. They suffered from physical ailments: St. Francis of Assisi spent a great deal of his later life battling terrible eye infections. And they faced difficulties from the religious organizations to which they belonged: St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th-century founder of the Jesuit order, was several times thrown into jail by the Inquisition, which was suspicious of his ways of praying.
The saints were -- and here is something we usually forget -- human. ("Just like us," as the celebrity mags say about their subjects.) All of them tried the best they could to find a way to God during their own times, in their own circumstances and given their own limited worldviews. That goes a little way to explaining some of the practices that they undertook, which to our minds seem completely outlandish. St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a young 16th-century Jesuit, for example, maintained strict "custody of the eyes," which meant that he avoided looking women in the face to preserve his modesty.
Now, a history lesson might not make for the best news feature, but given how important and influential saints are to so many Christians, it seems like a squandered opportunity to ignore this on a major day set aside to remember them.
So what to do? How about asking various Christians -- famous people, as well as regular folks on kneelers -- which saints inspire them and why? The art above is of St. Monica, one of my favorite saints.
And kudos to the Huffington Post for including a religion piece that does acknowledge this importance.