BANGOR, Maine — The saints marched down the center aisle Monday morning at St. John Catholic Church.
Some wore rags and others sported velvet robes at a Mass on All Saints Feast Day attended by the students of All Saints Catholic School.
St. Cecilia, the patron of music and musicians, was there along with St. Agnes, the patron of Girl Scouts, and St. Lucy, the patron saint of eye ailments. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, wore the red cloak and scarlet miter he wore as the Bishop of Myra, in what is now Turkey.
Third-graders traditionally dress as their favorite saints for the Holy Day of Obligation, according to Marcia Diamond, school principal.
The Rev. Timothy Nadeau asked the children why they had chosen to portray a particular saint. A girl named Audrey said she picked the saint with her same name. A third-grader who said she loves music chose St. Cecelia for her love of the same. The boy dressed as St. Nicholas did not mention the saint’s connection to Santa Claus, but said he chose the bishop because of the many miracles he performed.
In his homily, the Rev. Seamus Griesbach urged the children to study the lives of the saints to learn how to be successful.
“These are men and women who prayed often and had a great love of the sacraments,” the priest told the children. “They loved the church and worked really hard to learn more about the church.
“And, they were brave, they had courage,” he said. “They also cared about the poor, the meek and sick. But, they were always looking to heaven, toward that final goal to be with the Lord.”
Griesbach ended his sermon by encouraging the children to “make friends with the saints” because they could become lifelong companions.
Monday also marked the Day of the Dead, observed by many Mexican-Americans. About 150 schoolchildren attended an event at the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine to learn about the traditions of the holiday.
Gatherings at grave sites in Mexico on Nov. 1 become family reunion picnics with food, drink, music, flowers and fireworks. The celebration of Dia de los Muertos usually begins on Oct. 31, the eve of All Saints Day, and culminates on All Souls Day, Nov. 2.
“Both observances remember the dead,” Joel Schorn wrote in an article published in the November 2010 edition of U.S. Catholic magazine to explain the similarities and differences in the holidays. “All Souls Day [celebrated on Nov. 2] remembers and prays for ‘all the faithful departed’; Dia de los Muertos welcomes the return of the departed for a yearly family visit.”
The Day of the Dead has roots in Mexico’s pre-Spanish civilization, while All Souls Day is of European heritage. Dia de los Muertos remembers the dead while celebrating their living memory, according to Schorn.
“It’s a kind of party during which the dead are remembered and rejoiced over,” Schorn wrote. “In the home, altars decorated with flowers, photos of the deceased, and a variety of food offerings for the dead extend hospitality to the deceased and recall their presence.”
All Souls Day dates to the ninth century, when it was a custom for monasteries to set aside a day to pray for their dead. Modern Catholics pray for the souls of the dead.
“Ultimately, the feast [of All Souls Day] complements that of All Saints [Day] in proclaiming that all those who love God, whether living or dead, are united in a living communion with Christ and one another,” according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.