I bring to you news of great joy! September 9th is the feast of St. Peter Claver. We are going to have two Masses to celebrate his feast day! You might ask the questions, why do we name churches after Saints? What is a feast day? Why and how should we celebrate it? Here is your answer to these important questions.
Long ago, in the ancient days, the church in Rome had to offer secret Masses in homes. The safest place for Christians to offer the Mass was in the Roman Catacombs. These were the subterranean cemeteries that were outside of the city of Rome. They go for many miles, and some are five, or more, floors of tombs. At times of great persecution, Christians would go there under cover of night and offer Masses over the tomb of the martyrs (those who died rather than renounce their Christian faith). In this way, they honored these Christian hero’s and asked for their intercession for themselves and non-believers.
Eventually, after Christianity became legalized, they began to build churches to hold the beautiful tradition of connecting churches with those Christians who either paid the ultimate price to stay loyal to Jesus or to honor Christians who lived lives of exemplary holiness. They knew that since these saints were now in heaven, they could intercede with the Lord for the Church Militant (the church on earth). Whole areas, and sometimes cities, were named after the saints of a given parish church. Often the life of the saint would be taught to the people and held up as a model of faithfulness and love. Some churches even have the entire body of the saint, while most have an Altar Stone, which contains a fragment of the saint’s body in a marble slab that is placed in the altar. The priest kisses the altar cloth over the spot of the relic at each Mass. Paying homage to Jesus and asking the saints prayers for the church.
Every saint has two birthdays. The day of their birth into the world and the day of their birth into heaven.
The church, since time immemorial, has celebrated the lives of the saints on the day of their birth into Eternal Life. This day is called their Feast Day. Traditionally in many catholic countries, this would be a day when the entire town or parish would attend a solemn Mass at the parish church and then have a huge party with food and fireworks and games and maybe even a procession of the saint’s relics and/or statue.
The church offers a special blessing to those who attend Mass or pray in a parish church on its patron Saints feast day. This blessing is called a Plenary Indulgence. It reduces time in purgatory and comes with much grace. To receive this blessing, you must visit the church on the feast day, and you have to be:
1) free of mortal sin and attachment to sin
2) receive holy communion (within two weeks before or after)
3) go to confession (within two weeks before or after)
4) pray for the Popes intentions
5) and then you can apply the graces to yourself or a deceased person who may be in purgatory
Sadly, many of these traditions have not been kept up as they once were, yet we can revive some of them. This year will be the greatest one St Peter Claver’s Parish has ever had. I was informed that Archbishop Gregory asked if he could personally offer Mass at St. Peter Claver’s this Wednesday! Sadly, because of COVID, the numbers will be limited, but we will offer the Mass live starting at noon. There will also be a High Latin Mass at 6:00 PM for those who would like to attend. This is going to be a truly blessed day for us all. St. Peter Claver, pray for us!!!
Your Brother and Father in Christ,