All Saints Day is when the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches commemorate every saint, known and unknown on November 1. All Saints Sunday is a tradition in many Protestant churches of remembering those saints, believers, literally God’s holy people, who have been part of their fellowships but who died in the past year. Their address is now on record in God’s heavenly post office. Sometimes their names are read as family members’ present stand to reflect the deceased’s influence on them and their love for the person who lives in their memory as well as in the presence of Christ. Other churches may honor former members, i.e. saints, by lighting a candle or chiming a bell as their name is read. Many methods are used to remember the blessing of lives lived and to be reminded to live a life of faith in Christ that also will take them to heaven someday while blessing lives around them on the journey.
All Saints Day is sometimes used as a way to remember today’s martyrs. This year there may be more martyrs to remember than has happened in years. The 20th Century dawned with one-fifth of the Middle East composed of Christians. Fourteen years into the 21st Century, however, less than one-fiftieth remains Christian. Iraq was once home to 1.5 million Christians in contrast to fewer than 400,000 today. Dana D. Kelley said, “The shrinking Christian population in the areas where the apostles and early followers trod—centuries before the arrival of Islam—is no accident or voluntary exodus.” The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the major perpetrator.
“The Voice of the Martyrs” tells the story this year of Liena, a Syrian believer who chose to stay in Syria with her family despite the civil war. One day as she prayed she felt God was asking her what she was willing to give up for her faith in Jesus Christ. Was she willing to give her life, the life of her husband, even the lives of her children? After praying privately, with her husband, and with her children; she told God yes. “We trust God,” she said. “He is in control always, even during the blood, during the killing.” The video of her story grips the heart and may be found at persecution.com/idop.
Remembering the past, the lives that shaped it, you and your world helps the current residents of planet Earth to be grateful. Simultaneously, it becomes a reference point from which to plot a desired future. Remembering the past, however, does not need to be a barrier to celebrating the present. The present, too, can be a shaping influence for the future. Why not remember those special people and honor those you love who are still alive with a note. Handwritten notes tend to be rare which adds to the depth of feeling when received. I think I better go write one or two now, before I forget.