In the year 27 B.C., the consul of Rome — a man named Agrippa — decided to win the favor of the gods for the city of Rome and its empire by building a new temple to all the pagan gods at the same time. That first temple was replaced by another, larger, one by the Emperor Hadrian in the year 125 A.D. Remarkably, that building which was essentially completed nearly 19 centuries ago, is still standing, still in use, and still one of the most beautiful structures in the world. It is called “the Pantheon,” which means the temple to all the gods. If you have any appreciation of architecture, you are stunned by the harmony, the proportions, the majesty of the building when you walk into it.
In the year 610, the Christian emperor Phocas gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV, who promptly dedicated it as a church in honor of Our Lady and all the Martyrs, since Rome is, par excellence, the city of martyrs where so many Christians gladly died rather than renounce their faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometime later, one of the Popes renamed it: Our Lady and all the Saints, since the age of martyrdom had ended with the persecution of the Catholics, but the age of holiness will never end. It was decided that the church would have a special feast in the Roman calendar: November 1, as the church year comes to an end, and the attention of the liturgy is more and more fixed upon heaven. That feast has been extended to the entire Church, so that today we all celebrate the solemnity of All Saints, both those we know of and those quiet people who have lived and died in union with God, but whom we won’t know until we get to heaven ourselves. We can certainly hope that our own parents or ancestors, and even friends and colleagues of ours who have died may already be in heaven, and that we are celebrating them along with the great canonized men, women, and children of our history.
Tomorrow then is a festival of hope, of optimism, of motivation. As Our Lord was preparing to ascend into Heaven and be seen by his followers no more, he said to them: “I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be.” What a wonderful farewell! What marvelously encouraging words he leaves us with, as we watch him ascend beyond the clouds, and get on with our own lives, waiting for the moment when we shall be called to join him!
Our present Pope has said “There is no isolation in heaven . . . it is the fulfillment of all human togetherness.” When you stop and think of that, you realize that that alone would almost constitute heaven. Just think how great this life would be if everyone we meet, everyone we know, were totally good, totally perfectly — spiritually, mentally, emotionally, socially — and were a close personal friend of ours! What a tremendous joy that would be. Well, in heaven that is what will be. And in addition to that, we will understand to the limits of our own ability the greatness and goodness of God. Think of this often; let it motivate you to live according to God’s holy will and to assure your entrance into that indescribably wonderful existence that we call heaven. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.