Today the Church honors all the Saints who live now in heaven with Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit.
The earliest observance of this day was a commemoration of “all the Martyrs” in the fourth century. Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their conscience, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity besides dying for the Faith. In the early centuries the only criterion for sainthood was popular acclaim, even when the bishop's approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993 AD; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took shape over the past 500 years. Today's feast honors the obscure as well as the famous—the saints each of us have known.
“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands....
One of the elders said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”
-Revelation 7:9, 14