I believe in…the communion of saints

cropped-st-peters-at-sunset.jpg

On All Saints Day, I find myself thinking less of big-name saints and more of dear friends and family who have died. I truly believe that these good women and men, whom I was blessed to know and walk this earth with, have now joined that glorious communion in heaven. They are now members of the All Saints Club. They are my personal saints.

Then comes All Souls Day. This is the day to remember our dearly departed and pray for their souls. Oops! Do I have my feast days mixed up? Is my theology screwed?

Many, I suppose, would say Yes and proceed to guide me to the requisite section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that teaches about purgatory and the need to pray for souls. (CCC 1030-1032) We cannot presume eternal salvation, they would tell me. Only God knows if our loved ones have, indeed, attained heavenly glory. Even good people die with traces of sin that need purifying, and it is only through our prayers and actions that they can eventually be welcomed into heaven.

There was a time when I believed in purgatory. It made logical sense. It seemed a fitting place for those of us who tread the path between sinner and saint; definitely not hell material, but not quite ready for heaven. I was taught as a child that reciting three rosaries would free one soul from purgatory. Wow! I could do that? Cool!

On the other hand, it’s easy to be sceptical. The church’s teaching and promotion of purgatory opened the gates to abuses in the form of indulgences, a way to purchase a fast track ticket to heaven for yourself and your loved ones while filling the church coffers. These “Fear-Instilling Fund-Raisers” were wildly successful over the years, financing the building of massive churches and funding crusades.

Hubby was always a purgatory sceptic. His favourite argument was the gospel story of the good thief.

good thief

Jesus never said, “see you soon” to the good thief. He said “TODAY you will be with me in paradise.” This, hubby argues, is proof of the boundless love and forgiveness of Jesus. It’s a hard argument to deny.

I no longer believe in purgatory but I do believe in the communion of saints. (Oops, my cafeteria catholic roots are showing! 😉 ) The communion of saints assures me, in my grief, that those I loved and are now gone from this earth have not only entered into a new and more glorious existence, they remain united with us in spirit across time and space, between heaven and earth.

Along with Mary and all the saints, our loved ones now pray with us, pray for us, and pray for all those we offer up in need of God’s mercy and love.

I still pray the traditional prayer for the dead. The words are comforting and come easily to the mind, heart and lips when I hear news of someone who has recently died.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, Let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Yes, today I remember my family and friends who have died.

With faith, I believe that they have joined that glorious communion of saints in heaven.

With hope, I believe that one day we will be united in God’s presence forever.

With love, I believe that this is the greatest of virtues. Love knows no bounds. Love transcends time and space. Love binds us between heaven and earth.

Love never dies.

 

 

beach basilica

IMG_3789

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. (Psalm 19)

I’ve visited many basilicas in my life, including the four major ones in Rome. They are gob-smacking, architectural monuments. Domes soar in the air with no visible support. Massive columns and statuary remind us of our own littleness, and the grandness of popes, bishops and saints. The glory of God sometimes competes with the glory of man.

I can still be moved with the beauty of our churches, cathedrals and basilicas. But, my heart yearns more and more for the glory of God in the heavens and firmament.

Hubby and I retired to the southern shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

(Manitoba is the province shaped like a mitt, smack in the middle of Canada. Lake Winnipeg is the largest lake, smack in the middle of the province. You can see it here.)

lake winnipeg

Our home is actually on a channel surrounded by marsh land, with water access to the main lake. Here’s a recent photo. The Canada geese were having a late evening practice run for their trip south. (With apologies to my friends in the south. The kaka bombers are coming!!!)

IMG_3331

We’ve been blessed with a glorious autumn. Here’s a view of the marsh on a late afternoon walk.

IMG_3709Southern winds have lowered the main lake levels in past weeks allowing more access to the shore lines. Hubby and I have been exploring beaches just minutes away by car. I fill my mind with mental pictures, and my camera memory with photos.

IMG_3674

I’ve told this story many times. Please forgive me for repeating it. Many years ago, a well-intentioned priest told us in a homily that the most important place to be in the world was inside the four walls of our church. His words angered me, and still do. Yes, our churches and church communities are important, but they are not the sole pathway to God.

In these early autumn years of my life, I am finding God more and more in daily life. People and places, relationships and creation form my sacramental moments.

And, in these glorious autumn days, the beach is my basilica.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. (Psalm 19)

 

 

sing a new song? yes, please!

IMG_3616

Sometimes we love a song so much we play it over.

And over.

And over.

The tune and words morph into an ear worm, burrowing deep into our memory. We hum it. We day-dream to it. Years later it has the power to move time and place into the present.

We can also easily tire of a song. We might have liked it once. Really liked it. Now, it fails to move us. Even worse, it may become annoying. We’re done with it.

SING A NEW SONG!

Psalms and hymns are filled with joyous shouts of “SING A NEW SONG!” Stop for a moment. I bet that a song or psalm phrase is going through your mind right now.

And yet, we are part of a church that tells us what to sing, when to sing, and how to sing. We sanctify tradition, equating it with holiness. We sing of new songs, but seldom sing new songs.

Dare we explore new ways of believing, praying and expressing our faith? Heavens, no, say the defenders of Mother Church. We still haven’t got over the Protestant Reformation when all those nasty men and women dared to stray from our centuries old tradition. Dared to question. Dared to seek personal paths to God and holiness. New ways are a threat to our unity, say the defenders.

This is what we have always believed.

This is how we’ve always prayed.

This is who has always led the prayer. Held the power. Made all the decisions.

WE MAY SING OF NEW SONGS,

BUT SELDOM SING NEW SONGS.

I’ve been dragging my feet to go to Sunday Mass for years. It’s only an hour of my life, I tell myself, but it’s a burden. I go because my hubby goes. Often, he goes alone.

I used to love the Mass, even attending daily when I could. I can sometimes stir up those happy memories, but usually the bad memories of past hurts take over. Where once there was nourishment, there is now a sense of purgatory time.

Long.

Tedious.

Not real pain yet suffering nonetheless.

Purgatory time.

I try not to blame others for my lack of enthusiasm. There is no magic priest. No magic choir. No magic parish. What would change this for me? How can I change? I’m not sure.

Is the song old, or am I simply tired of hearing it?

I NEED A NEW SONG!

I firmly believe that faith, like love, follows a circular movement of ROMANCE – DISILLUSIONMENT – TRUE JOY. I’m no stranger to disillusion in my faith life. I’m even more experienced in disillusion with the church. I’m curious to know where the disillusion will lead me at this stage in life.

What new songs will I hear?

What new songs will I sing?

What about you?