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.

 

 

all saints day- a celebration for all, religious and or spiritual

November 1 is the Feast of All Saints, when we celebrate that glorious communion of women and men who have gone before us. The Catholic Church has an official Calendar of Saints for those whose sanctity has been verified and acknowledged through an arduous process and examination of their lives. In the early years of the Church, saints were recognized by simple acclamation of the people. Today, we know that there are many women and men who fill these hallowed halls that were known only to their nearest and dearest, but are no less saints that the greats who fill our liturgical calendar.

Contrary to the belief of some, Catholics don’t worship saints. We venerate them. They hold a special place in our hearts as models for inspiration. We have physical reminders of these special friends; statues, pictures and icons, and medals around our necks. We give their  names to our children, our churches and our towns, seeking their heavenly patronage and prayerful protection. We get a thrill when we have the opportunity to visit the special sites of their life, or spend time at their grave site. If anyone thinks this is weird, check out any sports fan who zealously wears their hero’s jersey to every game. Or how about a visit to a Hard Rock Café or any Hall of Fame filled with memorabilia of well-known stars and legends?

Belief in the communion of saints often unites “religious” and “spiritual but not religious” folks. Belief in the after-life and our spiritual union with those who have gone before us not only answers a deep need and hunger in our human existence, it is often experienced in tangible ways. We feel the presence of loved ones who have gone before us, sometimes in big moments and other times in the small whispers of daily life. Reminders of them are often unexpected, but always welcomed. It’s as if they are giving you a wee tap on your shoulder to let you know they are still there.

The Feast of All Saints is a wonderful opportunity to raise a glass in gratitude and praise to all the good and holy women and men who have gone before us. Their lives inspire us. Their ongoing prayers and love sustain us. May we look forward with hope to one day taking our place in their glorious ranks!

I`ll pray for you

image by Microsoft

Intercessory prayer is an important part of my online prayer community, Our Lady of the Round Table. In the past days, we have rejoiced in prayers answered. But for each prayer taken off our list, another request is quickly added. The many needs weigh heavily on all hearts. There is often nothing we can do, but pray. And pray we do.

We do not publish specific intentions online, for privacy reasons. But the prayers shared among us are filled with names of family and friends who are in need of God`s grace at this moment in their lives. Some of us are better at this than others. One member has become the `keeper of names`. She faithfully and lovingly lists the litany of intentions that we are remembering each day.

We also intentionally include Mary and all the saints in our prayers, believing that these holy women and men will `pray with us, pray for us, and pray for them`.

Praying for each other is a Christian tradition that spans denominations. Praying with the communion of saints is more of a Catholic tradition; and one that is often misunderstood. Why are you praying to the saints? Why do you need someone to intercede for you? It`s God who answers prayers. So why not pray directly to God? It`s important to remember that we are not praying TO the saints. We are asking the saints to join us in our prayer.

Many years ago, there was a woman in our parish called Anne. A woman of deep prayer, she reminded me of the prophet Anna in Luke`s story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2: 36-38) In her later years, Anne battled many health issues and was in frequent pain. But, she attended daily mass faithfully; arriving early and leaving late in order to pray. On days when we had Eucharistic Adoration, she didn`t sign up to stay an hour. She stayed the entire day. And she sat, peaceful and calm. Her eyes gazing at the monstrance on the altar. I asked her once, Anne, what do you do in all that time? Her answer? I pray for each and every one of you.

I was overwhelmed with the graciousness of this gift. Dear, holy Anne prayed for me. She prayed for all of us. Surely, God will hear her prayers!

Of course, God hears all our prayers; from the contemplative meditations of a cloistered monk, to the harried traveler begging to catch their flight. It`s easy to say `I will pray for you`. But, there is extra comfort when a prayerful soul says they will pray for you, because you know they will. And, they will pray mightily! Why would we not believe that the saints are part of this band of mighty pray-ers?

From family and friends and church communities, to prayer circles that span the globe. When it comes to intercessory prayer, there is strength in numbers. And it`s good to know that those numbers include our loved ones and all those who have gone before us into eternal glory.