Me with my grandpère, circa 1982
Today and tomorrow mark the two feasts of the year that deal with our dead... On November 1 the Saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as having abounded in holiness in this life through careful examination, and those who are unknown to us or known only to a few are celebrated on this day. Tomorrow we remember in our prayers all the souls who have been here below, praying especially for the mercy of God on those who may be going through purgative purification.
It's a time I always begin to reflect on the Communion of Saints.
the Communion of Saints is the name we give to a doctrine we teach that makes most protestants shudder-- and yet it is the most glorious thing.... one of the key pieces in the puzzle of Christianity. As a protestant, I was always so frustrated when my friends died-- my choices were to believe that they had gone to hell because I hadn't seen them make visible efforts with their alleged faith in God, in which case, it was horrid, I was helpless, and God didn't care. Or to believe that they had gone to heaven and were now separate from me, GONE, away, and lost until some magical day in the far off future when we would be united in heaven. Catholicism, however, offers the simplest, and most beautiful doctrine to demonstrate both how GOOD God really is and how interconnected we are... how much relationships DO matter.
The entire Church, called the "Mystical Body of Christ," has one head: Christ. The Church here on earth is called: "The Church Militant." We are here below, waging war on sin and evil. The Church above is the Church Triumphant, having succeeded in the spiritual battle, and now interceding for us before the Throne.
The Church Suffering are the souls in purgatory (state of being, not physical place) who did not succeed in the Battle completely, who have not received the graces necessary (because they didn't ask!) to enter God's presence, but who died "doing what they thought was right." Great suffering is theirs. as the Refiner's Fire purifies them, and we pray for them anticipating their eventual glory, they helping us by their prayers and we helping them. All of us are interconnected. For those in Christ, there truly is no time and space, we are all one.
In the Holy Eucharist, In Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, I am united to all believers past, present and future, militant, suffering, and triumphant. We are all One. When I receive the eucharist I am mystically present with all my loved ones.... family members across the globe whom I love and miss and who, also are fed by the Lamb. Friends and family members who have passed on in Christ. The Saints whose lives inspire me and mold me and help me to be the best Christian I can be. They are all there, in that little tiny host, often described as "dry tasting" by people who simply don't understand what they are seeing and tasting... the body and soul, mind and divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
If you're like me and have a lot of friends and family who have passed away, and a lot who live far away and who you simply can't be with physically, this doctrine is of so much comfort and such a source for rejoicing.
Like a great Tree of Life the branches, representing the Church Triumphant, spread throughout the heavens, praising God and shaking things up for us here below in our necessity, uniting heaven and earth. The trunk (Church Militant), stable and sturdy, healthy, ever growing and building, depends on the connection of the roots (Church Suffering-- buried but ever active!) with the rich earth (God) from whom all nourishment comes. The trunk is tall and straight because of the wind in it's branches, the hope in it's brightly colored leaves, each different from the next but all similar in their shape, function, and beauty and because of the depth of the roots and their constant presence. We all matter. We all have a place, and a part. We all came from somewhere, and are going somewhere. We're all connected. We all matter, and no one is simply "gone." God made the tree, nourishes us in the earth, the air, the wind, the water..... He is in the heavens, and with us in the roots and soil.
Today, Catholics will sing Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones..... reminded of the Communion of Saints. Tomorrow, Catholics will hear mass in a cemetery, reminded of their duty towards the Holy Souls in Purgatory, as much a part of the mystical body as any living person.
The reflections which naturally arise from the observation of these days are dark and triumphant, difficult and beautiful, mysterious and wonderful.....amazing.
As someone involved with the paranormal community, these two days are the most important ways to communicate to non-catholics, and especially people who have been affected by supernatural experiences with the dead ("last phone calls," "last visits," "sightings" etc) that these things have a very real purpose, that there are people who need us still and that we can not forget them, that for the dead in Christ, death is only the beginning!
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
- 1 Corinthians 15:55
Today, I thank God for the Saints in heaven, especially my close friends Mary, Joseph, Elijah, Mary Magdalen, St Josemaria, and Blessed Mariam, the Little Arab.
Tomorrow, I remember especially in my prayers all my relatives who have died, especially my Grandpère, who died in the month of November and who I miss very much. I remember also all of my friends who died back home, at least one a year since the year I turned twelve, of various tragedies ranging from car accidents to drug overdoses to suicides and freak illnesses. Death is no stranger to me-- but it has lost it's sting. Alleluia!
I remember also all of your friends and family, and most especially those sweet babies so many of my friends have lost in childbirth or through miscarriage. They are with us! Alleluia!
Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen!
*note to non-Catholic readers: the Roman Catholic Church teaches the existence of hell. The fact that I didn't discuss hell in this blog is NOT indicative of the doctrine of universal salvation within Catholic teaching. I wanted here to focus on the things we celebrate and observe these two days... our cause for rejoicing. There is, of course, a time to weep. We'll talk about that another day. ;)