This week, on Tuesday, Nov. 1 we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, and on Wednesday, Nov. 2, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls.
On Tuesday we ask the saints, both the canonized, “official” saints, and all the holy men and women in whom God’s grace has been victorious - which is the great majority of saints - to pray for us. I hope you have your favorites among the canonized Saints. I am partial myself to St. Athanasius, St. Ireneaus of Lyons, and of course (being a Paulist), St. Paul. A recently canonized Saint I also find very attractive is St. Mother Mary MacKillop. A strong Australian woman, she ran into conflicts with her Bishop (something with which I can identify). He wanted her to educate the daughters of the wealthy, but she was impelled to work with the poor. When she would not give in, the bishop excommunicated her, so she is one of the few Saints who was also excommunicated. I admire her courage and determination, even to being kicked out of the Church for a while.
I hope you have your list of favorite Saints as well: not only the canonized ones, but all the holy people you have known who have shown in their lives the goodness of God.
On Wednesday we in turn pray for all the faithful departed. We express our care and concern for them, and support them by our assurances of concern and love. We have the power to extend forgiveness to those who have died who have hurt us, and in so doing free them and also free ourselves. We also ask those whom we have hurt or ignored or neglected to forgive us, and so free themselves to live more fully the life of the Resurrected Christ.
All of us are connected in a great, interlocking network of care and concern, expressed in prayer. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who is God’s inner life of love, we are connected to each other as members of the Body of Christ. Since the Holy Spirit is stronger than death, all the cords of care and affection that knit us together in life do not cease with death. Through Christ we are still mystically, though really, connected with all those who have gone before us “marked with the sign of faith.” How this takes place is something we cannot now explain, but we believe that we still have a connection of mutual support that endures.
The Christian doctrine of the “Communion of Saints” is all about solidarity; solidarity in the struggle for salvation, in the ultimate victory of good over evil, of life over death, of love over hate. We support, encourage, instruct and stand in solidarity with each other. Our celebrations of All Saints and All Souls are concrete examples of that solidarity in Christ.
We are all called to be Saints. We all need prayerful support as struggling souls. May our celebrations this week bring us hope and encouragement.