Sunday, November 2, 2014

For All the Saints

About a week ago, my cousin posting the following on Facebook:
“While looking at one of my grandma's Bible tonight which is my favorite thing she owned, mom tells me that it has been 6 years this week since she passed away. I miss her every day and wish I could share so many stories with her. But while looking at the Bible I keep noticing numbers at the end of each chapter, the more I look I start to realize those are years. She was keeping up with her place while reading through. She read through the Bible in 1977, 1985-2003, 2005. Twenty-one times she read the Bible. She was a woman of God. One day I hope to be as good, strong, smart, and loving as she was. I am blessed to have memories with such a great woman, and to get to call her grandma.” 

The statement really moved me because it was so true. I took note that 1977, the first date my cousin found, was shortly after my grandfather passed. Grandma obviously found comfort in scripture after being widowed, although she was a devout Christian long before that. It was a beautiful testament of someone who meant a lot to us. Even after death, people still touch us. We learn something new about them, or we mature and understand them a bit better. Some days, mom and I share a glance that communicates, “I know exactly what Grandma would be saying about this.”

My grandmother, being Protestant, is not going to be officially canonized by the Church any time soon. That doesn’t mean she’s not a saint, just that the Church hasn’t investigated and formally declared her one. There’s lots of unrecognized saints in heaven, and I’d wager that plenty are non-Catholic. The feast of All Saints covers all those saints we simply don’t know. And All Souls covers those that have died, whether they have reached heaven or not. It is particularly a day to remember one’s relatives that have passed.

(For now) the Church is divided. There’s us, the Church Militant on earth, striving for salvation in a fallen world. There’s the Church Triumphant, those who have finished the race and rest in God’s presence. And there’s the Church Suffering, who are enduring the fires of purification in preparation for heaven. But there is victory in the suffering; their souls will reach heaven eventually. It is the souls of the Militant who are in danger. The Church is divided, stretching over the gorge of death, for death really has no meaning for the Church. Christ has triumphed death, so we should not let it keep the parts of the Church apart.

All Saints and All Souls reminds us that there are a lot more people in the Church than those we see on Sunday. Time and space and death does not limit the Church’s reach. The holidays also remind us of those specific intrepid souls who have gone before us, who have fought the good fight and finished the race. Our loved ones, our role models, our prayer partners—waiting for us.

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