Reflections on Faith - The Communion of Saints and Family Thoughts - Nov 2006

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November 27, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


In the parish where I am a deacon, we had a most unfortunate event. A young teen struggled with personal demons for quite a while – and he recently took his life. There was a massive outpouring of love and support from parishioners, from non-related adult community members – and from many of the teens who were his friends. The pastor did a good job under terrible circumstances…. “We recognize the horrible wrong in the act, but we won’t criticize or condemn the deceased.” If ever I witnessed what it means to be an ‘extended family’ -- it was in the funeral events surrounding this young man’s life and death. Our church was overflowing, with people standing outside.

It happens that a lot of us knew the grandfather of this young man who killed himself. The grandfather died about two years earlier; he was a very devout, cradle Catholic. And I am sure that in his own life and in his death, he prayed unceasingly for his family members. AND – in some way or another, it would be my guess and hope that they are, or soon will be united.

The concept of a Communion of Saints has two closely linked meanings: communion (a union in holy things) -- and saints (among holy persons). We are – we should be in union with each other as family. Now family members don’t always get along. They make unfortunate mistakes… they don’t always agree… but they are always family. And – the area where we must maintain our linkage, our bond is in holy things. Things of God.

Our Catholic Catechism reminds us that the early Christian disciples devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship. The importance of this for us is that we ought to prayerfully maintain our family connection with our living brothers and sisters, and with all of the faithful deceased. Some may be in Purgatory – but they have an awesome ‘bright future.’ Others may be in Heaven – where (as I said at the beginning of the month) – they are on the 50-yard line in heaven. They are in close proximity to the throne of the Almighty. They are in prayer for us. Let us maintain prayerful contact with them.

St. Dominic – in the hours before his death said to his brother Dominicans: “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.”

And Therese of Lisieux – the Little Flower talked about spending her time in heaven doing good on earth.

Dominic got it. Therese got it. Now all we need to do is ‘get it.’ Grab hold of an awareness that we have thousands of family members ‘up there.’ They love us. They care for us. They pray for us. Thanks be to God. Amen!

November 20, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


Last month, we shared words about saints – with a few short reflections of motivation for those who are mere human beings – but perhaps on their way to sainthood. It’s what we here on earth – the Church Militant – that’s what we need. Help for the journey.

In Mark’s Gospel (12:26-27), we see these words: “…. have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead but of the living.

All of them – Moses and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob… Mary, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, her earthly spouse – they are all ‘living’ in the kingdom. They are there praying for us… interceding for us. And we, the faithful on earth continue the same ‘race’ they participated in. The battle for souls rages on continuously. Our society softens us. It confuses us. They tell us these sorts of words are foolish or old fashioned.

But the REAL TRUTH of this Communion of Saints is that all of us are (or should be) praying for one another. Just as I pray these hours and days for my spouse… for our (adult) kids and their families… just as I pray for our archbishop and our pastor … so too, they ought to be praying for us. All of us should be praying for each other and for those who have died.

We ought to do this as those in heaven are praying for, hoping for… rooting for us to cross the finish line as winners. We look to those in heaven as models of holiness. They have achieved what we really are on earth for – to win a crown of glorious salvation.

If you have been ‘infected’ with the virus of confusion and sin – you may believe there is nothing we can do about gaining admittance to the heavenly ranks. How wrong… how flawed this is. It is true that we cannot be saved ‘alone.’ We are a family of God – a Communion of Saints. We here need to think of Paul who gave us this analogy of running the race… that’s what we must do. Run the race as if the only acceptable alternative is winning.

Let us – pray; let us become like Paul. Let us become warriors in the battle against sin and complacency. Let us recognize we really are members of the Church Militant. This is war! We may lose skirmishes here and there – but let us be clear – winning the battle is possible.

November 13, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


We began this month by trying to depict that which cannot be described -- Heaven. No eye has seen, nor an ear heard, nor any heart conceived what God has ready for us. But it is there – in a place we call Heaven that Jesus is waiting. And with Him are all the ‘saints’ who have survived the trial on earth. As I said in that column – just imagine spending ‘time’ with the Virgin Mary… of a (love) banquet spent with the Apostles and John Paul II, etc. These and all of the holy ones – our family members who have ‘made it.’ They are there now… waiting for us.

There are a number of souls who, we believe are in a sort of a ‘clean-up shop.’ I don’t mean to be flippant about this…. they are the souls in Purgatory. Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters don’t understand or accept this notion. For some, it’s ‘once saved – always saved.’ Yet – the New Testament and early Christian writings offer evidence for Purgatory. Paul prayed for Onesiphorus who had died. (See 2 Timothy 1:16-18). Prayers were routinely offered for martyrs in the catacombs. And in 211AD, Tertullian mentioned prayers for the dead as something to be done in Christian worship. The Catholic Church’s Council of Trent (in 1563) issued a decree affirming the existence of Purgatory.

Our ‘family members’ in Purgatory are members of the Communion of Saints. We are as connected with them as the living members of our families here on earth – and with the saints already in Heaven.

Why are those souls in Purgatory? Our Catechism says that sin has a life of its own – and that the bad effects of sin continue even after the sinner repents. So even though a beloved one dies – there may be a necessary ‘period’ of repair for the damage of one’s sins. Let us remember them…. All of them.

It isn’t for any of us to judge what has happened to anyone. But let us recognize the reality of sin in the world. And we also must recognize it is our duty (and our opportunity) to pray for deceased siblings, parents and grandparents… for weak priests and bishops and for all those who didn’t respond fully to God’s grace during their lives. We know there is no ‘time’ in eternity – we think of a Purgatory as a preparation for those souls before they enter Heaven. Imagine their joy when they finally complete the journey to Heaven… where they will spend eternity with the Divine Mercy and Love.

November 6, 2006
This Week's Reflection:


During the month of November, I’d like to spend some time on the Communion of Saints. Do you remember that term? Those of us with a few or more gray hairs used to hear about a ‘family’ of believers. The Catholic Catechism says that it is the unity in Christ of all the redeemed, those on earth and those who have died. When we say the Apostles Creed – we profess our belief in this mystical – but real union of Jesus’ followers. In November – we pay special attention to those who have gone before us – those in Heaven (the saints if you please!). And in this family, we also honor and pray for those who are still in a state of ‘purgation’ or preparation for entry into Heaven. And we recognize this earthly part of the family – those of us called the Church militant.

It is Heaven that we start with. Heaven – the place we are called to spend eternity. It is the ultimate destination for all of the family of the Communion of Saints. The late Fr. Emile Briere of Madonna House wrote about ‘a place full of delights, of wonders ever renewed…. Of magnificent discovery followed by more magnificent discoveries.’ St. Paul told us that ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9).

And I remember a missionary priest – a Redemptorist who had been a priest for something like sixty years. His name was Fr. John and he seemed so ready to join God in Heaven. Fr. John said that ‘God is no piker!’ Those of us who make it to Heaven will all have seats on the fifty-yard line. No canes… no cancers… no ailments. We’ll enjoy the closest possible relationship with Christ and his angels and saints. Imagine praising God with more joy than we’ve ever had… with no taint of tiredness or sin. Imagine strolling in a beautiful garden with Mary the Mother of Jesus. Imagine sitting talking with St. Peter and asking about what it was like in the early days of the Church. Imagine talking with Thomas Aquinas and understanding his works… Imagine having a ‘heavenly’ cappuccino with John Paul II… or a ‘mystical’ latte with the Little Flower. Imagine a family reunion with all of our family members and forefathers… Yes – Heaven a place where love reigns… a place of real ecstasy! It will have been worth the ‘battle!’

© 2006-2008 Deacon Tom Online