In the Cloud

All Saints and All Souls, aren't these for the dead? What could these memorials possibly have to do with me?
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source: Catholic.net

        The wisdom of the Church goes far beyond Mass on Sunday, learn the Lord’s Prayer and pray the Rosary.  As the world moves into winter and the seasons change to the dark time of the year, the Church bids us to recall those of us who have passed from light into dark.  In the heart of the darkness we are then charged to observe a period to anticipate the incarnation of the great light that will carry them and us forever home and defeat the darkness once and for all.  In the rhythm of our faith the Church surrounds us with liturgy and remembrance which touches the wholeness of our lives, their span, and not just what we do on Sunday. 
            November is the beginning of that remembrance, recollection and celebration.  Anyone who has been Catholic for more than ten minutes knows that the Solemnity of All Saints is November 1 and the Commemoration of All Souls is November 2.  Although the meaning of the word “saint” (small s) has an origin meaning “believer”, on November 1 we celebrate those officially declared Saints (large S) by the church, those canonized individuals.  If we count through the centuries, these number in the thousands.  This is our great army of extraordinary believers.  On November 2 we celebrate all souls, those “ordinary people” who are dearly departed whether recently or long past.  In a very real way we need to pay special attention to honoring these days because sooner or later we will be in one of these groups.  As theologians have noted, in our current existence we are simply in an active state of “becoming”.  More than that, however, we need to be keenly aware of what these two days really show us about ourselves, our responsibilities and the unseen realities all around us. 
            When we think about All Saints and All Souls many of us tend to  set those groups aside in our mind as two bunches of believers that are “over there” while we are “over here” and never the twain shall meet.  But are we short changing the scope of our faith and missing the obvious?  It should be noted that when we read scripture and indeed, commentary and exegesis, we see that nowhere is it cited that there is a “divide” between those passed on and those of us who are still on the planet!  So what does that really mean? 
            It takes us face to face with the most essential tenant of our faith, eternal life.  We know that Jesus conquered death in addition to paying the price for our sin.  “Conquered death” means that he wiped out that possibility for the entire human race, good an evil alike.  As believers we work toward the goal that when we make the transition to the “heavenly reality” we get to spend that time with God Himself.  For others, the Bible teaches that they will spend their time forever separated from God in a place of utter desolation.   In the book of Hebrews, we are clearly instructed about this and why it is essential to not give up the fight while we are still present in the earthly realm.  With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then should throw off everything that hinders us especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started.  Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne.  Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage.  In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.” (Jerusalem Bible Heb.12:1-4)   Note that the “cloud” is described as being on every side of us, not to our left or right, in front or behind, above or below us, but “around” us.  We, indeed, are in the middle of the cloud.  All those who have passed on and are now encouraging us in the “good fight” are present all around us.  We are saints; we are warriors, right here and right now, not some time in the future.  All believers form one unit as Paul tells us: So all of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other.” (Jerusalem Bible Rm 12:4-5)  Marking time is simply a human construction.  For God, time does not exist so all the believers who ever existed and are to come are all part of that body at present, no separation for those who have passed and those who are still on Earth. 
            We need to recall and believe this not just on November 1 and 2 but every day of the year.  Saint Faustina tells us; “How beautiful is the spiritual world, that already here on earth we commune with the saints!”  In this understanding comes several pieces of wisdom which can profoundly shape our lives both spiritual and incarnate.  First, never forget that at any moment of the day or night we have at our disposal “spiritual assistance” that is both real, powerful, and experienced in whatever disaster we might be going through at the time.  Became very familiar with the saints and their struggles, there is one (or more) of them “out there” who knows exactly how you feel!  Study their lives, ask for their assistance and intercession, realize that they are near, not just “stories”.  If there is a talent or spiritual gift you wish that you had, find out which saint had that gift and seek their wisdom in print and in prayer.  Learn the prayers that saints themselves wrote and use them; they were forged in moments of battle.  Did you know that Pope Leo XIII wrote the St. Michael Prayer?  Do you have a cause or a city or country that you have a heart for?  Learn who the patron saint is and make it part of your prayer discipline to pray in concert with the named patron.   Did you know that Mary is the Patron Saint of our country? Take advantage of the richness you have know in your own life, those people who have prayed for you, mentored you, taught you about spirituality and have moved on to greater realms.  They have not stopped being spiritual and quite likely are in a position to pray more frequently and efficaciously than ever before.  While on earth, The Little Flower had a clear vision of being able to: “spend her heaven doing good on earth” and St. Dominic stated; “I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you more effectively than during my life.”   Heed Faustina’s wisdom and commune with “your” saints.  Hebrews clearly admonishes us to take advantage of this force which surrounds us!
              Next, there is that personal responsibility as earthly members of “the cloud”.  It is our particular responsibility to pray for those who have gone before us.  Members of one body must support all the other members of the same body, or the body as a whole can develop a weakness or illness.  We [saints and believers] are all one body, interconnected in one single life vivifying all the different limbs and holding them together in unity.” (Simon Tugwell O.P.)  We are all warriors in the “good fight”.  This is the battle to serve God and enable every single human being to be able to spend eternity with God.  This is why he sent His Son.  Right now, as residents of the third planet from the sun, we are charged to participate in this battle for those who are here and those who have passed.   So in a very real way we are part of the “big picture” and part of the “small picture” at the same time.  We are to run the race for ourselves, for those who need assistance and for those who have no clue.  It does not matter if they are still with us or if they are members of the unseen reality that we hope to reach.  The observation of All Saints and All Souls reminds us, in a tangible way, that this is our job. We are current members of the army and we are expected to be participants in the contest not simply act as observers who are waiting to be called to action at some future date. The action is here and now.  We are defined to be working members of this great cloud of witnesses as well as seek assistance, pray and act in concert with them for the sake of the kingdom!  “It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened.   Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ.”  (CCC 957, quoting Lumen Gentium 50; cf. Eph 4: 1-6)  Amen!

 

Copyright©2009, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All rights reserved.                       
              
Learn more about Kathryn @ www.atravelersview.org

 



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