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Viewpoint: The communion of saints



November is an appropriate time for remembering in prayer those who have gone before us


In November we celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday when we gather as a family to thank God for all that he has given to us in our lives.

It is also the time of year that our church urges us to remember and pray for those departed loved ones who have been a part of our lives and to especially remember those faithful who may have no one on earth left to pray for them. Far from being a sad practice, the tradition of praying for the dead reminds us of the greatest mystery of the church, the communion of saints.

As Catholics we believe that the primary purpose of our life on earth is to know, love and serve God in this life so we can be happy with him in heaven. In other words, we are all called to be saints. God’s plan of salvation is for everyone to be reunited and happy together forever.

Of course, not everyone takes God plan seriously and we can’t deny the reality of evil in our world. Those that die in the state of hatred of God and neighbor will have to face his judgement.

For a majority of us, we may lose our way from time to time, so God provides us an alternative to sainthood. When we die our experience of God may be delayed during which time we can experience the pain of waiting. It is during this time that the bonds between the living and dead are the most significant because our prayers can be directed to help speed the way to heaven for those who have died. In other words we are all in this together.


In recent years, we have lost our appreciation for the communion of the saints. We have forgotten our connection to and appreciation of the past. We are always looking forward to the next things in our lives.

Perhaps November is a time we need to slow down and take a deep breath. Consider pulling out the old family photo album and talk about fond family memories and the unique cast of characters that have filled our lives and made us who we are.

Say a brief prayer for a long dead relative or for someone who is no longer a part of your life. Thank God for the gift of their presence in your life. Laugh and cry and celebrate who you are because of them.

Sometimes things will happen in our lives that remind us how important our past is to us. At a recent family gathering I told my 18-month-old great nephew that if he didn’t behave, he would get a time out. He turned and gave me an angry glare that was just like the glare my mom gave when she was angry or upset.

Even though my mother had died before he was born, a part of her lived on in her great grandson. I felt that his life would be a little easier because his great grandmother was in heaven watching out for him.

This spirit of grateful remembrance need not be overly sentimental or maudlin. Laughter and tears go together as we continue to live out our own lives and share the stories of others. We are grateful for the gift of family and friends and recognize that our bonds of love are unbroken by death.

Eternal rest grant them O, Lord.


Mark Christian is executive director of Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Wilmington.