Preparations intensify for All Saints church fairs, neighborhood parties, hayrides and other alternatives to the traditional night of Trick or Treat, now hijacked by the forces of evil. What a good time to teach our children and grandchildren about the lives of the saints.
Our covenant community hosts an All Saints Party with booths and games of all kinds. My favorite is the cakewalk. Yum! The highlight of the evening begins when we hear, “When the Saints Come Marching in” and the children parade across the stage of the gym. We see Mary; Joan of Arc; Mother Teresa; and new this year, Kateri Tekakwitha, all in miniature. Not to be outdone by the girls, the boys dress as St. Michael the Archangel (patron saint of our school), Moses, St. Patrick and St. Francis lookalikes. Some adults wear costumes of little-known saints to familiarize the children with the saint they represent.
Our covenant community has its own Communion of Saints, those of our extended family who have gone on before us and are all around us cheering us on. They now number 140, almost as many as those of us still awaiting our promotion into their ranks. I have a huge collection of Mass cards because I have attended almost every Mass of Christian Burial for them.
The first one on the list, Deacon Felder Steubing, died in on October 24, 1975. How significant that the Communion of Saints of our covenant family began so close to All Saints. I well remember his funeral celebration because it began a healing within me, just in time for All Souls Day. Yes, I did say, “celebration.”
Since my father died when I was 18, I have avoided funerals whenever possible. I just couldn’t handle my emotions. For many years I was angry with God, questioning why he took my father when he was only 46. When our first community member died, a spiritual mentor invited me to go with her and her husband. Since I had made a commitment to support my covenant brothers and sisters in every way, I complied.
The Mass was an amazing revelation to me. The first celebration of the life of one of our own began with the deacon’s wife marching down the aisle behind her husband’s casket. She was singing at the top of her voice and holding high her husband’s Bible. There was joy in her face and in her voice. The uplifting songs, homily, and words of praise for Felder and his faithfulness to God’s call on his life, struck down the Father-wound deep in my heart. By the recessional, I was healed of my aversion to funerals. I understood the role of the Communion of Saints in my life. The healing of my fear of death began, helped along by the next funeral celebration, and the next.
As I remember each name on the list of our own saints, I see a face that I will see in heaven, or imagine the faces of the infants, including my grandson, carried so lovingly to the Father’s embrace by our prayers. He and our other family members are added to my personal list to make up my own Communion of Saints who surround me, especially during Mass. They have taught me many lessons, especially my father, whose voice has guided me at times, letting me know he is near. Often I feel the presence of my Communion of Saints so strongly that I look around during Mass to see who is there. My mother, my grandmother, my closest covenant friends?
The joy I feel during this time of year far surpasses the grief of losing those I love. The death of Jesus on the cross opened the gates of heaven for us and took away the sting of death. We are sad for ourselves because we hate to say good-bye to the physical presence of those we love. Yet, now in the presence of the Lord, they are more alive than we are! Somehow they remain close to us, through our faith connection. They wait for us to join them while they root for us to triumph in all our spiritual battles. We will live with them in God’s presence forever. That’s what we celebrate.
Who is in heaven cheering you on in your own communion of saints?