Connecting with the communion of saints

This column originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2000, issue.

Twenty years ago Marie and Mike were on my list of first Friday Communion calls. They lived near the parish, so I usually scheduled a stop at their house toward the end of my route. A visit with Marie and Mike was filled with sweetness and faith, the kind that put a smile on my face and made the whole day worthwhile. They never had children, and their lives were marked by single-hearted devotion to one another, and together, to God. After Marie took sick, Mike did the shopping, cleaned the house and saw to it that she had everything he thought she deserved.
Entering their home was taking a step back in time. The house seemed quiet, even silent, to me, but sunlight flooding through the open curtains made the silence warm and peaceful. Figurines collected over many years were displayed lovingly on shelves and mantels; photographs of parents from another country covered the walls. The place was immaculately clean, and lace doilies protected chair backs and tabletops. These were simple, working class people, typical of so many in that parish; they worked hard for what they had, and when several plants that employed thousands in the area closed, they grieved their neighbors’ misfortune.
They dressed in their Sunday best for my monthly visits, welcoming the presence of the Lord with a reverence I have never forgotten. Invariably, after they received holy Communion we would look at photographs. Mike was a musician, and he was particularly proud of the pictures of his Catholic high school band. There he was, sitting in a line-up of early 20th century teenagers in suits and feathered alpine hats, proudly holding his french horn. I don’t remember the details, but Mike once told me about playing french horn for the Army during World War I. Marie, who had heard his stories so many times, listened proudly.
When Marie died, Mike was lost and heartbroken. He continued to keep the house as tidy as ever, but without Marie he spent more time away from home – at church, with friends, shopping. He tried heroically to fill the void opened by her death, and parishioners went out of their way to speak to him with kindness.
When I was transferred to another parish, I lost track of him for several years. But one day after a funeral, I decided to spend a few extra moments at the cemetery visiting my father’s grave, and I caught sight of Mike standing in prayer next to Marie’s grave. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation, catching up on the latest news.
We decided that from then on, whenever either of us was at the cemetery, we would visit each other’s family grave sites; he would say a prayer at my father’s grave, and I would do the same at Marie’s. I have tried to be faithful to that promise, and I have no doubt he was. When Mike himself died a few years later, a visit to their graves would make me smile all over again, as I recalled our monthly Communion calls and their faith-filled love. In fact, I started asking them to pray for me.
Every All Saints and All Souls Days I think of Mike and Marie, because they remind me of the intimate connection we have with Christ and one another through the communion of saints. In his “Credo of the People of God,” Pope Paul VI wrote:
“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayers.”
There is one Church, and all members share in the spiritual riches of Christ – and share them with one another. The Church is a communion of love, and all members should have only one desire for one another – deep union with Christ. Thus, just as we pray for the living, so do we pray for the dead, and the dead pray for us. Our prayer is an expression both of our union with Christ and our longing for that union to be brought to perfection for everyone.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux is often quoted as saying, “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” As he lay dying, St. Dominic said to his brothers, “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.” Death does not place any barrier among the members of the Church that cannot easily be bridged by prayer.
Thus we also remember souls undergoing God’s cleansing mercy in purgatory. Christians have prayed for their dead from the earliest days, precisely because we long to be united with one another forever in Christ. Our longing is the result of our love! Prayer gives voice to our longing. We should not forget that the souls in purgatory pray for us, too.
The gifts I received from Mike and Marie did not cease when they died. I still benefit from them – not just in memory, not just by example, but in a very real way in Christ. Since what they shared with me during our monthly visits came from Christ, I have every reason to believe that we still “exchange” those gifts today.
May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.
Do you have an intention for Bishop Sartain’s prayer? If so, send it to him at Bishop Sartain’s Prayer List, Diocese of Little Rock, 2500 North Tyler St., P.O. Box 7239, Little Rock, AR 72217.

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Connecting with the communion of saints

This column originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2000, issue.

Twenty years ago Marie and Mike were on my list of first Friday Communion calls. They lived near the parish, so I usually scheduled a stop at their house toward the end of my route. A visit with Marie and Mike was filled with sweetness and faith, the kind that put a smile on my face and made the whole day worthwhile. They never had children, and their lives were marked by single-hearted devotion to one another, and together, to God. After Marie took sick, Mike did the shopping, cleaned the house and saw to it that she had everything he thought she deserved.
Entering their home was taking a step back in time. The house seemed quiet, even silent, to me, but sunlight flooding through the open curtains made the silence warm and peaceful. Figurines collected over many years were displayed lovingly on shelves and mantels; photographs of parents from another country covered the walls. The place was immaculately clean, and lace doilies protected chair backs and tabletops. These were simple, working class people, typical of so many in that parish; they worked hard for what they had, and when several plants that employed thousands in the area closed, they grieved their neighbors’ misfortune.
They dressed in their Sunday best for my monthly visits, welcoming the presence of the Lord with a reverence I have never forgotten. Invariably, after they received holy Communion we would look at photographs. Mike was a musician, and he was particularly proud of the pictures of his Catholic high school band. There he was, sitting in a line-up of early 20th century teenagers in suits and feathered alpine hats, proudly holding his french horn. I don’t remember the details, but Mike once told me about playing french horn for the Army during World War I. Marie, who had heard his stories so many times, listened proudly.
When Marie died, Mike was lost and heartbroken. He continued to keep the house as tidy as ever, but without Marie he spent more time away from home – at church, with friends, shopping. He tried heroically to fill the void opened by her death, and parishioners went out of their way to speak to him with kindness.
When I was transferred to another parish, I lost track of him for several years. But one day after a funeral, I decided to spend a few extra moments at the cemetery visiting my father’s grave, and I caught sight of Mike standing in prayer next to Marie’s grave. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation, catching up on the latest news.
We decided that from then on, whenever either of us was at the cemetery, we would visit each other’s family grave sites; he would say a prayer at my father’s grave, and I would do the same at Marie’s. I have tried to be faithful to that promise, and I have no doubt he was. When Mike himself died a few years later, a visit to their graves would make me smile all over again, as I recalled our monthly Communion calls and their faith-filled love. In fact, I started asking them to pray for me.
Every All Saints and All Souls Days I think of Mike and Marie, because they remind me of the intimate connection we have with Christ and one another through the communion of saints. In his “Credo of the People of God,” Pope Paul VI wrote:
“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayers.”
There is one Church, and all members share in the spiritual riches of Christ – and share them with one another. The Church is a communion of love, and all members should have only one desire for one another – deep union with Christ. Thus, just as we pray for the living, so do we pray for the dead, and the dead pray for us. Our prayer is an expression both of our union with Christ and our longing for that union to be brought to perfection for everyone.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux is often quoted as saying, “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” As he lay dying, St. Dominic said to his brothers, “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.” Death does not place any barrier among the members of the Church that cannot easily be bridged by prayer.
Thus we also remember souls undergoing God’s cleansing mercy in purgatory. Christians have prayed for their dead from the earliest days, precisely because we long to be united with one another forever in Christ. Our longing is the result of our love! Prayer gives voice to our longing. We should not forget that the souls in purgatory pray for us, too.
The gifts I received from Mike and Marie did not cease when they died. I still benefit from them – not just in memory, not just by example, but in a very real way in Christ. Since what they shared with me during our monthly visits came from Christ, I have every reason to believe that we still “exchange” those gifts today.
May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.
Do you have an intention for Bishop Sartain’s prayer? If so, send it to him at Bishop Sartain’s Prayer List, Diocese of Little Rock, 2500 North Tyler St., P.O. Box 7239, Little Rock, AR 72217.

Latest from From the Bishop

Connecting with the communion of saints

This column originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2000, issue.

Twenty years ago Marie and Mike were on my list of first Friday Communion calls. They lived near the parish, so I usually scheduled a stop at their house toward the end of my route. A visit with Marie and Mike was filled with sweetness and faith, the kind that put a smile on my face and made the whole day worthwhile. They never had children, and their lives were marked by single-hearted devotion to one another, and together, to God. After Marie took sick, Mike did the shopping, cleaned the house and saw to it that she had everything he thought she deserved.
Entering their home was taking a step back in time. The house seemed quiet, even silent, to me, but sunlight flooding through the open curtains made the silence warm and peaceful. Figurines collected over many years were displayed lovingly on shelves and mantels; photographs of parents from another country covered the walls. The place was immaculately clean, and lace doilies protected chair backs and tabletops. These were simple, working class people, typical of so many in that parish; they worked hard for what they had, and when several plants that employed thousands in the area closed, they grieved their neighbors’ misfortune.
They dressed in their Sunday best for my monthly visits, welcoming the presence of the Lord with a reverence I have never forgotten. Invariably, after they received holy Communion we would look at photographs. Mike was a musician, and he was particularly proud of the pictures of his Catholic high school band. There he was, sitting in a line-up of early 20th century teenagers in suits and feathered alpine hats, proudly holding his french horn. I don’t remember the details, but Mike once told me about playing french horn for the Army during World War I. Marie, who had heard his stories so many times, listened proudly.
When Marie died, Mike was lost and heartbroken. He continued to keep the house as tidy as ever, but without Marie he spent more time away from home – at church, with friends, shopping. He tried heroically to fill the void opened by her death, and parishioners went out of their way to speak to him with kindness.
When I was transferred to another parish, I lost track of him for several years. But one day after a funeral, I decided to spend a few extra moments at the cemetery visiting my father’s grave, and I caught sight of Mike standing in prayer next to Marie’s grave. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation, catching up on the latest news.
We decided that from then on, whenever either of us was at the cemetery, we would visit each other’s family grave sites; he would say a prayer at my father’s grave, and I would do the same at Marie’s. I have tried to be faithful to that promise, and I have no doubt he was. When Mike himself died a few years later, a visit to their graves would make me smile all over again, as I recalled our monthly Communion calls and their faith-filled love. In fact, I started asking them to pray for me.
Every All Saints and All Souls Days I think of Mike and Marie, because they remind me of the intimate connection we have with Christ and one another through the communion of saints. In his “Credo of the People of God,” Pope Paul VI wrote:
“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayers.”
There is one Church, and all members share in the spiritual riches of Christ – and share them with one another. The Church is a communion of love, and all members should have only one desire for one another – deep union with Christ. Thus, just as we pray for the living, so do we pray for the dead, and the dead pray for us. Our prayer is an expression both of our union with Christ and our longing for that union to be brought to perfection for everyone.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux is often quoted as saying, “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” As he lay dying, St. Dominic said to his brothers, “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.” Death does not place any barrier among the members of the Church that cannot easily be bridged by prayer.
Thus we also remember souls undergoing God’s cleansing mercy in purgatory. Christians have prayed for their dead from the earliest days, precisely because we long to be united with one another forever in Christ. Our longing is the result of our love! Prayer gives voice to our longing. We should not forget that the souls in purgatory pray for us, too.
The gifts I received from Mike and Marie did not cease when they died. I still benefit from them – not just in memory, not just by example, but in a very real way in Christ. Since what they shared with me during our monthly visits came from Christ, I have every reason to believe that we still “exchange” those gifts today.
May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.
Do you have an intention for Bishop Sartain’s prayer? If so, send it to him at Bishop Sartain’s Prayer List, Diocese of Little Rock, 2500 North Tyler St., P.O. Box 7239, Little Rock, AR 72217.

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