Yesterday was one of my favorite feast days, All Saints, and I had the privelage of attending a parish on the road. I thank God that this day was a day of obligation, celebrated on the day of the feast, because I found familiarity going to Mass in a strange city. The shared devotion to the Saints brought to life the simple fact that we are all brought together by Christ. Most striking about our Catholic faith is how it calls our attention to the proximity of the Saints and Heaven. It not only calls to mind the familial reality of life in the Church but can be very helpful in understanding the role of ethics Christian experience. When we perform a good action we enter into the movement of Love and with the aid of our Baptism we are entering into the presence of the Saints, the place of the Heavenly Feast.
A deep sense for the proximity of the Saints is an integral part of the spiritual tradition of the Celtic Saints and is communicated well in this poem about St. David written by Gwenallt quoted by Esther De Waal:
There is no barrier between two worlds in the Church, The Church militant on Earth Is one with the Church triumphant in heaven, And the Saints are in this church which is two in one. They come to worship with us our small congregation, The saints our oldest ancestors....
Fr. John O'Riordain writes about this dynamic when he comments on the Celtic belief about the proximity of the dead during this season. He wrote about the belief that the deceased members of a family would visit their old home at the beginning of November. Speaking about his father he writes "whether people were 'alive' or 'dead' made little difference ot him, for he was of a tradition that drew no hard and fast lines between life in gleann na ndeor, the vale of tears, ot Tir na nog, the Land of the Young - heaven." This idea is difficult for the modern mind to accept, or even begin to understand. Why then would I mention it? It brings to mind the closeness to which our lives are intertwined with those who have passed before us. Our prayers for the our deceased brethren, that they may live in eternal joy, are effective as they are for our family alive with us today. This practice of prayer for the dead is our focus today on All Souls Day. Its not a dark time of year but one full of hope.