Sr. Nancy Connor, MM, invites us to celebrate the saints that we have known in our own lives.
Happy Feast of All Saints to you! Who comes to mind when we gather to celebrate this day? Do you remember when we were little and we heard about the 144,000, and we just hoped that we could make it before the count was up? We all wanted to be in that number when the saints go marching in. We need not have worried, for the Book of Revelation assures us that “an immense multitude of persons of every nation and race, people and tongue” adore and give glory to God.
Now maybe we remember a favorite saint like Therese, the Little Flower, the Carmelite missionary-contemplative, or Saint Francis, who centuries ago taught us to love Mother Earth, our common home. Perhaps contemporary saints like Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa come to mind. But do you think of everyday saints you have known? Let us consider teachers and parents, who struggle every day to educate the citizens of tomorrow; policemen and women, firefighters, the military, doctors, nurses, social workers—all of whom dedicate their lives to our service. These can be real, unheralded saints, and we have been blessed to have known them. When we see God face-to-face, will we be surprised if we recognize our own friends and family in God’s face? We are made in the image and likeness of God, and as we grow in love, we become more like God. “God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.” (1 John, 4:16.)
During my years of ministry in Bolivia, I met many examples of ordinary people who are saints now, for they have gone before us to prepare the way. And celebrate them we did! A month before the actual date, preparations began. Flour, sugar, eggs were bought for baking great quantities of cakes, cookies, and breads. Everyone there knows that the souls of those who have died will come to visit their home on this special day, and all will be ready to receive them. Breads are shaped into people, ladders, even horses. The horses transport those that come to visit, of course, and the ladders help them climb back to heaven when the feast is over. Altars with these delicacies, plus fruit and the favorite meals and drinks of the departed, are set up by noon on November 1 in the homes of those who have lost loved ones in the last five years. Candles and a commemorative picture also decorate the altar. There the entire family and neighbors will visit to pray, to share memories, to chat, to accompany the mourners. (“Blessed are they who weep, for they will be consoled.”)
Young folks with empty flour sacks go from home to home to offer prayers also, and are rewarded with bread and fruit. Their sacks will be bulging with the fruits of their labors by the time the altars are dismantled on November 2. This is a glorious day on which nobody goes hungry! These people of simple faith know that we can continue to communicate with our loved ones long after they have breathed their last, and so they share their faith in life after death.
We are challenged to celebrate our saints and imitate them. This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this: that you act justly, that you love tenderly, that you walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8.)
Image by Benjamin Sz-J. from Pixabay