October 30, 2020

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The communion of saints is our great family of faith

Sean GallagherMy youngest son Colin was only 2 when my mom Debbi Gallagher passed away five years ago. I have poignant memories of my wife Cindy carrying him into her hospital room when my family and I came to visit her just days before she died.

It was the last time that Colin got to see her and she him.

As he grows up, he likely won’t have memories of her. But he’ll hopefully know about her well enough that he’ll feel like she was an important part of his life, which she truly was and continues to be.

A way that Cindy, his brothers and I will make this happen for Colin is to tell him stories about her—many stories, funny stories, touching stories, stories from across her life.

While my older boys all have memories of my mom, they never knew my grandparents and Cindy’s, all of whom either died before Cindy and I were even married or when our oldest boys were very young.

But, as with telling Colin stories about my mom, I’ve told them many stories about my grandparents, Victor and Opal Gallagher and Richard and Louise Phillips. They like to hear them, even though I’ve told them the stories so many times they know them by heart.

Sharing stories in this way is an important way that we make connections in families across many generations—connections that, with the help of God’s grace, won’t simply last for a lifetime, but for all eternity.

This is how the communion of the saints is manifested in our lives of faith, too. Our family of faith spans 2,000 years and comes from all parts of the world. Yet we can make the saints a real and effective part of our lives when we learn their stories and how they passed on the faith that is the heart of who we are here and now.

That is what we will celebrate on All Saints Day this Sunday. All celebrations of the Eucharist are moments when our family of faith, both on Earth and in heaven, come together to give praise and thanks to God, the Father of our great and wondrous family.

But the Solemnity of All Saints brings this reality into a special focus. The first reading for Mass on All Saints Day gives us a glimpse of the fullness of this celebration of our family of faith in heaven when “a great multitude” of people “from every nation, race, people and tongue” stand before God’s throne and cry out, “ ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb’ ” (Rv 7:9-10).

In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, when we are saddened because our family of faith on Earth is more separated than we would like it to be, call to your mind and heart this great vision of the celebration to which God invites all of us. At this blessed wedding feast of the Lamb, our Lord will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rv 21:4).

As we prepare for and await the day when our heavenly Father welcomes us to this feast, it is also good and comforting for us to learn about the saints, our brothers and sisters in faith who will join us in that great celebration.

When we hear these stories again and again, God will weave them into our hearts and make them part of our own story, just as Cindy and I have, with God’s help, made the stories of my mom and our grandparents a part of the lives of our sons. †

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