Today we celebrate All Souls’ Day, honoring our belief in the communion of saints, “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” (Cathechism 962).
My own belief in the communion of saints includes an awareness of the never-ending connection we have – not only with the canonized saints and God, but also with our deceased loved ones, the “souls” we remember every year on Nov. 2.
Our family of 10 children was raised by a mother who believed strongly in the communion of saints and the power of intercessory prayer. Mom’s favorite novena was to her patron saint, Thérèse of Liseaux, who said, “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth,” and that she would let a “shower of roses” fall from heaven to earth.
Our parents died within three months of each other in 2002. Soon after Mom’s death, as we cleaned and uncluttered the family home so it could be sold, my brother Paul spent one evening spreading mulch around some trees near the driveway.
The next morning, on what would have been Mom’s 73rd birthday, he returned to complete his task. Looking down at where there had been nothing but cedar shavings the night before, Paul saw a beautiful red rose in full bloom. Immediately, he felt as if Mom, God and maybe St. Therese too were letting him know that Mom is still with us in spirit. We all remain spiritually connected as members of Christ’s mystical body, the communion of saints.
This experience was an example of a thin place. Originally a Celtic concept, a thin place often refers to an event in our lives when it seems as if the veil between this world and the next one is unusually thin. The time before, during and after the death of loved ones can be a profound thin place, when inexplicable things happen to provide assurance of God’s comfort and love during our time of grief. We might have a dream, hear an inner message or notice coincidences (like finding the rose on Mom’s birthday) assuring us that “love never dies,” just as scripture tells us.
So at this time of year, as we remember beloved souls, be especially attentive to thin places, where faith is affirmed and hope in everlasting life dwells.
Mary Treacy O’Keefe is the author of Thin Places: Where Faith Is Affirmed And Hope Dwells.