Loneliness and Lasting Communion

(All Saints: November 1)

The celebration of All Saints (and All Souls) brings us face to face with the mystery of death. We know intellectually that we must die, yet we do not perceive death as the goal of our existence. We hope to somehow overcome that grim reality. I once saw a news program on cryogenics. A person pays a large sum to have his body frozen in the hope science would one day conquer the disease that brought death. Of course, death involves not just cancer or a heart attack, but the disorganization of the cells of ones body, so, when they emerge from the deep freeze, they are expecting a lot from science. As Shakespeare said:

once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. (Othello Act 5, Scene 2)

Most of us are not rich enough (or I might add, foolish enough) to have our cadavers flash frozen. Still we long for lasting bliss. I remember a conversation with a bright young woman. I asked her about her dreams. She said what she was most looking forward to was retiring! For sure, she was not thinking about retirement as the elderly experience it: a few years of increasing physical ailments and loneliness. Rather she was imagining a state of ongoing rest and satisfaction, a perpetual Caribbean cruise. What she longed for was not retirement, but heaven. So do we all.

In the last century Nazis and Communists played on that longing. They promised their followers a paradise on earth: the Thousand Year Reich or the classless society. However, what they delivered was not heaven, but the worst hells human beings have known. Capitalism is more modest; still it holds out the hope of earthly paradise. Every ad plays on that desire.

Our forefathers were more realistic. St. Ambrose, for example, spoke about our existence as a "burden of wretchedness." Because of sin, we are condemned to a life of "unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow." Yet the brief joys we experience are not without significance. Our unquenchable longing is not the cruel joke of an idiotic universe. Ambrose of Milan recognized that we feel a deep loneliness because we are meant for a lasting communion.

That is precisely what we celebrate today and tomorrow. Again, to cite Ambrose: "The soul has to turn away from the aimless paths of this life...it must reach out to those assemblies in heaven." If we picture heaven at all, it usually is as a reunion with loved ones. I admit a deep desire to see again my mom and dad, Fr. Mike Holland and others. I also think about meeting someone like C.S. Lewis to thank him. But those thoughts, beautiful as they are, are mere concessions to an earthbound imagination.

Ambrose had a more expansive view. He concluded his reflection on his brother Satyrus' death by quoting the words of David:

One thing I have asked of the Lord,
this I shall pray for:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
and to see how gracious is the Lord. (Ps 27:4)


Spanish Version

His Sermon on All Saints by St. Bede the Venerable
For iPod users, here is the MP3 version of St. Bede's All Saints Day Homily

All Soul's Day Homily: Sister Death

Report on Earthquake Relief to Sacuaya

Bulletin (Excommunicating Pro-Abortion Politicians, Archbishop's Respect Life Statement)


From Archives (2008 All Souls Day homily): Baptized Into His Death

From Archives (All Saints Homilies):

Something for You Week 2: Communion
Perfect Joy
Loneliness and Lasting Communion

Sunday Homilies

Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

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Fr. Brad's Homilies

Fr. Jim's Homilies

Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album


St. Mary of the Valley Album

(September 2009)

Pictures from Peru

(October 2009)

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

Darwin's Dangerous Idea (reflection on PBS' Evolution Program)

Bob's Christian Tattoos

Cardinal Arinze on Liturgy