Father Manny’s Clergy Corner: For All The Saints, And All Of Us

All Saints Feast Day.
Celebrated Oct. 28, 2012 B Cycle
St. Nicholas Episcopal Church
Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-9; Psalm 24; Rev. 21: 1-6a; John 11: 32-44

I loved the Litany of the Saints…the choir would sing the names of many of the saints from the earliest days of the Church to more recent times. I would sit and think about these people, what they really were like, how they died and how they received their titles. You know, the Patron Saint of this or that…how was all that decided upon.

Have you ever sat back and wondered what Heaven is like? We all have our own personal, subjective view of what Paradise is all about and what it is like. In St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 14: verse 2, Jesus said that His Father’s Kingdom has many mansions. So from an early age, whenever I heard this particular passage, I envisioned Heaven to be some enormous estate, bigger than anything here on earth…a home that went on and on and on, an endless home of glorious rooms, comfortable rooms, of gold and silver adornments all around. Now, that was the image of Heaven that I had gained because of how I interpreted Scripture at an early age. It is neither right nor wrong. It is personal and subjective.

I loved the Litany of the Saints…the choir would sing the names of many of the saints from the earliest days of the Church to more recent times. I would sit and think about these people, what they really were like, how they died and how they received their titles. You know, the Patron Saint of this or that…how was all that decided upon.

In our Episcopal Church, we really don’t get too worked up about Patron Saints and there is an advantage to that, thank you. We embrace all these holy men and women, the martyrs equally, without distinction, without prejudice and without putting any labels on them.

But, for those of us who grew up other Christian traditions, particularly, the Roman Catholic Church, there was and still is a great emphasis on such matters as the saints and who is patron of what. St. Jude is patron of the impossible, but so is St. Rita of Cascia. St. Gerard Majella is patron for expectant women…why not a women saint for that? Go figure. St. Dominic Savio is patron of teens…he was only 14 when he died of pleurisy in the year 1857. His being patron of teens makes some sense.

The teaching of the saints was taught to us as in almost a romantic fashion…our teachers, the good Sisters inspiring us to live lives like the saints. I began collecting Holy Cards many years ago and I still have a rather large box of these cards tucked away at home. On occasion, I pull out the box and look at these cards…they still bring a smile to my face…dramatic poses with golden halos, angels with feathery wings and the eyes of these holy men and women always gazing heavenwards. Saints were human beings who had an immense love for God and wanted very much to live as close to the way Jesus lived. For some, it was easy and for others, it was a struggle. This should comfort us all…I know I feel better knowing the greatest of the saints had their issues and yet, they are awarded Paradise. How wonderful we have a loving and forgiving God.

As I grew older, I had another image of Heaven as some beautiful field, small hills, streams and wild animals that roam freely. The entire environment would be ideal: the sky blue, the winds light and the warmth of the air ever so comfortable. And everywhere, people, from every generation from the beginning of time to the most recently departed, all living together in peace and harmony. The famous and infamous…all equal, unblemished, free of any stain of sin whatsoever.

In college and graduate school, we were encouraged to think of Heaven in a more abstract sort of manner; not so much as a place, but an experience. We discussed Heaven “ontologically,” that is, whether Heaven exists; is it a reality, is there the potential of a being in or of Heaven? Now, that’s some pretty heady stuff. I had enough trouble trying to figure out how can openers worked, so this particular philosophical study really didn’t’ garner too much of my interest. But, being a good student, I did what I could; I studied and prepared myself best I could. Fortunately, I passed the course and was glad I didn’t have to be engaged in that particular class ever again!

Today, when the matter or topic of Heaven is brought up, I pause and think a bit and measure my answer carefully. Remember, we all have our own beliefs and conception of Heaven. I do not want to assume others are going to agree with me or that I and I alone possess full knowledge of what Heaven is all about. But, trust me…the question as to whether I believe in a Heaven need not even be ventured. Unquestionably, there is a Heaven. I fully hope and pray that one day, I’ll be with my Mom and Dad, my grandparents and all those who went to God prior to passing. Together, we’ll celebrate our reunion and all of us; we shall gaze upon the face of God and dwell in His glory. Is there a Heaven…absolutely!

Heaven is a reality…whether that be some place “above us” amidst the clouds that cover the earth, who really knows. And yes, we are all called to live saintly lives, just as the Good Sisters taught me so many, many years ago. Doesn’t matter what branch of Christianity…this is a mandate placed upon us in our baptism and each time we come forward to receive Holy Communion…that we are truly worthy of the great gift of Jesus Christ, with our hearts afire and our souls alit with a burning love for all that is good and just and holy…just like the saints.

I believe God has a place for us that is so far above and beyond what we know of here on earth how could we not long for a share within this Kingdom? I for one look forward to that time…with dearly departed loved ones, the holy men and women of old, the great faces and names of the Church’s past…Peter and Paul, Francis and Claire, Perpetua and Felicity, Elizabeth and Henry, Thomas A’ Becket, Thomas Moore, Richard Cranmer, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King and Martin Luther, John Calvin, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

They’ll all be there, along with all those whose names have been lost in time and had little to no fame while here on earth. The great and humble, the mighty and the meek…all will be present. And, a seat awaits us, too, our share place in that Heavenly Kingdom. In time, when God is ready, we will be called home and we, too, shall join with the saints and angels, holy men and women, the great and the humble, the lesser known and the mighty and yet, God will know us all and love us for all eternity.

Isn’t that some place, something worth hoping for? Sure is for me And I pray it is as important for all of us. Because I look forward to seeing all of you in Heaven, assuming nothing but believing in an all-loving God who promised a share in this glorious place in His wonderful presence.

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny


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