"Big Four" Highlights


The Ultimate Wireless Connection

All Saints and All Souls Day highlight the heavenly community

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

We say we are “connected” and the world is a “global village” yet so many of us feel alienated and alone. What is missing in our lives is not so much a sense of connection as an experience of communion. We share thoughts in 140 characters or less on Twitter, and join groups on Facebook, but how deep and personal is our interaction with others?

This month, the Church gives us an opportunity to reach outside the confines of our gadgets and distractions and enter a larger world that existed long before the internet and e-mail came along. We are invited to contemplate our place in the Communion of Saints during November, beginning with All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

On Nov. 1 we celebrate with the souls in heaven, who are present at the eternal banquet of God, with the glorified Christ as their head and the Blessed Mother (body and soul) as their model. Where they are, we hope and strive to be, with the grace of God and the guidance and sacraments of the Church. On Nov. 2, we remember and pray for the holy souls in Purgatory, who have won the victor’s crown yet need to be prepared and purified before entering the glory of heaven.

Yes, the Church still teaches about Purgatory. Though many a funeral Mass these days sounds more like a rite of canonization, not everyone – and probably very few of us – will go straight to heaven. For me, Cardinal Newman had the best insight into the need for Purgatory. It is not so much a punishment for being bad as a preparation for being glorified, because if God let us into heaven when our hearts and souls were still tinged by the effects of sin, we would not be fully happy in his presence. Purgatory is a place of growing the soul to the fullest dimensions of love.

All Souls and All Saints are two beautiful days – yet in our secular culture the Church’s calendar gets eclipsed in most minds by the increasing craze of Halloween (All Hallows Eve), which has become more pagan and truly scary in recent years. Even some Catholics who will go to Mass on the day of obligation (Nov. 1) will have memories of Halloween parties, goblins and witches in their minds. All Saints Day is a celebration of light, triumph and deliverance from evil and sin! Yet the darkness of our secular Halloween festivities too often blots out that message.

Nonetheless, a lively awareness of the Communion of Saints – which we profess to believe every Sunday in the Creed – will overcome the darkness. It will upload us in a way that an iPod cannot to the ultimate wireless connection, the unseen culture of communication, where we recognize that our prayers travel faster than a tweet, and our souls are destined to go where the “digital continent” cannot reach.

We do not hear often about the three levels of the Catholic Church, yet we cannot truly understand life today and life everlasting without an awareness of these levels or states of existence. There is the Church Militant on earth, all those who are striving in this life to live according to grace and make it to heaven (also called the Pilgrim Church). There is the Church Suffering, those who have died in the state of grace yet require the cleansing, enlarging and strengthening that comes in Purgatory. Finally, there is the Church Triumphant, all the souls in heaven.

Let us contemplate this wonderful communion of the Church, which promises a more profound communication and an everlasting “sametime connection” that our digital devices – useful as they may be – simply cannot deliver.