During these early days of November, we are called to contemplate the great doctrine of the Communion of Saints, which we declare every time we say the Apostles Creed. Sometimes in our recitation, we may not always give it the attention it deserves.
The communion of saints is the spiritual harmony that binds together the faithful on earth, those still journeying to God, and the saints in heaven as the mystical body of Christ. In short, the communion of saints is all about “relationships” for which we have the greatest example in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, in his 2016 book, The Divine Dance, reminds us that God is inextricably and intimately connected as three persons who pour out their love for one another in a continuous and eternal flow like a water wheel. In both readings in today’s liturgy from St. Paul and St. John we are given a glimpse into this relationship among the three persons of the Trinity in their mutual desire to repair the dis-connectedness between the human family and the Trinity. St. John writes: “For this is the will of my father that everyone who sees the son and believes may have eternal life” (6:40).
Each of us was introduced to the sacred word of relationship when we were born into an earthly family that nurtured and protected us in our young lives. This bond grew stronger and stronger as we matured into adulthood. We can also see this type of bonding in nature, especially among animals. Last week I watched a very touching documentary about a herd of elephants. When one of their young fell into a sinkhole, each of the adults tried to rescue it but to no avail. In desperation, the herd encircled the hole and called for help with a mournful cry that could be heard for miles. Eventually, some people did arrive and with the assistance of a bulldozer, they were able to free the young elephant. It seems that relationship is a universal experience and a much-needed one.
The communion of saints teaches us that we, as members of the human family, are never alone—even in our most desperate days. Sometimes we are given a glance into this connectedness after our family or friends pass on. Recently, I had the occasion to visit a home that once had been in our family. It was like a second home to me as a child. I asked the present owners if I could come in for a minute and travel back in time. Happily, they agreed. There was a great table and fireplace in the dining room, and I could still envision each of my seven cousins and aunt and uncle sitting there for Sunday meals. My eyes started to tear as the memory of their spirits seemed to welcome and embrace me in closeness again. The present owners of the house seemed to understand.
Similarly, today we remember those who have recently gone to God. They are now with the chorus of those who are interceding for us as we journey toward the fullness of life. For a moment, let us draw the communion of saints closer and picture a loved one who was dear to us and thank God for his or her presence and guidance in our lives.
In the “Lives of the Brethren” (Fracet, Vitae Fratrum, c. 1255), the final hours of St. Dominic’s life are described as moments when his followers gathered to pray the breviary, sang the Salve Regina and all were in tears. St. Dominic reassured them with these final words: “Do not weep for I shall be more useful to you after my death, and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.”
Dominic and all who have gone before still intercede for us today. Together we can face forward to meet the challenges of our time, “broadening our circles of relationships” (Direction Statement, 2022) to include the communion of saints on our pilgrimage with each other and all of God's creation.
– Sister Helen R. Boyd, OP
Sister Helen resides in Dominican Convent where she serves
on the Life Enrichment Committee and co-chairs the
Committee for Serving Vulnerable Populations.