November 1st, 2018
The abbot gave the homily at the early Mass. Karin and I were there. We were at Subiaco Abbey, and it was the Solemnity of All Saints. The abbot told a story about how, years ago, he was alone in the church. Even though he was by himself, he had the sense that the church was full of people. He had a vision of being with an invisible multitude. The memory of that vision has remained with him.
All Saints Day is a fitting time to recall that vision, because really that is what the day is all about. It is a day to remember how interconnected we all are. It is easy to feel separate, to feel alone. Our individualistic society actively encourages each of us to go our way. We seldom have a sense of community. We are often unaware of how much we need each other.
In his sermon the priest spoke about the Church Triumphant (the souls in heaven), the Church Suffering (the souls being purified in purgatory), and the Church Militant, (those of us who struggle here are earth). Leaving aside the theology, what he tried to emphasize is that we are all connected in a profound way, a way that transcends both time and space. He told the congregation that we are connected with those sitting near us, and those sitting in other churches scattered across the world, and with those who have gone before us. We are linked to souls all across the planet, and all across time. As Paul wrote, we are “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses”.
The idea is deeply moving, at least it is to me. I would extend it beyond the Church. I believe that all life is connected. Everything is connected. That is a very Buddhist perspective. I think it is also a very Catholic one.
There was another Mass in the evening. Immediately afterward, the monks of the abbey sang vespers, their evening prayer. Many of the lay people had remained in the church after the service to socialize. They laughed and talked. Simultaneously, the monks attempted to pray with Gregorian chant. I think the discordant sounds bothered some people. Somehow, it seemed appropriate to me. It’s part of the communion of saints. Some people strive for a pure spiritual experience. At the same time, others just enjoy each others’ company. All of it is part of a whole.
It is all one.