It’s All Saints’ Day.
What can I say about the Communion of Saints?
The Communion of Saints are our mothers.
I began thinking about them this way in response to a grumpy priest who thought it would be funny to correct the Pope. The Pope had said something about “Mother Earth” and the priest pontificated that actually, the Virgin Mary was our mother. Never mind that Saint Francis referred to Earth as his mother, so doing so is the most Catholic thing in the world. I pointed out that Catholics have so many mothers, more than we could count. Yes, we have the earth. We also have our earthly parents. We have our godmothers. Some of us have religious superiors. We all have the Church, though she’s often an abusive mother when we encounter her in this fallen world. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary. We have God the Father, whom the Catechism says is also our mother. We have Christ, Who birthed the whole Church out of His side on Calvary. And we have the whole communion of saints.
The intercession of the Communion of Saints might not have been presented to you as a kind of motherhood, of course.. If you were spiritually abused in your catechesis as I was, you probably think of the Communion of Saints as vindictive and angry, people who want to smack you for getting out of line. You might imagine them clutching their pearls in dismay when you say a bad word or don’t want to go to church. If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, you might associate them with shame and victim-blaming as well.
And, of course, if you never had a mother, or if your mother was abusive, you might not have a frame of reference for the kind of love a good mother provides. You might think of mothers as creatures whose job it is to smack you and hurt you if you get out of line, or to ignore you when you desperately need help, or to force you to do well in school or sports to make them look good, or to be ashamed of you if you are anything other than what they expect.
But the Communion of Saints are our mothers, and they are good mothers, mothers who make up for the failings of all the earthly mothers in the world.
People in Heaven are with God. They behold God as God is. They see as God sees and love as God loves. God is a perfect Mother: someone who wills her children to exist, who loves unconditionally, who desires perfect union with us, and who desires us to become our truest selves.
That is what we should imagine when we think of the Communion of Saints: a multitude of people from all walks of life, who want to be our mothers. All saints but one were sinners in this life. All but one had their embarrassing moments they had to repent of. All but one behaved horribly, some or even most of the time. All, without exception, were people of limited knowledge, who belonged to a certain culture at a certain time and whose culture colored their understanding. All made honest mistakes. But now they are in Heaven. They see as God sees, perfectly. They see everything as it truly is. They see us as we truly are: icons of God with infinite dignity, beauty and value. They love as God loves. If it were possible and if it were necessary, each one would descend right back out of Heaven and die for our sake.
This is what we should imagine when we think of the Communion of Saints: a whole army of people descending from Heaven to Earth, saying, “I’m your mom now,” and meaning it. Saying “I like you and thank God for you just the way you are,” and meaning it. “You make every day special. The ways in which we are different don’t bother me, they fascinate me. I love it when you talk to me. You can say anything to me and I won’t get mad. I am so sorry for the ways things have gone wrong. I am so excited to help things go the way they should. I am so happy to teach you what you should know. You’re not going to suffer alone anymore. I am going to suffer with you. I’m going to do everything I can to take care of you.”
And we should let them take care of us.
And we should let them love us.
And we should tell them what’s on our minds, even if it doesn’t seem like something they’d care about, even when they don’t seem to be listening.
And then we should go out and be saints, mothers, for one another.
Because we, too, are members of the Body of Christ. We, too, are called to be saints.
That’s what the Communion of Saints is.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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