This Tuesday, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints. It is one of the greatest feasts of the year because it is a celebration of those who have reached the final destination for which we are made and to which we all aspire, with the help of God’s grace. It’s important to remember that the saints who presently enjoy the full vision of God are not far away from us. In fact, they are mysteriously very close to us, connected to the members of the Church on earth through the sacred bond of grace. Grace, understood as a share of the life of Christ, binds the members of the Church into a supernatural family. Whereas natural families are bound to each other with blood ties, the supernatural family of the Church is held together by “grace ties.” Similar to the way the human body is vivified by the life blood that flows through it, the Mystical Body of the Church is vivified by grace. While blood ties end with death, grace ties survive death, allowing the Communion of Saints to encompass Heaven, Earth, and Purgatory.
With this in mind, parishioners might remember that about six weeks ago I announced that, at the invitation of Bishop Caggiano, our parish would be partnering with a group called Communio. Communio is an organization that helps parishes build up their communities, especially by developing ministries that strengthen marriages and families. The name “Communio” is the Latin word for Communion, which helps us to remember that the building up of our parish community is ultimately about fostering the Communion among us so that together we might live out our baptismal call to holiness. This is a teaching of the Church that the Second Vatican Council especially emphasized, along with the image of the Church as the “Universal Sacrament of Salvation.” If we think of a sacrament as a “visible sign of an invisible grace,” the invisible reality of the Communion of the Saints should be manifested visibly in our shared lives together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
This, of course, takes time and effort. Members of families must invest themselves in their relationships, even when inconvenient or when it doesn’t seem to serve their immediate interests. That’s also true in our relationships as members of the Church. Life as a member of the Church lived out in the local parish is the ordinary way in which we live out our experience of membership in the Communion of Saints. The parish is a family of families, that includes as full members those who are not blessed with spouses or children of their own.
No one becomes a saint in isolation. Saints, by definition, live in a community – or, rather, a Communion of grace, into which we are first initiated at baptism. We commit ourselves to respond to Our Lord’s call to personal holiness in a particular way by committing ourselves to cultivate friendships in the parish. Over the upcoming year, in partnership with Communio, we will be organizing monthly events that I hope will be fun and engaging as well as foster opportunities to strengthen marriages and develop holy and life-giving friendships grounded in our common faith in Christ. No matter what language we speak, how rich or poor we are, no matter where our natural families come from, as members of the Church we share the deepest thing in common – a shared baptism which makes us family.