Dear Fellow Pilgrims,
Today we celebrated our Church Triumphant, that is, all the saints in Heaven who share the beatific vision of God Himself. They are those described in our readings today as “robed in white,” those who have “survived the time of great distress,” those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” In the communion of the saints, we celebrate those who have gone before us triumphantly throughout life, holding onto Christ more and more during this life to then be carried by Him to their final destination: the very center of His Heart and Being. We praise God for our family in Heaven, who petition for us, the Church Militant, night and day.
My favorite description of what the Saints do for us is probably Fr. Mike Schmitz’s anecdote from one of the times he and his family completed an Iron Man competition. Side note: It always strikes me as odd how normal Fr. Mike talks about his family doing Iron Mans… because it’s totally not a normal thing to just say your family “does;” and Iron Man consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by running a FULL marathon – 26.2 miles. Anyways, each competitor has exactly 24 hours to complete this (insane) race, and if they do not finish within that exact time frame, they are marked as a “DNF” (did not finish), even if it’s one second after the 24 hour mark.
So, after Fr. Mike and his excessively physically gifted family finished their respective Iron Mans, they decided to wait at the finish line. He mentioned there is a tradition of some folks who finish their Iron Mans earlier on in the day to go back into the race and run alongside those who need extra encouragement to get to the finish line, and how fun it is to watch people finish the race again with others they have helped “run in.”
One year, Fr. Mike said there was one last guy who was a few miles out from the finish line and it seemed like he was not going to make it in before midnight, but the announcer encouraged people to go help run him in. After more and more announcements informing the rest of the Iron Man people about this man, it’s becoming actually possible that this guy may make it to the finish line in time. Fr. Mike describes this giant crowd of people who have already run their race running in with this guy, who is absolutely sprinting towards the finish line with everything he has. He ends up finishing the race with just a few seconds to spare, in an incredible effort that could have only been possible with the help of all of the people who had ran back to run with him and cheer him on.
This is such a powerful vision of what the communion of the saints is to our race in life, a family I like to think that I “married into” when I made vows to the Church during my Confirmation as an adult about seven years ago. And truthfully, a profound encounter with the communion of the saints was a huge impetus that led to my conversion to the Catholic Church from non-denominational Christianity.
I was just studying on a normal night in college during my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I was alone in my dorm room, nothing special was happening, until I felt a sudden onset of spiritual attack (a term I didn’t quite know or understand at the time). I felt bombarded in my mind and spirit, all at once, with feelings of doubt, despair, loneliness, confusion… it was an onslaught I didn’t understand, but knew intuitively that it wasn’t a mental breakdown. This was torment from outside me, not a symptom of dysfunction from within. I ended up calling or texting quite a few friends to come over and/or pray for me. No one picked up or texted me back, and I was feeling even more lonely as this attack continued. Then, I remember having an idea to “test out” this “communion of the saints” I knew about from my studies on Catholicism. It was as much as a last-ditch effort as it was a sincere SOS call into a spiritual realm I didn’t even fully believe existed.
“All you saints and angels in Heaven… if you’re there, please pray for me!”
And then, I felt an even greater onslaught of peace hit me like a giant ocean wave. The wave instantly quenched the fire burning within me. It left as abruptly as it arrived. I was left with a very clear conviction that the Saints’ intercession was real. I had felt it in my bones, in the depths of my soul. I had felt the effect of their intercession, and felt their love in that they responded to my call in a time of distress. I like to think in my own little story about my spiritual life that in that moment, all the saints who would help me in my life, who I would get to know personally, stepped forward and claimed me as their own (enter Pier Giorgio Frassati! “And I shall give her friends. She needs some friends.” followed by St. Therese “I can be her friend!” – she was my confirmation saint).
After that whole ordeal, I attended a praise and worship adoration event where I finally heard a definitive answer from God about His Presence in the Eucharist. (Read more about my testimony here if you’d like.) So now, when I look back on my whole testimony, I see how the evil one was trying to attack me on the precipice of a major encounter I was to have with God, and also how the Saints took me under their wings when I asked for their help. They ran and rallied behind me and helped me finish that little race, that challenge before me at the time.
And so, on every Solemnity of All Saints, I think back to when I first learned to believe in their goodwill for my life, and how powerful that intercession was. As a practice, when I go up to receive communion, I ask all of the saints to pray for a worthy and efficacious reception of the Eucharist. I’m sure there’s a way you can incorporate throwing up an “All you saints and angels, pray for me…” prayer during one of your spiritual or everyday routines.
The saints are always waiting for us to ask for their intercession. Let’s keep them busy.