The Communion of Saints
Part of preparation for First Communion is the learning of The Apostles’ Creed…it least it was in Toronto during the 1950s under the tutelage of the Daughters of Wisdom.
Now, doubtless the holy nuns taught us the meaning of all the tenets but at the age of seven one agrees with adults (at least at that time we did) and just carries on and so I just figured that the Holy Ghost was like Casper the Friendly Ghost and that the Communion of Saints was where saints took communion and I carried on learning the responses in the Baltimore Catechism so that I would be allowed to receive Jesus.
However, in my high school I did begin to wonder about the Communion of Saints and so I learned that it is the truth that all Christ’s followers, the living (Church Militant), the blessed in heaven (Church Triumphant) and those in purgatory (the Church Suffering) are united together in one Mystical Body.
For me this came to mean that, since I was one of the Militant, I could pray TO the Triumphant and FOR the Suffering and the other Militant and that we all worked together in a mysterious but very real way.
Recently, I was involved in a real-life experience of the Communion of Saints manifested through a community, St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg, where I worked for some forty years in various roles. On a Sunday morning in early August I received a phone call from a 1980 graduate from the school, Joe.
I hadn’t heard from Joe in at least 20 years. After the customary pleasantries, Joe told me that he had just visited with a classmate, whom I will call Leon and that Leon wanted very much to talk with me. Of course, I agreed and called him later that day.
Leon was not in very good shape. He has been suffering with glioblastoma and the prognosis was not a good one. His voice was unsteady and his breathing laboured as might be expected. But what was not expected was his extraordinarily positive attitude towards his condition.
His only sadness was the leaving behind of his wife, children and grandchildren. In what time is left to him, he is completely focused on his legacy. Part of that is a memoir which he has been preparing and for which he is seeking a “ghostwriter” to see to its completion.
It is very important to him that this person have experience in writing and have a connection with St. Paul’s and with Jesuits, since his own high school experience was so formative of his life and his faith. He also wanted to speak with two Jesuit teachers who had been so important to him.
Of course, I said I would help. That day, I emailed the two Jesuits with the details and the request. Within an hour or so, each responded yes and by Monday they had both called Leon.
Then, I set about trying to find a potential “ghostwriter.” I contacted three former colleagues, two of whom are English teachers, Anna and Jennifer, and one of whom, Larry, does alumni work for the school.
All said they would get right on it and proceeded to engage other Paulinians in the mission. By Tuesday and Wednesday, of the three published writers we had contacted, all connected with St. Paul’s as students or friends, all said YES: they want to explore this and are in discussions with Leon about the project.
It is said that God moves in mysterious ways. Well, there was nothing mysterious about all this. In his time of need, Leon reached out to a community he knew and loved and every person in this chain of relationship responded with an unqualified YES.
If this isn’t the Communion of Saints, I don’t know what is.