Yesterday was All Souls' Day which meant (dum dum DUM) Holy Day of Obligation. Mass was at 7, a fact brought to my attention when the girl I sponsored in RCIA last year popped up on my instant messenger asking me if I was going. DRAT, I thought to myself, for there is less guilt if you honestly don't remember something and that's why you are at home watching TV when everyone else is taking communion.
I drove home in a funk. Phillip was going to be working late and work trumps everything around here lately, so I was going to have to go by myself. I called the friend who is always asking me about "Catholic stuff" and she wasn't home and then I called my sister because us lifelong papists have the same guilt problem, but SHE wasn't home either. Phillip said, "Just go. You'll feel better." So I did.
All Souls' Day is the Catholic feast to commemorate all the "faithful departed" saints. As I am a lay lay LAY layperson, I'm not going to attempt to explain the whole Catholic saint thing. Except that perhaps you have heard the term "communion of saints" which (I learned this last year, thank you RCIA) includes ME. Catholics consider all Christians to be saints- whether you are beatified and given a capital 'S' is another matter entirely. Last Sunday we were told we could bring in pictures of friends and relatives who are no longer with us and given a chance to write their names in the Book of the Dead. Morbid much? ANYWAY.
The church was considerably less full than usual (hello, Tuesday night) and I sat towards the back because I walked in as the procession was starting. I have the attention span of a four-year-old so even though I really do listen to the readings, I cannot tell you what they were. And I barely remember what the priest talked about, except he used the phrase "tonight we celebrate our Christian heroes" because after he said that, I pretty much went off into my own world.
I just love that idea. I love thinking that the ordinary faithful people who went before me are now my Christian heroes. Not just Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul and all the other Very Important Catholics, but grandparents and neighbors and friends. I thought a lot about my friends who lost their brother earlier this year, undoubtedly a Christian hero before and after his death. What better legacy can you leave than a group of people who emulate you in their own lives, choosing your faith because they felt your impact? My parents lost a friend to cancer last winter, a woman who really loved my family. She came to all our holiday dinners, used to wish I could meet her handsome brilliant nephew. When I was still thinking about teaching English in China, she was one of the people I thought might be excited for me, a former Peace Corps volunteer and interested in missions. She's no longer with us, but I celebrated her last night.
I know that Catholic tradition is kinda stilted and complex and steeped in little rituals, but the more I understand it, the more I really appreciate it. I'm so glad I went to church last night. The choir, a perpetual target on this website, was really on. They were just beautiful. One of the girls in the RCIA program last year is now a eucharistic minister and it was so cool to see her up there. It was even a little exciting to be a lone person in the back watching everything happen. And maybe it's weird to have pictures of people who have passed away on every window sill in the church, but when you think of it as being surrounded by your heroes, it's oddly comforting.